Best Handheld Ham Radios In 2017 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Looking for the Best Handheld Ham Radio? In this modern era, it is possible to be able to communicate with other people from distant places around the world through technology. As we all know, technology enables us to achieve things that were impossible back then. The radio for example, it is one of the most reliable device out there. It has another form however, the best mobile ham radio.

Best Rated Handheld Ham Radios Comparison Chart

  • BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watts Dual Band Two-Way Radio
  • Dimensions : 10.5 x 2 x 2 Inches
  • Battery : 2000mAh, 7.4v, Li-ion
  • Frequency Range : VHF (136-174), UHF (400-520)
  • Item Weight : 10.1 Ounces
  • Yaesu FT-60R Dual Band Handheld Radio Transceiver
  • Dimensions : 2.3 x 1.2 x 4.3 Inches
  • Battery : 1400mA Battery
  • Frequency Range : 108-520Mhz And 700-999.99Mhz
  • Item Weight : 13.1 Ounces
  • Baofeng Black Dual-Band FM Ham Two-way Radio
  • Dimensions : 8 x 4 x 5 Inches
  • Battery : 1500mAh Battery
  • Frequency Range : VHF: 136-174 MHz(Rx/Tx), UHF: 400-520 MHz(Rx/Tx)
  • Item weight : 1 Pound
  • Wouxun KG-UV8D Two Way Radio
  • Dimensions : 10.5 x 2.8 x 7.5 Inches
  • Battery : Li-Ion Battery
  • Frequency Range : 136-174MHz, 400-480MHz
  • Item Weight : 14.4 Ounces
  • TYT MD-380- DMR Moto TRBO Ham Radio
  • Dimensions : 20.1 x 16.8 x 8.6 Cm
  • Battery : 2000mAh Battery
  • Frequency Range : 400-470MHz
  • Item Weight : 703 Gram

Top 5 Handheld Ham Radio Reviews

#1

BaoFeng BF-F8HP 8-Watts Dual Band –  Top Rated Ham Radio For Beginners

An upgrade from BaoFeng’s previous generation UV-5R. It doubles the output power, larger battery and more in-depth user manual. Buying the model will also include an exclusive concierge customer support and warranty. Great for technical class hams that are new to mobile ham radio operating. It is also a good choice for veteran hams because of its programming flexibility.

Best Ham RadioFeatures

  • When compared to BaoFeng’s previous generation radio model UV-5R: It has double the output power( from 4 to 8 watts), an improved robust radio shell material, improved ham radio antenna, larger battery capacity, customer support and an informative user manual.
  • It has switchable power settings (High/Medium/Low); receives 65 to 108 MHz for FM, 126-174 MHz for VHF and 400-520 for UH. It also has both broad and narrow band selection.
  • Easy PC programming through the use of a PC03 FTDI Programming Cable.
  • Being the only authorized Baofeng product distributor in the United States, BaoFeng tech is the only BaoFeng distributor that can offer warranty claims.
  • It has an average battery life of 20 hours even when in multitasking heavy tasks such as using the built-in flash light and radio while transmitting.
  • Improved radio shell allows for greater durability.
  • It has the latest firmware installed (N5R-340A). This firmware is not available on any other model.
  • Compact and heavy duty design allows for more inside hardware to be installed, thus increased technical performance and damage resistance.

Pros:

  • It has an easy to follow user guide and very responsive customer support, allowing for a greater deal of customer satisfaction and it is resistant to damage and to even blunt force.
  • The buttons are sensitive but soft to touch, comfortability is great.
  • It has a built-in flashlight that is extremely helpful during emergencies where there are no light sources.
  • An improved ham radio antenna allows for excellent reception of signals and flexible configurability allows for extensive customizations by the operator.

Cons:

  • I do not like the fact that the programming cable is not included but it should not be a major problem since the recommended cable can be easily bought.

Conclusion

It is a most powerful handheld ham radio on its own however; it is a toned down BaoFeng UV-82HP. Toned down in a sense that it has a better sister with the same price. Still, this best handheld ham radio is arguably the good because of its many features and its instructive user manual will be of a great help for many new hams out there. It is the best ham radio for beginners, as it is very easy to understand and use.

#2

Yaesu FT-60R Dual Transceiver – Top Ham Radio Transceiver

An entry level ham radio transceiver that is very versatile; with aluminum water resistant body, it can survive minor water spills and can be brought outside during the rain. It is from the Japanese manufacturing company Yaesu, which is known for producing robust products. Package includes an improved ham radio antenna, battery, belt clip and charger.

Ham Radio ReviewsFeatures

  • Dual VHF/UHF (2m and 70cm bands) band radio that can also scan NOAA radio weather stations.
  • Alpha Numeric display on the lighted keypads.
  • Have different scan modes.
  • Transmits 430-470 and 144-148, Receives 700-999.99MHz and 108-520 MHz added locking mode prevents accidental changes to frequency.
  • A thousand of memory channels, it can receive emergency channels in 800-900 MHz frequencies and it also has a switchable RF power output.
  • Package includes a 1400mA battery, antenna, belt clip and charger.
  • Aluminum cast body that is resistant to minor damage and scratches.
  • High quality antenna that could even receive weak signals.
  • Easy programming through a computer and programming software.
  • Features a thousand alphanumerical memories, weather alerts, CTCSS and DCS Codes, ARTS program, different modes of scanning & etc.
  • The following accessories are optional but are compatible with this handheld radio model: MH-37A4B earpiece, MH-34B4B microphone, E-DC-5B 12 DC adapter, EDC-6 power cord, CT-44 microphone adapter, and FBA-25A battery case.
  • Small, compact, and lightweight body allows for more specific hardware to be installed without sacrificing technical specifications and features.

Pros:

  • Definitely one of the most durable radios that you could buy and its different accessory compatibility is an added bonus if you have the listed items.
  • Having the ability to receive emergency channels will be a great tool when such emergencies will occur. It also has a wide range of frequencies, enabling it to be used by hams with different class of licenses.
  • Scan modes allow for greater sense of configurability in sorting and saving different channels.

Cons:

  • It has the highest price among other best mobile ham radios in the review however, its useful features balances out the price.

Conclusion

Even if it is an entry level ham radio transceiver, it is still one of the top quality handheld ham radio transceiver that can be bought. Its added features are extremely helpful for an average ham; it also has one of the most durable radio bodies because of the aluminum casing. A great buy for hams of every skill level.

#3

Baofeng Black Dual Band – Bestselling Ham Radio For Car

The latest 2014 radio from the manufacturer BaoFeng, it boasts extensive frequency coverage and unmatched monitoring capabilities. Its compatibility with BaoFeng’s 3600 and 3800 mah batteries enables the UV-5R V2+ to perform considerably longer than its predecessors, even under heavy usage. It is distributed by Foscam Digital Tech covered with warranty.

Best Portable Ham RadioFeatures

  • Compatiblity with BaoFeng’s 3600 mah and 3800 mah batteries.
  • Features are more enhanced compared to previous models.
  • Improved body construction, allowing for greater durability.
  • Two-color upgrade LED display
  • Handheld Ham Radio Range: 136 to 174 / 400 to 479.995 MHz.
  • Package includes an informative English user manual.
  • Warranty claims are covered by Foscam Digital Tech. Foscom Digital Tech is the only authorized distributor of the UV-5R V2+ radio model.
  • Package includes an Authentic and Genuine Nagoya NA-771 model with 15.6 inches Whip and Very High or Ultra High Frequency (144 or 430 MHz) compatible Antenna with a SMA-Female Connector. This antenna will ensure that the UV-5R V2+ handheld ham portable radio model receives and transmits different kinds of signals, even if it is weak.
  • A BaoFeng USB Programming Cable for BaoFeng Two-way radio models: UV-5R, BF-888S, BF-F8+ is also included in the box with the driver CD.
  • New feature added: Auto-band detection. This feature allows for automatic detection of bands upon input.
  • Extensive frequency coverage allows for local two-way amateur communications with added unmatched monitoring capability.
  • Boasting a heavy duty frame, its hardware limitations are yet to be seen. Having a heavy duty frame enables this mobile ham radio to add more technical features and performance enhancements.

Pros:

  • The radio itself is much more durable, a great improvement from its predecessors.
  • It is also very comfortable to the hand, especially with the 3800 mah battery.
  • Its Audio quality is excellent, very clear and crisp. The LED display is very sharp with backlit color changes to indicate different modes, status, and commands.
  • The charging cradle is well done and responsive, with an added LED feedback about the status of the battery.

Cons:

  • The battery removal is somewhat difficult for beginners though. It is not much of a problem however, because it just needs a bit more strength to remove the battery cover.

Conclusion

As an upgrade from previous radio models by BaoFeng, itt is a huge improvement. Its improved durability and added features are really great for a best amateur radio operator. Its keypad and button sensitivity is great and soft to the touch. Its Rx and Tx performance is very good considering its price, and the overall look of this best mobile ham radio is light and not too heavy. It is one of the greatest buys for handheld ham radios.

#4

Wouxun KG-UV8D – Finest Portable Ham Radio

One of the giants in handheld ham radios, the Wouxun KG-UV8D Two way radio is a durable and versatile multi-purpose ham radio. Being a well known Chinese radio manufacturer, Wouxun added plenty of features to this ham radio. It has 999 programmable memory channels and high or low selectable power options.

Best Handheld Ham RadioFeatures

  • It is operating on 4 watts in Ultra High Frequencies and 5 watts in Very High Frequencies.
  • Features a thousand memory channels that are programmable with high and low selectable power options.
  • Handheld Ham Radio Range: 136 to 174 / 420 to 480MHz (RX or TX); FM: 76-108 MHz (RX)
  • Step: 2, 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5, 25, 50 and 100 kHz.
  • Package Includes: Wouxun KG-UV8D Two Way Radio, Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, Removable Antennas, Clip for the belt, Strap for the wrist, Charging Tray, Automatic Current cable and an English user manual.
  • Installed with version 1.04 firmware that enables the portable ham radio to have 2.5 kHz step.
  • Naming of Channels is an added feature.
  • The ability to mute the radio for certain channels.
  • FCC part 90 approved.
  • Twelve (12) hours of battery life on standby
  • Two (2) color LCD display with backlight.
  • Cross Band Repeater Option Included – It enabled hams to receive and transmit signals through their handheld ham radios.
  • Small frame but with great performance results; a great true handheld sized ham radio that can match several heavy duty performance handheld radios.

Pros:

  • This has a very impressive performance, with well engineered specifications for TX and Rx. It is also easy to program this handheld ham radio by hand; connecting this handheld radio to a computer is almost not required.
  • The mute channel feature is a good add-on that can be disabled to prevent discrepancies when listening to other channels. The sound quality is also loud and crisp compared to other radios of the same kind.

Cons:

  • The programming software that is used to program this handheld radio is only compatible to computers running on Windows operating software; it is not compatible on Mac computers.
  • This is not a huge problem however, considering that windows computers are much more inexpensive than Mac computers.

Conclusion

It has plenty of useful features, and great programmability. The price being at about $135.00 is great, considering its functions and specifications. It is also one of the few true dual band portable ham radio, dual tuner radios that seems pretty well-built, frequency and physically wise. This is a great choice if new hams are willing to spend additional dollars for their first handheld ham radio.

#5

TYT MD-380-DMR Moto TRBO – Most Powerful Handheld Ham Radio

The first DMR Digital radio by the manufacturer TYT utilizing Time-Division Multi-Access technology and compatibility with Hytera, Motorala, Kenwood and Vertex Standard radios. With its flexible programmability, it can be customized according to the operator’s needs. Its well built form factor allows for much comfortable usage and greater operating efficiency.

Best Mobile Ham RadioFeatures

  • One thousand (1000) channel numbers.
  • Programmable by computer (USB cable included in the package)
  • Package includes an AC charger, 2000 mAh battery, belt clip, antenna, and an English manual.
  • Uses Time-Division Multi-Access Technology – a technology that allows several users to share the same channel of frequency by dividing the signal into time slots. Each user transmits one after another, using their assigned time slots. This technology also allows users to talk to each other by groups.
  • Features a fully colored LCD display.
  • This DMR radio has two (2) modes, analog and digital.
  • Frequency range: 400 to 470 MHz
  • This handheld ham radio has a thick, compact, plastic body.
  • Programming multifunction key included – it adds for more configuration flexiblity.
  • Has a built-in DCS/CTCSS for various analog functions.
  • Channels are grouped into Channel zones, sixteen (16) channels in a zone.
  • Small frame allows for greater comfortability in operating and when going on in an adventure.

Pros:

  • The TYT MD-380 is much more inexpensive than other DMR radios making it one of the most affordable DMR radios to date.
  • Connecting it to a computer will allow more programming flexibility for its keypad programming is somewhat limited, but enough for an average ham.
  • Programming this handheld radio has a somewhat steep learning curve though, so connecting this radio to a computer then using programming software is a great idea in order to understand more easily on how this radio is programmed.

Cons:

  • Still, it is not a hindrance for the radio’s operators as this handheld radio as great features even if it is an entry level DMR radio.

Conclusion

If you want to jump into trying DMR but without paying for $500 radios, the TYT MD-380 – DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio is a great choice. You can have a working DMR radio that is much more affordable than other DMR radios. The radio is well built, audio is very crisp and clear, easy to use and easy to program; connecting it to a computer is not required for programming it. It is a great inexpensive DMR radio for hams who are interested in DMR’s.

What Is Ham Radio?

Ham radio is a radio used for non-commercial purposes. The same term is also used to describe the use of ham radios (also called amateur radio). On the other hand, most powerful handheld ham radios are portable versions of ham radios.

When regular communications has failed, hams (operators of ham radios) are not affected because they use bandwidths that are different from the ones that are commercially used.

A license is needed however before being one of the hams. These licenses are given mostly by having the interested individual to take a test – usually about key concepts of radio communications. The type of license given varies depending on the amount of knowledge the individual has.

Licensing Requirements

The FCC (Federal Communication Comission) is in charge of all Amateur Radio license issuance in the US. Licenses renewal by the FCC are free, however; certain private individuals administering license examinations may require applicants to pay a fee to cover up their expenses. Renewal requests by applicants are commonly done through telephone.

Licenses are divided amongst levels, with the Technicial Class license being the lowermost and the Amateur Extra Class license being the topmost level. Each class of license also has certain privileges depending on its level.

License examinations usually consist of multiple choice questions with varying difficulty.

  • Technician License

The entry-level license given to applicants who passed the 35-question written examination. It is the most basic of all licenses and the easiest to obtain because it only requires basic understanding of radio communication. Obtaining this license allows an individual to operate in very high frequencies (>30 MHz) but limited operations in High Frequency bands (3-30 MHz).

  • General License

The level next to the Technician Class, obtaining this license also requires answering a 35-question written examination along with passing the technician test.

This license will grant individuals with privileges of being able to operate on all amateur radio frequency bands as well as access to almost 83 % of High Frequency bandwidth. However, long distance communications band segments are not allowed to be used by a General licensed ham.

  • Amateur Extra License

The top of all license classes. It is the hardest to obtain because it requires the most knowledge and understanding of radio communication compared to other licenses. Obtaining this license requires the passage of the General Test as well as a 50 item multiple choice examination usually about theoretical motions about radio communications. It grants privileges that allow an individual to operate on all amateur bands.

What To Look For In Perfect Handheld Ham Radio

People will say that in choosing a portable ham radio, its portability allows it to be used anywhere, and it only requires a battery to operate. Handheld radios are easily accessible.

However, there are two (2) main factors in choosing a radio. First, the bandwidth that you are priviledged to use, the second one is your budget. Do not only focus on these two (2) factors though,there are also other factors to consider such as frequency level, user manual, memory slots, programmability, power, dual band and backlit display.

  • Frequency Level

Different radios have different receive and transmission frequencies, choose the radio that has the most appropriate frequency depending on what bandwidth you are allowed to operate. Obtaining a radio with frequencies that are different from your appropriate bandwidth will be illegal to use because a ham’s license indicates the allowed bandwidth usage.

  • User Manual

A new ham radio user will require immediate understanding of the radio. This is done through the user manual which should be already supplied along with the radio.You could download the online user manual to check if the manual has good quality. An informative user manual should be able to help the new ham radio operator in having the appropriate knowledge required to operate the radio, not to further confuse the user.

  • Memory Slots

Only a dozen of memory slots are needed if you are only communicating locally. However, 100-200 memory slots are needed for national and international use.

  • Programmability

It refers to the ability to manually program the radio. Most radios uses keypads and buttons to input commands while newer models can be connected to a computer by the use of a cable to make programming easier.

  • Power

Five (5) watts of power is enough for an average ham radio operator. Make sure that your radio has high and low power setting to suit your needs.

  • Dual Band

A radio capable of dual band is essential for amateur radio operators because it allows for long range communications.

  • Backlit Display

A radio with a backlit display that can be toggled on and off is a must. It will be helpful for emergencies and scenarios where a source of light is limited.

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Benefits of The Good Handheld Ham Radio

While modern technology has seemingly surpassed portable ham radios in terms of capabilities, there are still plenty of advantages in having a handheld ham radio.

  • Emergency Awareness – Knowing about an emergency beforehand will enable you to make decision based on it. Right handheld ham radios excel at this because you will be able to know emergencies reported by other hams right at your fingertips.
  • Independent From Other Communication Services – When various disasters strike, a huge percentage of communication infrastructures are destroyed, rendering common communications useless. Handheld ham radios are unaffected by this however, because these radios operate at different frequencies than the other communication devices.
  • Inexpensive – A handheld ham radio is much convenient and inexpensive compared to traditional radios.
  • There Is A Community – The ham radio community is friendly, offers assistance, considerate and will conduct contests for ham radio operators. They also hold discussions about various topics where hams can participate.
  • For General Communications – Having a supreme handheld ham radio is extremely useful even if you are only doing it for a hobby. You can contact other operators as well as non-operators (if they have a working radio; they are not allowed to operate it like other hams do though) by just transmitting messages at varying frequences.

Conclusion

Portable ham radios have plenty of benefits, but they are also portable, convenient, and most of all, inexpensive. These devices allow us to communicate more effectively, so why not have one? The only thing that you are needed to do is to study about radio communications and apply for a license. From the above handheld ham radio reviews, you can easily choose what is the best handheld ham radio to buy for you.

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