Top 3 Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios In 2024


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Are you looking for the best APRS handheld ham radios?

You’ve come to the right place! In this blog post you will find out which are the top APRS handheld ham radios available today.

We’ll dive into various aspects, from cost to features, so you can select the perfect radio that caters to your needs. Whether you’re an experienced ham radio operator or a beginner, we’re confident there’s an APRS handheld ham radio just right for you!

Our Top Picks

  1. AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus – Our Top Choice
  2. Yaesu FT5DR – Best Premium APRS Handheld Ham Radio
  3. Ailunce HD1 DMR – Best Budget APRS Handheld Ham Radio

Check This: How to Get a Ham Radio License

Why Should You Trust Us?

At WhollyOutdoor, we understand that trust is earned, not given. Our commitment to providing you with honest, objective, and educational content is what drives us. 

Our founder and editor, Paul Dudley, is an outdoor enthusiast with a particular passion for ham radios and fishing. His hands-on experience and deep understanding of these areas are reflected in the quality of our reviews and posts.

We don’t just write about outdoor gear; we live it. Our team tests and scrutinizes every product we review, ensuring that we give you the most accurate and reliable information possible. We believe in transparency and integrity, and we always put our readers’ needs first. 

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How We Choose the Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

To identify the best APRS handheld ham radios, we considered several factors. Firstly, we considered the price. After all, it’s essential to find a device that fits your budget without compromising quality! Next, we examined the battery life of each radio.

Battery life is critical for a couple of reasons. Firstly, you don’t want your radio to run out of power during crucial communication. A longer battery life ensures that you won’t need to recharge your radio as frequently, which is always a plus.

Off course we also evaluated the built-in features, such as GPS and APRS capabilities and connectivity options.

Ease of use is another important factor. A user-friendly interface ensures that you can operate your radio without any hassle, even if you’re a beginner.

Lastly, we took into account reviews from buyers. There’s no better way to learn about a product than hearing from those with firsthand experience!

So, without further ado, let’s see which are the best APRS handheld ham radios!

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3 Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios Reviews

1. AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus – Our Top Choice


  • Works well in digital and analog modes
  • Good Bluetooth connectivity
  • Front face programmable
  • Built-in GPS
  • Multiple and programmable power levels
  • Powerful battery


  • Only IP54 water-resistant
  • The implementation of APRS is somewhat buggy

Key Features of the AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus:

  • Dual-band VHF/UHF operation (136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz)
  • GPS and APRS functionality for position reporting and tracking
  • Bluetooth connectivity for wireless headsets and speakers
  • Analog and digital DMR capabilities
  • Roaming feature for seamless switching between repeaters
  • 4,000 memory channels, 10,000 talk groups, and 200,000 contacts
  • Built-in FM radio and voice recording
  • 3,100 mAh battery for extended usage
AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

The AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus is our top pick for the best APRS handheld ham radio. This well-known DMR radio is versatile and feature-rich, offering excellent value for money. Key features include built-in GPS, Bluetooth connectivity, and the ability to transmit and receive APRS transmissions. Although it’s not the most affordable option, its performance and features make it a worthwhile investment.

The radio is among the first Chinese-manufactured radios to include APRS technology, which is typically found in Japanese-made radios like those from Yaesu. The radio performs well in transmitting and receiving APRS, and it can handle both analog and digital APRS transmissions.

AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

Setting up APRS on this radio requires a few steps and some time, but it’s not overly challenging. The setup options make APRS usage quite convenient once configured.

The Plus model stands out from its predecessor, the AT-D878UVII, with an increased capacity for 500,000 contacts, a significant upgrade from the previous 200,000 contact limit. This expanded capacity is essential for DMR radios, as the worldwide DMR database now exceeds 200,000 contacts.

Compatible with DMR Tier I and Tier II, the radio can communicate with any DMR radio on the market. It functions as an analog transceiver and a dual-band radio, working with VHF and UHF bands. Switching between digital and analog modes is fast and seamless.

AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

Equipped with a powerful 3100 mAh battery, the maximum RF output power on VHF is 7W, while UHF has a maximum TX power of 6W. However, it’s recommended to use lower power levels and rely on a quality antenna or repeater instead.

Bluetooth PTT allows for hands-free communication, and the radio supports other Bluetooth devices like headphones and headsets. Additional features include built-in GPS and front face programming with VFO channels.

AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

Who Should Buy AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus?

The AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus is perfect for experienced ham radio operators who want a feature-rich, high-quality handheld radio. It’s also suitable for those who are willing to spend a little more for a reliable and versatile device.

Who Shouldn’t Buy AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus?

This radio may not be ideal for those on a tight budget or those who are just starting in the ham radio world, as it can be overwhelming with its numerous features and options.


  • Functionality: 9/10
  • Reliability: 8/10
  • Battery: 9/10
  • Value for Money: 8.5/10
  • Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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2. Yaesu FT5DR – Best Premium APRS Handheld Ham Radio


  • Affordable APRS ham radio.
  • Impressive 3200 mAh battery.
  • GPS with location, altitude, bearing, and speed.
  • Front Panel Programming.
  • IP67 waterproofing.
  • Dual-band function for analog and digital frequencies.


  • Digital technology might not be appealing to some traditional ham radio users.
  • Fewer features compared to more expensive models.

Key Features of the YAESU FT5DR:

  • Dual-band VHF/UHF operation (144-148 MHz and 430-450 MHz)
  • GPS and APRS functionality for position reporting and tracking
  • C4FM digital voice and data capabilities
  • Rugged design with IPX7 water resistance
  • Built-in Bluetooth for wireless headset connections
  • High-resolution touch screen display
  • 3D direction-finding compass
  • 2,200 mAh battery

The Yaesu FT5DR is our pick for the best premium APRS handheld ham radio. Setting up APRS on this radio is straightforward, and most of the configuration can be done directly from the device.

The FT5DR is comparable to its lower model, the FT3DR, with both radios sharing a similar design, features, and functionality. However, the FT5DR has improved voice clarity, better Bluetooth performance, and a cleaner appearance.

Slightly larger and bulkier than the FT3DR, the FT5DR has a sleeker profile, particularly regarding the side buttons. Both radios belong to Yaesu’s fusion lineup and share compatible accessories, including the battery.

The 2200 mAh Li-ion battery provides impressive performance, even at the maximum 5W output RF power. The radio also features a powerful 1W speaker for better audio clarity.

The FT5DR vs. The Icom ID 52A: A Battle of Titans

The main competitor of the FT5DR is the Icom ID 52A. Although the Icom ID 52A is slightly longer and bulkier, both radios maintain a similar overall form. A crucial difference between the two is the FT5DR’s touchscreen, which the Icom ID 52A lacks.


The primary factor when choosing between these devices is whether you prefer fusion or D-STAR technology. Yaesu’s digital amateur radio uses C4FM communication with APRS, while Icom relies on D-STAR. Both radios can transmit and receive data, such as GPS coordinates, texts, and images, but Yaesu’s APRS implementation generally surpasses Icom’s D-STAR.

The FT5DR’s C4FM also offers impressive features like Automatic Mode Select (AMS), Digital Group ID (DG-ID), and Smart Navigation. Users can leverage Smart Navigation to track their location, save routes, and store images on a micro SD memory card.

As a feature-rich and expensive device, the FT5DR is expectedly robust and rugged. Its IPX7 rating ensures waterproof protection and the ability to withstand brief submersion. However, the FT5DR does have its drawbacks, most notably the learning curve for users who are new to fusion radios.

Who Should Buy YAESU FT5DR?

The YAESU FT5DR is perfect for experienced ham radio enthusiasts who are willing to invest in a high-quality, premium handheld radio. Its advanced features, rugged build, and excellent performance make it a great choice for anyone who wants the best of the best.

Who Shouldn’t Buy YAESU FT5DR?

This radio may not be suitable for beginners or those on a budget, as it comes with a higher price tag and has a steeper learning curve.


  • Functionality: : 9.5/10
  • Reliability: 9/10
  • Battery: 9/10
  • Value for Money: 9/10
  • Overall Rating: 9/10

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3. Ailunce HD1 DMR – Best Budget Handheld Ham Radio


  • Budget-friendly option
  • Dual-band operation
  • GPS and APRS functionality
  • DMR digital capabilities
  • Generous battery capacity


  • Lacks advanced features found in higher-priced radios
  • No Bluetooth connectivity
  • Limited memory channels and contacts compared to competitors

Key Features of the Ailunce HD1 DMR:

  • Dual-band VHF/UHF operation
  • GPS and APRS functionality for position reporting and tracking
  • DMR digital capabilities
  • 3,200 mAh battery for extended usage
  • 3,000 memory channels
  • Wide and narrowband support
  • Built-in FM radio

For our 3rd choice we have the Ailunce HD1, a budget-friendly ham radio that packs a punch with its Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) capabilities. DMR is a relatively new player in the ham radio domain, offering a fresh spin on the classic analog setup. 

Retevis Ailunce HD1 DMR Radio Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

Its digital framework promises several advantages, though it’s important to note that the technology is still evolving. The Ailunce HD1 demonstrates the potential of DMR, making it a suitable choice for beginners entering the world of ham radio.

The radio bridges the gap between traditional ham radios and mobile phone usability. The HD1 can store a whopping 200,000 contacts and handle 3,000 channels, with dual-band compatibility for both analog and digital frequencies.

Configuring APRS on the Ailunce HD1 can be done either via the radio itself or using codeplug/programming software. The initial setup may be time-consuming, but once complete, the radio offers a user-friendly APRS experience for both transmitting and receiving, as well as functioning as an APRS beacon.

While the Ailunce HD1 comes with a slightly higher price tag compared to some ham radios, it’s important to note that it remains competitive in the DMR market. Its rival, the AnyTone AT-D878UVII Plus, is priced even higher, although it does offer additional features such as 500,000 contact storage capacity and 7W output power. However, the Ailunce HD1 boasts an easier setup process.

As a handheld radio, the HD1’s 3,200 mAh battery offers an impressive 16 hours of continuous use or a week-long standby time. The integrated GPS not only provides location data but also altitude, bearing, and speed, making it particularly useful in emergency situations.

The Ailunce HD1 includes Front Panel Programming (FPP), allowing users to easily access and customize the radio’s functions via the keypad. The IP67 waterproof rating ensures the device can withstand being submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, giving you peace of mind during outdoor adventures.

Retevis Ailunce HD1 DMR Radio Best APRS Handheld Ham Radios

The dual-band functionality of the Ailunce HD1 DMR enables seamless transmission and reception across analog and digital frequencies. While DMR’s digital approach deviates from traditional ham radio, it offers beginners a sense of familiarity, drawing from their experience with digital devices such as mobile phones.

Overall, the Ailunce HD1 DMR, offers a unique blend of modern digital technology and classic ham radio features. With its impressive specs and user-friendly interface, it’s a reliable choice for both newcomers and seasoned ham radio enthusiasts alike.

Who Should Buy Ailunce HD1 DMR?

The Ailunce HD1 DMR is an ideal choice for budget-conscious individuals who want a reliable and feature-rich APRS handheld ham radio. Its affordability and performance make it suitable for both beginners and experienced operators.

Who Shouldn’t Buy Ailunce HD1 DMR?

This radio may not be the best option for those who prioritize premium build quality or brand reputation. It’s also not suitable for individuals who require Bluetooth connectivity, as the HD1 DMR does not offer this feature.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is an APRS Handheld Ham Radio? An APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) handheld ham radio is a portable device that uses amateur radio frequencies to send and receive data packets. These packets can include text messages, weather station reports, and GPS coordinates.
  2. Why would I need an APRS feature in my ham radio? APRS enhances your communication capabilities by allowing you to transmit data such as your location or weather conditions. It’s particularly useful in emergency situations or for outdoor activities like hiking or sailing.
  3. Can I use an APRS handheld ham radio without a license? No, you need a valid amateur radio license to operate a ham radio, including those with APRS functionality. The licensing process involves passing an examination that demonstrates your understanding of radio theory, regulations, and operating practices.
  4. What is the range of an APRS handheld ham radio? The range can vary significantly depending on factors like the radio’s power output, antenna type, and local terrain. However, with a good setup and favorable conditions, an APRS handheld ham radio can potentially communicate over distances of several tens of miles.
  5. Can I use an APRS handheld ham radio for regular conversations? Yes, in addition to data transmission, you can use an APRS handheld ham radio for voice communication, just like a regular ham radio.
  6. What is the difference between analog and digital APRS handheld ham radios? Analog radios transmit data in a continuous signal, while digital radios convert the data into a binary format before transmission. Digital radios often provide clearer audio and more advanced features, but analog radios are typically simpler to use and more affordable.
  7. How long does the battery last on an APRS handheld ham radio? Battery life can vary widely depending on the model and how the radio is used. However, many APRS handheld ham radios offer a battery life of 10-20 hours on a single charge.
  8. Can I connect my APRS handheld ham radio to my computer or smartphone? Some APRS handheld ham radios offer Bluetooth connectivity, which can allow you to connect the radio to other devices like a computer or smartphone. This can enable additional features like programming the radio or decoding APRS packets.
  9. What is DMR in relation to APRS handheld ham radios? DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) is a digital radio standard that offers improved audio quality and functionality compared to analog systems. Some APRS handheld ham radios use DMR for digital voice and data transmission.
  10. Are APRS handheld ham radios waterproof? Some models are designed to be water-resistant or even waterproof, but this varies by model. Always check the specifications of the particular radio you’re considering if this is an important feature for you.
  • July 31, 2023
Paul Dudley

Paul is the owner and founder of . His passion for ham radios and fishing lead him to create this site. He loves playing with his radios and doing many other outdoor activities