Do you love spending some time away listening to the news and talking with friends and relatives? Then, you could consider buying a portable ham radio. What more? People of all ages and all levels can speak with one another around the globe conveniently using the best portable ham radio.
Nonetheless, at times, handheld or portable ham radio becomes a crying need rather than fun for most people due to the benefits it has.
For example, think of a case where there is an emergency like power failure or any tower damage. The portable ham radio will help you to seek help and get it instantly. Not only that, you can even end up saving lots of lives in cases where there are natural calamities.
However, different ham radios have various features. On the other hand, the different features offer ham radio stations that have diverse capabilities in performance. That means that for you to get what you need according to your needs, there are a few things you need to consider.
For instant, you need to consider the pros that a particular ham radio possesses and the features it offers to determine what you will get from it. Nonetheless, you also need to know its cons.
Best 5 Handheld HAM Radios Picked by the Editor:
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That is why; today we are going to review the top 10 different models of portable ham radio from different renowned manufacturers of the world. We will also analyze their technical specifications as well as their benefits. Diving in it right away!
10 Best Portable Ham Radio Reviews 2020
#1 BaoFeng BF-F8HP Review: Editor’s Choice Handheld Ham Radio
BaoFeng BF-F8HP handheld ham radio is the upgraded version of uv-5R and we would not hesitate to say that it’s the best handheld ham radio you can ever think of. Actually, it’s one of the top-rated ham radios. It’ll definitely satisfy you due to its quality and the available features. Also, it has a friendly price.
The output power of BF-F8HP is 8 watts instead of 4 watts in the previous version. This ham radio possesses a hard shell on it with a high gain antenna to enhance double performance.
It has a high power battery that is 30% larger than the ones that come with the previous models. In this portable amateur radio, there are three power settings; low, medium and high – 1w, 4w, 8w to facilitate its effectiveness.
Similarly, there are three range frequencies: high HF, very high VHF and ultra-high. However, this ham radio can also utilize UHF frequency. The HF band varies from 65-108 MHZ which is applicable in commercial radios, while the VHF band varies from 136-174 MHZ, which is used for transmitting and receiving radio waves.
On the other hand, the UHF band ranges from 400-520 MHZ, which is applied for transmission and receiving broadband and narrowband frequencies.
Since some users may not have any experience in using this handheld ham radio, the radio comes with an in-depth manual guide. Hence, you can easily handle this Baofeng BF ham radio with ease and customize accordingly without trouble.
What is more shocking is that this is the third generation model and is the only final model of its original version UV-5R is available.
Full cross accessories are available with this model of ham radio that was provided with its original model of UV-5R.
- Comes with a high gain antenna.
- Larger battery than the previous model.
- Easier PC programming with programming cable facility.
- Latest firmware N5R -340Ahas been provided.
- Tri-color display has been included – not in 2nd generation.
- Cannot receive frequencies in the range of 800mhz
- Sometimes the output power is not found accurately after measurement.
#2 Yaesu FT-60R – Dual-Band Handheld Amateur Radio
The Yaesu FT-60R portable ham radio comes with dual-band facility. That is; VHF and UHF band; covering 200 cm and 70 cm respectively. Plus, this ham radio has several unique features such as CTCSS, DCS and DTMF.
The Digital Coded Squelch (DCS) is also known as Continuous Digital Coded Squelch System (CDCSS). Now, the DCS has a broader range of codes than CTCSS, while DCS can give up to 83 codes and CTCSS can give only 50 codes.
This handheld ham radio features a lighted keypad, alphanumeric display along with different scan modes. This portable radio utilizes VHF 108-520MHZ and UHF 700-999MHZ when receiving signals. However, when transmitting signals, it uses VHF 144-148 MHZ and 430-470 MHZ in case of radio signal transmitting.
Yaesu FT-60R has a unique feature for locking to prevent you from changing frequencies accidentally. Unlike other models, this product has about 1000 memory channels along with NOAA weather alert facility.
This Yaesu model has three output RF powers: low, medium and high. However, the output power is not high in comparison to other models. The low power is usually 0.5, the medium is 2 and high is 5; all in Watts. During packaging, this dual band portable ham radio is packaged with a 1400ma battery, a quality charger, a durable antenna and a nice belt clip.
What’s more? You don’t have to worry about changing the frequency accidentally. Why? The radio has a locking mode. This handheld amateur radio is compatible with the accessories like MH 34B4B, EDC-6, CT-44 and the like. The item weighs 14.1 ounces.
This ham radio is superior to other models so that you can take it as one of the best handheld ham radio from the market.
- Dual band with lighted keypad available.
- CTCSS, DCS, DTMF features included here.
- 1000 memory channel with NOAA weather alert.
- Easy programming and scanning system.
- It is rugged and has a solid construction.
- Battery life not so much reliable.
#3 Yaesu VX-6R: Tri-Band Submersible Ham Radio
This Yaesu VX-6R Tri-band ham radio transceiver comes with triple band amateur. Though the price of this ham radio is a little high, its quality is good enough so that you won’t have to worry about the amount you have spent to buy it.
The transmitting ranges of this ham radio are 144MHZ, 222MHZ and 440MHZ with 200cm, 125cm and 70cm bands width respectively. The reception range of 0.5-999MHZ is applied in this ham radio.
Yaesu VX-6R Ham radio has been made with PL, DPL and alphanumeric facility. While in the range of 800-900 Mhz, this radio ham receives emergency alerts. This handheld ham radio can receive both AM and FM radio broadcast along with shortwave.
This Yaesu model can be suitably used for citizen band (CB), Police Band and the marine band as well as aircraft bands. It is also equipped with weather alert facility and the package includes a durable antenna set, a high power of 1500ma battery along with a quality charger.
Yaesu VX-6R has been made with a waterproof feature which withstands in 3-feet water depth for 30 minutes. There is a provision for a password as security in this tool and has Morse code trainer facility builtin.
This ham radio package includes black magnesium case, USB cables and programming software which are optional. Additionally, the portable ham radio has some optional accessories which are compatible with the set, quality speaker mikes, durable charger and accessories CD-15A, VC-27, VC-24, SDD-13 and much more.
The item weight is 9.6 ounces and product dimension is 2.3 inch by 1.1 inches by 3.5 inches. After a lengthy discussion with users and after getting their reviews, we recommend this ham radio as a high quality handheld ham radio that can fit your needs.
- Wideband receive capacity along with AM/FM BCB.
- 900 memory channels available in this unit.
- Emergency weather alert and multicolor transmits and receives LED.
- CTCSS, DCS, EAI features available.
- Backlit keypad with LCD provided.
- Programming is hard and there are lots of series of steps to follow.
#4 BaoFeng UV-82HP Portable Amateur Radio Review
The Baofeng UV-82HP is the second generation of original model UV-82. It has three power levels. The lowest is 1 watt, the medium is 5 watts and the highest is 7 watts, which can transmit a very long distance. This handheld ham radio has a variable frequency oscillator VFO.
In addition, there is a unique feature; the “push to talk” switch. To aid in simple operation of this set; you can synchronize the switch via a software.
When you press up, the “push to talk” (PPT) switch; you can transmit one frequency, but when you press down, you will transmit another frequency. To ensure that the buyer has no trouble using this amateur radio; an in-depth guide book of 80 pages is included on purchasing. Also, to improve on its performance, there is a high gain long durable antenna V-85.
In this portable ham radio, there are 128 program channels and you can program them as you wish. Not only that, but you can easily program either from radio keypad or from a computer. You can also maintain a channel list using the alphanumeric names.
This ham radio can be considered as a versatile device since it includes compatible accessories, frequency modulated radio, a flashlight and even an emergency alarm. The Dual Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF), which is the method used when dialing phone numbers; has been used in this set to send DTMF tones.
When you compare this ham radio with other models, you will realize that it has larger buttons, which makes it better and fast to use. Needless to say, the product is among the top ones in our list because of its features.
- High power output is available.
- Three frequency bands HF, VHF and UHF included.
- Helpful programming tips included.
- BCLO-busy channel lock position incorporated.
- Both radio case and battery case are pretty solid.
- Programming in VFO mode is complex.
#5 BaoFeng UV-5R: Cheapest Handheld Two Way Radio
This Baofeng UV-5R ham radio comes with two levels of output power, one high power of 4 watts and the other is low power of 1 Watt.
Users have the ability to program this ham radio according to their needs. Again, it has 3 frequency ranges. That is; the HF, VHF and UHF. The HF range is 65-108 MHZ and can be used only for commercial FM radio.
However, the VHF ranges from 136-174 MHZ and can only be used for both transmitting and receiving. On the other hand, UHF ranges from 400-520 MHZ and can users can use it for both transmission and reception.
All these three frequency bands can cover almost all distances. Again, it’s easy to boost the display of this set as well as customize the channel names.
To offer the best to its users, it possesses both bands. That is, the broadband, which is 25KHZ and the narrow band, which is 2.5KHZ. The broadband can easily send more information with a wide range of frequencies while the narrowband is restricted.
Unfortunately, this is a low power ham radio. It has 128 memory channels and it supports a dual reception. In this Baofeng model of ham radio, additional features such as battery saving facility, VOX, CTCSS and DCS encode are available.
Again, there is a voice operated switch called VOX and is used for telephone answering. Also, the radio frequency has selectable steps of 2.5, 5, 10, 12.5, 25 MHZ and possesses a built-in flashlight.
More so, the transceiver comes with a female antenna SMA. Our reviews show that this model of ham radio is far better than most in the market and though it may not be the best portable ham radio, it’s definitely among the top 10.
- Customizing channel names facility.
- High power battery with 1500mAh 7.4v.
- Dual band and dual display system applied.
- Flexible antenna and programming cable included.
- Audio is good as well as the spectrum analyzer.
- The high volume cannot be turned down.
#6 Baofeng UV-5R V2+: Dual Band Portable Amateur Radio
This Baofeng UV-5R V2 black transceiver is the latest model which have a multi-band FM receiver with a multi miniature wide range of receiver frequency coverage.
It provides local area network and 2-way amateur communication. This handheld ham radio is compatible with the UV-5R, 7.4v, 3600mAh and 3800mAh extended batteries.
This facilitates the set for heavy duty for longer times. Also, there is no need for a band button since it can efficiently perform auto band detection. On the other hand, it uses two frequency bands; VHF and UHF. The VHF ranges from 145-155MHZ while the UHF ranges from 400-480 MHZ.
Fortunately, both VHF and UHF can handle FM radio, amateur radio along with TV, Cellular phone and aeronautical radio navigation. VHF, however, is the best option as it is capable of transmitting hundreds of miles away without any interference.
UHF is superior to VHF in cases where you are using the transceiver with so many short-range signals in the same area. It is a metallic and an upgraded version with durable housing and a helpful user guide manual. More so, this radio has a two-colored LED display that is bright; thus, easy to read.
For aviation services, you can easily use this ham radio frequency of 137 MHZ-137 MHZ comfortably. However, for satellite communication, you can suitably use the frequency range of 137MHZ-138MHZ. The item weight is 1.2 pounds and the dimension of this ham radio is 4″ x 2″ x 6″.
Unfortunately, though this is a top rated handheld ham radio that many prefer using, without a ham radio license or authorization from FCC, you cannot use it. Therefore, ensure that you have the permit before buying it.
- Durable housing and a metallic body upgraded.
- Color display upgraded and easy to read.
- Extendable batteries of 3800mAh and 3600mAh.
- Enhanced construction and comes a comprehensive manual.
- High output power of 8watts.
- Tricky to delete a channel fast.
#7 BTECH UV-5X3: Tri-Band Handheld HAM Review
One of the main features of this portable amateur radio is that there can be a simultaneous display of names as well as the frequency with the help of ‘sync’.
This BTECH UV-5X3 is among the best affordable tri-band radio set with a VHF and UHF handheld transceiver. This is well compatible with the accessories of UV-5R and BF-F8HF.
Again, you can easily add or remove a channel from the scanning list in this model. Frequency scanning is another feature that allows you to scan the frequency mode. On the other hand, this BTECH model has a unique feature, called Automatic Number Identification (ANI). The feature enables users to decode the ANI on display.
This transceiver can efficiently respond to any remote command. However, if you send the DTMF tones, you may kill the transmitting signals plus all the other functions.
Nonetheless, this ham radio can revive all the killings you may have made and restore the previous position. Other notable features are VOX, talking around the modes, able to lock the busy channels when need be and channel storage in alphanumeric value.
Unfortunately, you can keep the transmission in the off state only when the receiving mode is on. With the help of a personal computer, users can program this portable radio without trouble. The package of this ham radio includes a battery, a charger and a dual band antenna.
There are four types of frequency ranges in this tool: For the receiver, the frequency is 65-108 MHZ. For the transmission and reception, the frequency is 130-180MHZ as well as 400-520MHZ.
The frequency steps for this ham radio are 2.5, 5, 10, 12.5, 25 MHZ. We recommend this radio as one of the ideal portable ham radio for beginners among the vast models in the market.
- Tri-band frequency range available.
- Frequency range select-able and scanning system.
- VOX feature and busy channel lockout.
- Good User Manual.
- Compact, durable and a great radio.
- Lots of compatible accessories.
- FM broadcast station cannot be programmed so easily.
#8 TYT MD-380 – Portable Ham Radio Review
This TYT MD-380 ham radio is the first DMR digital radio which utilizes TDMA digital technology. The abbreviation DMR means digital mobile radio while TDMA means time division multi-access function.
This amateur radio is compatible with Mortola TRBO 1 and 2 tier radios. Again, it is also compatible with Kenwood and vertex models. Priority scan can be achieved with the help of digital protocol ETSI TS 102.
More so, it is also compatible with Mortola TRBO tier 1 and 2, color LCD, decoding DTMF and text message encoding power-on protection modes. This ham radio has a new feature of analog and digital mode combination for updating about 1000 programming channels.
Not only that, but also the private calls, group calls and all calls are built in CTSS and DCS, analog and digital coding respectively. This TYT MD ham radio has a frequency range of 400-470MHZ and the total channel number is 1000.
Its operating DC voltage is 7.5V; operating temperature is -30 degree to +60 degree centigrade with an antenna impedance having 50 ohms. The device weighs 258 grams; thus, making it an ideal handheld ham radio regardless of where you are traveling.
Furthermore, the battery capacity is 1700mah Li-ion and has an output power of 5 watts. The coder type is TDMA. This ham utilizes two types of scanning: manual and auto. When you start scanning manually, the radio will detect all the channels.
In addition, when the auto scan channel is activated, the radio can scan automatically. This ham radio features a LED indicator light. During transmission, it looks red and when receiving, it turns to a green color.
Additionally, when the battery has low power, there is a red blink, but when the scanning is in process, it blinks green.
- Analog and digital DMR radio.
- Programming software and USB cable included.
- High-power battery of 2000mah incorporated.
- Durable and solid construction.
- Excellent programming software included.
- Sometime cables not working properly.
#9 Baofeng UV-5R V2+: Two-way Handheld Ham Radio
This Baofeng Black UV is the latest style in 2016 from Baofeng in the field of the present ham radio market. This portable ham radio is a microminiature FM band transceiver which can receive a broad frequency range.
It provides 2-way radio communication in local areas. This model has an extended battery of 3800mah and 3600mah with a 7.4-volt capacity; thus outranks most brands.
With these features in place, this radio works much better than its predecessors in situations of heavy duty since it can run for a longer time. Nonetheless, the most essential feature of this product is that it works on both VHF and UHF bands. VHF ranges from 145-155MHZ and UHF ranges from 400-480MHZ.
This Ham radio has a durable housing, upgraded metallic firmware and an English manual. However, you need to go through this manual for better understanding of how to use and operate it.
Nonetheless, this, too, cannot be used without an FCC license. Otherwise, you will be liable to penalties like penalty fee and seizure of product.
Now, this handheld ham radio transceiver utilizes 5watts output power. The frequency ranges between 145-155 MHZ and 400-480 MHZ. Moreover, it is able to broadcast within 65-108MHZ. In addition, this radio has 128 memory channels.
Other features include battery-save function, wide and narrow band selection, encoding by CTCSS as well as DCS. Also, there is a key lock, flashlight built-in and frequency selection steps 2.5, 5, 10, 12.5, 25 kHz.
This Baofeng black UV portable transceiver package includes one 2-way radio, 1800mah battery, a belt clip, a charger dock of Li-ion battery and a durable antenna. Sometimes, you may use this ham radio for fun, but during a crucial time, this ham radio serves as the best survival radio communication systems.
- Long life Battery backup.
- Metallic body upgraded with a stable housing.
- Color display upgraded and easy to read.
- Works well even in hills and mountains.
- Powerful handheld transceiver with an 8 Watts output.
- An excellent FM radio with flashlight.
- The buttons are too small.
#10 TYT Tytera MD-380 Digital Ham Radio
This Tytera portable transceiver comes with an antenna of the threaded head for transmitting and receiving radio signals. It has a LED indicator light that turns to red color when transmitting signals and green when receiving signals.
On the other hand, it blinks red color when the battery goes down and green when scanning. Also, there is a provision for a microphone and a speaker on the front panel of the set.
The speaker makes it possible to output sound while the microphone enables users to input sound. This ham radio has a channel selecting knob just by the right side of the antenna, which helps to select the exact channel they need. Moreover, there’s a volume and power knob on the right-hand side of the selecting knob.
When this Knob rotates clockwise, there’s a sound, ‘click’ which means the set is on, as you rotate further, the volume increases. On the other hand, when you rotate anti-clockwise, it sounds ‘click’ again, which means that the set is now off.
The side of the ham radio transceiver panel, there is a belt clip, a mic/speaker jack and a Li-ion battery. With the help of this clip, you can quickly fix the set for easy carrying. Moreover, this product utilizes VHF and UHF, with VHF being 136-174 MHZ and UHF being 400-480 MHZ.
It can accommodate about 1000 channels with a channel spacing of 12.5 kHz. The Li-ion battery has 7.5V 1700mah capacity and operating temperature is -30 degrees centigrade to + 60-degree centigrade.
The antenna impedance is 50 ohms and the item weight is 258 grams. Thus, we are not wrong to conclude that it is another best handheld ham radio, you may need to consider even if your budget is low since it’s affordable.
- All calls along with private and group in digital mode.
- Smooth migration from analog to digital mode.
- Digital mode provides clear voice communication.
- Great DMR and digital radio.
- Clear LCD and great amateur radio.
- Software programming is a bit complicated.
Portable Ham Radio Buyer’s Guide
There are lots of different models of ham radio stations available in the market nowadays and it is complicated to select the best quality portable or handheld ham radio. In a case where you are not sure of what to look out for, it may be hard to buy the right ham station. Eventually, you may spend your money on something different and end up being unsatisfied.
We don’t want you to encounter that. Therefore, we have decided to write a buying guide that will make your selection easy and fast.
We’ll discuss in detail how you can easily find out the best one for you in this buying guide. But before we start, we would like to remind you that portable ham radio is not the same as the ham radio base transceiver.
Things to be considered to select the best handheld HAM radio
The amount of power that a radio possesses indicates how much distance it can transmit radio signals without losing its quality of sound. Radios with higher power wattage have the ability to transmit signals in long distances and communicate with another ham radio.
These radios easily transmit signals without any sound interference. It is, therefore, reasonable to consider buying a ham radio that has high power.
The frequency refers to the number of cycles a radio wave travels in a second while transmitting sound. Also, the frequency depends on both the distance and the required bandwidth. However, with handheld ham radio, most frequently used frequencies are VHF and UHF.
Out of these two types; however, VHF is the best option in the sense that it is capable of transmitting without any obstacles even if it is hundreds of miles away. UHF, on the other hand, it is superior in sending short waves in local areas.
That can be your office or factory; a few miles to where your employees are. Again, VHF radio can handle up to 300MHZ while UHF radio can handle up to 3000MHZ or 3GHZ.
Single vs. dual bands:
A single band radio can handle one band at a time while the dual can handle 2 bands at a time. You see, in single band radio, the low frequency is better to penetrate the obstacles, but at maximum speed, it is low.
On the other hand, dual-band radio offers more range and stability. Nonetheless, it is hard to overcome interference. Don’t allow the bands to throw you into some confusion. The good idea would be first to consider your needs then determine the right band.
An antenna is a device that radiates electromotive waves while transmitting radio signals and intercepts some of the electromotive waves as it receives radio signals.
It is an array of conductors electrically connected to the transmitter and the receiver. During transmission, the current applied to the antenna creates oscillating electrical fields and oscillates magnetic fields around the antenna.
Also, remember that the quality of the antenna will determine the quality of reception. However, you should know that upgrading an antenna will make it incompatible with the frequency and may affect the power of ham radio. Therefore, when you buy a double band ham radio, ensure that the antenna is compatible with your radio.
The number of memory slots you will need will be influenced by the purpose for which you are buying the radio. Let’s explain this. For local emergencies and communication purposes, you may need to have a dozen slots of memory.
On the contrary, you will need to have at least 100 to 200 memory slots to withstand harsh weather and sound interference. With the latter, you can communicate nationally as well as worldwide without trouble.
The fact that you can program the ham radio means that you can get the best out of it. That means; it will serve you as you want; thus, meeting your needs accordingly. Therefore, one of the things you need not ignore when buying a handheld ham radio is the ability to program it.
Whether it is programmable manually or using a software, programmability remains an essential factor to consider.
Nonetheless, if you will need to program it by connecting it to the computer; remember to ensure that you have the programming cable. However, reviews show that most people opt for manual programmable radios. Why? Regardless of where they are, they can use the keypads as well as the available buttons to do programming real fast.
But the factors above are not enough. There is more to consider when choosing the best portable ham radio. Below are most factors to consider:
Handheld Ham radio operation:
Ham radio or an amateur radio can be fun having since it helps people to connect with others all over the world. Ham radio operators, usually known as hams, can send or receive messages verbally. Also, hams can communicate within the country and internationally. This is, of course, a big contrast with the CB radios.
However, prior to operating your radio, you need to charge the battery first. Again, you need to familiarize yourself with radio’s controls. In other words, in order to choose a perfect handheld ham radio, you should carefully check the operation of that ham radio.
Below, we have a list that gives you the most commonly used functions as well as the most useful aspects of ham radio. This will help you to familiarize yourself with the radio functionalities easily:
Try to memorize the VFO modes like the location so as to input a specific frequency in the radio’s keypad or tuning knob.
- Transceiver menu: Learn how to access the menu or function screen and the operation.
- Repeater offset function: You should know the system of access and memorize different functions. Repeaters have already predetermined spacing between input and output frequencies. In this case, you need to know whether input frequency is higher or lower than output frequency.
- Tone setting: Try to learn how to access CTCSS and how to change the CTCSS which is very important in tone setting. These are always preprogrammed and repeaters need to access them. However, they can be selected from radio menus.
- Power level: You should learn how to change the power level. Most of them use three levels: high, medium and low. It is always advisable to use the least power at the time of transmitting. 5 watts is the best selection, but for local repeaters; 2 watts is sufficient. However, be cautious when selecting the power level.
- Scan feature: This type of ham radio uses scanning to find out other operators. If you learn the band plan, then you can easily find the repeater or simplex frequency.
The demand for handheld ham radio is growing more each day throughout the globe. The reasons why there is growth in demand is the fact that the radio helps people to communicate whenever the need arises as well as helping them to deal with emergencies.
That happens in situations where there is a hurricane, stormy weather in space or the ocean and at that time, all the other communication channels are down, including the internet.
However, remember that ham radios are different. Therefore, since we have reviewed ten different models from different manufacturers with their pros and cons, decide the best portable ham radio according to your wants.
So, take these reviews and buying guide seriously before buying a portable or handheld ham radio. That way, you will definitely get the right portable or handheld ham radio.