With the advent of cellphones and the constant influx of smart devices in the technology market, many find it surprising that Ham radios are still widely used. For those that understand the benefits of these communication devices, there is no surprise there at all.
Ham radios are more than just communication gadgets: they are fun devices that are considered hobby by many. They can get users hours of education, socializing, and experimentation with wireless communication. They can also easily become reliable communication tools when the need arises.
If you are interested in acquiring a handheld Ham Radio, here is our top ten pick:
Top 10 Best Handheld Ham Radios
1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP
This is definitely one of the most popular Ham radios in the market for very good reasons. It represent a substantial upgrade from the UV-5R model and performs excellently in the field. Based on a new generation chipset and new concierge service, this dual band two-way radio has a better transmit power. It boasts of three power levels (1, 4, 8 watts) and comes with an enhanced new 2000mAh battery. It also has a superior antenna that guarantees impressive reach for your transmission with less static and interference.
The BoaFeng BF-F8HP operates on UHF and VHF frequencies. The ability to select between broad and narrow band and three power settings makes it more fun to use. The functionality of the radio can also be enhanced through a PC03 FTDI programming cable. The radio is well-built and durable. It is equally affordable.
2. Kenwood Original TH-D74A
This is a high-end handheld ham radio that offers several impressive features. It is a well built and highly durable transceiver (weatherproof IP54/55 standards) that offers great user experience. Its enhanced functionality is another important thing that draws users to it even though it is not among the cheap options in the market. This impressive original ham radio comes with four different output settings: 0.05W, 0.5W, 2W, and 5W. It also comes with an impressive battery that can last between 6 and 15 hours, depending on the power setting.
The Kenwood TH-D74A is a lightweight ham radio. It has a TFT display that makes it easier for users to read clearly no matter the time of the day or night. It features wide band and multi-mode reception that lets it operate on three frequencies (144, 220, and 440 MHz). It has a built-in high performance unit with auto clock setting and is compatible with APRS communication protocol as well as D-star radio communication network.
3. Yaesu VX-6R
Another top quality Tri-band transceiver, this is a compact device that has a rugged design for reliable outdoor use. This is a very versatile ham radio that has several great features. The exclusive Emergency Automatic Identification (EAI) system is a unique feature that can keep Yaesu users safe if emergency situations arise. Other impressive features include 900 alphanumeric memory channels, the ability to set a secure password, a trainer for Morse code, a multicolor LED backlighting, weather alert and several others.
The Yaesu VX-6R ham radio can receive AM/FM broadcast radio, shortwave, CB, Police, Weather, Aircraft & marine bands. It is an ARTS-Automatic In-range Responder per excellence. It also has a black magnesium case. The Yaesu VX-6R is waterproof and submersible (rated 3ft for 30 minutes). The package includes an Antenna, HiCap 1500mAh battery and charger.
4. Yaesu FT-70DR FT-70
This dual band handheld radio provides up to 5W of reliable RF power, and its large front speaker delivers 700mW of Loud Audio Output.. This is just one of several features that make it a top choice for many ham lovers. It is most desirable for those that like to move about. It is also a very versatile transceiver: it offers alphanumeric display on the lighted keypad and has different scan modes.
The Yaesu FT-70DR Dual Band ham radio offers top-level signal transmission and audio clarity. The antenna is of the best quality and can receive even weak signals. There are few bells and whistles that will impress a Ham enthusiast. It is capable of receiving the aircraft band (108-580 MHz). In addition to being water and dust resistant, it has a rugged body that is resistant to minor damage and scratches.
5. HESENATE HT-UV82
A simple dual band portable long range two-way radio, this is one of the most affordable top quality ham radios you can find anywhere. It is a well-built device that can enrich, enhance, and boost your communication experience when you are out on an expedition. Like top-level radios, it offers triple power output: high 8W, Mid 4W, and Low 1W. It is also backed with a 1800mAh Li-ion battery pack that will offer hours of steady operation depending on the power output you are using.
The frequency range offered by this device is 65-108MHz (FM only), 136-174MHz and 400-520MHz (TX/RX). It offers 128 channels, 50 CTCSS and 105 CDCSS. The Dual band antenna is very powerful. It also supports PC programming via programming cable. There are lots of other impressive features like VOX function, time-out timer, tail tone elimination, call tone, alerts, battery saver mode, LED flashlight and more. The package comes with important accessories like earpiece, adapter, desktop charger, hand strap, battery pack, and manual.
6. TYT MD-380
This is a great choice for individuals that want to jump into trying DMR but do not have so much money to spend on the high-end options. The well-built DMR/Moto radio is affordable and offers helpful features and crisp and clear audio. It is an easy-to-use radio that is also easy to program by connecting to a computer; users can easily customize it to fit their needs.
The TYT MD-380 Ham radio uses the unique time-division multi-access technology that allows several users to share the same channel frequency by dividing the signal into time slots. The frequency range is between 400 and 470 MHz; channel number is massive 1000; and it has a very powerful antenna for efficient transmission. It also has a built-in DCS/CTCSS for various analog functions. It comes in a truly valuable package that includes AC charger, 2000 mAh battery, belt clip, antenna, and a manual.
7. BaoFeng UV-5R
Another very affordable two way radio from a reliable brand, this product deserve its place in the list. It is actually the basic form of the BF-F8HP that has been reviewed here. It is perfect for individuals that are just making their entry into the world of Ham radio and those that are on a tight budget. It may not exceed your expectations but it offers just enough features and functionality to make Ham radio communication smooth and fun. The audio quality is above average and it offers lots of channels.
The UV-5R is a dual band radio that covers VHF 136-174 MHz (Tx) and the UHF 400-520 MHz (Rx/Tx) frequencies. It is important to note here that though the radio can monitor two channels simultaneously, it will switch off one of the channels if the other becomes active. This means as you listen to one channel, it is impossible to hear the second channel even if it becomes active. When paired with the right antenna, the reception is often great.
8. Midland GXT1000VP4
This is one of those ham radios that are recommended for those that cherish their outdoor hobbies and love to keep communication open while out in the field. It is a well-built and waterproof radio that provide clear point-to-point communication with superior reception, transmission, and audio quality. It is an affordable and reliable communication gadget with the right features to enhance user experience. One of the most outstanding features is the Easy Voice and Sound Activation Transmission (eVOX).
The water resistant two way radio offers an impressive signal range of about 36 miles in areas with little or no obstructions. There is also a weather scan feature that automatically lock onto any active local weather channel. It also alert you in term to minimize outdoor risks.
9. TYT UV8000E 10W
This is a perfect device for licensed commercial radio operators. It can conveniently transmit and receive on UHF and VHF bands over a distance of about 6 KM. It also has a number of other impressive features that makes it a great ham radio for new entrants and veterans of Ham communication technology. It is FCC Part 15B Certified and comes with 2 high gain antennas. There is also cross-band repeater feature to enhance your experience.
The TYT UV8000E 10W/5W Power settings lets you use it in different modes based on what you need at the moment. The model also comes with software support that include multiple customization options including channel configuration page. It also comes with a 3600mAh capacity battery that will power it for hours.
10. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT
This is a very versatile handheld communication gadget. Its application cover such significant areas as public safety, police, fire, emergency, marine auto racing, civil air, railroad, NOAA Weather, CB radio and Ham radio. Its compact design and sturdy build makes it ideal for outdoor use. With its ten preprogrammed service search bands, you can easily search for frequencies typically used by police, marine, fire/emergency, Ham radio and several others. The sound quality is always impressive too so you can listen to events as they unfold. It receives channels on the following frequencies: (25-54 MHz), (108-174 MHz), (225-380 MHz), and (400-512 MHz).
Some other important features that make the Bearcat BC125AT a great gadget include PC programmable port and free software, Close Call RF Capture Technology, narrowband compliance, VHF low/high and UHF frequencies, as well as the ability to program 50 channels in each of the 10 banks of the device’s memory. In addition to its rechargeable battery, it runs on 2 AA alkaline batteries.
If you are interested in Ham radios, there are some important things you need to know about them. Handheld Ham Radios are clearly different from the walkie-talkies that were available few decades ago. The products in the markets now transmit further with enhanced clarity. They also come with several features so you need to know a lot about them before picking one.
While smartphones and other digital gadgets can outperform Ham radios in basic communication, there are some benefits Ham lovers enjoy. Emergency awareness is one of the most important ones. For individuals that embark on outdoor adventures, this is essential. Ham radios are also independent from other communication services. This gives users advantage when disaster strike and destroy other communication infrastructures. The radios are also inexpensive generally, and the sense of community that comes with using it is important to most hams.
Licenses are required to carry and use Ham radios. The process has been streamlined so it is easier to get the different types of licenses which include:
The Technician License
This is the entry-level license. It offers access to all frequencies over 30 MHz and some HF band privileges. It is for domestic and local communication. This license can be obtained after the intender user passes one examination.
The General License
This is the intermittent license that is available to those that must have held the technician license for a while. It grants access to all amateur radio bands and operating modes, enhancing communication abilities. To obtain this license, prospective hams must pass an exam with a total of 35 questions.
The Amateur Extra License
This is the ultimate license for ham radio users and is open to only people that have held the technician and general licenses previously. It grants access to all operating privileges on all modes and bands. To obtain this license, candidates must pass a 50-question examination.
Factors to Consider Before Buying a Ham Radio
If you have your Ham license and looking to buy a Ham radio, there are some important factors you need to pay attention to if you want a top-quality device. Portability and price are important factors but there are others that will determine the experience you will get using the device. Here, we will discuss these factors briefly to help you buy the best for your specific need:
The frequencies you are permitted to use depends on your license. You need to ascertain the bands a particular Ham radio is allowed to access before buying it. For beginners, it is important to look out for radios that access VHF and UHF bands as they require low power as compared to HF bands. Unless you want enhanced communication capabilities and have the license for it, HF frequencies are not important.
While most Handheld Ham Radios are limited to about 5 W of power, there are some that have higher powered options. 5 is enough generally, but it is always better to purchase radios that feature high and low power options. Being able to manually adjust the power output according to your need will help you in different ways including saving your battery when you need to.
The ability to program the Ham radio as you wish is also a very desirable quality. It is always better when you have a radio that can be manually programmed of through software. For radios that will be connected to computers to be program, confirm that the programming cable is included. Many people find manual programming more desirable since the keypads and buttons can be used to complete it anywhere and anytime.
The number of memory slots you will need will depend on what you want to use the radio for. If you are using it for local communication or emergencies, a dozen of memory slots will be okay. If you need it for national and international communication, weather, and other high-profile application, 100 – 200 memory slots will be needed.
This is another desirable feature you must consider. It can become incredibly helpful when users find themselves in some sort of emergencies. Even though backlit display and illuminated keypad are awesome, make sure it can be switched off when it is not needed for the sake of your battery.
Some Handheld Ham Radios come with antennas while others don’t. If you are looking for a model with an antenna, ensure that the antenna is of the right quality. If the quality is not good enough, it is better you buy separate antenna(s) to boost reception and transmission.
A handheld Ham radio is a very essential device. The benefits are massive for those that need it. It is an indispensable communication gadget and fun too for hobbyist. Whatever you need the device for, it is important that you buy one that is of the right quality. We have reviewed ten of the very best of these radios and provided links to get them. There is also a section of the post that talked about the most important factors you must consider before buying one of them. Choose carefully between the available options and shop confidently.