Ham radios may seem like a thing of the past. However, you may also be surprised to learn that ham radios are still widely used. Improvements and innovation have been added to the simple ham radio design for decades now.
While the basics remain the same, the simple transmission and reception of messages and morse code, there are many other features that ham radios now sport. So what impressive models for the best handheld ham radios are there on the market today? Let’s take a look at our list.
5 Top Handheld Ham Radios Reviews & Comparison
1 – Mirkit Radio Baofeng UV-5R MK5 VHF / UHF
With 128 channels, programming this portable ham radio can be done online by following the steps on their website. You can request to get a link to the software.
This candidate for the best handheld ham radio has an LCD display. This option comes with dual-band display, dual-frequency display, with standby and monitor functions for two different frequencies. Be aware that whichever is the first station is the default one for incoming calls.
Again with three adjustable power levels at 1, 5 and 8 watts, this amateur radio has a radio frequency range of 136-174 MHz/400-520MHz. It also features a battery-saver mode.
Your purchase comes with the handheld radio itself, an antenna, one adapter, and a desktop charger. Accessories include earphone mic/headset, belt clip, and one hand strap.
- This handheld transceiver is a great starter radio. It works very well with analog cars.
- You will find pretty much everything you need including an English user’s manual to help you with usage.
- This model features an LCD screen. It also has dual-band, dual-frequency, and dual stand-by to give the user more options.
- Emergency alerts and battery-saver mode
- There have been multiple accounts of charger issues from users.
- Some found that it’s not easy to find the programming instructions
2 – TIDRADIO 8Watt Ham Radio Handheld Upgraded Version of Baofeng UV-5R
This Amazon’s Choice product, and now one of our top choices for the best handheld ham radio, is an upgraded version of the Baofeng UV-5R radio transceiver model. This option also possesses three power settings – high/mid/low at 8W, 5W, 1W respectively.
For first-time users, TIDRADIO ham has thoughtfully included an extra battery, 2 antennas, one standard and one long-range, a hand microphone, belt clip, earpiece, hand strap, and one power adapter and an AC adapter. That really is all you need in a ham radio!
The long antenna included with the handheld radio enhances the frequency range and signal as well. Use this great device with many other best handheld ham radios like the BaoFeng UV-82HP and the UV-5R.
With 128 memory channels that are programmable through the programming software, TIDRADIO will also provide a software programming link after your purchase, so don’t forget to provide your email!
Some of the functions you can use include a built-in VOX function, keypad lock, LED flashlight, low-battery and emergency alert, monitoring channels and a time-out timer. Overall, it’s great for the price!
- This high-quality ham radio is ideal for voice communication during camping, hiking, construction, security, the service industry and even hotels.
- Features a long antenna you can use for a longer reach, up to 10 miles!
- The 128 memory channels are programmable
- Has access to emergency channel and alerts in case of eventful situations
- This Amazon’s Choice model does come with a warranty to help you with possible claims.
- This option doesn’t include the programming cable
- It’s not a Baofeng ham radio (it’s from TIDRADIIO)
- Not FCC approved.
3 – BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8 Watt VHF / UHF Dual Band Radio
An upgraded version of the previous two generations, the output power of the BaoFeng BF-F8HP is increased and the ham radio itself is made out of much more durable material. The 30% larger battery prolongs battery life and the V-85 antenna optimizes performance over a greater distance.
Although it’s a Chinese model and name, buying the BaoFeng BF-F8HP off Amazon gives you the US warranty including an English user’s guide. The full U.S. warranty of the BF-F8HP offers claims without having to ship your device or any parts as well to China.
The upgraded version of the UV-5R ham radio also eliminates all the bugs and transmits on a new generation chipset. The firmware on this radio transceiver model is the latest one and of the highest performance.
- The amateur radio transceiver kit comes with all accessories you might require
- The V-85 antenna in this amateur radio enhances the signal and transmission performance
- Features NOAA weather channels and weather alert
- Has a frequency range of 65-108 MHz
- This radio ham device isn’t approved for use around the US
- The ham radio doesn’t last for a long time.
- Might be a knock-off of BaoFeng
4 – BTECH DMR-6X2 7-Watt Dual Band Digital / Analog Two-Way Radio
We are aware that the price of this great two way radio is well higher than the other options like Yaesu and TYT, but the B-Tech name adheres to the manufacturer’s warranty. Plus it can access both digital and analog frequencies.
Of course we weigh all aspects, including price, in choosing the best handheld ham radio, but we’re going to make sure an expensive price is justified through great features, like in this handheld radio.
You don’t necessarily have to program this device through your computer, as it allows front panel programming for memory channels. For more advanced programming, you may need to use the software. BTech does include the programming cable.
You get 4000 channels, 10,000 talk groups and a whopping 200,000 contacts! Three power outputs may be used in this amateur radio, much like the previous options – high, medium, low power. Monitor your settings on the large color display. You’d have emergency alerts too.
- The firmware of the amateur radio is upgradeable through a Windows PC and the included cable.
- You are able to assign channels such as digital radio, analog, both or even auto-detection.
- Built-in GPS and audio recorder feature
- Features a digital monitor which allows monitoring of DMR traffic
- Emergency alerts feature
- Battery life is not so good
5 – Luiton Walkie Talkies 2 Way Radio BaoFeng Radio Series UV-5RH
Here we have another amateur handheld walkie talkie radio with 128 memory channels and 3 adjustable power settings for your pleasure. Choose between 8, 4 or 1 watt, this programmable amateur radio has a frequency of 65 to 108 Mhz.
You can choose to customize channel names to make it easy to recognize, and also program the boot display and others with the included cable and your PC. You can select between broadband or narrowband and the rest of the features are also dual functioning.
The small design makes this option portable and easy to transport. The small product size doesn’t hinder its ability to have tons of features including dual band selection, battery-saving mode, VOX, flashlight and keypad lock.
- Due to buildings and edifices in the city, you can get a distance of only 2-4 km as opposed to 6-10 km in open spaces.
- Low, mid, and high power output lets you customize the ham radio for distance purposes.
- Comes with dual display, and dual standby as well as dual band functions.
- Small size
- Battery-saving mode
- Not an FCC-approved model
- Burns through the battery and dies quickly.
Our Top Pick
BTECH DMR-6X2 7-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio
A great option that comes with a full kit, where you also get the programming cable, unlike a lot of other manufacturers.
The great part is the exclusive USA designed upgradeable firmware. New improvements and bug fixes will come out from time to time.
With all the channel selections and the full kit to help newbies get started or to give veterans an easier time, this is a slightly more expensive option but worth the price.
You can assign channels as digital, analog or both. For an easier time, the ham radio can be programmed to auto-detect a channel and categorize it into digital or analog on its own. With digital, you get better coverage and voice quality.
Check our more inclusive list for ham radios here.
What to Look for When Buying a Handheld Ham Radio
A ham radio is a little different from walkie –talkies; they are much more advanced with a clearer reception and further transmission abilities. There are certain features you should search for when you get one.
Of course, you shouldn’t think a ham radio would be as advanced as your smartphone, but there are certain benefits. Let’s consider what features you should search for when picking out and using the best handheld ham radio from a wide range of options.
Maybe arguably the most important feature, there are different radio bands for different amateur radios. A lot of the options above are dual-band radios (broad and narrow). Think about what sort of communication you are using the portable radio for.
Would you need to monitor two frequencies at once, or will general coverage do? You can get advanced radios with great audio quality and tri-band radio benefits, like the Yaesu VX-6R and Yaesu FT-60R. VHF and UHF radio bands are good for beginners, which is what most people use unless enhanced communication is needed (e.g. morse code).
HF / VHF / UHF
The above acronyms stand for high-frequency (HF), very high-frequency (VHF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF). You will only be allowed to transmit and receive on certain frequencies. As mentioned, VHF and UHF bands are good for neophytes.
Most are limited to 5 watts, but it’s good to have adjustable options with the highest output power ranking at 7 to 8 watts. Adjusting the power helps with better transmission over longer distances, or when you need to save some power. Remember this, the more power, the better the range.
However, for most beginners and regular users, 5 watts should be more than enough. Radios like the TYT MD-380 can be used at up to 5 watts. Speaking of power, learn about our most recommended ham radio power supplies here.
Can You Program It?
Many can be manually programmed, but some won’t be. Certain radios are easy to use and can be easy to program with the keypads. These handheld radios can sometimes be adjustable via a cable and your computer.
Other options like some Yaesu and TYT products may only be programmed with your computer, which can be a hassle for some people.
The backlit display is where you get all the information you want about your handheld transceiver. Look for an LCD display. These displays paired with an illuminated keypad, which is a way to increase visibility and are easier on your eyes.
An antenna is not always included in ham radio. It helps boost reception and transmissions. If the quality of the antenna is flimsy or doesn’t do the job right, you can always buy a separate antenna you want for better communication.
This refers to memory channels that the ham radio stores for you. The number needed depends on your communication purposes. Are you using the ham radio for local communication, only when you participate in outdoor activities, for security purposes or in case of an emergency?
If so, then just a dozen or two channel spaces will do.
Another thing you’d want is a sturdy ham radio. Oftentimes they are tools we take with us when doing vigorous activity. If you’re camping or rock climbing and become stranded or stuck somewhere, you want the ham radio to be tough enough to withstand these conditions.
Some handheld radios will also alert you if the battery is weak (you can use the saving mode) and even useful NOAA weather functions. Listening to NOAA weather channels is a way to keep you updated.
If your job requires a ham radio or you live in places susceptible to harsh weather, having a weather alert in your handheld amateur transceiver (like in Yaesu FT-60R and the tri-band Yaesu VX-6R) could be important. In case of an emergency, you’d be making use of the 440 MHz band.
A lot of manufacturers think maybe you’re a first-time buyer. They curate a perfect handheld amateur radio kit that includes everything you may need or want with the purchase like a good extra battery (like for TYT MD-380, something that lasts for 9-12 hours), cable, earpiece, wrist band, belt clip and much more.
This is also important because the manual will have all the information you need to operate it. A ham radio isn’t a plug-and-play sort of device and it comes with a learning curve for many people. Even for veterans, a new ham radio could possibly come with new features that are foreign to you.
Thus, you want a good manual that would make it easy.
Getting a License
Another important part! A license for your amateur radio determines the radio frequency bands you are allowed to broadcast and be on. It also allows you to operate a ham radio legally at normal times. If you are unapproved or the amateur radio is, you will be subject to fines.
Make sure you opt for a good piece of equipment, especially in going for the best handheld ham radio. They can be an essential tool for your survival if you’re constantly outdoors.
You want quality to be your main concern and we hope to bring you only the greatest options around to take the load off of your shoulders through this handheld radios list.
We’ll keep refreshing these options to include more models, like the, BaoFend UV-82HP, TYT MD-380 or Yaesu FT-60R, so watch out for that.