Editorial: Chinese Knockoff of Yaesu VX-8 pisses me off.

Editor’s Note: It is accepted practice in the field of personal blogging to apologize and come up with excuses when one doesn’t update their blog for a few months. I’m not going to do that.  I’m here now.  Move on and read.

For a number of years now, the Chinese have been shaking up the Amateur Radio market for beginning hams.  Love ’em or hate ’em, you have to agree that Baofeng and Wouxun have definitely lowered the cost of entering the hobby, at least for UHF and VHF.

Yaesu FT-470 from the early 90s (hampedia.net Image)

I remember when I bought my first dual-band UHF/VHF handy talkie.  It was a Yaesu FT-470.  It was a beautiful radio.  My dad drove me to Erickson Communications in Chicago to buy it.  It had an MSRP of $395.  I saved up real money for it (I think I was 16).  And it was a brick.  Probably the best HT that money could buy in the early 90s.

Modern Yaesu FT-60R (image hampedia.net)

These days, a similarly-featured dual bander from one of the “Big 3” radio manufacturers (Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu) has a list price around $200 (The Yaesu FT-60R is a good example), however there are finer radios with more features that hit $400 or $500 or so, especially when you get into digital modes like System Fusion or D*Star, or if you want GPS/APRS functionality.  Which is why I bought my Yaesu VX-8DR last year — I wanted to be able to use APRS when I went to the HAM RADIO show in Germany.  It is probably the finest radio I have ever owned, and when it was all said and done, I shelled out nearly $800 for the whole kit, including GPS, extra high-capacity battery, speaker-mic, and desk charger.

A little over five years ago, I started seeing some sub-$100 dual band radios at a local hamfest.  I was intrigued, yet I couldn’t see how a quality radio could be had for that amount of money.  I can’t remember the actual manufacturer of that radio, as the vendor (Main Trading Company) had ordered them custom branded with his logo.  However, that was only the beginning.  You can now buy a Baofeng UV-5R dual-bander on Amazon for $23.99.  Yes, that’s 1/16th of what I paid for my FT-470 about 23 years ago.

However, you get what you pay for.  The ARRL has tested a number of HTs at a number of radio conventions and they determined that a number of the Baofengs and Wouxuns are non-compliant with FCC regulations (click on image to enlarge):

Page from November 2015 QST showing ARRL test results of HTs at various radio conventions since 2012.

Since these Chinese imports are marketed as commercial (Part 90) FCC certified radios (which is verrry questionable considering they are front panel programmable, which commercial radios must not be), these target not only the amateur market, but tightwad businesses with “licenses.”  In real life, these are also targeted at people who don’t give a s#!t about licenses, but I digress.

Anyway, I’m getting way off here.  My point is that, although they are crappy radios, they get the job done and they have allowed many hams to get on the air.  And they are disposable — if you drop one in the toilet it won’t make you mad for a week.  So they serve a purpose.

My real point is that I saw this on Facebook today in the AmateurLogic.tv group:

ScreenHunter_93 Mar. 19 19.13At first look, I thought it was a Yaesu VX-8 series radio.  I own one.  I use it a lot.  I know what it looks like.  I actually had to read the comments to realize what an atrocity this thing actually is.  This is, apparently, a VEASU UV-8DR radio that looks EXACTLY like my YAESU VX-8DR radio (formatting mine).  Look at the image below.  On the left is a picture of the YAESU VX-8DR directly from the Yaesu website.  On the right is the best closeup I could get of a VEASU UV-8DR that I stole from a Youtube video from 409shop.com, a shady two-way dealer in Hong Kong.

Yaesu VX-8DR (left) vs VEASU UV-8DR (right). Left image courtesy of Yeasu. Right image shamelessly stolen from a Youtube video from 409shop.

Yaesu VX-8DR (left) vs VEASU UV-8DR (right).
Left image courtesy of Yeasu. Right image shamelessly stolen from a Youtube video from 409shop.

One simply has to believe that VAESU has stolen the entire physical design from Yaesu for the case, and used it to house a completely inferior radio.  The only physical differences are the crappy alphanumeric display and the functions of a few of the buttons (since I am almost certain that the knockoff lacks any of the digital features of the Yaesu).  Also, according to the Distant Signal Radio blog, the knockoff is only a dual band UHF/VHF (134-176/400-520MHz) radio, and I’m reasonably sure that it transmits on those entire bands, which probably means that if it’s getting “legally” imported into the US than they are marketing it as an FCC Part 90 certified radio.  The Yaesu VX-8 series is actually a quad-band radio, including 6 Meters (50 MHz) and low-power 220MHz bands.

Exactly two years ago today, there was a huge blowup when a bunch of yellow multimeters were seized at the border.  Apparently, US Customs and Border Patrol intercepted a shipment of cheap $15 multimeters that were bound for the good folks at Sparkfun.  You see, Fluke trademarked the gray and yellow multimeter design, and, even though the color combination was widely copied by others (I have two cheap yellow and gray multimeters), Customs managed to catch these.  Below is a Facebook post I made about this (before I had this blog):

OK. Here is a comparison among some popular Fluke meters and the Sparkfun-branded Chinese one. Other than the rubber case (common among DVMs), and the fact that it is yellow (not the same Pantone shade according to the reports), there are some significant differences. The Sparkfun-branded unit does not have red banana jacks for the positive probe, there are a ton more settings on the knob, the LCD bezel is different, typefaces are different, I think the gray shade is different. No buttons under the LCD where Fluke mostly puts them. Shape is somewhat similar. I think that the customs inspectors took a bit of a broad view and I think that Fluke, while not responsible for this particular incident (other than filing a trademark) is taking it on the chin here. Although they may have the power to help.

1972443_10203023253199583_1576847790_n

Even though the physical casing of the offending Sparkfun meter was almost the same colors, there were a ton of differences and the average electrically-minded person would know at one glance that it wasn’t a Fluke (the Cadillac of multimeters).  But, if one has a trademark, one must protect it or risk losing it.  So the US Customs people were doing their job.  And, to be completely fair about it, when this whole mess came out, Fluke took the high road and donated a bunch of genuine Fluke equipment to SparkFun, who in turned donated them to educational outreaches to the maker community.

Some claimed that the original Baofeng UV-3R was a complete knockoff of the Yaesu VX-3R.  The physical dimensions are close and the dial and TX/RX LED look identical, but there are also enough differences to cause someone to think when they see one.  I have to wonder if Yaesu pursued any trademark issues with them.

Yaesu VX-3R vs Baofeng UV-3R (image from Brick O’Lore Blog)

However, here the horrible VAESU people who counterfeited the Yaesu VX-8 committed a flagrant violation of trademark of a beautiful radio.  I hope to God that Yaesu protects their trademark and finds a way to protect it’s brand and keep these radios out of their major markets (outside of China, anyway).  I can just imagine some poor new ham thinking they got a great deal when it’s really a piece of crap.

 

(Published from DFW, Texas)

9 comments

  • This is my kind of blog….. Thanks
    I found your review of Friedrichshafen interesting too. I got caught up in international hamfesting years ago. I do Dayton, Friedrichshafen, as well as Tokyo, and will also do Sydney this next year. In fact I have 25+ years selling at Dayton, 15 years selling at Friedrichshafen including 2016, and 5 years at Tokyo.
    Thanks, Lee AB5IG

    • Thanks Lee! I see you live here in the DFW area, I’m sure our paths have crossed somewhere. Please let me know how Sydney is… I’m looking for an excuse to go over there.

  • I have two Baofengs and one Wouxun. And they serve a purpose, which is to throw around and not worry. I’ve been licensed for almost 4 years now and really haven’t done much besides listening in with those cheap HTs. I’m sure this Veasu is made by the same factory as the other Chinese radios. They make a good radio for the cost and the demographic I don’t see why they have to copy the entire VX-8. That’s just plain rude! Baofeng definitely made a bunch of people transmit illegally, a lot of airsoft players use them because they are better than FRS radios at that price point. Those kids know nothing about amateur radio and has no interest in it.

    my background is, I had Ham friends in high school, they were so cool to me because everyone had pagers then and when we went to college, they were still able to talk with each other at a moment’s notice. I started studying for the test, but then cellphone started to become mainstream and my parents got me one, that’s when I stopped studying. 17 years later I decided found out about these cheap radios and picked one up, then I decided to just get the damn license. funniest thing is, the testing location was done at an office building right next to me! It’s so easy compared to what it was back then.

    I’m been eyeing the VX-8 for a while now and just waiting to pull the trigger. All I will probably use in the near future is an HT because I live in a condo where the HOA wouldn’t let us install an antenna. And my wife would never let me do it anyway. I just want to have one solid HT

    73

    • I have one of these, the manual is totally incomplete and there are features I will never figure out and the keypad numbers will probably wear off.. The good part is I can listen to broadcast fm, it 2 bands I can transmit on, its really loud if I want it to be and it has a flashlight. Its also cheaper than any scanner I could buy. Yes, I have a general ticket. Going back to the bad,,I spent my money in China, but I won’t pay close to $400 for a handheld. I haven’t checked all the parameters of this radio but I found it would transmit on the weather band, 162 mhz, who knows where else it can transmit>

  • Hi,
    I’ve bought this UV-8DR for what it was, knowing exactly that I wouldn’t get a Yaesu radio. I did not try to compare it upscale to a real Yaesu, instead, I compared it to the Anytone AT-3208 + Baofengs and BTech radios I have (UV-3R, UV-5R, BF-F8HP, UV-5×3).
    The positives for the UV-8DR over Baofengs are:
    – You can add/delete channels from the scanning list right form the radio keypad (yes I know, the BTech 5×3 brought this improvement).
    – this radio has two PTT: one for the “A” band and one for the “B” band.
    – it has green and red LEDs for A and B band: you know in one glance which band is active without fumbling to get the screen lit up to see which one is active.
    – the dual-watch has one improvement over the Baofengs dual-watch: you can scan A band while having a preffered channel standing by on the B band, and if it comes active while A band is scanning, A band stops scanning and let you hear your channel of the B band (!) not quite the *real* dual watch of the major ham radio brands, but a notch above Baofeng concept.
    – Carrier operated scan does not have the 7 second delay-before-scan-resumes: it has a more classic ~ 2 or ~ 3 second pause.
    – received audio is much beefier that the thin sounding UV-5R / UV-5×3; it is not quite the pro sound of the Anytone, but it is much more on par with the BF-F8HP.
    -the keypad buttons have the same solid feel as the Yaesu, and you can easily lock the keyboard with one quick push of the power button.
    – the top rotary button is wrongly identified as a volume button: it is the same concept as Yaesu, push a button on the side while turning this top button, to adjust the volume.
    – this radio has about the same volume at 1 (scaled from 1 to 15) as my Yaesu FT1D has at mid-volume!
    – speaking of the FT1D: I was about to order a backup 1800mAh battery, at ~ 50 to 80$, but this UV-8DR has a 2250mAh battery that is 100% swappable with the Yaesu.

  • I bought the MML UV-8DR Tri-band radio so that I may get on six local 220mhz repeaters here and for $62.70, plus it sounds fantastic on EchoLink, I just had to buy this radio. I was able to figure out in five minutes to program frequencies into this radio until I got to frequencies that required PL tones, could not unlock the PL tones from the face keypad.
    Started watching YouTube videos and ran across one titled,”UV-8DR Audio Test” when compared to the Yaesu VX-8DR, a very expensive original version of the radio I bought. In the video, the audio test of the UV-8DR blasts the more expensive VX-8DR out of the water. I wasn’t aware of the knock off side of the Yaesu radio but I felt fortunate that it did much better than the VX-8DR in audio comparisons. The downside to the radio I bought was that the owners manual was in jibberish instead of plain English and only a couple pages that didn’t seem like it was for the radio I bought. The box it came in was just as meaningless also. The battery seems to drain on its own also. Plus I still have not been able to unlock the PL tones yet either. I understand that Chirp doesn’t make a program file for this radio yet but there is a program for it floating around but I’ve developed a good habit long ago to learn to program all of my radios on the fly for EmComm Emergency communications when computers out in the field is not usually the option. So if anyone has figured how to program this radio with PL tones on the fly, look up my call on QRZ.com and send me an email. PS-The volume knob isn’t really the volume knob unless you push in the monitor button at the same time to adjust the volume, radio came with the volume at full blast to my shock!

  • Just ordered 2 of them (UV-8DR). At $59 a pop, why the hell not? Couple of throw away radios for my upcoming trip…because heaven forbid anything happens to my real Yaesu VX-8DR. Yes I proudly own one…and it is in a league of its own and it cannot be in any way compared to the UV-8DR other than physical appearance. Totally night and day. The UV-8DR is just an FM radio. The VX-8DR is so much more.

  • SO, you saw this and without buying one for the $50. price, trashtalked everything about it, and didn’t bother to read or watch all the POSITIVE reviews of the same radio? Your a pretentious ass, do you do the same thing sitting in traffic in your Lexass or Rolls looking down at the cheaper affordable cars too?

    • My first impulse was to delete your comment because I can tell that you are a dick, but then I determined that you probably can’t read very well so I felt sorry for you. I must be a pretentious ass for having trouble with the idea that a Chinese knockoff company is getting away with “deriving” Yeasu’s case design and using an almost 100% copy of it for their own, which can be taken as infringement by the way. Oh, and on top of it, they use an almost indistinguishable name and logo design. Sure, the smart ones among us can actually read, but it’s still wrong. I would be perfectly fine if they would have taken their $50 radio guts and put it in a differently designed case and a more original name.

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