Top 9 Best Ham Radios for 2020

best ham radio

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It might seem that technology changes on a daily basis lately, and products from years ago are no longer useful. However, the amateur radio world is using the same technology that it was many decades ago: the ham radio. The best devices offer you the chance to communicate with people in your own town or all the way across the country. The best ham radio can work as a tool or be used for pleasure and meeting new friends.

Whether you are someone who has been sending out a callsign for years or you are just becoming interested in radio, you want to be sure you invest in the top options. While the technology behind the radios hasn’t changed, that doesn’t mean that features aren’t being added. Choosing the perfect radio to purchase can take a lot of research and we wanted to help with that. We’ll be sharing the top nine options for devices you can purchase today.

We’ll also share a bit of insight into the things that matter most on these radios. That means you can easily select the radio you want with the features you are most likely to use. By the time you finish reading this article, you’ll be all set to make a purchase so you can start talking to individuals near you and even across the world.

Best Ham Radios for 2020

 NameNumber of Power LevelsWeight 
BaoFeng BF-F8HPBaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio310.1 OuncesCHECK LATEST PRICE
Kenwood TM-281AKenwood TM-281A 144MHz FM Transceiver12.5 PoundsCHECK LATEST PRICE
Yaesu FT-857D Amateur RadioYaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver14.6 PoundsCHECK LATEST PRICE
BaoFeng UV-5R Dual BandBaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two-Way Radio28.8 OuncesCHECK LATEST PRICE
Kenwood TH-D72AKenwood TH-D72A 144/440 MHz Handheld Amateur Transceiver113.1 OuncesCHECK LATEST PRICE
ICOM 2300H 05ICOM 2300H 05 144MHz Amateur Radio14.8 PoundsCHECK LATEST PRICE
AnyTone AT-778UV Dual BandAnyTone AT-778UV Dual-Band Transceiver Mobile Radio32.7 PoundsCHECK LATEST PRICE
Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6RYaesu VX-6R Tri-Band Submersible Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver32.88 OuncesCHECK LATEST PRICE
N/ABaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual Band Radio31.3 Pounds

BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

When you want the top ham radios you can find, this option is a great choice. It is a dual-band handheld radio that improves upon its ancestor by offering a higher level of transmission. It comes with a rugged base and a clip so you can take it anywhere you go. This ham device has three power levels, an antenna, and a user manual included.

You receive a large battery with this device and one of the best selections of powers to choose from. Each device can work for you up for 18 to 24 hours when in use. In addition, the battery powers other items such as the built-in FM radio and the included flashlight. It was designed to offer a simple user experience and includes a manual that will help you customize the radio for your specific needs.

When you choose this package, it comes with the radio, a 2,000mAh battery, a V-85 antenna, and an adapter. Included are an earpiece, a hand strap, a belt clip, and a battery charger. This ham radio additionally comes with a one-year warranty.

Pros

  • Upgraded amateur radio includes eight watts of output, a larger battery, and a V-85 gain antenna
  • Transceiver includes three settings, two-band options, and commercial FM radio reception
  • Ham radio was designed in the United States and includes option for programming over PC

Cons

  • Instructions for the radio can be confusing for beginners

Kenwood TM-281A 144MHz FM Transceiver

Kenwood TM-281A

No matter what you are using a ham radio for, this model from Kenwood will meet your needs. It’s a compact transceiver that has a lot to offer each time you put it to use. This is a device with some of the best mobile performance, and you can expect a great level of quality. When you choose to purchase this device, you get ruggedness and plenty of reliability, no matter how much you utilize it.

The make of this radio is among the best you will see. If you like to purchase quality good, this will offer that you need. It has great speakers, a lighted keypad, and a great output.

Pros

  • Features a rugged base with a compact construction for easy transport and travel between locations
  • Ham radio offers up to 65 watts of output, two different powers to operate, and a hand microphone
  • Radio model includes an alphanumeric LDC and illuminated keypad, large front speaker, and memory name function

Cons

  • Radio does not include an antenna which many individuals may want for convenience

Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio Transceiver

Yaesu FT-857D Amateur Radio

From the same manufacturers who made the Yaesu FT-60R, this device also provides a lot of performance. When you get this product, you get extra components such as a power cable and a microphone. You will need to provide your own antenna, but this shouldn’t be much of an issue for someone who already has an existing radio.

This device transmits on two bands at once, which is great for someone who wishes to utilize it for emergency contact. It has a number of excellent features such as 200 memory slots, built-in digital signal processing, and spectrum display. It’s a rugger option that is easily an example of the best ham radios you can purchase.

Pros

  • Amateur radio transmits on ham radio bands 0.1-56, 76-108, 118-164, and 420-470MHz for wide use by people
  • Base features digital signal processing, 200 memories, and spectrum display for versatility
  • Radio includes extras such as a cable and a microphone, so you only need to make one purchase

Cons

  • Some users have experienced issues when leaving the radio in high humidity or heat environments

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual-Band Two-Way Radio

BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band

This make and model of radio is compact with four watts of power in two separate frequency levels. This is one of the best budget ham devices and additionally includes features such as an FM broadcast band. Those who are looking for the best features will appreciate that it comes with the radio, a battery pack, and an earpiece. It also offers a headset, a clip for the belt, a hand strap, and an adapter. You’ll get a great quality adapter and a user manual.

Some of the special features provided include a low battery alert, a large LCD display, a time-out timer, and a channel monitor.

Pros

  • Amateur radio offers 128 channels, 50 CTCSS, and 104 CDCSS dual-ban display for performance during utilization
  • Background of ham radio offers tri-color light with selectable options so you can choose the one you like the most
  • Transceiver offers switchable emergency alert and comes with a new LED flashlight with two intensity levels

Cons

  • Some have experienced issues with radio components giving out without much usage

Kenwood TH-D72A 144/440 MHz Handheld Amateur Transceiver

Kenwood TH-D72A

When you want the best power in one small package, this Kenwood is a great choice. As one of the top options for individuals who want great performance, it offers built-in great performance APRS firmware through a standard USB port. You also get with your purchase programming software you can utilize as you like. It has as much storage as most models and comes with extras such as a belt clip.

This radio has a high-capacity battery, 1000 memory channels, and enhanced operating visibility along with simple use for beginners.

Pros

  • Ham radio features high-performance APRS firmware with a standard USB port and programming software
  • Dual-band radio is compatible with ARRL repeaters simple node access with EchoLink memory DX cluster tune
  • Radio for ham is weatherproof and includes weather alerts for your safety

Cons

  • Mount you utilize for the antenna is of a lower quality than the rest of the device

ICOM 2300H 05 144MHz Amateur Radio

ICOM 2300H 05

When you choose a radio for ham purposes, you want to get a great level of power. You may also want to ensure that it doesn’t cost too much, such as some of the top of the line models on the market. This make from ICOM offers all of those things, including up to 10 memory banks for scans, and 200 channels for other things.

This device has been tested in situations with shock, high temperatures, and vibration to ensure it can handle any conditions you end up in.

Pros

  • Ham radio offers the best features such as 65-watt output, a simple to utilize interface, and CTCSS and DTCS decoders and encoders
  • Radio comes with 207 memory channels and a large LCD with alphanumeric characters on a green or yellow background
  • Handheld radios are made to handle tough situations wherever people want to utilize them

Cons

  • Radio does not come with an included antenna so a new one may need to be bought

AnyTone AT-778UV Dual-Band Transceiver Mobile Radio

AnyTone AT-778UV Dual Band

As one of the best ham radios, this item comes with a two-band radio but no extra components. That means you get a base with plenty of power, but it does not come with extra items for use. You will need to make an additional purchase to get that. The ham does make quick transmission and comes with 200 channels, such as the best models out there.

If you like the idea of a reasonably priced radio with a lighted keypad mic, built-in speakers, and a cooling fan, this could be the perfect choice for you.

Pros

  • Dual-band ham radio offers DTMF and 5Tone functions and also includes a 180 degree rotatable LCD display
  • Radio features frequencies range between 136-174 and one from 400-800MHz
  • Can utilize radio for single calls, selective calls, and emergency calls depending on need

Cons

  • Radio does not offer programming options so it can take extra time to set up

Yaesu VX-6R Tri-Band Submersible Amateur Ham Radio Transceiver

Tri-Band Yaesu VX-6R

As one of the top hamradio available, this device has a great level of power and is perfect for people young and old who are new to using this kind of communication. You will get one military-grade, compact, waterproof radio that is submersible for the highest quality. It has a high-quality make and you also get a selection of additional features when you purchase it.

When you get this ham radio, you get the receiver radio, a belt clip, an antenna, a battery and a charger, and a manual.

Pros

  • Digital ham radio is a high-quality model radio that can be in use on more than two bands at once
  • Comes with a base transceiver radio, 1,250mAh battery, wall charger, antenna, belt clip, and user’s manual
  • Ham device also includes features like transmit time-out timer, automatic power-off, and auto-range transponder system

Cons

  • Some people have experienced problems with battery life on digital radio

BaoFeng UV-82HP High Power Dual-Band Radio

The last of the best radios to make our list is from BaoFeng. This is the second generation of the device and includes new features like three levels and an output that reaches up to eight watts. It has a VFO/MR mode that can be locked using software, a dual push-to-talk switch, and a large and in-depth user’s guide.

This radio has 128 memory channels for you to program, which you can remove or add using free software. You can also add names to the channels for even more convenience.

Pros

  • Handheld radios include new features like a frequency range of 65-108, 136-174, and 400-520MHz
  • Ham radio comes in five different colors and can operate with power on dual bands at once
  • Base also features easy programming and a high battery life so you can use as you like

Cons

  • Included antenna may experience interference when in use from one call to the next

Everything You Need to Know About Ham Radios

The first thing you are going to want to know when choosing a ham radio is exactly what it consists of. An amateur or ham radio is a device that can be used for private, non-commercial use of certain radio frequencies. You can hit up the ham to socialize, to get in touch with other individuals or organizations in an emergency, or just to learn more about wireless communication.

The world of ham radios is a diverse one, and if you get involved, you’ll meet all sorts of people known as “hams.” You could talk to a 10-year old from across the world one day using a ham radio, then spend the next day on your radio talking to a person who is 50-years old and right down the street.

You should also know that those who use a ham radio can be using it in several different ways. Many people like to use a ham radio for voice talk, but others may use it with packet, Morse code, radio teletype, PSK, or one of many others.

Benefits of Ham Radios

If you are curious why so many are utilizing a ham radio, we can answer that question. In fact, there are several reasons to start utilizing ham radios:

  • You join up with a community of over two million users around the globe.
  • Ham radio can be used in emergencies. Those who operate a ham radio can help with rescue and supply missions when other communication fails.
  • Ham can also assist you with communicating anywhere you are, even in the middle of a desert or the top of a mountain.
  • With ham, you get to enjoy a fascinating hobby that involves communication and radio technology.

Requirements to be Licensed to Use Ham

You do need a license in order to use ham radios, but the process is fairly simple. You simply want to choose the type of license and follow the instructions below:

  • Technician License – This is the best option for someone new to utilizing ham. You pass an exam with 35 questions in order to receive access to many frequencies over 30 megahertz as well as some HF band privileges. This allows you to use your ham radio locally and domestically.
  • General License – This license also requires a 35 question exam. After passing, you can use ham for international communication. You must have the technician license first.
  • Amateur Extra License – For this license, you need to pass a 50 question exam. This lets you enjoy utilizing operating privileges on all bands and modes. Having the general license is required first.
 

What to Know About Transceivers

The first thing you kneed to understand about a ham radio is what a receiver is. Simply put, a transceiver consists of a transmitter and a receiver that are combined into a single unit. Most of the modern ham radios on the market are going to fall under this classification.

Frequency

The frequencies you can use with your radio will depend on what licenses you have qualified for. Keep in mind that every radio is different, and some will not work with every frequency. When considering a VHF UHF ham, make sure you purchase one that has the frequencies you are interested in accessing.

Power

In most cases, the digital radio you choose is going to have five watts of power at a maximum. There are a few higher-powered options if you go with a base device. Those who plan to use a handheld radio want to ensure it has both high and low-power options that you can adjust as you wish. In general, these radios will have plenty of power for what you need to do.

Bands

If you are looking for an emergency digital radio, you are likely going to be choosing a two-meter option. The 440MHz band will offer most of the features you will use. A dual-band radio can let you monitor two frequencies at once, which is also a popular option. General coverage is a feature that lets you pick up TV, AM, and FM frequencies.

Memory Slots

Those who will be talking locally or for emergencies will perhaps need only a few dozen memory slots, which is found in older devices. However, those who want to speak nationally or internationally will want to choose a device with 100 to 200 memory slots to ensure the best results.

Backlit Display

Consider whether you will be utilizing the radio in low light or at night. If so, you may want to consider a model with a backlit display. Since emergencies can happen around the clock, any other device can leave you working in the dark. Having the option to turn the light on and off is also useful for saving electricity or battery.

Programming

If a ham lets you program it, that means manual programming. The devices that allow this typically utilize a keypad and a CB radio display. Some of the more modern types will come with a USB cable so they can be connected to a computer. This can be useful since you can download programming software to speed up inputting commands.

Wrapping Up

When you want the best ham radio on the market, you can look to the options above for great choices. Use the information we provided to determine what features matter most to you so you can be sure you get them. Operating a radio can be a lot of fun and teach you a lot, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot. Let us know what device you chose below and have fun!

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