The Top 10 Best Ham Radios in the Market
The internet has gained a lot of influence these days and with the use of gadgets, we are now able to contact our loved ones from a long distance but still, that old standby of radio has its uses.
In this guide, we will help you find out what ham radio is, types, and the best ham radios that are available for you to use. Let’s get started.
What is Ham Radio?
Ham radios are also known as “Amateur Radio” is a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that is used to send or receive information through the air or using some objects.
These radios use the radio frequency spectrum for different purposes like exchanging messages, wireless calls, self-training, radiosport, emergency communication, and so on.
Uses of Ham Radios
There are plenty of scenarios where ham radios come in handy. Apart from the emergencies, there are other uses too like astronauts on board brings 1-5 watt handheld ham radio with them. They hold their ham radio’s antenna towards the line of sight of the other radios on Earth and can chat with people through this simple but amazing technology.
Apart from these, there are many other uses like:
Distant dialing means that other ham users will take part in contests to see the number of people that can connect from different distant locations. Don’t be surprised when you get a postcard back when you make a contact. You can collect them and make a great collection.
Not just for communication, ham radios are now used latest transmission technology that allows operators to send and receive digital media like pictures without needing an internet connection.
Apart from the mentioned uses there are a lot of other uses as well and uses increase as per the demand and scenarios.
Types of Ham Radios
Before diving into details of the best ham radios, you should be aware of the types of radios present in the market and pick what is best for you. Here are four types of radios widely used:
Let’s discuss each one of them:
Handheld Ham Radio
When you will see a handheld ham radio, it will look like a walkie-talkie used by children but indeed this is more powerful than those.
Walkie talkies use 0.5 watts and are used in very close range. You or anyone can buy and use them without a license but a handheld radio needs a license to operate them.
Handheld hams come in different power ranges like 5,8 or even 10 watts of power and can be programmed to use many frequencies from one or more bands.
With the antenna, you can communicate from a long distance.
Mobile hams are powerful than handheld hams but they require an additional power supply for proper use.
Mobile radios are mostly found in vehicles. With an external power supply, they achieve a transmission signal strength of 25 to 65 watts. Vehicles are required because it needs a mounting antenna that you cannot carry with you like in handheld. Antenna and power together help communication between radios up to 100 miles.
Radio stations as the name suggests are non-mobile setups that require electricity to operate. Ham radio stations can occupy a lot of part of your house like from a desk to an entire room. It depends on the local rules about the antenna but you are not limited about what size you want to install.
However, ham radio stations can use massive antennas up to meters long and can operate with 300 watts or more power. These ham radios are often expensive because of the features and size. This is the reason why these are mostly used by radio clubs that require users to join to use their repeaters. Although, they mostly work with the users in emergencies.
Manpack ham radios are also mobile radios that you can carry with you. It has a built-in rechargeable battery source that you can charge in your home, vehicle and then put in your backpack for use.
You may have seen some tactical backpacks that can hold these ham radios and have openings for antennas.
Manpack radios are the combination of mobile and handheld ham radios but they opt to provide a higher range from handheld hams but they aren’t as strong as mobile ham radios. The only thing that makes them unwanted is the battery as it doesn’t last long.
1. Baofeng BF-F8HP
Baofeng BF-F8HP is one model that is mainly designed for beginners, everything in between manual to customer service and warranty is easy to read and understand.
This product as compared to the older models of BaoFeng is way better because of more output power and long battery life. Also, this model is backward compatible with all the other models including the accessories.
This model has a new generation chipset, dual-band two-way radio gives more transmitting power. You can easily transmit at three levels of power; 1, 4, 8 watts respectively.
With a 2000mAh battery, you can use it for a long time. It also has a good antenna allowing clear transmission of signals.
The BaoFeng BF-F8HP uses VHF and UHF frequencies, this means you can select broadband and narrowband in the setting and also other multiple power settings making it a highly compatible model.
Also, you can listen to the FM radio station while you can do monitoring in the background. This is a unique feature as compared to others but this means that you may miss a call.
- Easy to use, best for beginners
- This model is quite affordable
- Good sound quality
- Both transmission power and reception quality are high
- The battery life of 20+ hours with maximum use
- Flashlight available
- Equipped with the latest chip design
- A very good antenna installed
- You will require an additional USB not given with the package
- Rather small openings for accessory connections
- Build quality is not that remarkable
- Defective charging cable
2. YAESU FT-60R
The Yaesu FT-60R is the best model to take with you on a country trip. This model has an aluminum case which strong and waterproof even in heavy rain. The frequency range of this model is around 108 MHz to 999.99 MHz and you can listen to AM in the 125-127 MHz range
It has a volume control with an analog potentiometer, an individual keypad with up and down buttons, and a battery clip. The alarm goes on when the battery is low.
Amber backlight screen that has three key modes, toggle, and 5Sec respectively. With 1000 memory channels and 10 memory banks, you can assign a lot of channels to a single bank as per your preference.
- It has a solid construction made of aluminum
- Easy to use
- Long-lasting battery
- Water and stain-resistant
- 5 watts power sufficient for most needs
- Secured with passwords
- Emergency transmission is available through EAI
- The antenna is not very powerful
- Volume adjustment through knob is difficult
3. Whistler WS1040
The WS10T40 is a scanning radio that has 1800 memory locations that allow you to monitor with ease. This model has two battery holders for rechargeable Li-Ion batteries and Ni-Cad. A USB cable is also with the package that can be used to connect it with a computer.
It has the speaker at the bottom of the front side of the panel just below the keypad. There is a pair of rotatory controls for volume and squelch. The front panel layout is very user-friendly. There are a headphone jack and an antenna jack on the top of the radio. The high-quality antenna enables clear sound quality.
- There is a lot of memory space for storage
- Excellent audio quality
- It provides access to Skywarn Storm Spotter
- This product has many features but this is not the best model for beginners.
4. Kenwood TH-D74A
Kenwood TH-d74A is a high-end model with impressive features. This model is waterproof and dustproof. It is strong enough to meet US military specification MIL-STD810 for humidity, rain, vibration, and shock.
This ham radio works with four outputs which are 0.05W, 0.5W, 2W, and 5W respectively. The battery life is fine which lasts about 6 to 15 hours depending on the power output setting. The TFT color trans-reflective display makes it best for use in both day and night
Kenwood has a triband unit operation with three frequencies; 144, 220, and 440 MHz. The model brings several built-in features including Bluetooth, GPs, APRS communication protocol, and D-star radio communication network.
- It includes full support for APRS, allow you to send and receive real-time local data
- It has IF Filtering which will increase the reception for SSB/CW/AM.
- D-STAR compatibility allows clear global communication.
- This radio meets IEC 529 IP-54/ 55 standards
- Clear sound
- GPS logger mode, voice recording
- DSP voice processing
- The manual that comes with this is not very helpful when beginning with D-star and APRS.
- Expensive in price because of a lot of features
- Beginners will find it difficult to use
5. TYT MD-380
TYT MD-380 Handheld Ham Radio is a great choice, with great features and a comparatively low price. It is easy to use and can be connected to a computer to program through a cable allowing you to customize it to fit your particular needs.
The TYT MD-380 Ham radio uses the multi-access method that allows multiple users to use the same channel at the same time. With an excellent antenna, it provides efficient transmission.
The TYT MD-380 has a built-in battery that is a 7.4V 2000 mAh Li-ion battery. It has 2 SMA type antennas with a charger, and belt clip.
- Remarkable sound quality
- Tri-color LCD which is quite popular
- User can easily switch in between analog and digital modes
- Best for camping and traveling because of the waterproof feature
- Allows you to use texts as a message mean when in digital mode
- To program this model you will need software that only runs on Windows PC
6. Yaesu Original FT-2DR
Yaesu brings a high-quality model that has a 1.7 high-resolution screen with a backlit display. This model has excellent sound quality, built-in GPS, and provides 66 channels.
Yaesu Original FT-2DR gives APRS® function of 1200/9600 bps. This model is rugged and made waterproof that meets IPX5 standards. It also has logging and standard features. Additionally, this model comes up with a 2200mAh li-Ion battery and a micro SD card slot for extra storage.
This model is a great choice and it has great reviews from buyers.
- It very easy to program from the keypad
- It has a Wideband of frequencies
- It has a smart navigation system
- It has a built-in GPS.
- Audio distorts sometimes
- Touch screen doesn’t work and responds sometimes
- Battery life is not very good if compared with other models with similar features
7. The AnyTone AT-D868 UV GPS Version II
The AnyTone AT-D868 UV GPS Version II is a great model best for bikers, trekkers, and hikers. You can get the exact location while using this radio.
This model comes with great features, making communicating very easy with other hams. It comes with a colorful display allowing you to access menus and operate it easily during both day and night.
This radio comprises of dual-band and works well to meet the requirements of DMR Tier I and Tier II. With this radio, you can access 4,000 channels, add up-to 150,000 contact, and join 10,000 digital talk groups. These number makes it unique from the rest of the models available in the market.
- DMR/Analog radio dual-band radio
- You can connect to 4,000 channels, 10,000 digital talk groups and add 150,000 contacts
- It has a large colorful screen for clear visibility
- Some users have complained about the unit of this model after several months of use
8. Yaesu Tri-Band VX-6R
This Yaesu VX-6R is another waterproof model. The manufacturer claims that this model is waterproof to extent that if you submerge it into the water for half an hour and it won’t get any damage.
This model is based on triple-band operating; 2M, 220 & 440 MHz. It can transmit at 5 Watts on 144 to 430 MHz bands and also it can transmit on 1.5 Watts on 222MHz band. It has a 1500mAh battery that allows 10 hours of uptime. You will have all your memory needs fulfilled with 24 memory banks and 900 channels.
It also offers an Enhanced Paging and Code Squelch EPCS) the system that allows users to receive or send calls from a specific station that the user will pre-set.
- It is waterproof
- It is a high-quality wideband receiver
- The battery last long
- It is quite easy to program
- The speaker doesn’t have enough sound
- The keypad is small
9. BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band
BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band is another inexpensive but powerful model that has many features. As compared to others this radio is extremely easy to use and best for newbies. This model is a dual-band radio that can cover transmission and in VHF 136-174 MHz and UHF 400-520 MHz in both receiver and transmission mode.
The metallic body makes it hard to break the product. It also has a built-in feature of finding frequencies that are available automatically. It has a two-color display that makes it easy to read the menus even in dim light.
The manual in it is easy to read and understand. This means beginners can easily get started with it.
- The durable metallic casing which is hard to break and waterproof
- It has an affordable price
- A very good guide which is easy to read and understand
- Easy to operate, best for beginners
- Many of the compatible accessories aren’t available
- Slow Scanning Speed
10. Baofeng UV82C
Baofeng UV82C is one of the best economical ham radio in the market. It offers a wide frequency range of 65-108 MHz. it comes with two power settings which are 4 watts and 1 watt.
You can listen to the radio while doing the monitoring in the background using this because it allows you to use two channels at the same time. This ham radio is easy to program and you can program 128 memory channels that you choose. You can assign a name to each channel too.
It comes with a Lithium-Ion battery of 1800mAh that lasts long with a max output of up to 12 hours. It also has a power-saving mode that helps in conserving the battery when needed.
- Rechargeable battery that lasts long
- It can connect to FM radio channels
- Power-saving features that help in saving battery
- Overall an inexpensive and economical ham radio
- Too many alarms installed that are useless
- Programming isn’t easy with this model
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to get a license to buy and use an amateur radio?
However, when buying a ham radio, you don’t need a license and also for some radio frequencies monitoring. But there is an FCC license that is a must-have to transmit on amateur radio frequencies in the USA.
To acquire a license you have to clear the test. You have to clear a test and there are three levels of amateur license that have different test levels and allows a user to use frequencies according to their license. You can study books, learn about the test of hams online or by any other means.
The test is conducted by volunteer examiners. The persons are accredited by the FCC’s VEC system. You have to clear the test with 70% marks to get a license.
Is it hard to get a ham radio license?
As if we talk about technician class license, it is not that hard to get even if you don’t have an electronics background. Technician class is not as hard as the name suggests. To pass this exam you will have to know operating procedures, rules and regulations, and safety rather than knowing more about the technical things.
How far can ham radio reach?
It depends on the radio. Simple handheld ham radio has a reach of about 18 miles or so. When you upgrade the base station and install a larger antenna you may get hundreds of miles range
Ham Radios: Concluding thoughts
You can enter into the ham radio scene no matter you choose a mobile, base, or handheld ham. It all depends on your needs and the budget, you can find a radio that fit your needs and with it, you can make your way into the world of amateur radio.
Newbie to this scene and don’t have an idea about what you should buy? You can get a BaoFeng BF-F8HP, want to upgrade your ham for more complex needs? Grab an Icom 2300H. Not on a budget? Want to grab a powerful ham to talk to your old friends in Manchester while you are in Los Angeles? Grab a Kenwood TS-480HX and get things done.
There is a variety of radio hams that may confuse you a bit but there is a ham that is made for you and can cover your needs.