Best Handheld Ham Radio

The best radios are the portable ones and in this article we take a deep look at the best handheld radio as they are convenient, easy to use and can function almost anywhere. A good radio should at least be the one you can carry while  in a car, a bicycle or taking a walk in the park or hiking in the mountains.

What is a ham radio?

It is also known as amateur radio. It is a device that brings people together. Ham radios connect people from one town to another to as far as from one continent to another. It comes in handy in places where there are no cell phones or internet connection. The best part is, can be set anywhere.

Therefore, if you find yourself in a situation where you want to purchase a handheld radio, it is best to keep in mind a few important features. For instance, the number of frequencies, the power output needed to run these frequencies and the licenses needed to use the various frequencies. Let’s take a look at a few things you should seriously consider before making the decision on the kind of radio you would like to buy.

Best handheld Ham Radio Comparison Table

 Handheld Ham RadioCheck Price

Baofeng BF-F8HP

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BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band

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Baofenguv-UV82C

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Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band

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TYT MD-380

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Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R

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Kenwood Original TH-D74A

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Yaesu Original FT-2DR

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Buyer’s Guide – Best handheld ham radio 

Dual Band

This feature will give you the ability to monitor two different frequencies simultaneously. The dual band function makes it easy for you to select the frequency you would like to transmit on. You should also be careful on the antenna that comes with the radio. A genuine antenna should have no problem, but the ones that are not bought with the radios are sometimes not compatible with the dual band feature.

Programming

There are two questions you should ask yourself, can the radio be programmed manually as well as via the software. If it can be programmed via software, it is prudent to confirm that the programming cable is available and functioning. For a radio to be programmed manually, there needs to be a functional keyboard. You should be extra careful with this.

Rechargeable battery

After using the radio for a few hours, it should be recharged. It is paramount to confirm before making a purchase that it has an external DC connection. This will make the work of recharging easier and will ensure that the radio has enough power for it to operate at all times.

A well arranged user manual

In other words, find a ham radio with a manual that is easy to understand. This comes in handy when you try to operate your device, but does not work in the manner you expected it to operate. When something like this happens, it is advisable you look for an easy manual that will help you get going in the shortest time possible.

Make sure the instructions section is well structured for easy comprehension. You do not want a situation where you get frustrated because of simply not being familiar with your device.

Speaker quality

Sometimes the audio quality of your radio is directly affected by the nature of the environment. If you are trying to listen to your radio in the city or on a busy market, it might be difficult to understand whatever is on the radio under such conditions. Which is why it is important you look for a device with a good speaker and an external earphone jack. If the outside world becomes too noisy, you just plug in the earphones and you get to receive the information on the radio loud and clear.

Some other considerations include the watt output. If the output is at less than 1, then it is not worth your time and hard earned cash. Such radios may not have enough power to support most communications in a particular area.

One other thing to consider is the number of bands the radio can support. This depends on your budget too. A radio with a few bands may need you to dig a little deeper into your pocket. If money is a challenge, it is wise to start with a single band radio and upgrade once you are ready financially.

Types of licenses

There are three main types of licenses.

a) The Technician License

This license is normally issued to beginners. It is considered an entry level license and you only need to pass one examination to attain this license. Once you get this license, you gain access to frequency above 30mHz hence can communicate locally.

b) General License

To attain, you will need to pass an exam with a total of 35 questions. Needless to say, you need to have attained a technician license or passed the technician written examination. With this license, you will have access to all amateur radio bands and operating modes.

c) The Amateur Extra License

This is a higher level license therefore requires passing a more difficult exam with a total of 50 questions. Before sitting for this exam, one of the requirements is you must have passed previous license class written examinations. With this license, you get to enjoy all operating privileges on all bands and modes.

With those few points on what you should look for when getting a ham radio, it is time to take a closer look at some of the best handheld ham radios you can find on the market today.

1. Baofeng BF-F8HP

The Baofeng BF-F8HP is a handheld radio with some exciting features that make the experience invaluable. It boasts of three power levels which are low- 1 watt, medium-4/5 watts, and high-7/8 watts. With this radio, it is possible to monitor two channels simultaneously, thanks to its Dual watch receiver, also known as semi duplex. You do not have to worry about not having enough power when you have the 2000Mah power battery as your back up.

Why get bored when you can listen to radio while monitoring radio channels. Thanks to its FM broadcast capability. The best thing about it is, it can accommodate a total of one hundred and twenty eight channels that are programmable and can be put to memory. There is the option of adding or removing channels, hence you get to choose what you want to listen to. In addition, incoming calls will always be given priority over the FM broadcast radio. This ensures that you do not miss any radio calls while on the radio.

It is a very powerful device with the capability of transmitting up to 8 watts of power, making it one of, if not the best handheld radio manufactured by Baofeng.

Pros

  • Has an 8 hour power output
  • Upgraded chipset
  • Comes with better antennae

 Cons

  • Increased power output does not make a significant difference
  • Relatively expensive.

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2. Baofeng UV-5R

This is another ham radio that can watch two channels at the same time. It has a frequency range of 65-108mhz. Features high/low power settings of 4W/1W and contains a programmable radio. The FM broadcast radio can be used on amateur frequencies and can transmit on both the Narrow band (12.5 kHz) and wide band of about 25 kHz.

It has 128 programmable memory channels with the option of adding and removing at will. This gives you the option of customizing the channel names on the device. Not forgetting, its superior rechargeable battery. The battery is 1800mAh Lithium-Ion with a power capacity of about 12 hours. When you are not in need of the power from the battery, it contains a save feature that saves power to be used when needed.

Lastly, it comes with a removable antennae, which very nice and handy.

Pros

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Has an FM radio
  • Power saver feature.
  • A handy all round radio.

Cons

  • Alarms are okay, but not necessary
  • Programming not intuitive

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3. Baofenguv-UV82C

 With a v-85 antenna for optimum performance, this is one of the best ham radios on the market today. It has a switch known as a PTT switch. This comes in handy when you opt to transmit on two frequencies. It also comes with a dual push to talk button. In addition to this, it has the capability of receiving two frequencies at the same time, at different bands. This is made possible by a feature known as a dual watch receiver.

It boasts of FM broadcasting capability with incoming call given first priority. This comes with a total of 128 programmable channels that can be programmed via a software or manually. The software considered best for this is CHIRP. It may take a while to learn how it works. But once you get the hang of it, it is a piece of cake. You will need a USB programming cable to make this happen. This enables you to program alphanumerically if that is what you prefer through the use of this software.

Lastly, its power settings can either be low (1W), medium (4W), and high (7W).

You do get more value for your money with the Baofeng UV-82C

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Great battery life
  • Much better antenna
  • CHIRP programming
  • Enough power output

Cons

  • Alphanumeric programming only possible via the software
  • No clock

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4. Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band

It is considered the best handheld ham radio because, among other things, its superb audio quality. This, coupled with a huge LCD display makes it one of the most popular ham radios.

As the name suggests, it has a dual band with a total of 5 watts output on both. It comes with two unique and very important features. There is the Emergency Automatic Identification Feature. This is normally used in search and rescue situations, it helps those that cannot press the PTT switch for one reason or another. It is because of this feature that disabled persons can use it.

Its coverage covers a wide area at 144/430mHz and is easy to program manually. To keep  unwanted and unauthorized individuals from using the radio, it features a password security feature

Pros

  • It is inexpensive
  • Comes with a long lasting battery
  • Has a sturdy shape

Cons

  • The menu system is difficult to understand especially to an amateur.

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5. TYT MD 380

It has a single band coupled with a dual mode capability. The receiver in this radio is one of the most sensitive  receivers we have on the market today. The quality of the audio is quite high compared to other similar gadgets with the superb frequency response. The thing about the TYT MD 380 that make it unique is its multi color display with remarkable resolution.

The speaker is not only loud, but is clear enough too, and is powered by a 5 watt transmitter which is more than sufficient. Its programmable keys are located on the side. Their main purpose is to scan all available channels

Pros

  • The audio is of high quality
  • It is easy to use
  • Light weight

Cons

  • It sometimes drains the battery
  • A bit difficult to program

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6. Tri-band Yaesu VX-6r

First and foremost, it is easy to use. With an output of 5 watts  and a total of 900 alphanumeric memory channels, it is no doubt one of the most sought after ham radios. It features a triple band and possesses wide receiver capabilities.

Other additional cool features include a severe weather alert system. This comes in handy when you come across harsh weather conditions. Features  an Emergency Automatic ID. This proves to be very useful.  In case of an emergency and for one reason or another, you are unable to press the switch. This feature will identify you as the authorized user and you will be able to make your call.

The Tri-band Yaesu is waterproof and can be used under almost all kinds of conditions, including the harshest ones.

Pros

  • A high quality wide receiver
  • The battery performance is not so bad
  • It is easy to program

Cons

  • The speaker is not loud enough
  • The keypad is a bit too small

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7. Kenwood Original TH-D74A

This radio comes with four power output settings. They start from 0.05W, followed by 0.5W, 2W and finally 5W. Depending on the output level and usage of the radio, the battery has a capacity of 6-15 hours.

It has a TFT display with a bit of color. This makes it possible for the user to read at any time of day or night. In it is a GPS system, which comes in handy in search and rescue situations and has Bluetooth support

It is coupled with a wide band and multi-mode reception, that can operate on three frequencies, namely 144, 220 and 440 MHz. Its flexibility is impressive because of its compatibility with some applications. These applications include APRS communication protocol, which allows two-way data transmission in real time. This is made possible by the use of packet communications. The other application is the D-star, which is an amateur radio communications network.

Pros

  • The menu has been structured well
  • Easy configuration
  • The display is easy to read in sunlight

Cons

  • The battery life is short
  • The Handbook is poor

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 8. Yaesu Original FT-2DR

Powered with an output of 5 watts, this piece of equipment is one of the best handheld ham radios available. Its battery boasts of a capacity of about 2200mAh which means that the user gets to enjoy more time working with it and less time charging it.

Contains an in- built antenna with a magnificent GPS receiver. In case you get lost and you happen to have this radio, no need to worry. The GPS can, not only provide your location in real time, but also provides APRS information.

The FT-2DR comes with a navigation feature, which is considered smart due to its capability of performing in real time. This makes it possible to constantly know exactly where you are at all times,  hence you get to enjoy your hike in the woods with no worries at all.

Last but not least is, there is the little camera located near the microphone. It is a small, handy piece of tool that can take a snapshot and the image is saved in a micro SD card for future reference.

 Pros

  • Smart navigation
  • Built in GPS
  • Compatible with system fusion.
  • Wide band receiver

Cons

  • The audio can be a bit distorted

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To sum it all up, it is important to get the right best handheld ham radio for you. It should fit in your budget and at the same time meet your expectations, at least most of them. Take your time before making a decision on the type of radio you are going to buy. Most importantly, understand what you are buying with regards to its features and limitations. This will avoid a lot of frustrations in the future. Learn the basics on ham radio on this utube video:-

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