Best Handheld HAM Radios

Review & Comparison, Last Update April 30, 2020
Handheld HAM radios are versatile and adaptable communication devices that aid and support varying needs and applications, from security guards to rescuers to campers and radio enthusiasts. The best handheld HAM radios can be relied upon even during most emergency situations. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2020
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Standards
Frequency Range
Power
Coverage
Number of Channels
Battery
Features
Kit
Warranty
 
PROS
You can conserve the devices' energy levels switching between three energy modes. The semi-duplex mode enables monitoring two frequencies, even when the frequencies are on different bands, and the radio will prioritize the first station that receives an incoming call. 
CONS

The instructions are lacking. 

OUR VERDICT

From hunters and fishing enthusiasts to those who are generally into radio, the BaoFeng UV-5R MK5 handheld HAM radios will be able to accommodate different groups with varying experience and skill levels. The devices are easy to figure out yet pack enough features to attract the experienced crowd.

detailed parameters
Standards

UHF/VHF/FM

Frequency Range

VHF: 136-174 MHz
UHF: 400-519.995 MHz
FM: 65-108 MHz

Power

8 W

Coverage

Up to 5 miles

Number of Channels

128 channels

Battery

9+ hours

Features

Dual-Band Display, Dual Frequency Display, Dual-Standby, Built-in VOX Function, 1750 Hz Burst Tone, FM Radio, LED Flashlight, Large LCD Screen, High/Med /Low RF Power Switchable, Emergency Radio, Low Battery Alert, Battery Saver, Time-out Timer, Keypad Lock, Monitor Channel

Kit

2 x Radios, 2 x 7.4V 1800mAh Li-ion Battery Pack, 2 x Antenna, 2 x Earphone Mic / Headset, 2 x Belt Clip, 2 x Hand Strap, 2 x Adapter, 2 x Desktop Charger (100V~240V), 1 x The Original Baofeng Programming Cable for Flashing Walkie-Talkies Long Range

Warranty

1 year

PROS
The dual-line screen can simultaneously display the frequency and the channel name. The channels can be added and removed from the scan list. The device lets you select the frequency steps and scan via increments ranging from 2.5 to 50 kHz. 
CONS

The screen can be hard to read from sharp angles. 

OUR VERDICT

The BTECH UV-5X3 will be monitoring three different frequencies without breaking any sweat. The device is able to respond to remote commands. With remote DTMF tones, you can choose between stunning (disable the transmit) and killing (disabling all functions) the radio. You'll also be able to revive the radio from these two states.

detailed parameters
Standards

VHF/UHF/1.25M

Frequency Range

VHF: 136-174 MHz
UHF: 400-480 MHz
1.25M: 222-225 MHz

Power

5 W

Coverage

Up to 5 miles 

Number of Channels

128 channels

Battery

~ 5 hours

Features

Tri-Vand Frequency Range, Display Sync, VOX Talk Around Mode, DTMF Remote Decode (Receive Remote Commands), Incoming ANI Display, Remote (Stun, Kill, Revive, Inspect, and Monitoring), On-the-Go Selectable Frequency Range Scanning, Remove and Add Channels from Scanning Right in Menu

Kit

V-85 Dual-Band Antenna, 1500mAh Battery, 220MHz Single-Band Antenna, CH-5 Charger, CH-5 110V Adapter, Earpiece Kit, Wrist Strap, Belt Clip

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The flashlight lets you choose between steady light and strobe modes. The dual PTT feature will enable transmitting on two frequencies. The 80-page guide that comes with the device will allow you to learn everything there's to learn about this radio. 

CONS

The VFO mode is awkward. 

OUR VERDICT

The BaoFeng UV-82HP checks most boxes that are required to make the device suit commercial and industrial applications. The case is tough. Even with the default antenna, this handheld HAM radio allows you to go where you please yet remain reachable and prepared for most emergency situations.

detailed parameters
Standards

VHF/UHF/FM

Frequency Range

VHF: 136-174 MHz
UHF: 400-520 MHz
FM: 65-108 MHz

Power

8 W

Coverage

Up to 5 miles

Number of Channels

128 channels

Battery

~ 6 hours

Features

Selectable Dual or Single Push-to-Talk, Frequency (VFO) Lockout Option, 3 Power Levels, VFO/ MR (Frequency Mode) can be locked via software, Tri-Color Screen, Flashlight, Emergency Alarm

Kit

1800mAh Battery, Headset, Dual-Band Antenna, 220V Charger, Wrist Strap, Belt Clip

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The 2100mAh battery will last from 12 to 20 hours. You can use the supplied adapters and the second battery to recharge and rotate the two batteries and basically (ab)use the device 24/7. With everything you could possibly need shipped with the package, you do not have to worry about finding compatible accessories. 

CONS

The programming software might present certain challenges. 

OUR VERDICT

The Greaval UV-5R is among the most adaptable portable HAM radios within its class. Security guards will appreciate the SRH805S short antenna that enables comfort short-range use and fits most pockets without sticking out, while the RH-771 high-gain antenna will work even for rescuers.

detailed parameters
Standards

VHF/UHF/FM

Frequency Range

VHF: 136-174 MHz
UHF: 400-520 MHz
FM: 65-108 MHz

Power

8 W

Coverage

About 3-4 miles 

Number of Channels

128 channels

Battery

12-20 hours

Features

Dual-Band Display/Dual-Standby, Tri-Color Backlit LCD Screen, LED Flashlight, Emergency Alarm Feature, Low Battery Alert, Transmit Time-Out Timer, Keypad Lock, Channel Monitor/Scan, Built-in VOX Function, 1750Hz Tone Burst, ROGER Beep Function

Kit

2 x 2100mAh Li-ion Battery, Programming Cable, RH-771 High-Gain Antenna, SRH805S Short Antenna, Original Antenna, Hand Microphone, Car Charger Adapter, Power Adapter, Earpiece, Belt Clip, Hand Strap

Warranty

18 months

PROS
The high-strength metal housing will easily survive drops from at least 6+ feet. The inserts added to the sides will let you use the radio even wearing slippery gloves and with wet hands. The values on the screen are large enough to make them readable without pulling the device too close to you. 
CONS

The symbols on the buttons do not last. 

OUR VERDICT
Provided you do not mind the model's increased size and do not care that you cannot lock the keypad and that features like the low-battery notification and the emergency alarm are not there, the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus will prove good enough, accessible and dependable in most conditions.
detailed parameters
Standards

VHF/UHF/FM

Frequency Range

VHF: 136-174 MHz
UHF: 400-480 MHz
FM: 65-108 MHz

Power

5 W

Coverage

About 4-5 miles 

Number of Channels

128 channels

Battery

~ 6 hours

Features

Built-in VOX Function, Time-Out Timer (TOT), LED Flashlight, Hight/Low RF Power Switchable, 1750Hz Burst Tone

Kit

1800mAh Li-ion Battery Pack, Dual-Band Antenna, Earphone with Mic, Belt Clip, Hand Strap, Desktop Charger (with Adapter)

Warranty

1 year

BaoFeng UV-5R MK5

Not Only Amateurs Though

The BaoFeng UV-5R MK5 is that no-nonsense package that offers robust devices with abundant features yet without any bells and whistles.

To get the ball rolling, the radios come equipped with Low, Medium, and High energy modes that allow you to conserve the battery charge when necessary. Using the programming cable, you can reset and customize these devices according to various needs and preferences.

The selectable frequency steps range from 2.5 to 25 kHz, with 1.25, 2.5, and 5 kHz increments available to you. With the semi-duplex mode, you can watch two channels, monitoring two different frequencies (even on different VHF/UHF bands), with the radios giving priority to the first station receiving an incoming call.

We can talk about the low-IF digital audio processing unit that keeps the sound quality stable and sharp even with varying reception conditions. We can also talk about the amp's low crossover distortion and low quiescent circuit current. The standard features like the LED flashlight, keypad lock, low-battery alert, and more go without saying too, these are premium radios we're dealing with.

Without going into obscure, minute details, the BaoFeng UV-5R MK5 packs two powerful and versatile transceivers and receivers that you can recommend anyone from beginners and survivalists to emergency specialists.

Review of BaoFeng UV-5R MK5 2PCs Two Way Amateur Ham Radio

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

BTECH UV-5X3

The Updated Classic

The BTECH UV-5X3 is filled to the rafters with different functions and features that most portable HAM radios are not offering.

Despite the classic design, the model's loaded with new firmware tools and menu updates that you'll be accessing with the dual-line LCD screen. First, the screen will be able to display both the channel name and the frequency at the same time, so you can synchronize the screen and have more available information at once.

Second, the updated version lets you add and remove channels from the scanning list, with ease to boot. Removing nuisance channels from the scan list will be as simple as accessing the new-and-improved menu and choosing the channel you want to kill, so to speak. To add more, the device allows you to add, change, and remove the privacy tones and adjust the power levels, streamlining channel modifications so that you do not have to delete and recreate them anymore.

Even taking everything above into account though, the product's crown jewel, its crème de la crème is the ability to scan through specific frequency ranges. Through the menu, you'll be able to select the frequency step, allowing the device to scan by increments from 2.5 to 50 kHz, which means you can scan the receiving band within seconds without scanning the whole band.

In short, the BTECH UV-5X3 is everything its predecessors were but more intricate, more programmable, and more intuitive.

Review of BTECH UV-5X3 Tri-Band Amateur (Ham) Radio

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

BaoFeng UV-82HP

Checking Most Boxes

The BaoFeng UV-82HP is the company's more basic model, designed to accommodate beginners first. Having said that, we would not recommend confusing basic with primitive because the device is anything but that.

To begin with, the model lets you select between single and dual PTT, so you can choose to transmit on two frequencies when necessary. You'll also be able to choose between three power levels: 1, 5, and 8 watts, conserving the battery and extending the charge to at least 6 hours.

Not unlike its more expensive relative, the device allows you to add useful channels and remove nuisance channels from the scan list. More than that, the radio will even let you give these channels alphanumerical names so that you can easily find and identify them next time.

We're not addressing the flashlight, the emergency alarm feature, and the lockout option because, again, this is not some primitive product, so we're expecting these tools. What we're not necessarily expecting at this price bracket is the model's shock-resistant construction, with responsive controls and durable buttons.

Though the VFO mode here is somewhat awkward, the BaoFeng UV-82HP more than earns its keep, following the playbook deployed across much more expensive models.

Review of BaoFeng UV-82HP Dual Band Amateur (Ham) Radio

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Greaval UV-5R

The Accessories Too

The Greaval UV-5R is as much about the device as it is about the whole package. Despite the affordable price, aside from the portable HAM radio, you receive two 2100mAh li-ion batteries, a programming cable, RH-771 high-gain antenna, SRH805S short antenna, the company's original antenna, a hand microphone, an earpiece, a car charger adapter and a power adapter, not to mention the standard belt clip and hand strap additions. With these tools and accessories, you're prepared for any trip.

Even one battery can last between 12 and 20 hours, which means that, with the two, you'll remain available despite any emergency situation. The short antenna will prove perfect for short-range, indoor use, while the high-gain antenna, though soft and flexible, is pretty tough and durable and will also boost the range almost tenfold.

You can choose between the keypad and the supplied programming cable to program the frequencies but not without entertaining the notion that the programming software might present certain challenges.

Besides that, the Greaval UV-5R will not present any challenges, not with its many accessories, not with its high frequency range, and certainly not with the backlit screen and comfortable controls.

Review of Greaval UV-5R Dual Band Ham Radio

 

BaoFeng UV-5R Plus

The Starting Point

Measuring 7 x 6.1 x 3.9 inches, the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus is not among the most compact portable HAM radios. This is not the device you can shove inside most pockets, which is the biggest issue we have with this product. Aside from that, the symbols on the keys do not always last but that's the case with most mid-range radios. Somewhat offsetting this issue is the model's durable encasing that you do not have to be gentle with, at all. Plus, there are these ribbed inserts on the sides that allow you to hold and use the device even with wet hands.

For the most part, this is the company's simplest, most straightforward HAM radio, with the full-color LED screen, accessible controls, but not too many features. You do not have an emergency alarm. The low-battery alert has not been added too. On the upside, the LED flashlight is bright and lets you switch between strobe and steady illumination modes. You cannot lock the keypad but, on the upside, the model's coverage reaches the same ~5 miles that more expensive radios are offering and also lets you access no less than 128 channels.

To sum this up, the BaoFeng UV-5R Plus is what you start with, figuring out how HAM radios work before moving to the more feature-rich models (but only when you need those extra features because most users seldom utilize them).

Review of BaoFeng UV-5R Plus Dual-Band Ham Two-Way Radio

 

What Is Handheld HAM Radio?

HAM radio, also known as amateur radio, is the term used to describe the radio frequency spectrum that you can use without commercial intents and purposes, exchanging messages, experimenting with free wireless communication means, radiosporting, communicating during emergency situations, and more. Basically, we're talking about anything that has nothing to do with commercial broadcasting, public safety services (primarily police and fire departments), and two-way radio services (taxi, aviation, etc).

You can bring these radios to the next ski vacation to communicate with friends atop the mountains. Security guards can use these DMR radios as instant communication means to exchange information without delay. Handheld HAM radios allow you to listen to FM broadcasts, NOAA, weather forecasts, and more. This is what you should bring with you on the next camping/hunting/fishing trip to make sure that you can handle most emergency situations. Using these devices, you can not only receive but also transmit messages ~5 miles away from the nearest radio equipment piece.

CB radios have less range but are usually even more compact, so most off-roaders stick with them, whereas these emergency radios are packing more features that can help you in a pinch.

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Publish Date: 2020-04-30 17:19:45