Best Handheld Ham Radio for 2018 | Top 5 Models Reviewed
In the modern era of technology, we have many wonderful technologies around us. By the greatness of technology, we can now communicate with other people from various distances all over the world. You know what; technology has made many things possible which were impossible back then. In the category of communication, handheld ham radios are great example. But as the technology is being upgraded day by day, singling out the best one is also becoming harder each year. Our market is flooded with many high quality radios which have advanced features and latest technology. But in every category, there are always some bests. The ham radio category isn’t different too. But finding out the best one is always a difficult task. We are saying that because people usually get confused when they meet a lot of radios of different features.
If you’re thinking about buying a new ham radio, then you need to consider some important features to make the best purchase. We know, your time is valuable and you don’t want to waste it. So, in order to help you to buy the best handheld ham radio, we’ve created this complete guide so that you can pick up the affordable radio that works well for you.
10.5 x 2 x 2 inches
2.2 x 1.3 x 4.7 inches
2.3 x 1.2 x 4.3 inches
10.5 x 2.8 x 7.5 inches
Top 5 Handheld Ham Radio - Reviews
1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen): The Dual Brand Handheld Ham Radio
The BaoFeng Bf-F8HP is simply an awesome radio. This is the upgraded generation of previous UV-5R. The radio is a dual brand 8 watt two way radio and comes with large battery & full kit. The battery is 30% larger than other general radio batteries so that you get the longer service from this. And the radio is made with durable new hardened radio shell which provides better durability. Additionally, the radio comes with included In-depth and USA supported user guide. The dimension of the radio is 10.5x2x2 inches.
The radio uses high performance V-85 antenna which is a high gain antenna and able to twice the antenna performance. You can adjust the power settings by Low- Mid- High which are of 1W- 4W- 8W output. This feature lets you to save the battery power while you’re on a long mission. The radio also supports wideband and narrowband selectable frequency. You can change it whenever you need. The recommended A PC03 FTDI programming cable allows you to make an easier PC programming.
This pretty good radio is designed in the USA with an easier user friendly design so that you can use it very easily. That’s because everyone isn’t a radio expert. We said before, you get In-depth user guide with it. You will be capable to customize the radio settings by the help of the guide. This radio has the latest firmware (N5R-340A) installed. You won’t get this on any other models. The larger battery can serve you up to 20 hours even when you have to do heavy and multi tasks with it. The built in flash light is another great addition which is very useful in dark.
What we liked
- Built in flash light;
- Easier PC programmable;
- Larger battery;
- Latest firmware version installed;
- High & dual performance V-85 antenna;
- Low- Mid- High power output settings;
- User friendly design.
What we didn't like
- Programming cable isn’t included.
2. Kenwood TH-D74A: The Portable Ham Radio
The Kenwood TH-D74A is a compact and lightweight high end handheld ham radio which is highly able to regard your real time location while exchanging information. The radio has an automatic clock setting feature which is accomplished through your GPS signal. This radio is IP 54/55 water proof and compact. The dimension of the device is only 4.7x2.2x1.3 inches. The radio has built in highly accurate GPS unit and multi mode reception feature. The Kenwood TH-D74A works with D-Star digital radio network and complaint with voice & digital mode.
The radio come with a transflective TFT color display (240x180 pixel) for providing easier user experience. This one offers you 4 level power selections of 0.05W, 0.5W, 2W and 5W so that you can get longer service by reducing the power when you don’t need to. The new IF filtration of the radio presents you improved AM/ CW/ SSB reception. Additionally, this one come with DSP based high performance voice recording & audio processing abilities. However, this awesome device is compliant with Micro USB, Micro SD and Bluetooth.
On the other hand, the radio offers Command and Control protocol, External Decode function, Data import/ export features as well. The software of the radio is so simple and clean, so you can easily configure and program the software when you need. We’ve been impressed with this software. This radio is design for providing easier user experience and for the compactness; it’s also said as the best mobile ham radio.
What we liked
- IP 54/55 water proof;
- Compact and lightweight;
- D-Star performance transceiver;
- Built in GPS, Auto clock setting;
- Multi mode reception;
- TFT color display;
- IF filtering provides better reception;
- Micro USB, Micro SD & Bluetooth standard.
What we didn't like
- Incomplete manual that’s found unhelpful.
3. Yaesu FT-60R: The Best Ham Radio for the Money - Editor's Choice
The Yaesu FT-60R is the best ham radio for the money. The price of the radio is too affordable but it’s loaded with many important and advanced features. This is a dual brand mature radio transceiver of 5W and UHF/ VHF (2 Miter and 70 Centimeter). This is a water proof radio. This radio is submersible for approx. 30 minutes in up to 3 feet depth of water. Besides, it’s compact and lightweight too (less than 10 ounces). The dimension of the device is only 4.3x2.3x1.2 inches.
This radio offers you Alpha Numeric multicolor LED display and lighted keypad. Additionally, this one also offers scan mode. . This one offers you 3 levels of power selection of 0.5W, 2W and 5W (Low- Mid- High) so that you can get longer service by reducing the power when you don’t need to use more power. This radio has password lock protection that prevents accidental frequency changes. The radio is able to receive 108-520 MHz & 700-999.99 MHz as well as transmit 144-148 MHz & 430-470 MHz.
This radio has emergency NOAA weather alert and capable to receive 800-900 MHz in emergency channels. Another amazing thing is, this one has 1000 memory channels. Isn’t it great? Also, the radio has powerful 1400 mAh battery that can serve longer. The device comes with including charger, bet clip and antenna. This tri band radio gives you the capability to tune into 3 brands.
What we liked
- Multicolor LED display;
- Tri-banded radio;
- Password protected;
- Submersible water proof;
- Very compact & lightweight;
- Different power output settings (Low- Mid- High);
- NOAA weather alert, 1000 memory channels.
What we didn't like
- Volume knob is difficult to use because of its position;
- Limited transmission frequencies.
4. TYT MD-380: Best Entry Level Ham Radio
The TYT MD-380 is an entry level ham radio which is considered as the best handheld ham radio for beginners. This radio supports both digital and analog operation so that anybody can use this radio easily and finds helpful. This one is made to allow greater operating efficiency and more comfortable usage. The frequency range is 400-470 MHz. This radio is compact and lightweight and this DMR radio comes with software & USB programming cable, belt clip, antenna, AC charger and use manual.
This TYT MD-380 has a large 2000 mAh battery which is capable to serve you for a long time. Another wondering feature is, the radio has 1000 channels memory. The Multi Access Time Division feature allows multiple users to use the same channel and frequency by dividing the connected signal into the time slots. The 2 modes (Analog & Digital) of the radio have added great value. Additionally, you get LCD fully colored display. This thick and compact radio has multi- function key.
One thing you need to remember that this one has limited keypad program. But don’t worry; it contains enough that is required for a ham radio. The computer programming of the radio added extra value that make easy the usages and user interface. This beginner level radio is really reliable for the starters.
What we liked
- Very affordable radio;
- Water resistant;
- Easier navigate system for easy use;
- Allows both Analog & Digital operation;
- LCD color display;
- Awesome audio quality;
- Come with accessories (Belt Clip, 2 More Antennas, Battery, Programming Cable & Desktop Charger).
What we didn't like
- Limited keypad programming;
- You need Windows PC to use TYT’s free software.
5. Wouxun KG-UV8D: Best Mobile Ham Radio
The Wouxun KG-UV8D is a dual band radio of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 Mhz. This radio has a larger display than other ham radio. The large display allows you to get easier readability. The oversized display is another good advantage. This radio is a cross band repeater which features extra value to this device. And this one is capable to store up to 999 channels. The device is lightweight (less than 15 ounces), and the dimension of the radio is 10.5x2.8x7.5 inches.
The KG-UV8D is a multipurpose, versatile and durable ham radio. This one contains a lot of features. You have power selection option so you can change the settings according to your need. Generally this radio is operated on 5W in very high frequencies and 4W in Ultra high frequencies. The installed 1.04 firmware version allows you have 2.5 kHz step. Additionally, you have a great added feature, and that is, you can now name the channels. This is a FCC 90 approved radio.
The radio is able to serve you up to 12 hours. The lithium-ion rechargeable battery is pretty good. You also get AC charger, battery, removable antenna, wrist strap, belt clip, automatic current cable, charging tray and user manual with this. The radio has small frame, but it performs a very impressive performance. However, this radio is suitable for heavy duty usages too.
What we liked
- Able to store up to 999 channels;
- Oversized display;
- Included cross band radio repeater option;
- LCD display with 2 color & backlit;
- Li-ion battery, removable antenna;
- FCC 90 approved radio;
- Included automatic current cable.
What we didn't like
- Battery backup is limited;
- Lacking of chip support.
What Is Ham Radio?
Ham radio is non-commercial purposes used radio. This is also known as Amateur radio. Handheld ham radio is the powerful version of all ham radio. Where other regular communications fail, hams (operators of ham radio) do not get affected. That’s because ham radios use different bandwidths than other commercial radios.
You need a license to be a ham. There are different types of license that are given by individual’s taken test. The license is given based of knowledge of the individual. The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issues the license in the USA. The license is basically free, but you need to pay up their expenses. And the license renewal is commonly done through telephone.
There are some divisions of license. The technical license is the lowest level and the amateur license is the highest level license. The license exam generally bas on varying and consist of multiple choice questions. There are mainly 3 types of license-
This is the entry level license. An applicant needs to be passed in 35 written questions. This is the most basic and easiest license. This license allows the user to use very high frequencies (>30 MHz) and limited operation with high frequencies (3-30 MHz).
The upper level license of technical license. The applicant needs to pass the technical test along with 35 written questions. This is the mid level license. This license allows applicants to use almost 83% of high frequency bandwidth. Remember, long distance band segments communications aren’t allowed by this license.
Amateur Extra License:
This is the highest level license. A deep knowledge and understanding on radio communication is required to obtain this license. Applicant needs to pass a general test and 50 multiple choice questions. This license allows the user to operate all amateur radio bands.
Good Handheld Ham Radio’s Benefits:
Portable ham radio is a wonder of modern technology and there are plenty of advantages to have one. Such as-
The ham radio lets you to be aware all time. In case of emergency, you can call for help at your fingertips.
A handheld ham radio is less expensive and much convenient than traditional radios.
When rendering common communications are useless, communication infrastructures are destroyed or various disasters strike, the ham radios remain unaffected because they use different communication frequencies than others.
You can also use the ham radios for general communications. Having the supreme ham radio is extremely useful besides only doing hobby.
What to Look Before Buying A Ham Radio - (Buying Guide)
People usually say you need to check the battery before buying as they are portable and you need to have a good battery backup. Though handheld radios are easily accessible, but you need to look after some major things before choosing. There are two main factors in selecting a perfect radio. First, bandwidth and second, frequency level. Besides these, some other things are needed to be considered.
Different radios have different frequencies of transmission & receive. You should choose that one which has the most appropriate frequency that you need. Bandwidth is also important as you are able to use the bandwidth according to your license.
5W power is enough to operate a radio. Make sure that your radio has power output setting (Low- Mid- High) so that you can set it when you need.
Make sure your radio supports PC programming. Programming a radio allows you to connect with newer brands. Some radio also support keypad input command.
For local communication, you just need around a dozen of memory slot. But if you want to use it nationally or internationally, then you need 100-200 memory slots. So, choose radio depending on your usage.
Dual band is essential for amateur hams (radio operators). That’s because dual band allows you to communicate with long range.
You may be wondering why we are talking about the user manual. Well, user manual is required for easily understanding the operation system and use it. A good user manual helps you in many ways. When you need to learn something, change a new setting or face any trouble shooting, you can be helped by this.
Backlit display is required for easier and emergency usages. The display should be toggled on & off. Additionally, this one helps you to the situation when there is a source of limited light.
Handheld radios have a lot of benefits. These radios are portable, inexpensive, convenient and user friendly. Ham radios allow us to communicate easily and effectively. You just need to study about radio communication & apply for the license. It’s not too tough. So why not have one?
You can easily choose the suitable one for you from the handheld ham radio reviews discussed above. We are saying that because we have covered some bests depending all price ranges, power output, variety of features and some other points. Hope, you will now able to choose the perfect one for you without any confusion. Good luck.