Radioddity GA-5S Review
Radioddity GA-5S Review
KI7VCC November 2018
In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a set of these radios from Radioddity in return for reviewing them - I gave one of the radios to KI7UCR and he will provide a separate review of his experiences; I may never get another free radio from them…
I have used the GA-5S for a couple of weeks and had a chance to use it in several different settings including simplex calls and repeater use… right up front, this is an impressive radio, the sound quality is excellent and the extra power really gives it some legs; but, is not without its shortcomings.
So looking at the button and screen layout… it is obvious that the GA-5S is yet another iteration of the radio that will not die: The Baofeng UV-5R. My fist guess was that the GA-5S is a repackaged 8-watt model, so I opened it up to see what radio module lay inside, and I was pleasantly surprised to find the same main radio module as BTech uses in the BF-F8HP… the GA-5S also uses the ubiquitous HN5RV01 firmware.
The Radio Module in the GA-5S is the same as the BF-F8HP
Oh, while I had the case open, I drilled out the microphone hole a little… as it comes, the GA-5S’ microphone port hole is very small, and experience with this same issue on other Gen 5R radios tells us that opening the hole just a little, can really help with clear and strong transmissions.
Of course the GA-5S is completely CHIRPable, there is a listing in CHIRP for the GA-5S but I am sure that it is just an alias to the BF-F8HP… but what the heck, I picked Radioddity GA-5S and dumped some channels into the new radio - a few minutes later I was up and running. All testing was done with the stock GA-5S antenna.
Performance was very good. Knowing that the radio is the same as the BF-F8HP, I had some high expectations… yet I was consistently surprised by the ability of this little radio. I could easily carry on conversations through the E.A.A.R.S (2 meter) repeater on Mt. Lemmon, which is about 20 miles from (and 7000 feet above) where I live.
The EAARS Repeater on Mt. Lemmon - a wide open 20 mile shot.
As for simplex calls… the GA-5S had no problem hitting other HTs at a few miles, and was even able to reach a friend’s base station that is about nine miles away, and across a lot of city congestion - there were a couple of times that the GA-5S was talking to radios that I could not hit with my DMR-6X2!
The GA-5S did great in town - even hit a small base antenna 9 miles across town.
I am not going to belabor talking about how well the GA-5S talks; it lives up to every expectation of the BF-F8HP hiding inside of it… audio quality is great on both RX and TX and everyone that I spoke with had nothing but positive comments about the call quality.
Left to Right: UV-5R EX, GA-5S, UV-82HP, DMR-6X2
But… the GA-5S is not without its dark side…
I have two problems with the GA-5S, both of which have to do with the style and location of the side buttons. I have seen other people mention that the GA-5S’ side buttons are “cumbersome”, “difficult”, or “poorly thought out”. Maybe I am overly in tune with the ergonomics of hand held radios… but for me, the side buttons on the GA-5S are a deal breaker.
Let’s start with the PTT/CALL button… yes, I listed those as one button… check out the picture below to appreciate that the CALL Button and the PTT Button are one in the same, configured on a rocker type switch that lets you easily press one, when trying to press the other - not so sure what the intent was here, these two buttons have no reason to be joined this close together, I imagine this is just form over function.
The GA-5S' weird side-buttons (shown over the 5R EX)
But that’s not my real beef with the GA-5S… the thorn in my side-button is the MONItor button… Ugh, look at it… it is huge! And it is proud of the case at least an 1/8 of an inch; it is super easy to hit this button by accident, just carrying the radio around in a case or in your pocket will most likely cycle through every function of this button every 94 seconds. I don’t think there was a single time that I took the GA-5S out of a holder, pouch or pocket… and the flashlight was not on… battery be damned.
Hard to see but look at how far the MONI button sticks out!
But then I had an idea… the GA-5S is just another 5R radio and the Version 20 radio module will fit in the case of that new UV-5R EX radio that I just bought - a few minutes later, it was alive!
The GA-5S Radio Module in the UV-5R EX housing.
I swapped the radio modules… or main board… or guts of the 5S with the EX and Wow! I like that little EX with that 8W module in it - this radio has entered very high in my list of favorites.
Okay… so that’s where I am with the GA-5S, I guess maybe the “super bright” number pad backlight can be a little too bright… at least at o’dark-hundred going from total lights-out, to Vegas Strip keypad; but for the most part, the enhanced keypad is nice. The side buttons however, are the show-stopper for me.
Bottom Line: The GA-5S is a great radio, you are getting a BF-F8HP for half the price, but you also will have to live with those pesky side buttons and incompatibility with UV-5R batteries (and of course, there is no extended battery for the GA-5S), but it is your call…
I will add one final thought: Radioddity, if you are listening, please make me a radio using the EX case with blacked out buttons, the radio module from the GA-5S, and please develop a 3800mAh extended battery for it - I will gladly buy at least three or four of them.