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Handheld Ham Radio

Best handheld ham radio: 9 contenders to keep you connected

Radios aren’t just for talk shows and music. 

Although much of the popular history of radio focuses on broadcasts, it’s worth remembering there’s a background for this medium in communication too. 

Using radio signals, it’s possible to connect with people from miles away without your smartphone. 

In wars and times of political turmoil when phone networks aren’t always trustworthy, people still rely on radio for communication. Perhaps the best-known part of this landscape, is ham radio.

The best handheld ham radios offer a quick and convenient way to connect over long distances using satellites and relay towers. Even outside of the military world, handheld ham radios are popular among construction workers and a range of other professions. 

Fun, portable, and affordable, ham radios have captured the hearts and minds of countries for decades. 

So, how do you decide which ham radio you should buy?

We can help with that. 

Today, we’re going to be sorting through some of the best handheld ham radio reviews, to bring you a list of the top performers. 

Let’s dial-in. 

Handheld Ham Radio 2

1. Tenway UV-5R Pro (Best 2-Pack)

With an appearance remarkably similar to your average walkie talkie, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Tenway UV-5R radios are toys. 

These devices are definitely small enough to be “child-sized,” though that just makes them more convenient in portability terms. 

With a standard 1800 mAh battery and power-saving features to extend your battery life, the Tenway handheld ham radios will stand the test of time. 

You could even keep a pair of these in your emergency preparedness kit. 

The high-quality built-in speakers on these radios provide crystal clear sound in any environment. 

All you need to do is press the button to talk, and you’ll be connected in no time. 

To make usability even easier, the UV-5R Pro also comes with an individual earbud style earpiece for each radio. 

Priced at around $80, features include:

  • FCC certification
  • 1800 mAh rechargeable battery
  • Low battery alert
  • Built-in VOX function
  • Time-out timer
  • Battery saver mode
  • Emergency alert
  • Keypad locking
  • Push-to-talk functionality
  • Single earbud for earpiece
  • 1 to 2 day use time on a single charge

Whether you’re trying to keep your entire team connected, or you just want a way to keep in touch with your friends without relying on phones, the Tenway UV-5R is a great kit. 

With constant use, you can still get up to 12 hours of battery life out of these handheld ham radios. 

The kit also comes with 2 hand straps, belt-clips, and user manuals, to help you make the most of your purchase.

Pros:

  • Quality two-pack 
  • Earbud earpiece for ease of use
  • Multiple accessories included
  • Fantastic battery life
  • Good frequency strength

Cons:

  • Can suffer badly from interference
  • USB charger doesn’t work that well at times
Handheld Ham Radio 3

2. BaoFeng UV-82HP (best with FM radio)

BaoFeng are one of the best-known brands for handheld ham radios in the world. The company has an excellent reputation for delivering reliable and durable pieces of equipment. 

With the UV-82HP, you’ll get the option for dual and single push-to-talk features, a versatile link to FM radio, and an emergency alarm too. 

There’s even a flashlight so you can use your handheld ham radio in an emergency. 

BaoFeng goes above and beyond to offer customers all of the functionality they might need. 

The UV-82HP comes with a guide and set of programming tips to help you get started. You might need to dedicate some time to flipping through the 80 pages. 

There are 3 power levels to choose from, to help preserve battery, and you can customize up to 128 programmable memory channels. 

For a price in the region of $65, features include:

  • Comprehensive user guide and manual
  • 3 power levels to choose from
  • VDO/MR frequency mode
  • Dual push-to-talk switch
  • V-85 antenna
  • 128 programmable channels
  • Versatile FM radio
  • Flashlight and emergency alarm
  • Durable and lightweight design

If you’re looking for the best ham radio handheld product to have on you in an emergency, this could be the tool for you. 

The UV-82HP has it all, from excellent connectivity, to durable performance. 

The buttons can be a little uncomfortable to use at times, but that’s not a deal-breaker for most people. The provided antenna is also very susceptible to interference.

Pros:

  • FM radio included
  • Emergency alarm and flashlight
  • Durable performance
  • 3 power levels to save battery
  • Programmable channels

Cons:

  • Struggles with interference
  • Buttons are a little sticky
Handheld Ham Radio 4

3. Kenwood Original TH-D74A (best professional)

The best handheld ham radios come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with some designed to deliver only the most professional experience. 

This Kenwood Original TH-D74A is one of the most expensive handheld ham options we’ve seen so far, but it’s also one of the most reliable. 

Offering APRS compliance, you can exchange real-time GPS position information in seconds. 

The device is also compatible with D-STAR amateur radio networks. 

Along with excellent accuracy, this radio delivers an auto clock setting and multi-mode wide-band reception. 

If you know your way around ham radio and you can’t settle for anything less than the best, this is the device for you. 

You’ll have access to IP54 weatherproofing, top-of-the-line transceiver features, and so much more. 

For a price of around $600, features include:

  • APRS compliance
  • GPS positioning information
  • D-STAR digital compliance
  • GPS unit with auto-clock setting
  • IF filtering improved
  • External decode function
  • Micro SD memory slot
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • TFT color display
  • Multi-mode reception
  • IP54 weatherproofing
  • AM and FM radio

As you can probably tell with the price, this isn’t the best handheld ham radio for someone on a tight budget. 

If you’re a beginner, then you’re going to struggle with the complexity of this device. On the other hand, if you want something that’s 100% professional, then you can’t go wrong with the Kenwood. 

On the downside, moving in and out of the menu is an exhausting process, and the Bluetooth connectivity could definitely improve.

Pros:

  • Excellent GPS coverage
  • 1000 channels to choose from
  • Bluetooth, USB, and SD card access
  • AM and FM radio stations
  • KISS and APRS

Cons:

  • Extremely complicated for beginners
  • Expensive
  • Limited Bluetooth performance
Handheld Ham Radio 5

4. Greaval UHF VHF (best kit)

From something completely professional, to a tool a little more accessible for beginners. 

Next in our handheld ham radio reviews, the Greaval UHF VHF kit is a fantastic high-performance tool with a 2100 mAh battery and support for up to 20 hours of continual use. 

With a wide capability for many of the most commonly used frequencies, the Greaval is a great beginners handheld ham radio. 

To make entering the world of handheld ham radios a little easier, the brand has also included everything you need in one package. 

You get a full set of accessories, including a belt clip, a hand microphone, an antenna, an earpiece, power adapter, and more. 

For a price of around $50, features include:

  • 2100 mAh battery
  • 12-20 hours of constant use
  • Wide frequency range
  • Broad compatibility
  • Complete set of accessories
  • 18-month warranty
  • Hardware and tech support
  • Keypad lock function
  • FM radio reception
  • LED flashlight 
  • Belt clip and earpiece
  • Backlit display

This is a convenient kit for anyone who wants an entry-level approach to ham radio. 

You get all of the tools you need to get started, and tons of accessories you would otherwise have to buy separately. There’s even access to FM radio too. 

The downside is the earpiece and remote microphone that come with the device aren’t great quality. You may need to upgrade some of your accessories. 

Pros:

  • Excellent range of accessories
  • 18-month warranty included
  • FM radio reception
  • Flashlight included
  • Fantastic compatibility

Cons:

  • Not particularly good microphone or earpiece
  • Antennas aren’t the best
Handheld Ham Radio 6

5. BaoFeng BF-F8HP (best battery)

Another sensational product from BaoFeng in the line-up for the best handheld ham radio. 

This device upgrades from the previous UV-5R to deliver more output power, and an even more durable performance. 

With 3 power levels to choose from, you can ensure you’re getting the most out of your ham radio at all times. 

The BF-F8HP also has the latest N5R-340A firmware and a massive battery. This device can survive up to 24 hours of continuous use. 

Like most products from BaoFeng, the BF-F8HP comes with a massive amount of documentation, so you can read through how to use every individual part of the radio. 

The product comes with a range of accessories, too, including a hand strap for portability, a belt clip, and an earpiece. There’s also one year of customer service and warranty available. 

For a price of around $70, features include:

  • Lightweight and durable design
  • Massive 24-hour battery
  • Multiple power settings to choose from
  • N5R-340A firmware
  • In-depth support and documentation
  • Handstrap and belt clip
  • Earpiece included
  • Tri-color display
  • High-gain antenna

Despite quite an affordable price tag, this is one of the more impressive products on the handheld ham radio market. 

You get an excellent frequency quality, and plenty of features to explore, and the device is very sturdy and durable too. 

This might not be the ideal product if you’re looking for the most professional ham radio around. The sound quality struggles a little, and the volume isn’t great. 

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • Durable and lightweight design
  • Great firmware
  • Tri-color display
  • High-quality antenna

Cons:

  • Not the best sound quality
  • Lacking some durability with the accessories
  • Volume isn’t great
Handheld Ham Radio 7

6. Mirkit x BaoFeng MK3X (best with neck strap)

Just because you’re looking for the best ham handheld radio, doesn’t mean you want to hold it all the time. 

This extra lightweight device made by Mirkit and BaoFeng is small enough to fit in any pocket, and it comes with a neck strap (lanyard) for portability too. 

The tri-band radio system can receive both UHF and VHF frequencies. There’s also a 2100 mAh capacity battery, which guarantees a longer life for your radio. 

The MK3X is only a low-power radio, delivering around 5 watts, though that should be more than enough for beginners. 

The package includes a desktop charger, an earphone microphone and headset, and a lanyard for portability. 

For around $50, features include:

  • Convenient lanyard
  • Accessory jack for headphones
  • Tri-band radio functionality
  • Excellent antenna
  • Durable and lightweight design
  • Tone burst
  • VOX and DTMF
  • 128 memory channels
  • FM radio
  • Earphone mic and headset

The Mirkit x BaoFeng handheld ham radio is an affordable, and durable device with a lot of great features. 

The lanyard means you can carry it around hands-free with ease. With 128 memory channels, you’re never going to lose the channels you need. 

On the downside, the instructions that come with this radio aren’t great. The manual is difficult to follow, so you might struggle to get things set up. 

Pros:

  • Convenient lightweight and portable design
  • FM radio included
  • 128 memory channels
  • Excellent tri-band functionality
  • Mic and headset included

Cons:

  • Difficult to follow instructions
  • Can be confusing to find channels
Handheld Ham Radio 8

7. BaoFeng UV-5R Plus (best for programming)

Available in a selection of colors, the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus is almost as attractive as it is functional. 

This high-performance dual-band handheld ham radio comes with a durable rugged shell, intended to stand the test of time. 

The simple functionality and instructions that come with this product make it easier for beginners to program. You can even access your ham radio on your Mac OS or Windows system and set up channels from there. 

With a classic compact design, the UV-5R Plus can go wherever you go. 

The full color LED display offers excellent clarity, while the built-in antenna helps you to get the best possible frequency. 

This device comes with a hand strap and belt clip for portability, and a complete user manual. 

For a price of around $25, features include:

  • Durable metal shell
  • 3800 mAh extended life battery
  • High-low power switching
  • Time-out timer
  • LED flashlight
  • Burst tone 
  • VOX functionality
  • Hand strap and belt clip
  • Desktop charger with adapter

This isn’t the most advanced of the best handheld ham radios on the market, but it’s an excellent way to get started. 

If you’re looking for an entry into the handheld radio world, the price tag and simplicity of this device is sure to appeal to you. 

On the downside, the internal mic isn’t the best for quality and it can pick up interference. The rubber casing isn’t as great at protecting the radio as it could be. 

Pros:

  • Convenient design with durable shell
  • Good battery life
  • LED flashlight included
  • VOX functionality
  • Great for programming

Cons:

  • Not the best quality materials
  • Microphone isn’t great
Handheld Ham Radio 9

8. Extended ham radio starter kit (best for beginners)

Offering the ultimate entry into handheld ham radio performance, this Mirkit and BaoFeng set has everything you need. 

From an extra 3800 mAh battery to a speaker microphone and a programming cable, this is a fantastic product from market-leading brands. 

One of the best things about this product is how long-lasting it is. The battery can hold out for up to five days, and you can even charge your extra battery with a solar panel. 

There’s a heavy-duty lanyard included so you can keep your hands free, and there’s a radio mic included too. 

When you purchase this kit, you also get the special firmware you need to program your handheld ham radio for the first time. 

For a price of around $100, features include:

  • Dual band display
  • 128 channels memory
  • Built-in VOX functionality
  • LED flashlight
  • FM radio
  • Antenna and earpiece
  • Belt clip and hand strap
  • Programming firmware
  • Programming cable
  • Lanyard

If you already have an idea of how to set up your ham radio, then you might not need something as comprehensive as this kit. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something to teach you how to get started with ham, this is the purchase for you. 

Just keep in mind the instructions included are a little vague, so you might need to do some extra research online. 

The belt clip is a bit flimsy, so be careful with it. 

Pros:

  • Excellent full starter kit
  • 128 channels for memory
  • FM radio access
  • Earpiece and antenna included
  • Programming firmware included

Cons:

  • Confusing instructions
  • Slightly flimsy accessories
Handheld Ham Radio 10

9. BTECH DMR-6X2 (best with recording)

Another excellent choice on our list of handheld ham radio reviews for anyone in search of professional quality. 

The BTECH DMR-6X2 device is a fantastic two-way radio, with BaoFeng tech for extra quality. 

The DMR-6X2 supports front-panel programming channels, although you will need software for more advanced features. 

With the BTECH firmware, you can access up to 10,000 talk groups, 4,000 channels, and 200,000 contacts.

Supplied with a range of accessories to get you started, including a charger base, two belt clips, a programming cable, and a charger transformer, this radio has it all. 

With the DMR-6X2, you can switch between different power levels, and assign different channels based on your needs. 

Even better, the firmware constantly updates to give you a better performance. 

For a price of around $200, this isn’t cheap, but it does have features like:

  • 10,000 talk groups
  • 200,000 contacts
  • Large color display
  • Multiple power settings
  • Earpiece and antenna
  • Wrist-strap for carrying
  • Firmware support
  • Programming cable
  • Promiscuous monitoring

The BTECH goes far beyond your average ham radio, with everything from adjustable scanning features, to custom group and private calling. 

The more you dive into the firmware available with this technology, the more you’ll discover. Since the system is constantly updating, there’s no limit to what you can accomplish. 

It’s worth noting that the instructions aren’t easy to follow, so you might struggle to begin with. 

Another issue is the clip included with this device isn’t very durable. 

Pros:

  • Excellent updating firmware
  • Earpiece and antenna included
  • High-performance design
  • Fantastic battery quality
  • Multiple accessories included

Cons:

  • Not the most durable belt clip
  • Difficult to follow the instructions

Choosing the best handheld ham radio

This is the part of our handheld ham radio reviews where we’d usually talk you through the elements to consider when choosing your own radio. 

We’ll give you some guidance on that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about how handheld ham radios actually work. 

Ham radios are unique because they use a wide selection of frequencies for communications. 

Sometimes, a non-ham radio can listen-in to ham radios using scanners and other receivers. 

With a ham radio, you can tap into a wider range in the radio spectrum, usually just above the AM broadcast. 

Unlike the frequencies usually accessed by FM radio stations and televisions, the short-waves for ham radios usually work on a shorter circuit. 

Ham radios can come in many different shapes and sizes, all designed to deliver different benefits. 

When you’re choosing your own ham system, you’ll need to think about:

  • Dual-band or tri-band: Dual-band radios allow you to monitor two frequencies at the same time. Tri-band frequencies mean you can monitor three frequencies. Decide how much functionality you’re going to need before you start shopping for handheld ham radios.
  • Programming options: Most handheld ham radios can be programmed manually or via software. It’s essential to ensure you get a programming cable with your ham radio, so you can design the system to work however you like. It’s worth making sure the keyboard on the radio is functional for manual programming.
  • Battery life: Battery is always an essential consideration for any portable radio. Choose a ham radio that’s going to last long enough to suit your needs without having to be constantly recharged. If you can, getting a radio with an extra battery is a great idea. You might also want to look for something you can charge with solar power.
  • Ease of use: Ease of use is a must-have if you’re a beginner in the ham radio world. You need to be able to figure out how to use your new system. Usually, the best way to ensure you’re going to be well-prepared is to look for a good manual. A detailed instruction guide that’s easy to follow should always be on the top of your shopping list.
  • Speaker quality: To have full conversations with the best handheld ham radio, you’re going to need good speaker quality. Sometimes, the environment you’re in can affect the sound quality. If you’re too close to other devices, for instance, this can sometimes cause interference. For the most part, your sound quality should be crystal clear.
  • Extra features: Many of the best handheld ham radios come with extra features to boost their functionality. For example, you might get a belt clip and a lanyard to make your radio more portable. Some handheld ham radios also come with earpieces and extra antennas too.

Which is the best handheld ham radio for you?

Handheld ham radios are an excellent way to stay connected, whether you’re a professional in a busy environment, or a dedicated hiker on the trail. 

The best handheld ham radio will be the one that gives you all the functionality you need, at a price you can afford. 

For excellent all-around performance, we love the UV-82HP, which comes with FM radio, three power levels to choose from, a dual push-to-talk switch and more. There’s even a flashlight included and emergency alarm for whenever you’re in danger. 

If you’re looking for something on a more professional level, then you might prefer the versatility of the Kenwood Original. 

Although this is a more expensive ham radio than many of the other options we covered, it has extra features too. 

There’s excellent GPS positioning information built-in, and Bluetooth connectivity. You can also rest assured your radio will last longer, thanks to weatherproofing. 

For beginners, we’d recommend the extended ham radio starter kit from Mirkit and BaoFeng. The set comes with everything you need to jump into ham radio, including a programming cable, and access to your programming firmware too. 

You also get an antenna and earpiece, and 128 channels of memory to work with. 

Good luck finding the ultimate handheld ham radio for your needs and remember to check out the other radio reviews here at Radio Fidelity for more insights! 

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