10 Best Handheld Ham Radio
Do you feel like you want to communicate with friends and family across the globe? Need to get emergency alerts mostly concerning disasters around the world? As you make broadcasts or listen to broadcasts from others across the globe for entertainment?
There is a solution to your many questions.
A handheld ham radio saves you the fear of not getting the emergency alerts in case of disastrous occurrences. It allows you to stay connected with other people in other towns, countries, and the rest of the world. It’s easy to protect oneself and the family in case of a natural disaster. You can walk around with these devices listening and monitoring everything as they are very lightweight and portable.
How The Handheld Ham Radio Works
Handheld ham radios use electromagnetic radiation to transmit voice data, Morse code, and packets. The technology relies on transmitters, antennas, and receivers situated in strategic positions.
Also known as amateur radios, people use them to communicate over short or far away distances. Ham radio is an old technology that has adamantly refused to leave.
The radios operate within AM radio band frequencies, which range between 1.6 MHz to 1240MHz. This is the range that houses both Very High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency.
Unlike the TV and radio frequencies, ham frequencies travel thousands of miles. From the transmitter high above the ground to the receiver antennae. The transmission is either via voice or Morse code. However, Morse transmission is preferable as it can overcome major obstructions.
To help you make your choice, we have compiled a list of best handheld ham radios. Based on your needs, you can choose one from this list.
The 10 Best Handheld Ham Radio Reviews
1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen)
Baofeng BF-F8HP is an advanced handheld ham-version of its precursor. It boasts of double energy output from its larger battery capacity. It is also one of the cheapest ham radios. Its powerful features make it very popular for both newbies and experts in this technology.
Additionally, it has adjustable power settings. These are low, medium, and high, with the lowest 1 watt and the highest 8 watts. Thanks to its semi duplex receiver, you can monitor two frequencies simultaneously. As you do that, you don’t have to be afraid in case of a power outage—the accompanying 2000Mah power battery chips in as a backup in such scenarios.
- It’s the most readily available and affordable ham radio. With as little as $70, you can get yourself one.
- It has a powerful and durable battery.
- Enjoys good quality sound because of its high power frequency uses, which guarantees clearer transmission and reception.
- Also, it comes with a more efficient and effective antenna.
- It is programmable, allowing you to access better services.
- You need a computer and a connecting USB for a successful configuration.
- The increased power output does not cause a meaningful change.
2. Yaesu FTA550 Handheld VHF Transceiver
Yaesu FTA550 is feature-rich handheld ham radio. It uses a full dot matrix LCD as the screen. This transceiver facilitates aircraft communication through VOR and ILS navigation features.
Also, it includes a weather monitoring feature known as NOAA to aid in aircraft navigation. The other beautiful feature is the programmability, in which case you can add up to 200 memory channels alongside recall capability. A process that can be reversed in minutes if the user wants to reprogram the device. All you need to do is use the programming software via a USB programming cable.
Another exciting thing is the use of a menu-driven user interface. This makes the device very easy to operate. All you need to select a feature is clicking on its respective icon.
- It uses a menu-driven user interface, which makes it very easy to operate.
- Its high full dot matrix LCD display makes it easier to view all its features.
- Uses up to 15 alphanumeric characters, making it easy to store a more exhaustive list of channels. The device recalls feature stores up to 200 channels and is easily retrievable.
- The VOR navigation display facilitates smooth travel as it reacts based on the received signal.
- The weather alert software helps to avert dangers.
- The external AA battery serves as a back up in case of power outages.
- For programming and reprogramming, you must have the programming USB cable.
- Its long antennae may become problematic as it cannot fit in small spaces.
- It is expensive compared to other handheld ham radios.
3. Kenwood Original TH-D74A
This is a top-notch handheld transceiver doing more than just typical ham radio. It uses tri-band frequencies, setting it apart from the standard models. Kenwood TH-D74A design mainly focuses on convenience and user-friendliness. It provides APRS and D-STAR digital transmission support. So, even though you may have to pay slightly higher prices than other transceivers, Kenwood TH-D74A is equal to its value.
- The APRS feature sets it apart in terms of functionality. You can send and receive local information such as GPRS locations and text messages in real-time.
- The D-STAR compatibility support enables international transmissions.
- Its interface uses intuitive, user-friendly menus. These make it easy to operate even for beginners despite the presence of complex features.
- It has a variety of features such as DV fast data mode, an easy to update repeater list, DSP voice processing, etc.
- The presence of the IF filtering feature enhances reception for different frequencies.
- Has very poor customer support, including the user handbook that comes with the device. It is not written in English. That means even getting the information to start is a problem.
- If you are into heavy GPS and APRS, your battery cannot sustain you for long.
- It is bulkier and heavy, making it less portable.
- It is also costly.
4. BaofengWalkei Talkie UV-5R
Looking for a low budget ham radio, this is a good option. Despite its low cost, it is an excellent device when your only interest is basic operations. It is a dual enabling you to monitor two channels concurrently.
The frequency ranges from 65 to 108MHz. Also, it has power settings feature to set either low or high with a programmable radio. Its FM radio works perfectly within amateur frequencies transmitting on both wide and narrow band.
On top of that, Baofeng UV-5R has 128 programmable channels to add or remove as you wish. This option offers you a way to customize the channel names to your taste.
Another worthy component is its Lithium-Ion researchable battery. It is a vital addition whose power can go up to 12 hours. It also has power saving options that you can activate so that your device consumes less power when not needed.
- It has a removable antenna, which is suitable for portability.
- Boasts a good frequency range. However, this depends on the landscape.
- It has dual receivers, which allows you to watch over two channels at the same time.
- The rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery acts as a power backup.
- Power-saving feature can lengthen battery life.
- The inbuilt FM radio offers added services.
- The VFO function doesn’t include the channel recall feature.
- Scanning and selection of channels is slow.
- It doesn’t allow voice prompts.
- Not programmable making it so rigid, yet its interface is not user friendly.
5. Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld Transceiver
It is one of the famous ham radios due to its quality audios and LCD display. Just as its name suggests, it is a dual-band ham radio. This device has two significant features;
The first one is the Emergency Identification feature. This is a crucial feature critical during search and rescue missions. It helps people, such as those with disabilities and cannot press the PTT switch.
The password security feature is another important one. This radio has extensive coverage, and this can compromise some information. Therefore, this security feature, coupled with the programmability, can lock out unwanted people from listening in.
- It is affordable.
- Comes with a powerful and durable battery
- It is very easy to program manually.
- It has a good shape making it easily portable.
- The power settings do not affect the range.
- It has quality audio on both RX and TX.
- Its menu lacks memory mode.
- It comes with a low-quality antenna, and you have to go for third-party antennas.
- Its user interface is not friendly.
6. BTECH UV-5X3 5-Watt Tri-Band Radio
BTECH UV-5X3 is among the ham radios with the best customization features. To start with, it has a selectable frequency range. Its menu-driven interface also makes it easy to operate. For instance, to remove a channel, you just select it from the menu and delete it.
It is also compatible with other antennas such as Nagoya NA-320A to have all in one experience.
In case you want to program it manually, you can use the Chirp software to do this. Other exceptional features include channel lockout, alphanumeric channel storage, among others.
- Allows manual programming.
- You can select your frequency range.
- It has top control and management features.
- Its high-power battery of about 1,500mAh is enough backup.
- It has a dual antenna facilitating double frequency listening.
- Has a user-friendly interface.
- You have to purchase the programming USB cable.
- It doesn’t include trib and even though the name bears the title.
- You may have to purchase other antennas.
7. TYT MD-380 – DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio
TYT MD 380 is a unique type of ham radios. Even though it has a single band, it enjoys dual-mode transmission capability. It has one of the most sensitive but quality receivers. It also enjoys an incredible frequency response. The major distinguishing feature of this transceiver is its multiple color display capability coupled with superb resolution.
It has a powerful, loud, and clear speaker powered by a 5-watt transmitter. On top of all that, it has programmable keys on the sides scanning the channels.
- The speakers are both loud and clear enough.
- It is lightweight hence easily portable.
- Easy to operate.
- It supports manual programming.
- Comes with an easy to read and understand user manual.
- Its programming is complicated.
- Some of its features sometimes drain the battery.
8. Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver
No doubt, this is one of the most sought-after-ham transceivers. It has very easy to operate on UI. It has a power output of 5 watts and 900 alphanumeric memory channels; factor that makes it easy to store the channel information. Additionally, it features a triple band with extensive receiver capabilities.
The automatic emergency detector is another important feature within this ham radio. This feature will automatically activate itself if you are in an emergency and cannot press the switch. You will then be all free to make a call for rescue.
Why most survivalists are interested in this ham radio is its ability to endure adverse conditions. Its waterproof quality sets it apart from the large pool of others.
- Enjoys a high-quality receiver range.
- It is easy to program manually.
- Has a good rechargeable battery.
- It is waterproof.
- It has a poor speaker that is not loud enough.
- Its small keypad is problematic when operating.
9. Ham Radio Walkie Talkie UV-5R Pro
This is an upgraded version of the former ham radio. Have power settings that you can regulate in regards to the frequencies you want to switch to—the High power of 8W, medium 4W, and low, which is 1W.
The 1800mAh rechargeable battery is enough to power the transceiver for almost 24 hours. You can increase battery life by switching on power-saving features.
Additionally, this is a programmable ham radio. It has a handheld mic and a powerful inbuilt speaker.
- It has good quality audio and an external handheld mic.
- Has good battery life plus power-saving and low alert features.
- Comes with an inbuilt LED flashlight.
- Uses chirp software to facilitate manual programming.
- You must purchase the USB programming cable.
- Its operation may appear a bit complicated to new users.
10. Cobra HH50WXST Hand Held CB Radio
This is a cobra’s replacement for Cobra HH 38 WX ST. It is compatible with other Cobra accessories, such as microphones and standard headphones. The device is best suited for short-range communications like within a job site.
The radio is jam-packed with important features such as soundtracks and weather monitoring technologies. These help to improve the quality of signal transmission and reception.
- Compatible with other accessories such as microphones and headphones.
- The weather monitoring technology keeps you updated.
- Supports dual-channel monitoring.
- Has automatic channel scanning.
- Has removable antennae hence occupies small space.
- Supports more than 40 channels.
- You have to upgrade your antennae.
- Doesn’t have channel memory.
- Its battery life isn’t the best.
Benefits of Using a Handheld Ham Radio
- Handheld ham radio does not rely on internet connections or cell phones hence guarantee a reliable wireless connection.
- The radio is lightweight, making it very portable. You can carry it around to almost anywhere as it doesn’t occupy much space.
- For radio and communication enthusiasts, handheld ham radios make a fascinating hobby. After purchasing your device, you cannot just jump to use. All operators are required to undergo training and be certified by the government. If you’ve desired to understand
- Radios are not easily interruptible. This makes ham radios very helpful in times of disasters and calamities for rescue coordination. In most cases, occurrences like hurricanes, cyclones, etc. destroy communication infrastructure save for radios. They are instrumental in keeping people in the affected areas posted.
- Armature radios give you an opportunity to receiver emergency alerts in real-time. It’s a large pool of users, and apart from information from users, state agencies sometimes use them to forewarn people. For example, if an accident occurs along a certain road, you can listen to the reporting and avoid it. They are the best as the other means don not capture events immediately.
Key Considerations Before Buying a Handheld Ham Radio
Area of Application
Where you want to use your radio should be your lead factor. Do you want to monitor or communicate with someone outside and within sight? Or someone far away? This leads you to the type and power of frequency you should go for. If you want small range coverage, FRS is good enough. But if otherwise, these won’t work.
Type of Frequency
The type of frequency your radio operates on plays a key role in the range your device can cover. Handheld ham radios operate on two kinds: the Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF). The VHF ranges from 30MHz to 300MHz, whereas the latter starts from 300MHz and ends at 3 GHz.
The type of your frequency determines how far the signal transmission can travel. The lower the frequency, the longer the wavelength, and the far the signal can reach. Basically, VHF is lower than UHF. They have higher penetration power compared to UHF. This doesn’t necessarily mean that UHF is bad. Their shorter wavelengths make them the best within short areas like where there are obstacles. Short wavelengths will look for a way to bypass the blockage.
Higher power translates to a better range. RFS power is limited to 0.5Watts. This is a real limitation that you should keep in mind while shopping for your radio. If you want radios covering a wide range and the globe, you need to consider other radios. Such as those using VHF and MURS with more power wattage. Ideally, you should be looking to purchase the frequency with the highest power.
Typically, handhelds operate on 5 watts; you can ensure that your transceiver has power settings. These will allow your radio to be multipurpose operating on different frequencies without violating FCC laws. It means your device can work well for both GMRS, MURS, and Ham wattages.
Purchasing that license changes the game too. Before operating any GMRS radio, you must undergo the training and pass an exam. This grants you the legal right to operate and control ham radios with GMRS frequency. The licensing isn’t hard nor expensive. You need to pay about $90 to FCC and do your test. Depending on how you want to use the transceiver, there are three certifications offered: Technician, general, and extra.
A technician license is for beginners. The test covers the ham’s basic areas; its safety, rules, regulations, and basic electronics theory. Once you pass the test, you are licensed to communicate via VHF, UHF, and microwave frequencies.
If you want to communicate under a higher frequency band with technical privileges, you go for a general license.
Finally, extra is the supreme license. It has the most demanding test with over fifty questions. If you acquire this license, you unlock the privileges of all the other licenses. Additionally, you can access exclusive sub-bands.
The good thing is once you are certified, any of your relatives have legal rights to operate a GMRS station or unit within your system.
Number of Frequencies to Monitor
The number of frequencies to monitor determines what device to go for. Different transceivers have different capabilities. There are single, dual, and multiple ham radios. Also, multiple band transmissions allow you to communicate privately. If you don’t need the privacy feature, you can purchase just a single handheld ham.
The ability to manually your transceiver is an added advantage. You can be able to add and remove features and functionalities at will. If you are an advanced user, you may need to consider ham radios that support manual programming.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
How much range can I expect?
There is no definite way to measure range. Depending on the frequency your ham uses, the range can start from a small range like within a building to global. The surrounding factors also determine the range. These include; the obstructions, the time, whether day or night. Also, the power of your device plays a key role.
Do you require a license to operate a ham radio?
Yes, You have to do a test, after which you are given certification to operate a ham radio. If you don’t intend to transmit, you may not have to be certified to monitor or listen to the frequencies.
How long does a ham radio license take to expire?
Different countries have different regulations. Some five others, such as the USA, the license expires after 10 years.
How much does it cost to get a ham radio?
Getting a ham radio is the sum cost of two items: the license and the gadget itself.
What can you do with a handheld ham radio?
Basically, handheld ham radios are used for talking. People living in different towns, countries, and even across the globe use these devices to communicate.
Why do you need a license to operate a ham radio?
It is the only way to show that you know to operate the transceivers. As a ham, you have permission to set up your antennas and units within the certified frequencies. Without the proper knowledge, you may end up disrupting other people’s channels.
To wrap it up, you need vast knowledge about ham radios to pick your best fit. A suitable transceiver is one that is within your budget, and its features address your needs. You need to take your time to familiarize yourself with varieties before making that final decision. This guide can serve as a road map helping you acquire your dream ham radio.