Top 3 Best Analog Handheld Ham Radios In 2023
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Searching for the best analog handheld ham radio?
If you’re in the market for an analog handheld ham radio, you know there’s a jungle of choices out there. Cutting through the clutter, this post zeroes in on what really matters in a good ham radio—no frills, just the facts.
We look at usability, battery life, and how these radios hold up in the real world. Whether it’s for emergency preparedness, field communication, or just staying connected in remote areas, we’ve got the lowdown on what to expect from these devices.
Forget about complex jargon or overly technical talk. We keep it straightforward here, focusing on the key features that will affect your daily use.
By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to choose a radio that fits your needs and budget, without getting sidetracked by flashy features that don’t deliver.
Stay tuned as we tune into the essentials of analog handheld ham radios.
Our Top Picks
- 1. Yaesu FT-65R – Our Top Choice
- 2. Icom IC-T10 – Best Premium Analog Handheld Ham Radio
- 3. Baofeng UV-S9 Plus – Best Budget Analog Handheld Ham Radio
Why Should You Trust Us?
When it comes to outdoor gear, you deserve reviews you can rely on. At WhollyOutdoor, we’re not just writers; we’re enthusiasts who live and breathe the outdoor lifestyle.
Our founder, Paul Dudley, is a ham radio aficionado and an avid outdoorsman. He’s turned his dual passion into a platform that zeroes in on giving you reviews steeped in real-world experience and technical know-how.
We take pride in our commitment to objectivity and honesty, so when we recommend a product, it’s because it’s earned its stripes out in the field.
Whether you’re up in the mountains or hunkered down at basecamp, you can count on our guidance to help keep you connected and safe.
How We Choose the Best Analog Handheld Ham Radios
In the pursuit of the best analog handheld ham radios, our approach is methodical and user-centric. We understand that when you’re scanning frequencies, the last thing you want is a guide that’s all static and no signal. Here’s how we’ve dialed in on the top picks:
- Battery Life: A radio is only as good as its battery. We’ve tested for longevity and recharge times, because when you’re out in the field, access to power isn’t always a given.
- User-Friendliness: We look for radios that are easy to operate. Complex functions are great, but not if they come at the expense of accessibility.
- Durability: The best radios have to take a knock or two. We prioritize models that promise durability and have proven themselves against the elements.
- Antenna Quality: The antenna is the arm of your radio, reaching out into the airwaves. We’ve selected radios with antennas that provide clear reception and transmission.
- Value for Money: We balance features against cost to find radios that offer the best bang for your buck.
- Extras: Sometimes it’s the little things that count. Features like a built-in flashlight or an emergency alarm can make a difference, so we’ve taken note of these too.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we consider:
|Feature||Why It’s Important|
|Battery Life||Longer operation between charges|
|Durability||Survives the wear and tear of regular use|
|Ease of Use||Quick access to functions; intuitive interface|
|Antenna Quality||Better signal reception and transmission|
|Value||Quality and features should align with the price|
|Extra Features||Added functionalities that enhance use|
By keeping these criteria in focus, we’ve tuned into the finest options on the market. These radios aren’t just tools; they are lifelines to the world, and our selections reflect that critical role.
Keep reading as we unpack the specifics and share our top picks for the best analog handheld ham radios
1. Yaesu FT-65R – Our Top Choice
The Yaesu FT 65R is a less expensive version of the highly rated FT-60.
It is a dual band radio, which comes with weather alert and FM radio, solid comfortable handset of reasonably quality with an IP54 rating meaning it is relatively robust outdoors.
The PTT button sticks out at a slight angle which may feel awkward to some but great to others, so this design feature comes down to personal preference. It has a 1-watt speaker with good audit quality and a clear, audible microphone.
You can extend the operating time by a few hours by upgrading the rechargeable 1950 mAh lithium ion battery to a 2500 mAh battery.
The transceiver is computer and keypad programmable, but the programming cable isn’t included and has to be bought separately, however, once obtained, the handset can be programmed with a range of software. It comes with a basic but user-friendly manual though you have to download the more comprehensive programming instructions.
Menu navigation using the keypad is relatively straightforward and intuitive, and the keypad includes four programmable keys to quickly access to your most used settings, which is fairly unique among the ham radio handsets reviewed.
The back lit LED screen seems basic with a default display setting showing a single VFO and battery status, but it can be configured to a dual band display.
It has the standard VFO/programmable memories as well as weather scans and you can set it to auto turn-off after a set period of time to preserve the battery. It comes with a stout antenna which is interchangeable.
If you’re tired of belt clips that snap or detach the battery from the handset, the transceiver comes with a sturdier belt clip design than many other models and the clip attaches to the body of the handset rather than a more standard attachment to the battery.
Overall, the functionality, reliability and quality compared to other models make it highly suited as a first ham radio for a ham radio operator starting out, as well as intuitive, easy-to-handle handset for the more experienced.
This dual band ham radio comes with VFO mode or you can scan by pre-programmed memory. Menu navigation and keypad programming is relatively intuitive, and the keypad includes 4 programmable keys for quick recall. Sturdy and compact, it is well suited to outdoors, especially with power saving features and the option to upgrade the battery.
Overall if you are looking for the best value analog handheld ham radio, you cannot go wrong with the Yaesu FT-65R.
To sum up, what we like is the…
- It is inexpensive/affordable
- It is commercial grade built and splash proof making it suited for outdoor use with less common PTT and belt clip design features
- Good quality speaker
- Manual keypad programming straightforward and intuitive
On the downside…
- The programming cable doesn’t come as standard so make sure you buy this if you want to use the programming software
- The user manual is good but basic, meaning the programming manual has to be downloaded
2. Icom IC-T10 – Best Premium Analog Handheld Ham Radio
Good looks, solid build, and great features make the Icom IC-T10 dual-band radio our top premium pick for analog handhelds.
As soon as you hold the radio, it becomes evident that the casing is impressive and worthy of the radio’s IP67 rating. This implies the radio is dustproof and waterproof when submerged up to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.
There’s also some shockproofing here, which makes this a great choice for the outdoors. As we talk of the looks and design, it’s only natural to think of the display here. And that’s the tiny screen sandwiched between the speaker and the keypad.
Now the tiny screen itself wouldn’t be a problem, as it is quite common in this category, however, Icom somehow decided to use a low resolution that shows only eight characters and the alphabet casing can get mixed up.
Since it can’t handle uppercase characters very well, the menus and information display can feel weird. While not a terrible aspect, it is annoying, especially for a premium radio.
But there is redemption in the speaker. The big 1500mW speaker on the radio is loud, clear, and offers pretty good sound quality. This might indeed be the best speaker in this category!
The IC-T10 continues with the high-quality features with options like a channel control knob, a very satisfying-to-move volume and power control knob, and an easily-managed keypad.
It draws power from a BP-280 battery (7.4V and 2200 mAh) which can work up to 11 hours on a full charge. The performance is slightly above average for handheld transceivers. If desired, you can also hook it directly to DC power, though that will require an additional adapter AD-149H.
Other features include easy programming, 208 memory channels, tone scan, priority, and skip functions.
Overall, this is a great radio with excellent features and an impressive build.
Its main downside is its price since it is priced significantly higher than other handheld analog ham radios like the Yaesu FT-65R, and while it edges out Yaesu on aspects like build quality and audio, it doesn’t quite deliver a thumping win.
To sum up, what we like is the…
- IP67 protection rating (dustproof and waterproof)
- Excellent build quality
- It feels good to hold
- Knob to switch channels
- Output power at 5W, 2.5W, 0.5W
- Great audio quality with 1500mW speaker
- Easy to program.
On the downside…
- Tiny display can feel cramped
- Features: 8/10
- Build Quality: 9/10
- Battery: 8.5/10
- Audio Quality: 9/10
- Value for Money: 7.5/10
- Overall Rating: 8.5/10
3. Baofeng UV-S9 Plus – Best Budget Analog Handheld Ham Radio
Baofeng UV-S9 Plus is our top choice for the brand’s best analog ham radio. Conventionally, this spot would belong to the Baofeng UV-5R or its variants like the BF-F8HP.
However, the company has been making attempts to go beyond the UV-5R in this space, so we have the UV-S9 Plus, which is an excellent budget ham radio in its own right.
At first glance, it is clear that the Baofeng UV-S9 Plus has a more refined appearance as compared to the UV-5R. Baofeng UV-S9 Plus is slightly larger and supports charging via a desktop charger or a USB charger. It also gets a more advanced chipset.
It runs off a 2200 mAh Li-ion battery as compared to 1800 mAh battery that powers the UV-5R8W. Though both these radios have a maximum output power of 8W, the UV-S9 Plus gets more battery.
The battery and charging for the UV-S9 Plus are worth talking about in a bit more detail. While conventional handheld radios have so far stayed on the line of requiring a desktop charger, Baofeng UV-S9 Plus adds the option of using a USB charger.
Having two charging methods is important. The USB charger is very convenient and almost ubiquitous in the modern world. The spot for the charger’s pin is placed right above the battery in the radio’s back.
Baofeng has made this battery removable, so it’s possible to use multiple batteries with relative ease. On the downside, the new 2200 mAh battery can be a bit more difficult to find, though its availability has significantly improved.
Interestingly, the included manual is different from what I’d have called “classic Baofeng.” The manual is well-written, can be understood, and is useful. It’s not perfect, but it is a huge improvement over how Baofeng manuals used to look. It also includes tables for the 50 CTCSS and 104 DCS codes for the radio.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the antenna. Baofeng is still using a very basic antenna. If you want a quick performance boost from this radio, get a new antenna!
The radio uses the classic 2-pin port for the headset. The included headset with the package is fairly basic and it might be worth purchasing a different one.
Some notable features and aspects of the radio are that it’s programmable via CHIRP, can receive broadcast FM, and includes an LED flashlight and emergency alarm.
This dual band radio can transmit with RF power at 1, 4, or 8W. Occasionally, there is confusion believing that this is a tri-band radio. However, the UV-S9 Tri-Band is a different model.
As for the RF power output, the radio is only “somewhat consistent” and the actual output can depend on individual units. For example, some units might offer the max RF output at 5W instead of 8W, while others could output 10W. A few manage to stay at 8W.
To be fair, problems like these can be expected from super-cheap radios like this one.
Overall, Baofeng UV-S9 Plus is a good analog handheld ham radio. Though price remains its most attractive feature, the device has evolved to be a decent HT.
To sum up, what we like is the…
- Attractive pricing
- USB charging with dock charging alternative
- Improved build quality
- RF output at 1, 4, and 8W
- Bigger, more powerful battery
- Decent instruction manual
- Convenient programming via CHIRP.
On the downside…
- The receiver can struggle with noise
- Bad antenna
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What should I look for when choosing the best analog handheld ham radio? Prioritize radios with clear audio quality, robust build for durability, long-lasting battery life, and a user-friendly interface. A good warranty and accessible customer service are also important.
- Can I use an analog handheld ham radio for long-distance communication? For long-distance, you’ll want a radio that can access repeaters, which can boost your signal across further distances. Look for radios with strong sensitivity and the ability to connect to external antennas.
- How much should I expect to spend on a quality analog handheld ham radio? Quality radios range from $30 to several hundred dollars. Typically, investing around $100 will get you a solid device with the necessary features for reliable communication.
- Are there any particular brands known for the best analog handheld ham radios? Yes, brands like Yaesu, Icom, and Kenwood are well-respected in the ham radio community for their quality and reliability.
- What features make a handheld ham radio suitable for emergencies? A must-have is a NOAA weather channel access for real-time alerts. Also, look for a sturdy build, a long battery life, and a simple interface for stressful situations.
- Is the power output important when selecting a handheld ham radio? Yes, power output, measured in watts, is important as it determines the radio’s transmission range. A higher wattage typically means a stronger signal and wider range.
- How important is battery type in handheld ham radios? It’s quite important. Lithium-ion batteries are preferred for their lightweight and long life span, while NiMH batteries are cheaper and more robust.
- What is the advantage of a dual-band radio? A dual-band radio can operate on both VHF and UHF frequencies, giving you more flexibility and access to a wider range of channels.
- Should I get a radio with a keypad or is a PC programmable model better? If you prefer convenience and plan to change settings often, a keypad is useful. For complex setups or infrequent changes, PC programmable models are more than sufficient.
- What is the significance of an IP rating in ham radios? An IP (Ingress Protection) rating determines how resistant the radio is to elements like dust and water. A higher IP rating is crucial if you plan to use the radio in harsh conditions.