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
Programming this best 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.
Overall, the Mirkit is one of the best radios in the market designed for beginner or expert hams.
- This handheld ham radio 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 manual to help you with using the radio.
- This model features an LCD screen. It also has dual-band, dual-frequency, and dual stand-by to give the user more options.
- Offers 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 on the user manual
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 handheld ham radios, 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 radio 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 is used to enhance the frequency range and signal, and it does so very well. You’re able to access different frequencies with no problem at all. Use this great device with many other best handheld ham radios such as the BaoFeng UV-82HP, TYT MD-380 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 in the handheld ham radio you can use include a built-in VOX function, keypad lock, LED flashlight, low-battery and emergency alert, and a time-out timer. Compared to other radios in this price point, this is easy to use and it’s best to take anywhere to communicate with fellow hams.
Overall, this device is 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 far reach, up to 10 miles!
- The 128 channels are programmable
- The radio is easy to use
- Has access to emergency channel 440 MHz 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, you have to buy a separate one
- 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
Next in our review is something from Baofeng. An upgraded version of the previous two generations, the output power of the BaoFeng BF-F8HP is increased and the handheld 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 is also designed to eliminate all the bugs and transmits on a new generation chipset. The firmware on this radio transceiver model is the latest one. This will provide a means for the radio to be able to perform well in any condition.
Even if this is a cheaper device compared to the many options you’ll find in the market, it offers many features and accessories you can use.
- The amateur radio transceiver kit comes with everything you need right out of the box
- The V-85 antenna in this amateur radio enhances the signal and transmission performance
- Features NOAA and weather alerts
- Has a frequency range of 65-108 MHz (only an FM radio receives this)
- This radio ham device isn’t approved for use around the US
- The handheld 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 cost of this great two way radio is well higher than the other handheld ham radios 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 cost is going to be justified through great features, like in this handheld radio.
Ham radio operators don’t necessarily have to program this portable ham radio through your computer, as it allows front panel programming. 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 high quality amateur radio, much like the previous radio options – high, medium, low power. Monitor your settings on the large color display. Furthermore, it’s also known to have emergency alerts too.
- The firmware of the amateur radio is easily upgradeable through a Windows PC
- You are able to assign channels such as digital radio, analog, both or even auto-detection.
- Built-in GPS and audio recorder feature
- This handheld ham radio 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
Last in our review, we have another amateur handheld walkie talkie radio with 128 memory channels and 3 adjustable power settings for your pleasure. It allows you to choose between 8, 4 or 1 watt output. In addition, this programmable amateur radio offers a frequency of 65 to 108 Mhz.
You can choose to customize channel names to make it easy to recognize when you communicate with hams. You can 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 of this handheld ham radio makes it portable and easy to transport. As such, you’re able to use it anywhere if you want to communicate with your fellow hams. Nevertheless, the small product size doesn’t hinder its ability to have tons of features including dual band selection, battery saving mode, VOX feature, flashlight and keypad lock.
So even if it’s in a compact case, you still get many features.
- Due to buildings and edifices in the city, ham radio operators or hams 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 portable ham radio for distance purposes.
- Comes with dual display, dual standby as well as dual band functions.
- Small size
- Easy to use and program
- Battery saving feature
- 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 a lot of users like is the exclusive USA designed upgradeable firmware. New improvements and bug fixes will come out from time to time, giving you quality performance
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; these radios are far more advanced with a clearer voice reception, cleaner audio quality, and further transmission abilities. There are certain features you should search for when you’re looking for the best handheld ham radios.
Of course, you shouldn’t think a ham radio would be as advanced as your smartphone, but there are still many benefits a radio offers. Let’s consider what features you should search for when picking out and using handheld ham radio from a wide range of options.
Maybe arguably the most important feature, there are different radio bands that are used for different amateur radios. A lot of the handheld ham radios 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 handheld ham radios with great audio quality and tri-band radio benefits, like the Yaesu VX-6R and Yaesu FT60R. VHF and UHF radio bands are good for beginners, which is what many 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 watts to 8 watts. Adjusting the power helps with better transmission over longer distances, or when you need to save some power. Keep this in mind: the more power, the better the range.
So if you get a chance to buy a radio that offers high power, that radio deserves your consideration.
However, for most beginners and regular users, 5 watts should be more than enough for regular use. Ham radios like the TYT MD-380, Yaesu, and Kenwood 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 ham radios like some Yaesu and Kenwood 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 radios may only be programmed with your computer, which can be a hassle for some people.
The backlit display on ham radios is where you get all the information you want about your handheld transceiver. Buy one with an LCD display. These displays paired with an illuminated keypad, which is a way to increase visibility and are easier on your eyes.
It’s best to buy a device that offers a backlit screen especially if you know you’ll be operating in dark environments at some point. You want to clearly see all the information without squinting your eyes. Two models that offer a nice display and even a backlight feature, are these reviewed Yaesu FT-991a and Icom IC-7300 ham radios.
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 that offers even better communication.
This refers to 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 emergencies?
If so, then just a dozen or two memory 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.
If such rigorous activities are your cup of tea, then it’s best to buy ham radios from reputable brands like Yaesu and Kenwood.
Some handheld ham 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, the tri-band Yaesu VX-6R, and some Kenwood radios) could be important. In case of an emergency, you’d be making use of the 440 MHz band.
A lot of manufacturers who pay attention to their services think that 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), earpiece, wrist band, belt clip and much more.
This is also important because the manual will have all the information you need to operate radios. 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.
So when buying radios, make sure it has a user manual so you’ll know where to look for questions. You want a radio that comes with a good manual that would make everything easy.
Getting a License
License is another important part for all radio operators! A license for your ham radio determines the radio frequency bands you are allowed to communicate on and listen into. A license also allows you to operate an amateur radio legally at normal times. If you are unapproved or the amateur radio is, you will be subject to fines.
Let’s take a quick peek on the kind of licenses.
- Technician. Most hams, if not all, start with a technician license. It allows you to access frequencies of 50 MHz or higher. You can operate at the maximum legal power limit and transmit on part of the 10 meter band. This license can also be used to transmit Morse code on HF bands below 30 MHz.
- General. This license grants operators full privileges on almost all amateur frequencies. A general class license is a great achievement.
- Amateur Extra. This license is the highest form you can have. It is suitable for those who want to use ham radios for contesting, DXing, or just accessing frequencies that are otherwise unavailable in other license levels.
Don’t worry, you’re not at it alone! There are ham radio classes online that can help you successfully get your license.
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 as your survival radio 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.
You’d also want to have seamless communication, so check out the best coax cables once you’ve got your hands on your ham radio.
We’ll keep refreshing these options to include more models, like the, BaoFeng UV-82HP, TYT MD-380 or Yaesu FT-60R, so watch out for that.