DMR has been a hot mode for Amateur Ham Radio for a number of years now. While digital has been around for a good decade, nothing seems to have sparked a bigger interest than the DMR mode. With inexpensive radios from vendors like TYT and Connect Systems one no longer had to invest a small fortune to try out digital. DMR was growing fast, and here to stay.
Baofeng has always been the king of low cost radios with the UV-5R. And when Baofeng released the first DMR radio, the DM-5R, excitement was in the air, a DMR for under $100 (CDN). The excitement was short lived. The radio would only function DMR in simplex, not use the existing DMR network of repeaters.
Then Baofeng introduced the DM-5R Plus, sporting Tier I support. Again a buzz in and on the air. Could this be what everyone was waiting for? A DMR radio, that would support repeaters, for under $100 (CDN)? Another disappointment, Tier I again did not support the requirement for the DMR Amateur Ham Radio repeaters.
As it's said, 3 times the charm, and for Baofeng that couldn't be more true. This time Baofeng had a little help from another brand. The result was a great radio, branded under two names, one for Baofeng (DM-5R V3), the other for the helper brand (RD-5R). Introducing the Baofeng DM-5R V3 2018. This dual band analogue/digital radio has all the features one would want in a radio. Best of all, the implementation of DMR is Tier II. FINALLY, a Tier II DMR radio, compatible with the DMR repeater network, for under $100 (CDN).
Baofeng packages the DM-5R DMR radio with everything you need to get going. Included is a 21cm dual band antenna, a considerable improvement over the original UV-5R antenna. A 2000 mAh battery, again an improvement over the stock UV-5R battery. The usual charger, AC adapter, wrist strap, and belt clip round out the goodies. A very basic owners manual is also in the box. Ironically the programming cable is not in the box, however Fleetwood Digital will include one programming cable with every order.
If you already own a Baofeng UV-5R, and have all the various accessories, there is no need to re-buy them. With the exception of the programming cable, the Baofeng DM-5R DMR radio is compatible with them. This is a welcome change from the norm where a different radio, required all new batteries and eliminators. While the programming software is different, it was a smooth install on Windows 10. The cable is driver free, and the radio appears to detect as if it were a mouse, ensuring the use of built in generic drivers. From there the software has the same look and feel as the TYT MD-380 / MD-390. Unfortunately the files are not compatible, however it should be straightforward enough to simply enter the info found in the MD-380 software into the same field in the DM-5R software. I'm sure its only a matter of time before we see the codeplug files start popping up.
One interesting note about programming the Baofeng DM-5R V3 2018 is that it can actually be accomplished by hand in the field. This has always been a concern with the DMR radios, they all had to be computer programmed. While it will be a long, and very time consuming task, the Baofeng DM-5R DMR radio can be programmed by hand. Best left to analogue frequencies, but nice to know that digital DMR could also be entered by hand, if necessary.
In conclusion I like the radio for it's crisp audio, backwards compatibility with analogue repeaters, being dual band, and not having to re-buy all the accessories. One thing that I initially didn't like was the small screen. However, after playing with the radio for a few days I find that the screen is big enough for the relevant information.
So tell me what is the difference between this and the RD-5R? Baofeng confirms the same internal hardware is used. There are external differences in the case, and the CPS is specific to the radio. Operationally and compatibility, they are the same. One is simply branded Baofeng DM-5R for the open market, the other is the RD-5R, for the exclusive use of the co-developer.