Best Handheld Ham Radio: 8 Things to Check Before Buying

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 a great example. But as the technology is being upgraded day by day, singling out the best one is also becoming harder each year.

You may think, is it really that much important role in communicating!

The answer is yes. Because with a handheld ham radio you’ll be able to communicate from anywhere of the world.

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. Read this entire article. It’ll positively help you to find the suitable ham radio.

Comparison Table of Our Top Choices

BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with...
Editor’s Choice
Wouxun KG-UV8D Plus Dual-Band Two Way Radio
TYT MD-380 DMR Digital Radio Up to 1000 Channels with Programming Cable and 2 Antenna (High Gain Antenna included),...
BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with...
Wouxun KG-UV8D Plus Dual-Band Two Way Radio
TYT MD-380 DMR Digital Radio Up to 1000 Channels with Programming Cable and 2 Antenna (High Gain Antenna included),...
Star Rating
Prime Status
BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with...
BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio (136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF) Includes Full Kit with...
Star Rating
Prime Status
Editor’s Choice
Wouxun KG-UV8D Plus Dual-Band Two Way Radio
Wouxun KG-UV8D Plus Dual-Band Two Way Radio
Star Rating
Prime Status
TYT MD-380 DMR Digital Radio Up to 1000 Channels with Programming Cable and 2 Antenna (High Gain Antenna included),...
TYT MD-380 DMR Digital Radio Up to 1000 Channels with Programming Cable and 2 Antenna (High Gain Antenna included),...
Star Rating
Prime Status

What is Ham Radio?

Ham radio, known as the amateur radio, is used for private, non- commercial purposes using designated radio frequencies. You can use this radio for emergency communication, experimenting with any wireless communication, socialization and other many purposes.

Many likes this radio because 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 can easily use ham radio to talk across your town or around the world or even into space without any cell phone or internet.

Top 10 Handheld Ham Radio - Reviews

1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) Dual Brand Handheld Ham Radio

BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen)

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 Ham Radio for the Money

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 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 Mobile Ham Radio

Wouxun KG-UV8D Two Way 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.

6. BaoFeng UV-82C Dual-Band 136-174/400-520 MHz FM Ham Radio

There is very few alternatives for a sturdy and affordable radio like BaoFeng UV-82C radio. BaoFeng radios are famous for their durability, but this model is the latest and upgraded version of all former models.

It is rugged, comes with amazingly convenient features and small. There are three power settings to choose from so that you don’t drain the battery unnecessarily. At ‘high’ mode, with its highest power consumption of 8 watts, this radio can reach over 30 miles even in the busiest neighborhood. For more reach, I suggest getting a high-quality antenna.

This radio can keep up to two frequencies at once. You can use both, one or none depending on your choice and requirement. It is programmable, but with a programming cable, that task becomes easier. So, get one if you need to reprogram this unit very often.

The finish and workmanship is not the high end, to be honest. So as the included belt-clip and earpiece. But, this radio does the job what it meant to do. I don’t like its rounded base as for the base, this device can’t stay put anywhere. It runs on a lithium-ion battery, which comes with the package. So, the radio battery and accessories included for the price beat the deal.

Things We Liked

  • Convenient warranty option;
  • Affordable;
  • 3 level power settings;
  • User-friendly design. 

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Programming may seem difficult at first.

7. Radioddity High Power Walkie Talkie with Flashlight (GA-5S 7W)

Till this date, radios are used for emergency purposes mostly. For camping, disasters, power cut or using in the worksite, this GA-5S 7W model from Radioddity is extraordinarily convenient. Most importantly, it is super cheap and backed by return policy, so if you are planning to buy then don’t hesitate. 

To shuffle the keypad in the dark, it is made backlit. Not only that, the screen comes with three color options. So, whether it is dusk, dawn or midday navigating the channels will be fluent with this radio. It has a belt clip and wrist band; altogether with the included battery, it doesn’t weigh more than 250  grams. An alarm with all these accessories makes it a perfect choice for using in campaign and work sites.

Like the BaoFeng, it is also a dual-band radio with three power settings. But the coverage and power consumption are not as intense as the BaoFeng one. With the highest setting, the radio will run on 7 to 8.9 watt and can reach up to 5 miles. Its antenna is improved than the rubber duck one. The radio is sturdy and pocket sized.

To set the programs, you have to download the software and use the programming cable. Unless you live in a disaster-prone area, surely you can give this model a try.

Things We Liked

  • Cheap price;
  • Backlit keypad;
  • Long battery life;
  • Excellent return and warranty.

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Misplacement of monitor button;
  • Short distance coverage. 

8. TYT 1000 Channels Digital Radio and 2 Antenna (MD-380)

TYT 1000 Channels Digital Radio and 2 Antenna

New to a DMR and hesitate to use one? MD-380 has come to the rescue. It has both analog and digital features, which is perfect for amateurs. With the code plug of your area, you can operate the digital functions of this radio and master your skills for a DMR.

A thousand channels and impressive reception and transmission are the main advantages of this radio. To use in a job site like vast level construction sites and so on, this type of radio makes communicating convenient. You can make private and group calls, even write text messages with it. A perfect addition to rule and run your projects smoothly, isn’t it?

All the accessories and battery are included in the package, there is nothing you need to purchase separately. There are two antennas with this radio to reach to different distances. When you need to reach to a greater distance, simply put on the high coverage antenna and get the job done!

I didn’t find anything to dislike this radio. The matter is, it serves some exact purposes; if choosing this radio does not serve your purpose, pick another one.

Things We Liked

  • Affordable as a DMR;
  • 1000 channels;
  • 2 antennas included;

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Needs code plug to run digitally.

9. TYT MD-UV390 Digital Dual Band Two Way Radio

TYT MD-UV390 Digital Dual Band Two Way Radio

For people who earn their living on traveling or has a passion for exploring the world, this radio will prove a lifesaver for them. It is built to last under the water, in the dust and years of abuse. The built-in GPS in it will make sure you never lose your track while trekking or kayaking in wild environment. 

This radio is a more upgraded version of MD-390 and compatible with all its accessories. The difference is, it has a high gain antenna to reach the farthest channels problem free. Its thousand channels will be helpful to keep track of the tourists or a large team.

Like the MD-390, this model is also analog and digital and can shift from one mode to another swiftly. The package arrives with everything you need to start off. The included battery will last for a day once charged fully. The built-in GPS drains the battery compared to other radios. Keeping an extra battery will keep you prepared for unforeseen situations.  

Overall, this is a perfect addition for explorers. This radio is not widely used, hence it has few reviews from the users. My opinion for this radio is, it is perfect for keeping you stay on track when you are away from home.

Things We Liked

  • Suitable for traveling and trekking;
  • Waterproof and dustproof;
  • Comes with GPS;
  • High gain antenna. 

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Not widely used.

10. Kenwood Amateur Transceiver w GPS, Echolink Ready (TH-D72A)

It’s the most expensive radio on this list, and obviously the most hi-tech one. If the MD-UV390 model seems less trustworthy then surely this TH-D72A model is built especially for you. With GPS function, this radio has APRS and VFO. with all these features, now you can make sure you and your belongings are safe and sound even when you are far away from your own territory.

This radio has those two must have features a traveler needs, ‘watertight’ and ‘dust protected’. So as all the accessories and equipment included in the package. The lithium-ion battery is also a high-quality one. As the radio has so many advancements, the battery runs quicker when all the features are turned on. So, keeping a pair of extra batteries will be handy in emergencies.

Good things don’t come easy. This radio is out of budget for most people but you don’t have to have it if all these advanced features are really not necessary for you.

Things We Liked

  • Easy to program;
  • GPS, APRS, and dual VFOs;
  • Long battery time. 

Things We Didn’t Like

  • Expensive.

Licensing Requirements

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-

Technical 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).

General License

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.

Ham Radio’s Benefits

Portable ham radio is a wonder of modern technology and there are plenty of advantages to have one. Such as-

Emergency Awareness

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.

General Communication

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

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.

Frequency Level

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.

Memory Slot

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

Dual band is essential for amateur hams (radio operators). That’s because dual band allows you to communicate with long range.

User Manual

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

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.

Illuminated Keypad

Illuminated keypad is a great feature for night specially for the type of radios which have a lot of buttons to use for every function. But while looking for a illuminated keypad, check that the model allows you to turn the feature off during day time to save the power.

Some Important Asking About Ham Radio

What is the Type of Ham Radio

Amateur Radio (regularly called Ham Radio) is a quintessentially nerdy leisure activity. Basically, it includes radio administrators (called "hams") conversing with one another around unrealistically complex hardware over VHF and UHF frequencies. This is a side interest that has an unfashionable reputation.

Why Use Ham Radios

Ham radios can keep running on battery or generator control, so are not dependent on network control. Administrators can be over the top about their pastime, accordingly talented. Radios can be fit for imparting over long separations, and Hams have utilized the moon to bounce signals. Communications satellites can also be utilized.

How Far will a Handheld Ham Radio Transmit

With a 2 meter versatile radio in your vehicle, you can talk directly to different hams 15 or 20 kilometers away. By working through a repeater station, that equivalent radio can dependably arrive at several kilometers. With an HF (high recurrence) radio, you can arrive at the whole world...if the conditions are good.

How does a Ham Radio Work

Hams can utilize many frequency groups over the radio range - these frequencies are designated by the FCC for beginner use. Hams may work from simply over the AM communicated band to the microwave area, in the gigahertz run.

What is the Best Ham Radio Base Station

Our Picks of the Best Ham Radio Base Stations

  • Kenwood TS-480HX HF Base Transceiver - Best for Highest Power Output. 
  • Yaesu FT-450D Compact Amateur Base Transceiver - Best For Ease of Use. 
  • World 10m DX-2517 Base Station - Best For Loud Modulation.


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. In the end, our only expectation is that you would not make any rash choices and keep all advice within proper limits. We trust you find what you're searching for. Good luck.

1 thought on “Best Handheld Ham Radio: 8 Things to Check Before Buying”

  1. This is a nice website. Unfortunately, you have misled readers by telling them to study about radio communications and then apply for a license. You cannot just apply for a license. You study more than just radio communications. You have to know the regulations, electronics, propagation, operating procedures, and about radio equipment basics. Then you have to take and pass an exam to earn a license. After that you must wait for that assigned call sign to appear on the FCC ULS website before getting on the air. Unfortunately, with poorly written advice, we are finding that people are buying cheap radios and assuming that they can just get on the air without being aware of the federal/international regulations. We have had more interference on our repeater from non hams in the past few months than in the past 40 years that our repeater has been operational. Please be more honest with your customers. For, they will be fined for interfering on frequencies they are not authorized to use. They can be fined for using foul language, false call signs, and deliberately interfering. None of us wants people to be fined, but we will located them and report them to the FCC if they are on our assigned frequencies illegally. These regulations are not just federal regulations, they are also international regulations.

    Advise your customers to take a class locally or online. Then find a local Amateur Radio Volunteer Examining session, pay to take the exam, and if they pass, they have to wait for their license to appear on the FCC ULS website. This is the process that must be followed.

    Other than that I think your website is quite informative. Thanks.

    Bill Bradley, WD6FON


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