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Best ham radio: 9 top rated for quick communication

Ham radios make up an important segment in the history of radio technology

Long before we used radios to catch up with current affairs or listen to tunes, experts relied on radio waves for crucial conversations. 

Radios were a valuable addition to the front line in wars and epic battles. Many companies still rely on radio today, as an affordable way to keep staff connected. 

Whether you’re looking for a tool to support your retail team, or you just want to experiment with some exciting radio tech, we’re here to help. 

We’ll be guiding you on your search for the best ham radio, with insights into some of the top-rated products on the market. 

Today, we’ll be discussing something for everyone, from the top ham radios for beginners, to professional tools designed for veterans. 

Best Ham Radio 2

1. Yaesu FT-857D (best for in-car)

These days, you can find a good ham radio for virtually any purpose, including staying connected when you’re on the move. 

Yaesu is a popular brand in the radio market, revered for its high-quality components and fantastic reception. 

The FT-857D is a top ham radio for in-vehicle use. You can mount the equipment under your dash and access all the features of a much bigger radio. 

With support for HF, VHF, and UHF bands, the Yaesu is incredibly robust. 

You can even adjust your power output between 5 watts and 100 watts, depending on your band required. 

Another feature included in the Yaesu radio is FM broadcasting. Plus, you get 200 memory channels that you can customize to suit your needs. 

For a price of around $800, features include:

  • 5 to 100w transmission
  • FM radio access
  • USB socket
  • AM, LSB, and CW
  • Incredible broadcast clarity
  • Built-in automatic antenna tuner
  • DSP technology

Despite being wonderfully versatile, it’s worth noting that the Yaesu does have a few downsides. 

The menu is exceedingly difficult to understand for beginners, and it will take you a while to figure everything out. 

If you’ve never worked with a ham radio before, then you might need to set some time aside to develop your skills before you jump in with the Yaesu. 

Pros:

  • Suitable for in-car use
  • Fantastic range of features
  • Powerful broadcast signal
  • Massive range of power options
  • 200 memory channels

Cons:

  • Difficult for beginners to use
  • Expensive
Best Ham Radio 3

2. Kenwood Original TH-D74A (best functionality)

Kenwood is another name you’ve probably heard once or twice on the search for the best ham radio. 

The Kenwood original is a fantastic device brimming with versatility. This product is a tri-band ham radio, with a massive range of features, despite its small stature. 

Though the radio only weighs around 12 ounces, it has a color display, GPS built-in, and Bluetooth access too.

If you need to store information on the go, the Kenwood has you covered, with a Micro SD card slot where you can store voice recordings. 

There’s also digital communication support for D-Star, and a dual-frequency reception for sending and receiving on VHF and UHF at the same time. 

You even get an IP54 waterproof rating too! 

Features include:

  • Tri-band functionality
  • D-Star performance
  • Lightweight design
  • IP54 waterproof protection
  • Dual-frequency reception
  • GPS connectivity
  • Bluetooth link
  • Voice recording
  • SD card slot

Once again, the Kenwood requires a little getting used to if you want to make the most out of your new investment. 

There are a lot of buttons to figure out here, and the instruction book is huge. 

If, however, you’re looking for versatility, then you’ll have a hard time finding anything that can deliver the same versatility as the Kenwood. 

Pros:

  • Tri-band functionality
  • IP54 waterproofing
  • GPS connectivity
  • Voice recording and SD card
  • Bluetooth link

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Complicated for beginners
Best Ham Radio 4

3. BaoFeng UV-5R 65-108 (best for beginners)

From the best ham radio for pros, to one a little simpler for beginners. 

The BaoFeng UV-5R 65-108 is a popular ham radio from one of the leading brands on the market. 

This dual-band device comes with access to 128 channels, 104 CDCSS dual-band display, and 50 CTCSS. 

There’s a keypad lock to help you out when you’re putting your radio in your pocket. The tri-color background makes it easier to see the info you need. 

Ideal for use in an emergency, or in the workplace, BaoFeng’s ham radio comes with an alert feature and an LED flashlight. 

One of the more affordable products on the market, the BaoFeng is available for just over $20, with features like:

  • Emergency alert
  • LED flashlight
  • Low power mode
  • Keypad lock
  • 128 channels
  • Dual frequency
  • Tri-color display
  • Dual band performance
  • FM radio

This is a solid device that works well in a pinch for beginners who want to experiment with ham radio.

The FM radio is a nice extra touch, and the flashlight will definitely come in handy too. 

One down-side is that the radio’s battery doesn’t appear to be of the best quality and can need replacing very quickly. 

Pros:

  • Affordable pricing
  • Good for beginners
  • FM radio included
  • Flashlight and emergency alert
  • Keypad lock

Cons:

  • Batteries can die very quickly
  • Limited on features. 
Best Ham Radio 5

4. Greaval UHF VHF (best ham kit)

If you’re keen to start exploring a new segment of radio history with ham technology, it may be worth investing in a complete kit. 

The Greaval UHF VHF kit is an excellent starting point, offering a 2100 mAh battery for reliable performance. 

You can use this device for up to 20 hours with no problems. This ham radio also comes with access to many of the most commonly used frequencies too. 

The package offered by Greaval comes with a set of accessories, including a handheld microphone, an earpiece for listening on the move, and a belt-clip too. 

For a low price of around $50, the Greaval makes it easier to jump into ham radio for beginners with features such as:

  • 12-20 hours of battery life
  • Broad compatibility with popular frequencies
  • 18-month warranty
  • Hardware and tech support
  • FM radio access
  • Keypad lock and belt clip
  • LED flashlight included
  • Backlit display
  • Various accessories

Although this isn’t the most advanced ham radio on the market, it’s a brilliant choice for people who want to get started without spending too much. 

You get a wide range of tools to explore, and a bundle of accessories, so you don’t need to buy anything separately. 

As you develop your knowledge of ham radio, you might want to upgrade your microphone and earpiece, as the ones included here are extremely basic.

Pros:

  • Great selection of accessories
  • 18-month warranty included
  • FM radio access
  • Flashlight and belt clip included
  • Works with a range of frequencies

Cons:

  • Not the best microphone or earpiece
  • Antenna is flimsy
Best Ham Radio 6

5. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 (best mobile) 

Designed to offer a fantastic entry-level option for the top ham radios, the next of our ham radio reviews, the BTECH UV-50X2 is another great pick for beginners. 

This single-band mobile transceiver comes with a fully customizable LCD screen, so you can view your ham information however you choose. 

There are 200 memory channels to explore, and you can add or remove channels from your list in seconds. 

The UV-50X2 basically offers access to multiple radios in one, with the option to set a main band, while watching other frequencies. 

There’s also the option to switch between high and low power settings, and you can explore a selection of recommended accessories too. 

For a price of around $200, features include:

  • 50-watt dual band base
  • Excellent frequency range
  • Auto scanning
  • Channel mode editing settings
  • Variable frequency scanning
  • Radio and mic brackets included
  • Auto power off function
  • Randomized privacy mode

The UV-50X2 is an excellent device to use on the go, with dual simultaneous display options and multiple privacy options to make scanning more secure. 

You can edit channels on the move, and explore a host of functionalities, without having to find space for a huge device in your car or home. 

One possible issue is that the instructions included aren’t very clear. You might need to search for some videos on YouTube instead. 

Pros:

  • Excellent range of features
  • Dual band base
  • Randomized privacy mode
  • Power saving options
  • Multiple scanning options

Cons:

  • A little expensive
  • Difficult to use at first 
Best Ham Radio 7

6. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (best battery life)

This is a brilliant high-performance device, designed by the team at BaoFeng. 

The BF-F8HP is a portable and durable handheld solution for those in search of the best ham radio. 

The device is an upgrade from the previous mode, offering more battery life and an incredible performance. There are 3 power levels to choose from, as well as access to the latest N5R-340A firmware. 

You can use this product for up to 24 hours with no problems. 

Like many of the leading products from the BaoFeng brand, the BF-F8HP comes with a massive instruction guide, to teach you how to use every part of the radio. 

Do keep in mind that reading this guide might take up a large chunk of your day, however. There’s also range of accessories included too. 

For a price of around $70, features include:

  • Massive 24-hour battery life
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Multiple power options
  • Excellent high-quality firmware
  • Belt clip and hand strap
  • Tri-color display
  • Excellent high-gain antenna
  • Massive instruction manual

Though this BaoFeng model is one of the more affordable options we’ve seen, it also has a lot of functionality to offer. 

For such a small device, you get an excellent frequency quality, and lots of great features to check out. 

The sound quality isn’t perfect, and you can’t accomplish much in terms of volume.

Pros:

  • Brilliant battery life
  • Great for portability
  • High-performance firmware
  • Excellent display
  • Good antenna

Cons:

  • Volume and sound quality aren’t great
  • Can take a while to learn how to use
Best Ham Radio 8

7. Xiegu G90 (best with detachable display)

The Xiegu G90 is one of the best ham radios we’ve seen.

This durable and high-performance product comes with a radio body that can detach from the display. That means that you get a portable and full-size ham radio in one. 

There’s a wide range automatic tuner that helps you to find information fast, and a color LCD screen. 

The quick mode buttons mean you can turn functions on and off quickly and easily. 

With a one year warranty for peace of mind, the Xiegu offers an excellent range of functions for ham enthusiasts. 

The company frequently updates the software for this ham radio over the cloud, so you get a better performance. There’s an FM mode so you can listen to your standard radio too. 

For price tag of just under $500, features include:

  • 24-bit digital architecture
  • Automatic tuner
  • Excellent transmission and receiving performance
  • Removable display head
  • Great functionality in a compact machine
  • FM mode available
  • LCD color screen
  • One year warranty included
  • Easy to use

Although, like most ham radios, the Xiegu does take a little time to get used to, it’s one of the more intuitive options that we’ve seen so far. 

The option to set quick buttons will make your life a lot easier. 

One downside is that the screen is a bit flimsy when removed from the rest of the kit, which makes damage more likely. 

The instructions are okay – but they’re not great for beginners. 

Pros:

  • Removable display head
  • Excellent automatic tuner
  • High-performance software
  • Easy to use for beginners
  • One year warranty

Cons:

  • Poor instructions
  • Screen can easily break
Best Ham Radio 9

8. QYT KT-8900 (best mini ham radio)

Created for smaller cars or vehicles without a lot of bonus space around the dash, the QYT KT-8900 is an interesting new approach to ham radio. 

This dual-band mobile radio comes with a 25-watt output, and a cooling fan for durability. There’s a programming cable jack on the front, and an option to plug in external speakers too. 

With 200 memory channels, you can find the information that you need much faster. 

There’s also a full set of instructions available to download online, along with videos to get you started. 

You can mount this device in most vehicles, with the included mounting bracket. The KT-8900 can even absorb power from your cigarette plug converter. 

Features include:

  • Compact mini design
  • Cooling fan included
  • 200 memory channels
  • Narrow and wide band
  • Excellent FM reception
  • Programming cable
  • Kit with mounting brackets
  • Tons of guidance and video tutorials

This is a fantastic mini ham radio for people who want to explore the functionality of ham connections without spending a fortune. 

Though it doesn’t have some of the more advanced features available on the market, the KT-8900 will give you the freedom to access ham from your car. 

One possible downside is that the microphone condenser is located behind the keypad, which reduces voice quality. 

Pros:

  • Excellent compact design
  • 200 memory channels
  • Easy to get started
  • Fantastic kit with mounting bracket

Cons:

  • Microphone quality is poor
  • Takes a while to program at first
Best Ham Radio 10

9. President Lincoln II (best for extra bands)

Convenient and compact, the next of our ham radio reviews, the Lincoln II comes with a 12 meter band added, and extra programmable options for the user. 

There’s an excellent 35-watt power output, and the device offers robust performance throughout. 

Manual squelch is included, along with a VFO mode and continuous scanning. 

The multi-functional LCD display also comes with a 104 DCS codes, and 38 CTCSS tones.

With dual watch performance, key locking, and a time out timer included, there are plenty of ways to customize your ham radio here. 

The wide range of functionality options, however, might mean that you need to spend more time learning how to use your ham radio. 

On the plus side, you get fantastic transmission, and an incredibly quiet receiver with minimal noise disruption. 

For around $250, features include:

  • Extra channels added
  • Rotary switch and channel selector
  • Multiple modes, including AM, FM, and USB
  • VFO mode with constant scanning
  • LCD display with multiple functions
  • Excellent memory
  • Dual watch function
  • Compact design

There are a lot of things to love about this ham radio, from the fantastic DIN size, to the power output that remains reliable no matter what. Even the sensitivity is great, with brilliant tone detection. 

The CW does come with a few bugs, and the microphone isn’t ideal. 

Pros:

  • Excellent range of channels
  • Good power output performance
  • Fantastic sensitivity
  • Reliable performance 
  • Decent price tag

Cons:

  • Lots of features to explore at first
  • Microphone isn’t great for quality

Choosing the best ham radio

There’s a lot to think about when you’re searching through ham radio reviews, trying to find the right product for your needs. 

Ham radios are extremely useful devices that almost anyone can use. You can access them when you want to catch up on the news or use your radio to connect with people around the world. 

People are particularly fond of ham radio for emergency communication. 

With a little luck, the reviews above will have introduced you to the top ham radios on the market. 

There are a lot of different products out there and examining some of the leaders up close will help you to make a more confident choice. 

Before you dive straight into the world of ham radio, keep the following things in mind.

1. You might need a license: 

While anyone can listen to ham radio broadcasts, you will need a license if you decide to broadcast. 

The good news is that getting a good ham radio license is easy enough. You need to take a basic exam and pay a small fee. 

Groups like the Amateur Radio League can help you work out the details. 

Just remember that there are different license levels, and each level comes with a diverse range of permissions. You can, for instance, get a license to broadcast at 100 watts or 1,500 watts. 

Most ham enthusiasts start with 28 bands to work with. If you’re only using your ham radio for an emergency, you probably won’t need a license. 

2. Learning how to use ham radio takes time

Many of the best ham radio products come with a lot of documentation to get you started. 

Aside from an instruction manual, you might get digital resources too. Some companies offer forums and videos to help you develop your skills. 

To get the most out of the top ham radios, you’ll need to learn how to program them according to your needs. This means that you might spend a while in front of your computer with your radio before you’re ready to use it. 

If you’re a beginner in the ham radio world, it’s best to start small. Look for a radio with minimal features and complexity. 

There are a handful of affordable radios out there, like the BaoFeng UV-5R 65-108, which are more suitable for beginners. 

It’s also worth looking for a radio from a company that frequently delivers software and firmware updates. 

3. Know what to look for in the best buy ham radio

Finally, depending on how you’re planning on using your ham radio, you’ll need to look for certain features. 

Some of the best ham radios on the market come with absolutely everything you can think of. There are devices out there with headsets, power supplies, antennas and Bluetooth connections.

If you’re a basic ham enthusiast and you don’t need a lot of power, there’s no need to go over the top with extra features. 

A few points to consider include:

  • Connectivity: A good ham radio should feature a reliable antenna. This will help you to access all of the frequencies that you want to use. If you have to buy an antenna separately, this can cost a few hundred dollars. 
  • Power supply: Portable radios often come with rechargeable batteries. Traditional ham radios might plug into a wall outlet, or the power source in your car. Look for the right energy option depending on how you’re going to use your radio.
  • Speaker and microphone quality: You need to hear frequencies well, and make sure people can hear you properly. A high-quality speaker and microphone is a must-have for your ham radio. Make sure you check out this tech in advance. 

Buying the best ham radios

The best ham radio for you will depend on how you plan on using this new technology. 

For something that’s sure to suit anyone in search of quality, we recommend the Kenwood Original. The TH-D74A comes with everything you need in an excellent ham radio tuner. There’s a built-in GPS functionality and Bluetooth connectivity too. 

Although the Kenwood is a bit more expensive than some of the other options on the market, it also has more functionality. 

By the time you’ve learned how to use this Tri-band radio, you’ll have a full ham radio kit, complete with everything from FM scanning to voice recording. Plus, the IP54 waterproofing comes in handy too. 

Good luck finding a great ham radio and remember to check out our other reviews for more insights into the top products on the market. 

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