Baofeng 888s. The “s” stands for strange.

41AAGlw5NqL._SY450_Baofeng 888s. I own three of these. Why not? You can buy 2 on for under $30. I admit to being fascinated by them. This product occupies some shadowy zone that cuts across ham radio, GMRS, and FRS. Depending on where you live and how your local police/fire/public safety systems work, it may be worth having one of these just to serve as a scanner.

Ok, so what is it? It’s a UHF HT with 15 pre-programmed channels. Seems to put out about 3 watts. It’s got no display. Just your basic walkie-talkie controls.

A few pros: It’s reasonably solid. Not fragile. I think really good audio coming out of the speaker. Very, very good battery life. Includes a drop-in desktop charger. I mean, look, this is a bargain. And, of course, it’s practically disposable at about $13 each. Crazy price.

You turn it on. A voice tells you you’ve powered on. And that’s your volume knob. The other knob switches across 15 pre-programmed frequencies. A lady tells you what channel you’re on. The 16th position causes the radio to scan across the 15 channels. Squelch is pre-set and can’t be adjusted except via software/cable. I always hate that. Gimme a squelch pot. Please.

As programmed, using most of the pre-programmed channels would be illegal. (Went to a movie recently and noted the theatre staff were carrying these around. I suspect they’re crossways with FCC regs.)

So, you have to reprogram the unit, which you can’t do without software and cable. You can download the software which is free.

So, here’s some stuff you can do.

You can program FRS frequencies, making sure to set the power output at the legal limit. Maybe no real advantage to the FRS radios you can buy anywhere except, again, low price and good audio.

You can program in GMRS frequencies, cranked up to the full 3-ish watts the radio can do. Of course, you gotta buy that GMRS license. $90 I think. I have one. But, it’s that wacky license that allows anyone in your immediate family to use the radio. So, we take ours to the beach.

You can go ham with it and program in UHF frequencies for Simplex or for UHF repeaters.

Or, if you’re in a place where the local fire department or police department has open UHF frequencies (no trunking, of course), you can stick those frequencies in. Then, you get a really cheap scanner.

You don’t have to pick one of those approaches. You can program in some UHF repeater frequencies in some channels, GMRS in others (if you have the license), maybe a couple of low-power FRS frequencies. And so on. I got mine programmed the way I want, then I made labels with a label maker to show me which channels or what and stuck those on the back of the radio.

Anyway. I like the peculiar little things. For more details, there’s an excellent review of these radios which is very useful. This link ought to get you to it.

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