In the 21st century, the use of handheld ham radios for communication is continuously expanding. Ham radios are no more limited to military men. People nowadays, are using them as their hobby, recreation, in sports, public events, and even children use them for fun purpose.
In this world of radio waves, the resurgence of ham radios is of no surprise!
They are portable and on the other hand, offer enhanced frequency range, audio quality and deliver a better user experience.
With the enhancements in technology, a number of handheld ham radios have introduced and the number is still increasing. Thus, it leads to chaos while selecting the best handheld ham radios from a lot of alternatives.
To make this task easy, I’ve listed out 5 best handheld ham radios with their complete specifications that would help you take a clear decision.
So let’s get started…
Compare Different Models Of Portable Ham Radio
Top 5 Mobile Ham Radios Reviews
An upgrade from BaoFeng’s previous generation UV-5R! It doubles the output power, offers a larger battery, and a more in-depth user manual. Buying this 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 the best choice for veteran hams because of its programming flexibility.
When compared to BaoFeng’s previous generation radio model UV-5R: It has double the output power( from 4 to 8 watts), offers 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 flashlight 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.
- 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 even blunt force.
- The buttons are sensitive but soft to touch, comfort-ability 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 an excellent reception of signals and flexible configuration allows for extensive customization by the operator.
- 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.
An entry-level ham radio transceiver that is very versatile; with the aluminum water-resistant body. Yaesu ham radio 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.
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 700-999.99 MHz 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 frequency base and it also has a switchable RF power output.
Package includes a 1400 mA battery, antenna, belt clip, and charger.
Aluminum cast body that is resistant to minor damage and scratches.
A high-quality antenna that could even receive weak signals.
Easy programming through a computer and programming software.
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 allow for more specific hardware to be installed without sacrificing technical specifications and features.
- Yaesu is 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 a different class of licenses.
- Scan modes allow for a greater sense of configuration in sorting and saving different channels.
- It has the highest price among other best mobile ham radios in the review however, its useful features balance out the price.
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 and could be used to listen to NOAA weather which is not bad. It is distributed by Foscam Digital Tech covered with the warranty.
Compatibility 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.
The package includes an informative English user manual.
Warranty claims are covered by Foscam Digital Tech. Folsom 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 power (144 or 440 MHz) compatible Antenna with an 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 the automatic detection of base bands upon input.
Handheld Amateur Radio 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.
- 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 power cradle is well done and responsive, with added LED display which gives feedback about the status of the battery.
- 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 and would feel more comfortable with some experience.
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.
It is operating on 4 watts in ultra-high frequencies and 5 watts in very high frequencies.
It 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, a clip for the belt, strap for the wrist, charging tray, automatic power cable, and an English user manual.
Installed with version 1.04 firmware that enables the portable ham radio to have 2.5 kHz step.
The naming of channels is an added feature.
The ability to mute the radio base for certain channels.
FCC part 90 approved.
Twelve hours of battery life on standby.
A two-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.
- 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.
- The programming software that is used to program this handheld radio is only compatible with computers running on Windows operating software; it is not compatible with Mac computers.
- This is not a huge problem however, considering that windows computers are much more inexpensive than Mac computers.
The first DMR Digital radio by the manufacturer TYT utilizing Time-Division Multi-Access technology and compatibility with Hytera, Motorola, Kenwood and Vertex Standard radios. With its flexible programmability power, it can be customized according to the operator’s needs. It also gives weather alert information and could be used to listen to NOAA weather. Its well-built form factor allows for comfortable usage and greater operating efficiency.
One thousand channel numbers.
Programmable by computer (USB cables 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 modes, analog and digital.
Frequency range: 400 to 470 MHz.
This handheld ham radio has a thick, compact, plastic body.
Has a built-in DCS/CTCSS for various analog functions.
Channels are grouped into Channel zones, sixteen channels in a zone.
A small frame allows for greater comfort in operating and when going on an adventure.
Programming multi-function key included – it adds for more configuration flexibility.
- The TYT MD-380 is much more inexpensive than other DMR radios making it one of the most affordable DMR radios to date from another lot of options.
- 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 how this radio is programmed.
- 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.
What Is Ham Radio?
Ham radio is a radio used for non-commercial purposes and is also termed as amateur radio. And the most powerful handheld ham radios are portable versions of ham radios.
When regular communications have failed, hams (operators of ham radios) are not affected because they use bandwidths that are different from the ones that are used commercially.
However, a license is needed before being one of the hams. These licenses are provided mostly by taking a test from the interested individual – usually about key concepts of radio communications. The type of license given varies depending on the amount of knowledge the individual has.
Process To Get A Handheld Ham Radio
The FCC (Federal Communication Commission) 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 among levels, with the Technical Class license being the lowermost and the Amateur Extra Class license is 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.
The entry-level license is 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 a basic understanding of radio communication. Earlier, Morse code knowledge was required to get the licenses but it is no longer needed now to learn Morse code. Obtaining this license allows an individual to operate in very high frequencies (>30 MHz) but limited operations in high-frequency bands (3-30 MHz).
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 Generally 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 Long-Range Handheld Ham Radio?
Choosing a portable ham radio is more profitable as its portability allows it to be used anywhere, and it just requires a battery to operate. Also, handheld radios are easily accessible.
However, there are two main factors in choosing a radio. First, the bandwidth that you are privileged to use and the second one is your budget. Do not only focus on these two factors though there are also other factors to consider such as frequency range, users manual, memory slots, programmability, power, dual bands, 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 an 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 memory slots are needed if you are communicating locally. However, 100-200 memory slots are needed for national and international use.
It refers to the ability to manually program the radio. Most radios use 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.
Five watts of power is enough for an average ham radio operator. Make sure that your radio has high and low power settings to suit your needs.
- Dual Brand:
A radio capable of dual bands is essential for amateur radio users because it allows for long frequency 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.
Benefits of the Good Handheld Ham Radio
While modern technology has seemingly surpassed portable ham radios in terms of capabilities, there are still a lot of advantages in having a handheld ham radio.
Emergency Awareness – Knowing about an emergency beforehand will enable you to make a 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 more 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 to add excitement in user experience. 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 using it for a hobby only. You can contact other operators as well as non-operators (if they have a working radio; they are not allowed to operate it as other hams do though) by just transmitting messages at varying frequencies.
How far will a handheld ham radio transmit?
Handheld ham radios are similar to mobile towers and work usually when they receive network signals. The handheld units basically transmit to 1 to 2 miles.
Is it possible to own a ham radio without a license?
Yes, you can own a ham radio without a license but with restricted uses. Without a license, you can just listen to local radio, FM, and other updates such as weather broadcast. So you can just listen without transmitting.
Can ham radio pick up cell phones?
Ham radios do not allow to communicate and even listening because it’s illegal. Communication can only be done if there is an emergency.
Do you need to know Morse code for ham radio?
Earlier it was required to know Morse code to earn a license, but now it is no longer required in the USA. FCC announced the deduction of Morse code in the test for a license.
How much ham radio license costs?
To get a ham radio license, you need to give the exam first which costs around $15. This cost is basically charged for printing the exam papers etc. and you cannot avoid this fee.
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 need to do is to study 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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