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HamGeek FB-8 Chinese Ham Handheld HT Radio Review (Read 545 times)
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HamGeek FB-8 Chinese Ham Handheld HT Radio Review
Mar 19th, 2022, 8:35pm
 
Linuxslate.com Mini Review: HamGeek FB-8 HamGeek FB-8 Handheld Radio
 
Tags:  HT, Dual Band, Walkie Talkie, Tri band
 
UPDATE:  This radio seems to be the same as the Abbree AR-830
 
Part 1:  Background:
 
I've had a lot of VHF/UHF ham radios.  I had a Yaesu FT-470 long before I ever had a Amateur Radio License.  I used to listen to the local repeaters, and since I had the extended battery, it made a great personal defense weapon -- both perfectly legal uses at least as far as the FCC is concerned.
 
Once I got my license (and a job) I upgraded to an FT-530, and then an VX7R.  I also inherited an VX5R, and I had the diminutive VX1R for a time. About the time my VX7R had an issue with the charging connector, I became aware of cheap Chinese alternatives.  I've had several Baofeng UV-5R's (With the extended battery -- mostly just for nostalgic reasons.)  My latest up until today was the Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus.  You can read about using the Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus with Linux in this article.
 
The Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus is a very good and capable radio, but having to carry around the charger and "wall wart" was kind of a pain -- especially in the car.  Making a USB boost cable to plug into the charger helped, but that's still 3 things to carry around.
 
I wanted a radio with USB charging, while still retaining the broadband receive capability of the Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus.
 
The advertising for the HamGeek FB-8 seemed to indicate it met these specifications, and it was just over US$50, including shipping, so I went for it.
 
Is it a usable HT?  Will it become my EDC Ham Radio?
 
Part 2:  Unboxing and First Impressions.
 

 
The box arrived well smashed and wrinkled.  Those sensitive to the environment will rejoice that no foam was used during shipping.  I'm also not quite sure what a "Professioan"[SIC] is, but apparently if you are one, this is the transceiver for you.  It's good they level-set your expectations right away.  There is no branding or specifications on the box.
 
The inside of the box wasn't much more impressive.  There's a very thin plastic tray contain the following:
  • The Radio
  • A generic 15 cm long antenna -- at least the antenna is rated for both 2m and 70cm.
  • A charger with a US AC plug -- More on this later.
  • A tether/wrist strap.
  • A very cheap plastic belt clip -- Even the "spring" is plastic.
  • A "User's Manual" -- Which is actually just a single piece of paper a little smaller than 8.5x11 inches, folded in quarters.

The drop-in charger is generically marked "Charger" (in case "Professioans" can't identify it as such).  At least the charger is rated for 100 - 240VAC input, so it will work anyplace in the world with the proper plug adapter.  The AC cord is very thin, but electrically, It's fine for this application.  Not needing a separate "wall wart" is -- in my opinion -- a huge plus.  It's important to point out that even the charger is not needed since the unit can be charged via a standard USB-C cable.
 
The antenna connection on the radio is a male SMA connector.  While this makes it more durable than having an exposed SMA jack, it also means that connecting an external antenna cable is going to require some sort of adapter or barrel connector.  This also means that this radio should be compatible with ubiquitous and inexpensive Baofeng accessories.
 
USB charging seems to work fine, and when connected to a desktop 5 port USB supply, it charged at a healthy 1A.  USB-C means it is compatible with current phone chargers and cables.  I also think having the USB connector on the radio, rather than the battery is a "plus". The USB port does not seem to work as a data connection.
 
Overall, the radio has a very nice feel.  I'll even give it credit for "nearly Yaesu" quality of construction.  The knobs at the top are large, and also have a quality feel.  I'll say the same thing for the buttons -- soft and with a very positive operation.
 
The covers over the mic/speaker connections, and over the USB-C connector similarly feel sturdy and durable.  I value my readers, but sorry - I'm not throwing mine in the pool to test it's IP54 rating.  (Note:  IP54 does not actually allow submersion).
 
The battery fits on the radio well, but due to the location and construction of the latch, it may or may not survive a drop.
 
There are no FCC (or other) markings under the battery.
 
The display is just a basic monochrome LCD dot matrix, but is adequate and crisp.  Visibility under most reasonable conditions should not be a problem.
 
I like the large speaker area above the display.  IMHO, this is a better design than having a very small speaker positioned below the display.  There's plenty of audio power and good tone.
 
So far, I have just manually entered a few air band frequencies, and one local repeater.  I'll post more about the actual operation in a following post.
 

HamGeek FB-8 pictured with my Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus for comparison.
 
 
Join in the Discussion!
Do you have this radio, or are you thinking about buying one?  Tips/Tricks/Questions?
Please email "john" at this domain, and I will create an account for you.  Your email will not be made public
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« Last Edit: Apr 25th, 2022, 9:29am by Administrator »  

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Re: HamGeek FB-8 Chinese Ham Handheld HT Radio
Reply #1 - Mar 20th, 2022, 1:17am
 
HamGeek FB-8 Review Continued
 
Part 3:  Limitations

 
In lieu of a full review, I will just list out some of this radios features and limitations.  I feel it is important to say what this radio is *not* before continuing.
 
  • As of this writing, this radio does not seem to be programmable from a PC.  No PC software was included in the box. The USB-C port appears to be for charging only. The single sheet "Owner's Manual" does refer to the side connectors as "Programming Jack/Headset Jack", but I have not found any way to put it in programming mode.  It is of course not supported by CHiRP or any other Ham Radio software that I know of. I will update this if I learn otherwise.
    UPDATE:  This radio seems to be the same as the ABBREE AR-830. Advertising for the ABBREE AR-830 clearly states that it is PC programmable, but I have not found any software for the ABBREE AR-830.  Again, I'll update if I find out more.
  • There is no way to name channels (Stored frequencies). In Memory Mode, "CH-001" (for example) is displayed.  This label cannot be changed from the radio.  The active channel's frequency is displayed at the bottom of the screen, but if you do not remember the frequency or what you stored in each memory, there is no way to know if you are transmitting to whom/what you think you are.
  • Like a lot of these inexpensive radios, it does not actually have 2 independent VFO's.  
  • Do not expect features like cross-band repeater.  I see no way to do things like this.
  • It even lacks basic features like an S-meter.
  • It does not transmit on the 1.25m ham band. (220MHz).
  • The eBay advertisement for this radio listed "Transmitting power: 15W" -- Uh --Yeah -- any "Professioan"[SIC] should know better than to believe that.
    UPDATE: With the radio connected to my RF Explorer via a 60db attenuator, the RF Explorer indicated +37db in high power and +33db in low power (2m band).
    That equals 5.0W High Power and 2.0W Low Power.  
    On 70cm, it was 3.1W High Power and 1.26W Low Power.
  • It does not seem to switch to AM when receiving on Aircraft Bands.  The Bandwidth (Menu 14) has only the options of Wide and Narrow.  There is no other setting for receive mode.

Part 4: Bugs and Issues
 
As one may expect from a radio at this price point, I am finding Firmware bugs and issues.  I will list critical ones here.
  • SERIOUS -- If you store a repeater frequency (i.e. a frequency with a transmit offset) in a memory channel, and then turn off transmit offset, or select a different offset in the VFO, the offset will not be recalled when you go to channel mode, and select a stored repeater channel.  This essentially means you cannot properly store/recall repeaters.
  • If NOAA weather radio is selected in the FM "Radio" mode, You will occasionally hear NOAA weather radio even when there is not an alert, and without the display switching to the weather radio display.
  • If you have both the voice prompts (Menu 03) and the Key Beep (Menu 04) turned on, the Beeps become an obnoxious click/scratch.  A lot of the voice prompts simply say "Function", with out actually announcing what function it is. The options withing a given function (menu item) are not announced.  In other words, the radio cannot actually be used by someone who cannot see the screen.
  • There is a note icon at the top of the screen.  I believe this is supposed to indicate key beeps on, but it does not go away when the key beeps are off.
  • Possible poor out of band receive. I cannot receive the ATIS from my local airport while sitting in my front yard with the radio connected to a mag mount antenna on top of my truck.  Using the same antenna, and with the truck in the same position, my Wouxun KG-UV9D Plus picks up the ATIS loud and clear (although with an S reading of about 2).  As mentioned, the HamGeek FB-8 requires a different PL-259 -to- SMA adapter, but I have tried several different adapters and arrangements, so I have ruled out a defective adapter cable.  It is also not a tuning issue.  If the squelch is turned off, the ATIS can be heard on the FB-8, but is "down in the noise", and not really usable.
This area will be updated as I continue to familiarize myself with this radio.
 
Part 5: Features
 
This radio does have its benefits, as already mentioned above. I will summarize them here, and add more as I discover more of what this radio can do.
  • Obviously, price is one of the main features.  As one reads the above, and in fact this whole thread, it is important to keep in mind that this is a $45 radio.
  • USB Charging
  • Direct plug-in Drop in charger
  • Full coverage receiver.  It basically receives -- in some form or another -- continuously from 65 to 520MHz.
  • Frequency Counter/DCS/CTSS scanner "code breaker" -- Just hold the FB-8 near any other transmitter, and it will detect the frequency and any DCS/CTSS codes being sent.  This does work, and the VFO can be set to the same frequency/codes with the press of a button.  A neat feature for a $45 radio.
  • Weather alert feature -- more on this once I actually see it work.
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« Last Edit: Apr 25th, 2022, 9:37am by Administrator »  

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Re: HamGeek FB-8 Chinese Ham Handheld HT Radio
Reply #2 - Mar 20th, 2022, 1:20am
 
HamGeek FB-8 Review
 
Part 6: Better description of the Menu Functions

 
Menus can be selected using the Encoder dial on top, the up/down keys, or by typing the number on the keypad.
  • Menu 01 - Language -- Chinese and English are supported.
  • Menu 02 - Mode - Switches between Channel and VFO mode.  The same as pressing the [# V/M] key.
  • Menu 03 - Voice - Turns Voice prompts ON or OFF
  • Menu 04 - Beep - Turns Key Beeps ON or OFF. See "Bugs" in the previous post.
  • Menu 05 - Rogger - Spelling error for Roger. Roger Beep function.  Note that Roger beeps are illegal for Ham use. The beep is a triple beep, and can be set to Start, End, Both, or OFF.  
  • Menu 06 - Standby - Dual Watch feature on/off, when off, the second (smaller, not selected) frequency or channel will not be heard.  Short cut to this function is by long pressing [6 DW].  DW is displayed at the top of the screen when on.
  • Menu 07 - TX PRI - I have to admit I have not figured this one out yet.  Settings are Edit and Busy.  Shortcut to this function is by long pressing [2 PRI]
  • Menu 08 - Key Lock - Key bad will automatically lock after the selected number of seconds. (or OFF) The keypad can be locked/unlocked by long pressing [*Lock]
  • Menu 09 - Backlight - Sets backlight time out in seconds.
  • Menu 10 - Save Mode - RX Power Saving mode - Off = Receiver always on - the lager the second number of the ratio, the more infrequently the receiver is activated.
  • Menu 11 - Freq Step - VFO step setting.
  • Menu 12 - Freq Dir - Repeater Frequency off set mode.  Offset here in the US is typically -600 KHz for 2M repeaters and +5MHz for 70cm repeaters.
  • Menu 13 - Offset - Repeater Frequency off set amount.  It should be noted that the radio does not default to the above standards.  Offset direction and frequency must be set for every repeater programmed.  See the "Bugs" section in the previous post.
  • Menu 14 - Bandwidth - FM bandwidth. Must be set to Narrow for 2m US Ham bands. This is not set automatically based on frequency.
  • Menu 15 - VOX - VOX sensitivity -- VOX on/off is selected by long pressing [3 VOX]
  • Menu 16 - Squelch - Basic signal squelch setting - 0 is off.  There is no auto squelch setting.
  • Menu 17 - Power - TX power - High or Low.
  • Menu 18 - TOT - Transmit Off Timer - Limits maximum transmit time.
  • Menu 19 - Busy Lock - I have not tried this feature.  I think it is to prevent transmitting on a busy channel.
  • Menu 20 - Scrambler - Voice scrambler function - This is illegal on Ham (and possibly other) bands.
  • Menu 21 - FreqScan - Frequency counter and CTSS/DCS finder -- Pressing [√] [MENU] after it finds the frequency of a nearby or strong signal and detects a code, will copy this frequency into the active VFO and set TX and RX CTS/DCS to the same code. Pressing [x] [EXIT] will discard the results, and return the radio to the previous mode/channel/frequency.  
  • Menu 22 - CTC/DCS - Sets TX and RX CTCSS/DCS - Select mode by pressing [* Lock]
  • Menu 23 - RX CTDC - Same as above for Receive Squelch
  • Menu 24 - TX CTDC - Same as above for sending CTCSS/DCS tones/codes without affecting the Squelch.
  • Menu 25 - Encrypt - Digital encryption? This is illegal on Ham (and possibly other) bands.
  • Menu 26 - Mute Mode - More on this as I work with this radio
  • Menu 27 - Mute Code - More on this as I work with this radio.  This may be illegal on Ham (and possibly other) bands.
  • Menu 28 - Radio - Selects whether FM broadcast or NOAA Weather Radio is received when using the "FM" (broadcast) feature.  The selected mode is activated by long pressing [0 FM]. See the "Bugs" section in the previous post.
  • Menu 29 - R Standby -  
  • Menu 30 - Tail Tone - This is typically a sub-audible tone used to turn a remote radio (repeater) off after a transmission.  Untested.
  • Menu 31 - Memory CH - Store (write) current active VFO in memory (001 - 128).
  • Menu 32 - Delete CH - Clear a channel memory (001 - 128).
  • Menu 33 - initial - Reset radio to factory settings - Erases all stored channels and settings - Selecting YES resets the radio without further confirmation.
  • Menu 34 - Voltage - Displays battery voltage.  It does not actually change or set anything.
  • Menu 35 - Edition -  This displays the Firmware Name and date (apparently not actually a version) -- It does not actually change or set anything.  There is no way to get to a firmware update mode that I have found yet.)

Coming Soon
Scan of the "Owners Manual" (Single Sheet).
Join in the Discussion!
Can you help with any of these functions?  Tips/Tricks?
Please email "john" at this domain, and I will create an account for you.  Your email will not be made public.
NOTE
Google is currently providing an incorrect URL for search terms such as "HamGeek FB-8 Review".  It is linking to a "Newest Posts" link which is making this thread appear in reverse order, and mixed in with other articles here on the Linuxslate.com Forums.  The correct URL for the tread dedicated to the HamGeek FB-8 is:  http://linuxslate.com/cgi-bin/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1647740157
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« Last Edit: Mar 31st, 2022, 2:05pm by Administrator »  

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Re: HamGeek FB-8 Chinese Ham Handheld HT Radio Rev
Reply #3 - Mar 31st, 2022, 3:04pm
 
HamGeek FB-8 Chinese Ham Handheld HT Radio Review
 
NOTE:
Google is currently providing an incorrect link to this review which is making this thread appear in reverse order, and mixed in with other articles here on the Linuxslate.com Forums.  The correct URL for the tread dedicated to the HamGeek FB-8 is:  http://linuxslate.com/cgi-bin/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1647740157
 
Part 7: More about USB Charging
 
Especially in light of the fact that most other Ham HT's do not include USB charging, many readers may be tempted to think that there is a technical issue with USB charging.  After all, most HT's have 2 cell (7.4 volt) batteries.  How do you charge a 7.4V (8.4V fully charged) battery from 5V?!
 
In fact there's a reason why Ham HT's usually use 2 cell (2S, or 2 Series) Lithium Ion/Lithium Polymer batteries while mobile phones typically contain a single cell battery (3.7V nominal).  The higher voltage is needed to efficiently produce 5W of RF output.  But USB is only 5VDC -- It's impossible to charge a 2S battery from 5V.  In order for a Ham HT to be charged from USB, a voltage boost circuit must be employed.  I made one to replace the 12VDC "wall wart" for my Wouxun charger, and they are a commonly available accessory.  The USB-C connector on the side of the HamGeek FB-8 simply means that there is a boost converter inside the FB-8.  Given the current capability of USB-C, and most modern USB power supplies, there is plenty of power available to overcome the small inefficiency of the boost converter.  Charging my  Wouxun KG-UV9D(Plus) is not any slower with my home-made boost cable than it is from the provided "wall-wart", and charging the HamGeek FB-8 is not any slower using USB-C than using the provided drop-in charger.
 
Part 8: Conclusion
 
With a little runtime on this radio, I can provide some overall thoughts on this radio.  Clearly, it's main benefits are the low cost, and the fact that it has integrated USB-C Charging.  Not having to worry about carrying chargers, battery eliminators, etc. is a huge benefit.  On the ham bands, it puts out the same power as most HT's and communicating via simplex or via local repeaters seems to work fine.  The wide receive is an added benefit, although this is clearly an ancillary function, and it's performance cannot be relied on.
 
The HamGeek FB-8 makes a good solution as an emergency preparedness radio, or a "keep in the car" radio[1] for the Ham that already has several "more serious" radios.  It is also an inexpensive solution for a newly licensed ham that may now want to invest in expensive radios and dozens of accessories.
 
While frequencies over an extended range can be entered from the keyboard, it is not fully functional on all bands as a receiver, let alone transmitter.  In addition to the fact that it may not work reliably for other uses, it is also illegal to use it for non-ham purposes.  No radio -- let alone a $50 one -- is a real solution for Marine, FRS, GMRS, Air, etc.
 
So to answer the question posed at the beginning of this review: Will the HamGeek FB-8 become my Every Day Carry handheld radio?  The ability to charge it via a standard USB-C cable offsets its many deficiencies. It's an adequate HT to jump into a conversation on the local repeater, or to listen in on nearby Air or Marine activity.  Without the ability to program frequencies from a PC or event to name channels from the radio itself, I will just use it mostly in VFO mode, entering frequencies one at a time from a paper list or a file on my phone.  I don't actually carry an HT with me every place, but -- Yes -- The HamGeek FB-8 will likely be the HT I reach for most -- at least until the next "New Thing" arrives on my doorstep.  Perhaps the folks at HamGeek would like to send me a  HamGeek Q900 All-Band SDR.  That would get a Review on my YouTube Channel  
 
[1] Normal precautions for storing Li-Ion batteries should be observed.  Do not store such batteries where they may experience high temperatures.
 
Part 9: Owners Manual
Upload/Link soon.
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« Last Edit: Apr 4th, 2022, 7:36pm by Administrator »  

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