Top 10 Best Handheld Ham Radios 2020 [Top Picks]

Best Handheld Ham Radio

The invention of the radio changed the world for good. People finally realized what it meant to have the world in their hands. All these years later, radio created an amazing hobby that unites the world together. With some of the best Handheld ham radios playing a key role in this regard.

The amateur radio, popularly known as ham radio, is a group of people using radios as a medium of communication across the world. This communication can work in several ways. From voice to contact each other, to using morse code or different radio teletypes.

Amateur radio users use specific frequencies to communicate with each other. The amateurs have 26 radio bands allocated to them for their use. These bands range from 1.8 Megahertz to 275 gigahertz. This wide range allows users to talk across towns, cities, countries and even continents.

However, the market for the best Handheld ham radios is very saturated, and not every product is worth the price. We present some of Handheld ham radios available right now.

Best Handheld Ham Radio Quick Chart

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PHOTOSNAMESDETAILS

  • Output: Max 5 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): 144/222/430
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight: 7.2 ounces
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  • Output: Max 8 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): 136-174 & 400-520MHz
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:0.634 ounces
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  • Output: Max 8 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): 136-174mhz (VHF) 400-520mhz (UHF)
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:20.8 ounces
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  • Output: Max 4-5 Watt
  • Frequency: (25-54 MHz) (108-174 MHz) (225-380 MHz) (400-512 MHz)
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:14.4 ounces
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  • Output: Max 5 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): 144/222/430
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:2.82 ounces
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  • Output: Max 5 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): 220MHz
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:8 ounces
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  • Output: Max 4-5 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): VHF(136-174), UHF(400-520)
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:8.82 ounces
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  • Output: Max 5 Watt
  • Frequency Range (mhz): 144-430Mhz
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:27.52 ounces
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  • Output: Max 4/1 Watt
  • Frequency Range:136-174 / 400-520 MHz
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:8.8 ounces
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  • Output: Max 5 Watt
  • Frequency: 136-173.975MHz, 220-225MHz, 400-519.975MHz
  • Display: Tri-Color
  • Weight:6.7 ounces
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Types of Ham Radios

type of hum radioHam radios might seem like an expensive, technical and complicated hobby. While that might not be the case, it’s something people need to understand well. There are many types of ham radios out there, some of the common types are:

Amateur “Ham” Radio:

Here, the word amateur refers to noncommercial use. These radios have a frequency range of 1.8 – 1300 MHz with some changes here and there. These can only be used for personal communication and voluntary use, these cannot be used to make money under any circumstances. While some prefer the base station, which is highly expensive and power-consuming, the handheld personal ham radios are just as popular.

Citizen Band:

This ranges from 26 – 27 MHz (HF) with an 11-meter band and 40 channels. These became popular in the 70s, although not very popular currently, they’re still popular among off-road truckers and travelers.

While these two are the most common bands for amateur radios. There are bands specifically fixed for police, firefighters and people of specific professions who need to communicate.

Impact of Ham Radios

Ham radios have created a community of people irrespective of age, profession, gender or race. Ham radios can transmit information far away, even when there is no cellphone network or internet present. This can help people contact each other in terms of natural disasters when all contact options have broken down.

When other options have broken down. ham radios are used to contact each other, spread news and awareness. The red Cross, and even local governments use ham radios to communicate with people in times of crisis.

Ham radios helped in communication among different agencies during the 9/11 attacks and the devastating hurricane Katrina. In both of these cases, every other communication method broke down.

Also, being a ham connects you to a massive community. Currently, there are more than 2 million people using ham radios as a hobby.

But before we discuss ham radios, here are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Considerable factors of Handheld ham radios

Ham radios, popularly known as ham radios have a massive community. However, before you start, you need to know some basics. Some of the key factors are:

Connection type:

Ham radio connections work in several ways. While there are bands allocated for ham radio communication, other mediums work as well. People often use Morse code to contact, as the beeps from Morse code travel more lengths than the human voice.

Licensing:

To start as a ham, you need a proper license. Licensing helps you stay on the records. The FCC is responsible for licensing. The license holders also help the government at times, as the radio can help you contact, even when every other option is closed. Hams have played a vital role in saving people from 9/11 to floods in Italy and hams were vital to the crisis as well.

Price:

You need to get yourself a ham radio before getting to work. A standard device would set you back for about 200USD, while there are other tools, add ons and more high-end devices available.

Programming:

Generally, ham radios consist of numerous channels based on specific frequencies. However, these channels are often programmed by computers, so having an idea of software regarding radios is also necessary.

While these are the most rudimentary things a person needs to keep in mind. There are other technicalities, nitty-gritty that affects your use of amateur radio.

Best Handheld Ham Radios

Top  10 Best Handheld Ham Radios Reviewed

All the recommendations in our review are based on in-depth research. Hence, you won’t go wrong buying anyone of this. When choosing the best rated Handheld Ham Radio, you must be vigilant in noticing both the pros and cons of the product.

1.Kenwood Original TH-D74A- Editor Choice

First up on the list, in the Original TH-D74A by Kenwood. Kenwood is a company that’s known to deliver. From home appliances to ham radios, they’ve established their name in the market.

This specific product is one of the best Handheld ham radio out there and rightfully so. It’s special voice control and voice recognition is created by the JARL. This feature also supports APRS and D-STAR Technology, a perfect package at its price.

Key features

  • Built-in APRS support that utilizes the data packs perfectly. While featuring a GPS with real-time position information and D-STAR compliant messages.
  • A reflective, high end 1.74″ screen that shows necessary information including real-time position using built-in GPS support.
  • Infrared filter for DPS base connections to ensure higher efficient bands and sound quality when in distance.
  • Built-in voice recording option. It can be saved as a .mp3 file and compatible with Bluetooth and Micro SD cards.
  • The device is IP54 weatherproof, which means it’ll endure most natural calamities without hassle.
Pros
  • GPS Support
  • APRS support
  • Reflective touchscreen
  • Weatherproof
  • Recorder with the option of Bluetooth and micro SD transfer option
Cons
  • Slightly overpriced
  • Slightly complicated to use

Final Verdict

Great product, worth spending a bit of money. However, some users have complained about faulty products being delivered and not living up to the price point. So, think wisely before making a purchase
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2. BaoFeng UV-82 8W High Power Ham Radio- Also Great

As mentioned before, BaoFeng never fails to keep its standards up by providing radios of amazing qualities. But this radio is quite to think about. Their frequency range is quite impressive and all the functions they promise us.

However, this one is just as good as their other line up. The screen features a shortcut menu which makes the entire user experience pleasant

Also, an easy option to memory scan the channels and optional vox makes life a lot easier.

Overall, it’s a product you can spend some money on, with little fear of regret in the future.

Key features

  • Shortcut menu operation mode
  • VFO & Memory channels scan
  • Tri-color background light selectable
  • VOX selectable
  • High /Low RF Power Switchable
  • Channel Monitor
  • Voice companding
  • PC programmable
Pros
  • Frequency Range is 136-174 & 400-520MHz
  • Channel Step is 2.5/5/6.25/10/12.5/25KHz 50 CTCSS/ 104DCS coder & tone searching FM radio and 25 stations storage
  • Has storage of 128 channels
  • Comes with full accessories
  • Battery life is better than expected
Cons
  • The sound quality could be better
  • A bit more expensive than BaoFengs most products
  • Is not very user-friendly

Final Verdict

BaoFeng has better radios and products compared to UV-82. It could be quite costly, so it is up to the customer if they want to grab this.

3.BaoFeng UV-82HP  High Power Dual Band Radio


BaoFeng is an expert in the handheld radio area. They’ve made some of the best handheld ham radio for survival out there, and their presence in the list testifies that.

The BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Radio is one of the best at their disposal. A second generation radio following the success of their first-generation UV-82 radios.

This radio is surprisingly power-friendly, it can save a great deal of power. It has three usage modes, which you can toggle based on your device’s battery. Even though most of them are very power effective.

To ensure safety and protection, different modes can be locked using its software to make it easier to use. Also, with its multiple switch modes, you can easily adapt to your preferred mode to make things easier. With multiple programmable channels with presets and options to download, this is one of the best choices you can find around.

Key features

  • Three power levels (low, medium, high) which can be toggled based on your power usage
  • VFO/MR frequency mode that can be toggled by additional software
  • Dual push to talk switch which can be triggered based on use
  • Available in four colors
  • Special V-85 antenna for better performance
  • 128 programmable memory channels. Channels can be added or removed based on preference
  • Free computer software to make everything easier
  • Additional flashlight and emergency alarm
  • Semi duplex transmission method
  • Comes with a complete kit
Pros
  • Bigger body and larger button without excessive weight
  • Affordable
  • Easy to use software
  • Powerful LCD screen
  • Multiple switch options
  • 128 programmable channels
  • Free computer software
Cons
  • Product not approved by the FCC
  • Weaker than other radios of its price point

Final Verdict

The lack of licensing is always a question mark. However, there are a lot of tweaks here and there that make this product worth it. However, it’s still questionable, so think it through before buying.

4. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner

Next on the list, is one of Amazon’s bestsellers. Keep in mind, this is much more than just a handheld scanner. With 500 available channels and 40,000 frequency controls, this thing is a machine on its own.

Unlike the other best portable ham radio, this one gives you access to not only civilian bands, but also military fire service, airplanes, etc. So, it’s a wide range of products in one.

The device contains 10 storage banks, where you can save the 500 channels in order of preference. While the LCD screen makes reading a lot easier.

Key features

  • Only 14.4 ounces of weight, this is one of the lightest in terms of ham Radios
  • Access to 500 channels, with several preset options. You get everything you want and can start listening instantly
  • LCD screen with orange backlight. The backlight of the screen is very visible, even at low lights
  • Access to over 40,000 frequencies, which can be accessed anytime. Thus, allowing a lot more than just ham radios.
Pros
  • Lightweight, easy to carry
  • Access to over 50 channels and 40,000 frequencies.
  • 10 preset modes for you to adjust and utilize
  • Easy to use and program for efficiency
  • Affordable

Cons
  • Underwhelming battery life.
  • Requires separate cables for programming
  • Underwhelming customer service

Final Verdict

From the looks of things, it’s not a complete package. Also, with questionable customer service and battery life, a lot of questions might arrive. However, the original product itself is great and if you can use it carefully, that’s all that matters.

5. Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R Submersible Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver

Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R
Up next, is the Tri-Band VX-6R Submersible Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver by Yaesu. It’s also a transceiver that can work as ham radio, and also as a wireless connection between multiple people at a closed distance. Also, it supports large scale frequencies, instead of relying on channels, thus it gives you manual control of multiple network bands. From police, firefighters to personal communication.

Paired with a powerful battery and waterproofing, this is one of the best portable ham radios available in its price point.

Key features

  • Transceiver option at three frequencies for personal communication
  • Supports from 0.5-999 MHz thus supporting all the necessary bands ranging from personal use to police, firefighters, etc.
  • Powerful 1500 mAh battery with a 1.5-watt charger. With multiple power saving options.
  • Safety and lock mode that ensures protection
  • Multiple modes that can be accessed by external programming
  • Waterproof up to 3feet and submersible
  • It comes with extra transceiver, battery, antenna, and belt.
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Optional transceiver option
  • Huge frequency support
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Underwhelming battery life
  • Cell phone reception isn’t very good quality

Final Verdict

It’s pretty cheap, so it’s good for starters. However, it’s technical parts can be hard to understand and the cell phone reception can be a concern at times. Otherwise, it’s a great product.

6.BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio

Taking the classic design and adding a lot of tweaks to the classic, the BTECH UV-5X3 is a great play on the classic design but improved. With powerful new hardware and firmware, this is genuinely one of the best Handheld ham radios out there.

The first massive improvement is the dual LCD screen. This not only gives a lot of advantages when using two frequencies at a time. but also, makes things easier by showing both frequency and channel names on the screen.

Also, the new device gives you an option to modify the channel list. While you’d need a computer to do so in the past, it’s not the case anymore. With channel modification options that won’t require to delete older stuff.

Also, you can set a frequency range on your own, and choose specific channels from there. Allowing you to visit every possible band out there.

Key features

  • Multiple frequency bands with the option to choose your own from a massive range.
  • Powerful new firmware that can be catered according to user requirement
  • Option to modify the channel list instead of deleting lists for minor changes and start all over again
  • Option to program and reprogram the device without a computer connection
  • Dual LCD screen that shows both channel frequency and name
  • Two separate power levels
  • CHIRP software connection
  • 128 programmable channels
Pros
  • Affordable
  • Powerful battery life
  • Dual LCD screen
  • Option to show both frequency and channel name
  • Channel skipping options
  • Programming can be done without a computer
  • CHIRP support
  • Comes in a complete kit
  • US-based warranty for faulty products
Cons
  • Underwhelming repeater service
  • Bad noise filtering
  • Bad squelch service

Final Verdict:

You can add this into your budget list as it is in classic design with new hardware and firmware. You might fall in love with its LCD screen. So who are you waiting for? Don’t think twice to select this product.

7. BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio


Next up on the list, in the UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio by BaoFeng. It’s a compact, powerful and reliable radio tool, that’s very affordable. If you look closely, it’s a complete value for its money.

This specific product gives you two frequency choices, for different contact zones. It also comes with different receive bands. There is a small screen that features a dual clock, frequency range, and standby.

Also, it has a high receiving band capability which covers a large area and allows high-end monitoring.

Key features

  • Features two bands for transmission, ranging from 136-174 MHz and 400-520 MHz respectively.
  • It has dual-band support along with the dual-frequency.
  • Has 128 channels in its specific frequency range with built-in VOX support
  • Has a large LCD screen with multiple alert signs that can be projected.
  • The complete package comes with Antenna 136-174/400-479.995Mhz, Earphone Mic/Headset, Belt Clip, Hand Strap, ENG Manual, Adapter and a Desktop Charger (100V-240V).
Pros
  • Cheaper comparing to most competitors
  • Supports 128 channels
  • Tricolor LED screen with multiple alert signs
  • Powerful LED flashlight
  • Multiple frequencies ranges for communication
  • Complete package with all the necessary amenities
Cons
  • Underwhelming customer service
  • Complicated charging system
  • Minimal volume control

Final Verdict

From the looks of things, it is a complete package. However, some of the easier parts have been made complicated by the designers. This can result in occasional users finding the product hard to use. However, it’s very effective once you get the hang of it, which makes it a value for money product.

8.TIDRADIO TD-UV5R Radio 5W Ham Radio

TIDRADIO TD-UV5R RadioTidradio is a very popular company when it comes to the best handheld ham radio for survival. For over 15 years, they’ve provided high-quality products to customers all over the world, with little to no complaints. And with such astounding success, they have the confidence to boast about their products and deliver.

This specific product from Tidradio boasts about its quality. Claiming it to be better than a number of its market competitors. While this might be a show of overconfidence from their part, their product shall shine without the marketing strategy.

What makes this one special, is that the researchers have taken steps to make this one an actual upgrade. Yet, giving the users all the power in the world, by allowing them to keyboard program and computer program the device.

The device also features two distinct power modes which you can use at times, to maximize battery life or maximize user experience.

Also, it features advanced voice companding and squelches technology which allows users to hear as well as a contact in noisy and dire environments.

Also, specific codes and modes have been set to prevent any unwanted sound from entering your radio and causing a nuisance.

It also is compatible with BaoFeng user accessories. Thus having the accessories of one, can help you in both.

Key features

  • Two distinct power modes at 5W and 1W to utilize the best of the device based on situations.
  • Allows keyboard programming and a very well detailed computer programming method. Allowing you to utilize the best of your product, while giving you all the control in the world.
  • High-end voice commanding technology that can be accessed from any part of the world, allowing users to get outstanding voice quality in listening and speaking. Even under dire circumstances
  • 50 CTCSS/105 DCS codes have been established in the product to ensure that the user doesn’t suffer from irrelevant calls and sounds.
  • Works with BaoFeng add ons, thus allowing control over much more freedom in terms of user control and customization.
  • Also, it can be paired with BaoFeng products when necessary.
  • Different power modes to make full use of its capabilities
  • Multiple frequencies range to communicate with different groups
  • Ability to control spam and irrelevant calls
  • Two charging methods
  • Powerful 1800mAh battery
  • 9inch antenna that can reach up to 149-450 MHz
  • 128 preset channels with the option to scan more channels
  • VOX control to ensure noise cancellation
  • Weighs only 1.72 pounds
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Has noise cancellation facilities
  • Powerful battery life
  • 128 channels with the option to scan more channels
  • Noise cancellation features
  • Multiple frequency ranges
  • Ability to counter spam and irrelevant sounds
Cons
  • The manual isn’t very well detailed
  • The programming cable and process is extremely complicated
  • Has software issues

Final Verdict

Hardware-wise, this is everything you need and more. The high-end product, powerful sound, powerful clarity and option to counter. However, software falls pretty flat at times. Bugs, complicated tools, and everything just make this a pain to use. However, if excess programming isn’t your thing, this is a great product.

 

9.Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way Radio

Baofeng UV5RA Ham Two Way RadioFirst, of first, BaoFeng radios are designed to be affordable radios for licensed amateur radio enthusiasts and commercial users. The Baofeng UV-5RA is a compact, economical HT covering 2 meters and 440 MHz. It has a special VHF receive band from 65 – 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band.

Key features

  • Frequency Range: 65-108MHz (FM Receive only); 136-174 MHz and 400-520 MHz (TX/RX)
  • Channel No.: 128
  • Has the frequency stability of ±2.5ppm
  • Selectable wide/narrow
  • Battery save function
  • VOX, DCS/CTCSS encode
  • Keylock and a built-in flashlight
Pros
  • They are very affordable
  • The sound quality is loved by the clients
  • The material quality is also worth notable
Cons
  • Battery charger might cause trouble
  • The instructions are not user-friendly
  • Pathetic battery life

Final Verdict:

If you are in tight budget and could sacrifice some features, then this Baofeng UV5RA Ham will fit your needs. It is compact and economical as well.

10.Baofeng x Radioddity UV-5RX3 Tri-band Radio VHF

Baofeng UV-5RX3

As mentioned before, BaoFeng is one of the best ham radio makers. They have considerable expertise in this regard and have spent countless hours researching, product testing and implementing them to constantly provide amazing stuff for their clients

The Baofeng x Radioddity UV-5RX3 Tri-band Radio VHF, 1.25M, UHF amateur Two Way Radio Walkie Talkie is a modern, powerful ham radio that uses the build to its absolute perfection and it is best handheld ham radio for beginners.

This powerful, handheld ham radio comes with two antennas, one single band, and another double band. This allows the radio to receive and communicate in several frequencies.

Also, it’s high power usage can confirm communication among the users from up to 5.5 miles of distance and to make matters better, it doesn’t require any extra tweaks.

Key features

  • Has three frequency bands at 136-173.975MHz, 220-225MHz, and 400-519.975MHz along with an FM radio band
  • 128 memory channels to choose from multiple streams. From police to firefighter to airplanes.
  • 25M communication band which is very popular among all the amateur radio enthusiasts worldwide
  • The option of a single and a dual-band antenna. One of which supports 200-260MHz and another supports both 2M and 70Cm.
  • Massive 3800 mAh battery which can go days without hassle once charged.
  • The Talking range of the UV-5RX3 is over 5.5 miles in suitable conditions
  • Computer programming available to tweak the settings according to need. Computer connection wire available in the package.
  • Tri-color LCD, which can be chosen based on the user’s preference.
Pros
  • Powerful battery life
  • Three specific frequency ranges
  • 128 memory channels
  • Double antennas
  • Tricolor display
  • Complete package
  • Great customer service
Cons
  • Doesn’t last for a very long time
  • Might ship faulty products
  • Doesn’t have an FCC approval

Final Verdict

Minus the approval issue which is common in every BaoFeng product, this is one of the BaoFengs bests. Best in terms of screen, battery life and ease of use. However, it’s about time BaoFeng takes its customers seriously.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) About Best Handheld Ham Radios

1. Can Ham radios transmit information without network or internet?

Answer: Yes it can. Ham radios can transmit information far away without network or internet. Ham radio is a wireless device. It can be used for times of crisis like storm, flood and in a far-away land where the network is not availabl

 2. Do I need a license to have Ham radio?

Answer: Yes, I need a proper license to use Ham radio. Licensing is the legality of the device. So I have to use this device legally.

3. Does Ham radio have GPS and APRS support?

Answer: Yes, a Ham radio consists of both GPS and APRS support. Through this system, a person can identify the location where he or she is in.

 4. Is Ham radio waterproof?

Answer: A Ham radio is waterproof. A person can work through Ham radio even being at the water. Water doesn’t harm the technical system of a Ham radio as it is water-resistant.

 5. Is Ham radio light enough to carry?

Answer: A Ham radio is light enough to carry. It is very handy. It can be carried anywhere at any time.

Conclusion

Ham Radios are a very old hobby for men. However, they might still seem extremely complicated and expensive. This is partially correct because the amateur radio enthusiasts never tried simplifying their hobby to the world. However, we’ve tried to present some of the best ham radios to make your understanding easier.

However, other more technical aspects require more attention as well. Try going through buyers’ guides, user manuals, etc and have a proper understanding of the product before investing.

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