The TYT TH-UV3R is a really compact 128 channel pocket sized radio. But don’t be fooled by its size this little radio packs a punch and is brimming with functionality.
By default the TH-UV3R is a dual band (136-174/400-470 MHz) radio, however by using the official TYT programming software full tri-band operation can be opened up (200-260 MHz) plus a decent extension to the UHF upper limit (470-520 MHz). The EU version doesn’t support 2.5kHz spacing, however the US version does. That said, its not always obvious what you’ll get so double check with the vendor prior to purchase to ensure you get what you need.
When the units arrived from Hong Kong (I ordered 2) I was keen to see the build quality as I’d only ever seen pictures online. I was expecting a small device, however I was still taken back at the cigarette box sized dimensions! These are even smaller in the flesh and as a result they look like something you’d give the kids to play with! These are not toys though – I was genuinely impressed by the feel and finish.
In the box is the radio itself, a single 3.7v slimline 1500mAh battery, standard SMA whip antenna, USB charging cable and separate battery charger, USB power adaptor for country of choice, sand coloured neck lanyard, belt clip, user manual (well written and easy to understand) and a free earpiece/mic (only available from 409shop). I also ordered a USB serial programming cable.
Standard delivery to the UK took 3 weeks and everything arrived safely with no damage or customs charge.
The TH-UV3R uses a very thin phone battery for power and this slots into the rear of the unit. The back cover then slots over and locks in position via a slider on the base. The downside to this set-up is no drop in charger facility, however the battery can be removed and charged in its own (supplied) charger or the unit itself can be charged by a USB cable.
The UV3R looks a little different from regular handheld radios such as a BaoFeng or WouXun primarily because the keypad has been streamlined for ease of use with minimal button presses required to access commonly used features. A quick tour of the radio exemplifies the clever way TYT has managed to deliver this.
Starting on top: there is just a single rotary switch this doubles up as the on/off switch (press down to turn on/off) and rotate to scroll through the menu system, change scanning direction and or tune frequencies. In addition by pressing the Monitor button (beneath the PTT) and simultaneously rotating the knob the volume can be set with ease. Next to the knob is a rubber cover which protects the 2.5mm mic/speaker jack. The grey square in the picture above is the RX/TX led (green rx, red tx).
The radio does “talk” to you via voice prompts and can also beep during button presses. I must say I find these a bit annoying and switched both off early on.
The side keys comprise of a regular PTT (top) and 2 multifunction keys, which by default are set to Monitor and Alarm (orange). As multifunctionality goes there aren’t many options to choose from though just Monitor, Alarm, 1750Hz tone burst or off. Personally I have the second key set to Monitor and the orange button set to off (which when pressed activates the light, so quite useful). I would have preferred one to be dedicated to scan but that is not an option.
On the opposite side is a small flexible cover (EXT DC IN) hiding the mini USB port connection for charging and also computer programming. A USB charging cable is included and the unit can be charged directly via any host USB device such as a PC or power outlet (USB type plug included) making charging this unit very versatile. While this is a regular mini USB connection, unfortunately programming cannot be accomplished with the charging cable so a dedicated USB/Serial cable needs to be purchased and the appropriate device driver installed prior to use (this can be downloaded from 409shop or use the CD that comes with the cable).
The illuminated keypad is really well thought out. Numbers 1-0 occupy two rows beneath the LCD display and a further four buttons frame the small speaker grill. As with all radios most keys have secondary functions or shortcuts and these are used in conjunction with the “F” button (press to activate function then the corresponding key to change parameters).
The ten numeric keys secondary functions are as follows:
- 1 SQL Squelch (0-9)
- 2 PWR Power (high/low)
- 3 PRI Priority Channel
- 4 S-D Shift Offset Direction
- 5 T-R Frequency Reverse
- 6 STEP Step size 5/6.25/10/12.5/25/37.5/50/100 kHz
- 7 VOX Voice activation (on/off)
- 8 FM Broadcast radio mode
- 9 BEEP Keypad/radio beeps/prompts (off/tone/voice)
- 0 SQT CTCSS/DCS settings
Additional menu operations are accessed by pressing “F” then ENTER. The menu comprises of 27 options such as channel naming, scan speed, tone scan and CTCSS/DCS settings.
Other buttons worthy of mention are VFO and the blue U/V. VFO switches between VFO and memory channels (if any are stored) and the U/V button switches between upper and lower VFO’s/memory channels. I got the impression this is for UHF/VHF but you can display any combo be that UHF/VHF, VHF/UHF, VHF/VHF or UHF/UHF!
One of the most interesting aspects to this radio is the scrambler function. This is either on or off and does a good job of masking voice comms. I believe it is fairly simple speech inversion so not totally secure, but it adds a degree of privacy for the most part though there are many software applications that can unscramble inversion protection.
The scrambler function can be found under MENU 02 (APRO) and as mentioned is simply on or off. The only other option here is to use COMP (Compander mode), which is a system for improving signal-to-noise ratio by compressing the signal volume and restoring it at the receiving end. This is very effective, but can lead to complaints that the mic gain is too high at the receiving point.
TX and RX are very good with clean audio. The volume is digital and by default set extremely high (15 I think). Somewhere around 3 is perfect for most situations. Initially I found setting the volume difficult as its sequentially amplified and steps up and down dramatically (either too loud or too quiet).
This is the first Chinese radio I have used that actually scans frequencies with tones properly, in as much as the unit doesn’t stop on a frequency with the wrong tone if a carrier is present. That is one of the best things to come out of this purchase. I like to use the TH-UV3’s for scanning now and again and this is a big improvement over the BaoFeng and WouXun series. Scanning speed can also be set and while that is a cool feature don’t expect blistering Uniden style scanning capability – its fit for purpose though and not as slow as the BaoFeng UV-5R. Tone scanning (MENU 26 CTCSS/27 DCS) works very well and once a tone has been found it flashes and stays on the display until you exit by pressing the PTT key.
The neck lanyard is a strange colour choice and doesn’t really match the unit at all. Funnily enough its an accessory supplied across the entire TH-UV3R colour range – be that black, red, green or camo model – you will get a sand coloured lanyard! I have since replaced mine with black wrist lanyards off ebay.
The belt clip isn’t the best design I’ve ever seen either – its just a plastic clip – its difficult to put on a belt and even harder to remove, especially in a rush! As a result I don’t use them.
The battery is small, and while rated at 1500mAh, it won’t last a very long time if transmitting for extended periods, however for general listening purposes I have had about a day and half of scanning on a fully charged battery. I have found that if not used for a few days the battery continues to drain indicating that the unit uses a soft power switch for some reason. OEM batteries for this model are cheap so if you are a heavy user I’d stock up on some spares. Interestingly, Nokia phone batteries do fit (BL-6C) though the capacity is lower, around 1000mAh or so.
TX power is either 2W high or 0.8W low which is adequete considering the dimensions and should afford around 2-3 miles in absolute ideal circumstances. I find the RX to be exceptional even with the small-ish whip – comparable with the WouXun for clarity and max distance and much better than the BaoFeng UV-5R. For the money the TYT TH-UV3R knocks the socks off both in my opinion.
There are a few omissions such as DTMF and roger beeps, but nothing hugely important to me – it would have been nice to have everything, but I prefer the scrambler function – its more useful to me than DTMF or roger beeps for that matter! Alphanumerics are limited to 6 characters so that isn’t perfect for a lot of channel descriptions. If channel names aren’t used the frequency is displayed instead which I like a lot.
Numbers/characters that can be used are: 0-9, A-Z, , (comma), +, -, /, *, and _
VOX is always good to have and CTCSS/DCS tone scanning too. There is a FM broadcast radio built in with 20 presets and 1750Hz tone burst for repeater access. All in all the radio is very easy to operate and setting up repeater offsets a doddle – the radio even displays the correct “-” or “+” offset symbol unlike any other Chinese transceiver I’ve used before.
Dual watch can be selected either on or off and when a signal is received a “*” symbol is displayed next to the VFO (A or B) to denote which one is active, a simple yet very useful feature.
As programming goes just about everything can be accomplished by the radio itself, however as if often the case it is much easier to use software, especially if a large number of frequencies are to be entered. CHIRP can be used, but only for basic frequency input no other radio options I’m afraid.
There always seem to be a few major drawbacks using the manufacturers software namely no copy/paste functionality, overall though I would recommend using TYT’s as it affords more than CHIRP does and is essential if you want to open up the frequency ranges. That said, I do use CHIRP to copy paste large frequency lists. It is a little bit long winded, but it gets the job done. Basically enter the required frequencies via CHIRP then upload to radio. Close CHIRP and open up TYT software. Then download from radio and edit within that.
In Part 2 I’ll look at programming the TH-UV3R with TYT’s official software.
TYT TH-UV3R Specification
- Dual Band 136-174/400-470 MHz (* 200-260/400-520 MHz)
- FM Broadcast Receive (20 presets)
- Wide Band/Narrow Band
- 128 Memory Channels
- Step sizes 5/6.25/10/12.5/25/37.5/50/100 kHz
- 2 Watts High/0.8 Watts Low
- Full Keypad
- CTCSS/DCS (with tone scan function)
- Frequency Search
- Channel Scan (adjustable speeds)
- USB Charger/Plug
- 3.7v 1500 mAh Li-ion Battery
- 1750 Hz Tone Burst
- Computer Programmable
- Alpha Name Tags
- Voice Prompt/Beep
- Emergency Alarm
* Tri-band frequency range expanded by TYT software only