If only as a warning to others.
Way back in 1976, General Motors introduced the Chevette, a sad little cramped hatchback that, when equipped with the automatic transmission, could barely drag itself above 100 km/hour. Friends had rusted-out Pintos and Toyotas that we would rather ride in than a new Chevette. GM was the biggest automaker in the world. They had engineering resources in Europe and Asia that knew how to make small cars. There was no excuse for this sorry little atrocity. They should have known better. That’s how we feel about Baofeng and the DM-X / DM1702.
Yeah, we’re dumping on on this radio. If you have the misfortune of having bought one, keep reading because we provide a bunch of links and info to make it usable.
We really don’t want to dump on Baofeng. They make some great cheap radios. We’ve written an entire how-to guide on the UV-B6. It’s been a rugged little starter radio and we’ve recommended it to lots of people. Lots of cheap accessories. A Scout group we helped out with their ham certifications all have them, and they’re still going after two years and plenty of abuse.
With a goal of trying out one of the digital radio protocols for the first time, we ordered up a Baofeng DMX, which supports the DMR spec. It’s sometimes referred to as the DM-1702, and on their official web site, it’s the DM-1702B. These three are essentially the same radio but with different cases and button layouts.
This is the manual that came with the radio. The picture looks nothing like the radio we received. Front panel is different. Side buttons are in different locations. Pressing a side button provides a completely different function than what the manual says. Different… and we can’t figure out what it’s doing.
So we do some web searches. There is an official manual on the Baofeng web site, but… it’s a radio manual. They are never very good. The manual lists features that this radio doesn’t have. Like the flashlight.
Why do Baofengs have a built-in flashlight?
To help you find your good radio.
OK, let’s try entering VFO mode (that’s ham-speak for “enter the frequency manually” mode, instead of using presets).
No combination of buttons will put the thing in VFO mode. It’s presets or nothing. A search of the manual shows that you can go through a few level of menus to enter a frequency and other parameters. This is usually only required for duplex/repeater setup.
Search the web… all you find is the sobbing of radio buyers crying out for a VFO function. It doesn’t seem to exist. You have to run through the menus. Top left button is Menu then Settings -> Program Radio -> RX Frequency.
Update: there are a couple of ways we’ve figured out to move from presets to VFO. That’s in the programming section below.
Keep going from that menu… enter RX (receive) and TX (transmit) and the CTCSS frequency for a local repeater and we’re good to go.
Hit the transmit button and…
SWEET JUMPIN’ JEEBUS IN A FARADAY CAGE! WHAT’S THAT NOISE?
As soon as I hit the transmit button, the paper shredder behind me starts running. Try it again. Same thing. Consistent, repeatable test from up to 4 feet away. BUT THE SHREDDER HAS NO REMOTE CONTROL FEATURE!
This shredder has some kind of touchless sensor that detects when you insert a piece of paper. Must be triggering it somehow -maybe induced voltage on the sensor’s wire acting as an antenna?
I’ve tried it in a couple of other rooms around the house. It induces clicks and buzzes in a clock radio that isn’t even on.
I took off the included antenna and hooked it to the cable to the outdoor antenna. No interference. So whatever it is, it’s coming off of the antenna and not the circuit board. Switched to a whip antenna. Same interference, so it’s not a defective antenna.
Note to self: hook up the RTL-SDR and see what the splatter looks like.
Update: other radios have the same effect – so it appears it’s the shredder’s reaction and not specifically the DMX’s fault.
Finally! Something positive to say!
It is a true dual-tuner radio and you can monitor two channels simultaneously.
One of the side buttons switches between the A and B frequencies. Punch in separate frequencies for A and B, and it is monitoring both simultaneously. Hitting the top-right Back button mutes and unmutes the second frequency.
A quick check to see if Chirp supports the radio… and no luck.
Oh. Right. It’s a DMR radio. That means the dreaded code plug. Which requires software. Which was not included with the radio.
It’s hard to find the real Baofeng company website because so many websites selling their radios falsely claim to be official Baofeng sites. With a little digging, we found these official company sites for Fujian Baofeng Electronic Co:
We put messages on all three asking where we could get programming software and firmware download for the radio.
Update: We got a message back from the corporate site, where we found the radio listed as the DM-1702B, which for download shows only a manual. They referred us to the page for the DM-1702, which contains the most recent version of the programming software V1.00.79 – with Chinese installation menus. After a few failed attempts – we had to guess which buttons are OK and Cancel in Chinese – we got it installed. It comes up in Chinese, but if you hit the button in the picture below, it switches to the English menus.
But… despite repeated requests… they don’t put the firmware updates on the website. Feel free to submit your own messages and up the pressure.
We found various forums, videos and Baofeng-selling radio sites that have a variety of firmware and programming software versions. Some claim that some of the releases had viruses and had to be cleaned up.
To make a long story short and save you some pain:
We recommend upgrading to the latest software before configuring the radio. A few things were cleaned up since the earlier version.
This video provides instructions and links to download the software and firmware, and takes you through the entire process. If for some reason the links are missing, we saved a copy here with CPS 1.0.78 and firmware 2.2.22.
You will need a programming cable – and the good new is that any micro-USB cable will work. There is a cable from Baofeng that plugs into the mic jacks, but it’s not required.
The process is straightforward:
Note: Functions for loading/unloading configuration or firmware in the CPS software will pop up a window that looks like something is happening… but it sits there doing nothing. You have to hit the OK button to get things started.
After starting the CPS program, you need to read the current configuration from the radio. Then all the screens are enabled.
Here are a few highlights.
It’s a good idea to save the configuration before making any changes. That way, you can restore it if you really mess it up.
The most useful part of the CPS program is the ability to configure the three buttons – the two on the left side, under the transmit button, and one on the top, under the General Setting -> Buttons screen. The three buttons are identified on the screen as follows, wity our preferred settings for them:
The P1, P2 and P3 buttons are not available on this radio.
There are a bunch of other functions that can be programmed on to the buttons. Just remember that many of them don’t exist on the radio.
Lots of different settings that you either can’t set from the radio, or that are easier to set on the screens. Have fun looking around.
Look on the Parameter page for things like enabling GPS and APRS.
This is where things get a little hairier. We’re not going to get into a detailed explanation of DMR – a sort-of-standard for digital communication – because there is lots of good information elsewhere.
What you need to know: All channel presets on this radio – analog or digital/DMR – are tied to a DMR zone. If you are setting up analog simplex or duplex/repeater channels in the Channel menu of CPS, you must do the following or they won’t show up on your radio presets.
We’re still working through this. Miklor’s page on the DM1702 says that you can’t monitor a digital talk group on a repeater. We’ve found that when connecting to a repeater, we are hearing whatever is on the channel.
What we have not been able to do is confirm DMR transmission from the DM-1702. Even connecting to the Parrot 9990 channel – it’s a test channel that repeats back what you transmit – we can’t get a response back.
But we are new to DMR, so maybe we’re making a mistake. Maybe it’s something to do with the local repeaters. The local club is heavily biased towards Fusion, a different digital radio spec.
Well keep working it.
In the CPS configuration program, after you have read in the config from your radio or from a file, you can go to General Settings -> Parameter. Near the bottom right corner, there’s a setting for Frequency/Channel Mode. If you set it to Frequency and update the radio… Yeah! You can enter the frequency manually!
To switch between VFO and preset mode, hold down the Back button (top right corner) for about 5 seconds.
Unfortunately, in this mode, presets are only displayed with the frequency. The name/label is not available.
This may be a blessing in disguise. The problem with VFO is that if you’re doing it with repeaters, entering the offset and CTCSS setting from the radios’ menus can be difficult.
The DMX makes it really easy to do from the settings screen.
So here’s how we handle VFO if we want names instead of the frequency displayed:
By doing it in this order, when you scroll back down from presets 3…2…1 you then hit your VFO channels. Don’t forget to assign the channels to Zones, or they won’t display.
To assign as frequency as if you were doing VFO:
I use a separate preset channel for CTCSS because if encode or decode settings are on for the channel you picked, you might forget about it, and you won’t be able to transmit or receive unless you clear them.
If you make a mistake and don’t want to send, there is no way to clear what you entered. Power the radio on and off. Seems dumb, but then again, on any other radio, the tones are sent as your press the keys.
With a bit of work… actually a lot of work – the DMX /DM-1702 becomes usable. We have verified that it can receive DMR, but maybe because of our own experience with DMR – it’s our first attempt – we have not been able to confirm transmit capability.
The real problem is the Baofeng support for this radio. They’ve made a couple of firmware upgrades, but they won’t publish them on their own site. Finding the upgrades and the software to feed them into the radio is a bit of a nightmare. There’s no excuse for this – Baofeng has the website already configured. All they need to do is drop in the files and put up a link.
It’s disappointing, because we think the radio is one firmware update away from being really usable.
In the meantime… it was cheap, and for the price we paid, it’s a good, basic, true dual-tuner radio. We ordered it directly from China. For what local dealers are charging – forget it. We’ve learned a fair bit about DMR and code plugs… and have a lot more to learn.
But don’t buy it. If you already bought it, like we said at the top, we put up this page to help others who made the same mistake we did.
And I have a really useless remote control for the paper shredder.