Opinions will vary......wildly(!)
My own opinions will not be the same as others, but I won't get my knickers in a twist with a difference of opinion either.
I have an Intek version of the UV-5R and it doesn't do a bad job, (hits the repeaters anyway
It's let down, as with any handy, is the small antenna. I get a great signal outdoors but unless I'm hanging out of a window it's quite poor indoors. To the point that I'm investigating homebase antenna options as even a simple dipole improves the situation a huge amount.
I did get an external microphone for mine and it does make it easier to use with much improved audio. Holding a mic to your mouth is much easier than holding the handy and you'll speak more clearly into it.
There's loads of faff about regards drilling holes, changing elements etc. in the mics and unless they're audio engineers I tend to take that advice with 'shares in Saxa'
Ask them how the 'pop' response fairs after drilling their dirty big holes(!)
(Let alone how the slightest breeze will make them sound like they're in the middle of a hurricane.)
As for radio
suggestions, I'll bet most of the 'recommendations' will be for a 'big-boy' manufacturer. (Yaesu/Icom etc.)
They'll always be a knock back regards Chinese manufactured goods, that despite most other manufactured goods also tending to be Chinese in origin......go figure(?)
I got into trouble for suggesting a Baofeng was even similar to a Yaesu unit a while back, despite them using the same topology, chipsets and even the schematics being extremely similar.
I'd say go for whatever feels right for you, regardless.
With an external mic, external antenna and hitting a repeater well I think anyone would be hard pushed to tell what sort of radio
you're using just by the sound and signal strength
Just have fun.