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BaoFeng BF-F8HP Review

This radio has amazing performance, but requires a ham operator's license to be used legally
baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review
Credit: Baofeng
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $70 List | $69.89 at Amazon
Pros:  Excellent range, has an extraordinary amount of features/settings, good battery life
Cons:  Difficult to set up and learn to use, has the capability to get you in trouble with the FCC
Manufacturer:   Baofeng
By Gray Grandy ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 1, 2020
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
54
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 9
  • Range and Clarity - 30% 10.0
  • Ease of Use - 25% 1.0
  • Weather Resistance and Durability - 15% 5.0
  • Battery Life - 15% 5.0
  • Weight and Size - 15% 4.0

Our Verdict

The BaoFeng BF-F8HP wins our Top Pick Award as the best radio for properly licensed ham radio operators. It can only be used legally by those who have a valid Technician ham radio license or higher. It has an amazing amount of settings, its battery lasts quite a while, and it has an unbeatable range. On top of all that, it is a great value coming in the middle of the pack regarding price. It's also the radio we would recommend to the smallest niche of potential consumers of all models we tested. This radio is super capable, incredibly powerful, and just plain awesome — if you have the skills to use it and are properly licensed (through the FCC in the United States). This isn't a model that we recommend to the general public. It has enough power and frequency range that you need proper licensing/training to operate it in many regions. We can't emphasize enough that you need to be well aware of the local laws and regulations where you plan to use it or risk incurring fines and/or other penalties. Radio rules can also vary significantly by counties, states, and countries, so you are going to want to pay extra attention when traveling to ensure you remain in compliance. If this seems too confusing or too much of a hassle for you, then the BF-F8HP isn't the radio for you. On top of all that, this radio is usually sold individually, rather than in pairs like the typical amateur walkie talkie — if you want two, you have to buy two separately.

Licensing Required To Operate This Model — How to Get It

At the time of publishing, the legal operation of the BaoFeng BF-F8HP requires the minimum of a Technician license from the FCC in the US. If this model is appealing to you, you will need to study for and pass the written Technician Class examination provided by the FCC.

Study: The exam will be a 35 question multiple-choice test. You must get 26 correct to pass. The 35 questions come from a question pool of about 400 questions that is publicly available. You only need to worry about the test pool for the Technician License. There are many test prep resources available online.

Take the Exam: First, you'll need to find your nearest test location, which is easily done with an online search. There is typically a small cost to take the test. Show up with a valid form of government ID. You may bring a calculator. Test materials and a pencil will be provided. If you pass, you can choose to try the higher levels if you desire. You must wait until your call sign shows up in the FCC Universal Licensing System before you can use your license (usually about 10 days). US licenses are valid for 10 years.

Optional: Join a club - You can find mentors to help you learn and answer questions.

Our review covers the capability and performance of this radio. It is up to you to inform yourself of the regulations that apply to own and operate this model.

Compare to Similar Products

 
baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review
This Product
BaoFeng BF-F8HP
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award    
Price $70 List
$69.89 at Amazon
$30 List
$30.00 at REI
$35 List
$27.99 at Amazon
$35 List
$20.99 at Amazon
$50 List
$40.69 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Excellent range, has an extraordinary amount of features/settings, good battery lifeInexpensive, small and light, water resistant, has privacy codesSmall and lightweight, inexpensiveInexpensive, small, good range for its sizeTiny, lightweight
Cons Difficult to set up and learn to use, has the capability to get you in trouble with the FCCPoor range, inaccurate battery indicatorNot that easy to use, just adequate rangePoor battery life, no water resistance ratingPoor range, hard to operate, poor battery life
Bottom Line This radio has amazing performance, but requires a ham operator's license to be used legallyThis radio is small, light, and packs plenty of battery life, but lacks the range of larger radiosAverage performance across the board in a small packageCompared to other inexpensive and small radios on the market, this radio has better range and comparable features but falls back in battery lifeA tiny radio, but it lacks useful capabilities
Rating Categories BaoFeng BF-F8HP Midland X-Talker T10 Motorola Talkabout... Radioddity FS-T2 Cobra ACXT145
Range and Clarity (30%)
10.0
3.0
4.0
4.0
2.0
Ease of Use (25%)
1
5.0
4.0
5.0
4.0
Weather Resistance and Durability (15%)
5.0
6.0
4.0
4.0
4.0
Battery Life (15%)
5.0
7.0
6.0
3.0
4.0
Weight and Size (15%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
Specs BaoFeng BF-F8HP Midland X-Talker T10 Motorola Talkabout... Radioddity FS-T2 Cobra ACXT145
Measured Weight (Single Radio, with Batteries) 7.8 oz 3.9 oz 4.0 oz 4.1 oz 3.1 oz
Battery Capacity 2,000 mAh 1,000 mAh 1,000 mAh 1500 mAh 300 mAh
Battery Type Lithium Ion AAA AAA Li-ion NiMH, Alkaline AAA
Rechargeable? Yes No No Yes Yes, also can use normal AAA batteries
Charge Via USB? No n/a n/a Yes Yes
Battery Life Test Results (hr:min) 17:40 21:20 19:30 10:45 14:20
Frequency Range 65-108MHz (FM Receive only) 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz (TX/RX) 462.55 to 467.71 MHz 462.55 to 467.71 MHz 462.5625 to 467.7125 MHz 462.55 to 467.71 MHz
Dimensions (in) Body Only 2 x 1.2 x 3.7" 2 x 1 x 3.5" 2 x 1 x 3.5" 2 x 1 x 5.9" 2 x 1 x 3.5"
Channels 100+ 22 22 22 22
Privacy Codes? Yes Yes, 38 available No 157 available No
Keypad Lock? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
NOAA Weather Alerts? No Yes No Yes Yes
VOX? Yes Yes No Yes No
Scan Function? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Clips to Pack? No (mounts sold separately) Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The BF-F8HP stands out by having an amazing range (over ten miles in our test with minimal obstructions) and the ability to work on all sorts of frequencies. Additionally, it was a solid performer in all categories except Ease of Use. However, all of this capability comes with the requirement of a valid ham operator license from the FCC in the US. It is imperative to know if you have the correct permissions and licensure to own and use this radio. Its great performance and moderate price make it a stellar value if a radio this complex is right for you.

Performance Comparison


baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - with this extremely powerful baofeng model, you can transmit across...
With this extremely powerful BaoFeng model, you can transmit across much larger distances than most consumer-grade radios. However, with great power comes great complexity. A license is required to transmit with this model.
Credit: Caroline Miller

Range and Clarity


This is the BaoFeng's strongest category. It consistently showed far above-average range and clarity of sound in all conditions and topography. While testing, it was common to have this radio continue to make transmissions far past the planned length of the test area. In the straight and unobstructed test, it was still making transmissions at over 10 miles away, and that number dropped to around a mile for radio to radio traffic over a larger hill. Even in the middle of a heavy snowstorm, this model was able to transmit up to a mile with a large hill between each radio. Standing unobstructed on high mountain summits, we have picked up transmissions from scores of miles away.


You can even buy longer antennas for this radio that extend the range of this radio. Again, depending on where you live on Earth, local and national laws might require licensing, training, or more to be able to utilize these add-ons, if legal at all.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - when it comes to range and clarity, the capabilities of the baofeng...
When it comes to range and clarity, the capabilities of the Baofeng BF-F8HP are simply unmatched. That's why it requires a license to operate in the US.
Credit: William Gray Grandy

Ease of Use


If you want a radio that is easily operated with no setup work and an easy learning curve, this radio is not for you. However, if you enjoy or can deal with taking significant time to figure out how to operate this radio, you will probably find it enjoyable to operate after you have become comfortable with it. If you are a licensed radio enthusiast, this radio will be relatively easy to operate. If you aren't, it's most likely going to prove to have a large learning curve, and that you need to require adequate training and obtain a license before considering this model.


Saying that this radio is more difficult to operate than the others we tested is an "apples to oranges" comparison because this radio has so many more settings and capabilities than most other personal two-way radios. For all of its capabilities - its actually laid out pretty well and has a reasonably intuitive menu for folks who are experienced with more complex radios. It has a great volume/power knob and another button that lets you easily toggle between transmitting on two different channels. Its display provides useful information and the key lock works reliably. It also has a huge assortment of accessories you can buy to customize it to your needs. One of these accessories is a computer cord that makes setup of saved channels significantly less tedious. If you have a need for the additional capabilities that the BF-F8HP offers, it has a lot of well thought out features that make it reasonable to operate after you have spent some time with it.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - the bf-f8hp had a nice solid casing and a good display that lights...
The BF-F8HP had a nice solid casing and a good display that lights up when you need it. Of all models we tested, it is the most complex and requires a greater understanding to utilize and operate.
Credit: Gray Grandy

If you do want to work through the menus to operate this beast, you will find a few more annoyances. The buttons are so small that any sort of gloves or even wide fingers will leave you flailing. The manual it comes with did not get us very far towards making our first radio call, but luckily BaoFeng has a good internet following to help us out. There are many how-to videos available online that further explain how to operate this model. It didn't come stocked with a clip on the back, but you can buy such a mount separately.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - the a/b button allows us to easily toggle between two saved...
The A/B button allows us to easily toggle between two saved channels. This is a very useful feature for interfacing with multiple groups, but is not necessary for the average recreationist. The complexity of this radio is great for those who can utilize it, but a burden for those who won't.
Credit: Caroline Miller

If your goals are to keep track of your ski partner or to communicate with your belayer, the additional complexity of this BaoFeng radio will make your learning process much longer than for other radios. Frankly, we don't recommend it for this type of use. It doesn't come with any frequencies preset, and the manual it came with barely scratched the surface of what you need to know to get it going. It has so many buttons that a more timid user will be in constant fear of pressing the wrong one and getting lost in the world of menu options. And if you do inadvertently change the settings while in the backcountry, you need to know how to reset them without the help of the internet.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - the ptt button was easy to use in big winter gloves, but the rest of...
The PTT button was easy to use in big winter gloves, but the rest of the buttons required finer detail.
Credit: Caroline Miller

So is it easy to use? That depends on your technical knowledge and abilities. If you have a ham radio license or work professionally with radios, no, it's probably not that significant of a learning curve. However, it certainly is not as easy to use as any FRS two way radio we tested, which only have a few settings to choose from and very little to screw up. For the majority of consumers, it's more complex than you'll probably ever need.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - the small buttons on the baofeng can mean cold fingers for anything...
The small buttons on the BaoFeng can mean cold fingers for anything more than basic functions.
Credit: Caroline Miller

Weather Resistance and Durability


Documentation for the BF-F8HP makes no mention of weather resistance, so this one is not made to be dropped in the water or operated during a severe storm. However, it did survive all of the wet adventures we took it on without blinking an eye. It does have nice rubber covers for any electrical ports to help deter the ingress of water.


The casing is a burly feeling plastic with nice metal screws holding it together and showed minimal visual wear after our months of use. The flexible antenna and stout volume knob had no problems being stuffed in a backpack for a while. In dusty conditions, grime did build up in the screen covering the speaker, but this never seemed to affect the function of the radio. Overall, this radio seemed up to the task for the vast majority of users unless you know you will be using it in poor conditions or over water.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - the bf-f8hp survived all of the weather we used it in, but was not...
The BF-F8HP survived all of the weather we used it in, but was not rated for water resistance or submersion like some others.
Credit: Michelle Powell

Battery Life


The BF-F8HP had a totally adequate battery life of 17 hours and 40 minutes when making a ten-second transmission every five minutes in our controlled battery life tests. This should be plenty of battery for the vast majority of users. The battery indicator on the display has three bars to keep you in the loop as to how much life is left. While the bars did not drop in equal thirds of the total battery life, they did give us a general idea of how much was left in the tank. The last ten minutes before it dies, it repeatedly says "low voltage" out loud.


If you need better battery life, you can buy larger battery packs that will increase the size and weight of your radio, but also increase your use time. Overall, this radio did very well to have this long of life, considering that it has the capability to transmit at approximately 4x the watts as most other personal radios.

The lithium ion battery pack on the BF-F8HP clipped firmly in and...
The lithium ion battery pack on the BF-F8HP clipped firmly in and was easy to remove. While you can't use regular batteries in this radio, you can buy extra Li-ion battery packs so one can be charging while one is in use.
This model has above-average battery life with a helpful on-screen...
This model has above-average battery life with a helpful on-screen battery indicator that is more accurate than some models we tested.

Weight and Size


The BF-F8HP weighs 7.8 ounces per radio, which is on the heavier side for the radios we tested. Its body is 2in. x 1.25in. x 3.75in. and the antenna added another 6.5in. of height. It's one of the biggest and bulkiest models we tested. While it's not so big and heavy to be considered completely obtrusive, it's also bigger than most people want when backcountry skiing, multi-pitch climbing, or on fast and light missions.


When carrying it around, it felt pretty dense for its moderate size. It is fine to have in a jacket pocket, but it's also hard to forget that it's there. The long antenna seemed to be just long enough to make it too big for a lot of pockets. All things considered, it's actually pretty amazing that such a powerful machine is packed into such a small package. Relative to most other consumer-grade models, though, it's large and cumbersome.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - the bf-f8hp only comes with a small wrist lanyard, but you can buy...
The BF-F8HP only comes with a small wrist lanyard, but you can buy all sorts of compatible clips and mounts to make transporting this model more reasonable.
Credit: Caroline Miller

Value


Is this radio worth the money? Well, that depends on if you are a good match for it. This is such a polarizing walkie talkie. It is a great value for licensed users, but a very poor value for others. If you want the capabilities it offers, there are few to no options that provide nearly as good of a value. It has such above-average performance in key metrics without a monstrous price. However, if you just need a simple radio with FRS stations and not much else, and don't want to wade through a technical challenge of acquiring the proper licensing, the value of this radio quickly diminishes and is surpassed by less expensive and easier to operate options.

Conclusion


This radio is great for someone willing to go through with the licensing requirements. It is not easy out of the box, but some learning will make it a powerful tool for the right licensed user. Its exceptional range and strong performance in many metrics make it stand out, especially for the price. It's a specialized tool, meant for a specialized user. If that's you, the BaoFeng BF-F8HP is about as good of a gear blessing as you can receive. It that's not you, choose another model.

baofeng bf-f8hp walkie talky review - when wind drowns out the voice in the radio, the volume knob on the...
When wind drowns out the voice in the radio, the volume knob on the BF-F8HP made it easy to find the right volume.
Credit: William Gray Grandy

Gray Grandy
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