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Reviewing The Best Handheld Ham Radios of 2021

Best Overall Choice
BaoFeng BF-F8HP

Best Overall - Baofeng BF-F8HP Dual Band Two Way Radio

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Best Premium Choice
TYT MD 380-DMRMoto TRBO Ham Radio

Best Premium - Whistler WS1040 Handheld Ham Radio

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Best Budget Choice
Radioddity GM-30

Best Budget - Radioddity GM-30

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Kyle W by Kyle W Updated on June 9, 2021.

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Ham radios, also called amateur radios, are devices that use radio frequencies as a way to communicate and connect with people. They use voice, data, image, and text communications through RF spectrum frequencies.

Owning a handheld ham radio might sound far-fetched, especially in this digital age. Many people don’t believe that ham radios are used anymore, and that’s simply not true. These simple devices can be extremely handy to have in case of an emergency, especially when there’s no other way to communicate with other people.

Finding the best handheld ham radio can be challenging, especially if you’re buying one for the first time. The market is full of high-quality handheld ham radios that boast advanced features and the latest technology.

We’ve put together a list of some of the best handheld ham radios on the market today to help you make an informed decision.

Let’s take a look at the best handheld ham radios on the market today!

Best Overall Choice

1. Best Overall - Baofeng BF-F8HP Dual Band Two Way Radio

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

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This is considered to be the best handheld ham radio overall. It’s also regarded as a great option for beginners because of its easy use and the radio’s affordability.

It’s the best handheld ham radio because it boasts three power levels, you can monitor two channels simultaneously, and it has a powerful battery. If you get bored, you can listen to the radio while monitoring other radio channels because of this ham radio’s FM broadcast capabilities. The Baofeng BF-F8HP can accommodate 128 channels and is programmable, so you can listen to whatever you want.

Any incoming calls are given priority over any FM broadcast radio, so you’ll always know when a call is coming in.

Pros

  • Loud and clear speaker
  • Affordable
  • Very easy to use
  • Easy to read display

Cons

  • Misses the 10W transmitting power
  • No CHIRP support
Best Premium Choice

2. Best Premium - Whistler WS1040 Handheld Ham Radio

TYT MD 380-DMRMoto TRBO Ham Radio

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This handheld ham radio can store up to 1,800 frequencies and allows you to search for any frequency transmissions in your area. Plus, you can connect to any transmission that this ham radio connects you to. It also offers a free-form memory organization, which gives you access to frequencies that you use the most.

The Whistler WS1040 is outfitted with advanced audio hardware. This allows for clear transmission; users of this radio have found that transmissions that are typically hard to comprehend on other ham radios are perfectly clear on this radio.

It also has Skywarn Storm Spotter technology that gives you access to weather reports before they’re shown on TV or radio.

Pros

  • Skywarn Storm Spotter technology
  • Easy to use
  • Amazing audio quality
  • A lot of storage

Cons

  • Not designed for beginners
Best Budget Choice

3. Best Budget - Radioddity GM-30

Radioddity GM-30

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When you purchase this handheld ham radio, you get a GMRS repeater capable, Dual Band NOAA scanner and receiver, and it’s USB rechargeable. What’s great about this radio is that it can transmit with a power up to 5-Watts and the capability to hit GMRS repeaters, which means it can go up to 5 miles. Unlike other handheld ham radios that use offsets for repeat frequencies, this one needs you to program your transmit and receive frequencies.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Dual-Band Receiver & Scanner
  • USB rechargeable
  • 5 mile range
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • You might need a computer and USB cable to configure

4. Baofeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio

Baofeng UV-5R

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If you want to save a little bit of money on the best handheld ham radio, the Baofeng UV-5R is the best budget radio. This device’s frequency range is 65-108 MHz and features high and low power settings of 4W and 1W, respectively.  It also has a programmable FM radio that can be used on amateur frequencies and the Narrowband and wideband.

There are 128 programmable channels that you can add and remove as you wish. It boasts a powerful rechargeable battery; the battery is 1800 mAh Lithium-ion with a power capacity of 12 hours. When the battery isn’t being used, it has a power save feature that will help make the battery last longer.

Pros

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Power saving feature
  • LED display
  • Good frequency range (up to 15 miles)

Cons

  • Scanning and selecting channels are slow

5. Baofeng-UV82C Dual Band Ham Radio

BoaFend UV-82C

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This is one of the best handheld ham radios on the market today because it has a V-85 antenna for optimal performance. It also has a switch, called PTT, which comes in handy when you need to transmit on two frequencies.

It also has a dual push to talk button and can simultaneously receive two frequencies, even at different band levels. This can happen because of the dual watch receiver.

The UV82C also boasts an FM broadcasting radio with incoming call priority, so you never miss a call. The software of this handheld ham radio is considered to be the best and is called CHIRP. This software can take a little bit to get used to, but once you’ve got it figured out, it’s easy to use.

Pros

  • CHIRP programming
  • Good battery life
  • Affordable
  • Great antenna

Cons

  • No clock

6. TYT MD 380-DMR/Moto TRBO Ham Radio

TYT MD-380

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This handheld ham radio has a single band that’s coupled with dual-mode capability. It’s said that the receiver in this radio is the most sensitive receivers on the market today. You’ll find that the audio quality on this radio is much higher than that on other handheld ham radios.

What makes the TYT MD 380 unique is that it has a multi-color display that has remarkable resolution so you can easily read the screen. The speaker isn’t just loud, but it also sounds clear and is powered by a 5W transmitter.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Lightweight
  • High-quality audio

Cons

  • Battery life isn’t great
  • It can be hard to program

Best Handheld Ham Radio Buyer’s Guide

You should keep an eye out for several things when you purchase the best handheld ham radio, including the following items.

Dual Band

A handheld ham radio that has a dual band as a feature will allow you to listen to two frequencies at the same time. It also makes it easy for you to choose the frequency that you want to transmit on.

Be aware that the antenna that comes with some dual-band ham radios aren’t compatible with the dual-band feature. If this is the case, you need to find an external antenna that does work with this feature.

Programmability

There’s a question that you should be asking yourself before buying a handheld ham radio: can it be manually programmed and programmed with the software?

If the ham radio can only be programmed with software, you must ensure that the cable you need to program the device is functioning and available. For a handheld ham radio to be manually programmed, there must be a functioning keyboard.

Battery Life and Rechargeability

After you’ve used the best handheld ham radio for a couple of hours, it will need to be recharged. You must ensure that the radio has an external DC connector before you purchase it.

This makes it easier to recharge the battery and ensures that there’s always enough power for the ham radio to work.

Clear and Understandable User Manual

You must find a handheld ham radio with a clear and easy to understand user manual. This is important because you need to know how to operate your device and how to diagnose any issues that might arise.

When problems come up, it should be easy for you to troubleshoot the problem by using the user manual.

Speaker Quality

The purpose of your handheld ham radio is to be able to understand what’s being said. This is why it’s so important that you find the best handheld ham radio with a good speaker and an external headphone jack.

The headphone jack is essential because if the outside noise becomes too much, you can easily plug in headphones and clearly hear the information.

How Handheld Radio Work

How Does the Best Handheld Ham Radio Work?

Ham radios typically use a range of radio frequencies for communication purposes. Non-hams can “listen in” to hams using radio scanners or receivers.

Ham radio uses various frequency bands across the radio spectrum. The frequencies used are typically allocated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and are meant only for amateur use. Many ham radios operate in the frequency above the AM broadcast band.

Some ham radios use Morse code and others that use voice. However, Morse code is much more reliable because the signals can still get through even when voices can’t. If you’re looking for AM FM radios, you can check out our buying guide on the best ones.

Do You Need a License to Work a Ham Radio?

A license isn’t required to purchase a ham radio or monitor/listen to many amateur ham radio frequencies. However, you will need an FCC license to transmit on amateur radio frequencies in the United States. There are three levels of licenses for amateur use, and you only need to pass a simple multiple-choice question exam.

Here are the three types of licenses that you can obtain: 

Technician License

This is typically issued to those just beginning to use ham radio. It’s considered an entry-level license, and you’re only required to pass a single exam to get the licensure. After getting this license, you can transmit on a frequency above 30 MHz

General License

You have to pass an exam with 35 questions to get this license. To even be eligible for this license, you need to have passed or obtained the technician’s written exam. With this licensure, you would have access to all amateur operating modes and radio bands.

Amateur Extra License

This is a high-level license and requires passing a difficult exam with 50 questions. Before sitting for this exam, you need to have passed the previous license class exams. If you obtain this license, you can operate on all modes and bands.

Benefits of the Best Handheld Ham Radio

When the phones and Internet go down, you’re still able to communicate using a ham radio. That’s the main benefit of owning and operating a ham radio; it’s an emergency radio that can be used to connect to others when there’s no other way to communicate.

Another benefit is that they can be used in different locations. For example, you could use one when hunting. A two-way radio can be useful when you’re in the woods, and you need to communicate with other hunters, receive emergency reports, and if the ham radio has GPS, track where you are.

Why You Should Invest in the Best Handheld Ham Radio

Because of the benefits of the best handheld ham radio, there are several reasons why you should consider investing in the best one. You can use ham radio to communicate from anywhere.

This is what makes them perfect for emergencies: they will work anywhere, and they don’t need to be connected to the internet, phone systems, or satellites to work, which means that if power facilities were to fail, you’d still be able to communicate.

Depending on all of the features that your handheld ham radio offers, it can also be used as a flashlight, emergency radio, weather radio, or car GPS.

Conclusion

Whether you’re on the hunt for a new hobby or you’re hoping to be prepared for the next emergency, the best handheld ham radio is a great investment to make. You’ll always be connected to other people, even when there’s no other way to communicate.

You’ll have peace of mind knowing that you have access to communication even when everything else is going wrong. That’s the most significant benefit to owning a handheld ham radio.

All of the handheld ham radios on the list above are considered the best on the market. They all offer various features, are powerful, easy to use, and durable, which allows you to use your ham radio to its full potential.

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