Update Your Chinese Radio Without The Pain

The new hotness in cheap radios this year has been the Quansheng UV-K5, a Chinese handheld transceiver with significant RF abilities and easy modding. The amateur radio community have seized upon it with glee and already reverse-engineered much of the firmware, but flashing the thing has always required a minor effort. Now thanks to the work of [whosmatt], it can be flashed with little more than a web browser and a serial cable.

This feat was made possible through the magic of WebSerial, a handy feature that allows web applications to talk to connected hardware. We’ve seen it in action a few times in the world of badges, and as browser support for it has improved it’s now available through browsers on all the major platforms.

The web app allows tweaking of the Quansheng settings and will, no doubt, be capable of uploading that when fully open-source firmware is available. It should be of great interest well beyond the world of Chinese radios, though, because we’re guessing there are a lot of projects that could benefit from such a ubiquitous interface tool.

If you’d like to know more, WebSerial is something we’ve looked at in the past.

Header image: [Concretedog]

44 thoughts on “Update Your Chinese Radio Without The Pain

        1. Typically DMR radios are not cheap. But there are cheap ones if you look. Please do go back to someone who recommends a radio because they had no idea if you were looking for a cheap DMR radio. You only said “once I find a DMR Digital Mode Radio” (sic). Your short, abrupt response to someone who was nice enough to give you a good suggestion (as OpenGD77 is a very good active open source platform) is not very nice.

        2. Cheapest currently available OpenGD77 compatible radio is the Baofeng DM-1701, at around $60 USD

          Just search on AliExpress etc for OpenGD77, becuase the Chinese vendors now seem to be preinstalling OpenGD77 onto these radios.

          Yes. Its 3 times the price of the UV-K5, but the reason for the difference in price is the color screen, 16Mb of internal menory (instead of 128k), much more powerfull CPU – ARM Cortex M3 instead of Cortex M0

          However, the frequency range does not go below 130Mhz and or above about 500Mhz, and no AM Rx etc etc

    1. It is much better than the Baofeng UV-5R, firmware-wise. To begin with, you can’t flash the flash chip of a UV-5R – it is read only, so you are stuck with the stock firmware.
      Quansheng UV-K5/8/5R Plus has a flashable flash chip and the original firmware is provided as a bin from the vendor themselves, which allowed reverse engineering and moding by the community – now we have a very fast and easy to work with spectrum (the fagci spectrum) that makes scanning very easy compared to the VFO switch scan in the UV-5R which is useless due to slow speed, we have RSSI bar that prints an S-meter, signal strength in dB, etc, and we can even send text messages with a T9 typing using the embedded FSK modem in the chip. We can modify the fonts, the way battery icon works, channel steps (we can put 1 KHz, for example) and many other things. The open source firmware will bring even more features.
      Even if you do not flash the firmware with one of the custom ones, you still have what the UV-5R doesn’t:
      USB-C charging, larger display, AM (not perfect, but it works), near frequency detection with CTCSS/DCS identification, over-the-air channel copy and a much wider range.

    2. The problem is, there are Baofengs and there are Baofengs.
      The original UV-5Rs came with half decent filtering. Then they got cloned by other Chinese manufacturers. Now you don’t know if you have a Baofeng or a Clonefeng.

      Either way, I’d expect the filtering in these to be much improved. Whilst you probably don’t care about splattering all over the bands, those listening do!

      I can spot a Clonefeng on VHF and UHF a million miles away.

      1. Even the originals have very poor filtering compared to a name brand radio. It makes them rather deaf in a noisy RF environment which is basically everywhere these days. They really only receive strong signals.


    3. DMR is Digital Mobile Radio, not “Mode”.

      “That other thing” is better than the Baofeng. I own both and I also own many other radios, from the big 3 to Motorola and even military gears. Baofeng UV-5R has been out for 10 years already.

      “That other thing”, (don’t know why you can’t even mention its model number as if it’s a plague), (cough cough), the QuanSheng UV-K5 (and its variants) has a radio IC that has much wider frequency range: 50 MHz to 600 MHz officially (and can be extended by hacks). It has USB charging (except the UV-5R Plus variant), has 200 memory channels (and call channel), has hackable and upgradeable firmware (I don’t know how many times I have read on the internet people were asking if they could hack the Baofeng’s firmware or if it’s flashable. It does not suffer from the low mic gain like the UV-5R. It does not have the nasty harmonics like some (many but not all) of the Baofeng models especially on VHF. It has a much larger dot matrix display, which can show a lot more information (and very good use for the hacked firmware features). It has better built quality on the shell, the battery clip, the belt clip and overall look and feel.

      I don’t think you really know this model.

      I also have been using a lot of DMR radios. I am active on the OpenGD77 forum and I own a DMR repeater (in addition to other analog repeaters).

      You are entitled to your opinion. But it’s only valuable to others if you elaborate on the reasons, and hopefully it’s somewhat factual.

    4. It absolutely is not. The UV-5R desenses BADLY in the presence of other transmitting radios, to the degree that it will open the squelch and pass no audio regardless of settings, and the audio quality is all over the place from the factory, but universally pretty bad. They’re awful, awful radios, and the price is the only reason they’re acceptable for anything.

    5. naah, this is wayy better software wise, menu is actually something you can make sense of, instead of guessing correct abbrevations and so on. True, it has its quirks, but its quite nice step forward, considering hackability.

    6. You don’t have a clue, but you have a Bungfeng. Quansheng UV K5, K6(K5(8)), and 5R Plus all being the same internals are waaaay different and more. You should research and learn what it is and what custom firmware is available for this $10 gem that kicks the crap out of your outdated overpriced underperforming Bungfeng.

  1. Some folks think that the change in firmware on a UV K5 will give them AM Tx, or even Tx on the aviation band! Please leave the planes alone! Since the radio is intended for FM VHF and UHF, the power Tx finals will likely be a Class C amp, while AM Tx requires the linearity of a Class A amp. But there’s lot of options for pirates without spewing AM spurs all over the band! LOL

      1. Yeah, way too much interest in air band, Rx is fine thou. 2 yrs ago at a yard sale a Pilot’s backup HT was in a bin, bought it before some other jerk got it ! On the bench with some work and batteries output carrier power was 2W into a dummy load. Max 5W PEP. Turns out you’d have to be close to an airport at ground level to cause chaos. Radios in the cockpit panel are usually 10 to 20W (Cessna 172, etc..)

    1. While an AM TX mod is available (experimental and borderline useless), we made it very clear that this is not usable for Air Band and that the radio in general should never be used to transmit anywhere near air band due to the poor harmonics and bandwidth.
      Sensitive mods such as TX unlock are hidden away by default because using them safely and legally requires extra knowledge.

  2. UV-K5 is a horrible radio but it isn’t useless.

    For example the aviation receiving barely works on my unit. I tried it on airshow and the reception was awful even the planes were very close. Also transmitting with UV-K5 gives nasty sidebands. So basically I use it only for receiving our local repeater, which it works fine.

    The web updater is nice to have, however you need the separate serial cable-thingy which can be purchased from ebay for 10 dollars or something.

    I will definely at least upload a firmware with TX disabled for my unit.

    1. Transmission can be somewhat clean on VHF although still far from good.
      Some models such as the UV-5R Plus seem to ship with the cable already included.
      The cable is just a simple uart adapter, if you have the right 3.5mm and 2.5mm jack handy, you could also wire one up yourself.

    2. UV K5 horrible?

      It’s better then I thought and more flexible. My pal ‘prepper bob’ set up his K5s to Tx between GMRS channels, narrow banded, with scrambler on at 4W and my GMRS radio only clicked a little at 10 feet or less, further then that, not a peep! So far that’s a pretty good acid test for me.

    1. Quansheng offers these radios as white-label products, so you’ll find them under many different brand names. The UV-K5, K6, K5(8), and UV-5R Plus are all identical on the inside and the RA79 is just a rebranded UV-K5.

      1. Nah. They are 16usd radios before tax and shipping. My lateat unit was 24euros shipped to Finland from China, with 24% VAT included!.
        It is a terrific platform for experimenting and I hope to push it to 1297MHz.

  3. Quick question: Do you guys have a firmware that dumbs down the radio ? Just a single channel? Background: We need radios that can be used by volunteers locked to just a few frequencies?

    1. We are currently working on a open source reimplementation of the original firmware, which would make that possible. With the current firmware mods its just a little complicated to remove this much functionality, especially on the user interface side.
      There are plenty of single band radios that would fit your needs much better. A dial for volume, a dial for one of 6 (VHF freenet) or 16 (PMR) channels and the PTT button are all you get. No display and no complexity. They are as cheap if not cheaper and tend to come with better quality transmission too (since they only need to transmit on one narrow band).

  4. A number of firmware developers have provided updates on the UV-k5 that have cleared up AM reception such as on the air band. This is a great little device that provides a broad range of ham radio frequency listening

    1. You can’t.

      If you’re looking for something cheap that covers the SW bands, maybe consider an ATS-20+. You can get one for under $30/£25 if you shop around. They have their limitations though, so be sure to read independent reviews before purchasing.

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