Hardware, News, Reviews

Why Are Ham Radios Handheld, and What Are the Best on the Market?

handheld ham radio

You can hardly go wrong with a handheld ham radio for emergency communication. Ham is short for “handheld amateur,” which should brook no argument against its portability.

These radios are divided into three categories: handie-talkies, base stations, and mobile radios for vehicles. Even though all three can be picked up by hand, the term “handheld” is most often directed at handie-talkies, the most portable of the trio. 

Ham radios range from the popular receive-only models to the more comprehensive versions that allow for two-way conversations. There’s no arguing the fact that they are among the best mobile transceivers for emergencies.

What Is a Good Ham Radio for Beginners?

Now that we’ve covered why ham radios are handheld, let’s go over the five that we think are some of the best handhelds in the market today.

This list focuses on the best ham radios in terms of actual usage and variety of functions. Some will score higher in some features than others, but all are excellent for relaying information during emergencies. 

Yaesu FT-65R

If you’re a fan of mobile transceivers, then you’re probably well-acquainted with the Yaesu brand. They’ve been a manufacturer of amateur radio equipment for a long time, with their handheld offerings leading the pack as the most powerful and feature-filled in the industry. 

The FT-65R by Yaesu comes with highly customizable settings and an easy-to-navigate menu system that makes field operation a breeze. It has commercial-grade specifications that work a lot like a professional radio. Additionally, it barely has any adjacent channel disruptions thanks to its superior front-end, making it ideal for urban-environment usage.

BaoFeng UV-5R

These dual-band handheld radios cost so little that it would be a shame not to own one. They don’t cost any more than $35, have the most accessories available, and can easily be applied to public service work. These are fantastic affordable radios that have garnered tons of community support. That’s got to count for something even if one does think they’re too “cheap.”

Cheap they may be, but any beginner would find them the best units for transitioning into the world of ham. Another thing that makes them so great is that they are kid-friendly.

We’ve all got to start somewhere, and this unit just eases you into radio service operation without much fuss. It’s a five-watt, full-power handheld that’s easy to use both manually and via keypad. They may not offer anything too “advanced” in terms of technology, but their mastery of the basics makes them anyone’s ideal backup radio.

Icom IC-705

Here’s an expensive number you might be hesitant to purchase initially. However, once you find out the features it comes with, it’s safe to say it can win you over. Aside from boasting a touch screen, it also features GPS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi—all the things one can live without in today’s day and age.

The Icom IC-705 can operate an additional two meters beyond the standard HF distance. Though difficult to beat when it comes to user-friendliness, you might find its lack of a pre-configured antenna tuner a deal-breaker.

Alinco DJ-VX50

Alinco and Yaesu are neck and neck in the world of amateur radio, but this time, we put the spotlight on Alinco. The DJ-VX50 is especially deserving of the attention it’s getting. It incorporates many modern concepts for ham radios and packs all the features one needs to navigate the current era of emergency communication.

The rugged scenario for radio use calls for an Alinco of this caliber, which boasts an IP67 rating that works efficiently in wet and dusty environments. Drop it in a shallow stream? No problem. This unit can survive being under three feet of water for half an hour. Basically, if you’re a weather spotter looking for the ideal radio, you won’t have to look any further than this one. 

Yaesu VX-6R

The fact that this model’s been around for more than a decade tells you how well it fits even in today’s emergency communication scene. Of course, Yaesu products are known for their durability, so we would be wrong to expect anything less.

Since it’s a two-meter triband handheld with 220 and 440 MHz bands at a minimum and maximum power, respectively, there’s not much this radio doesn’t accomplish. Its lower band alone offers wider coverage than usual, is noise-free, and has superior propagation.

That said, you might ask yourself why you’re buying a model that’s been in the picture for close to 16 years. While that shouldn’t matter as long as the unit serves your purpose, there might be some scenarios where you’ll find it lacking or not up to par with the modern standards. Suffice to say, its versatility should have you covered in most ham radio applications.

Choosing Wisely Matters

Today’s market may spoil you for choice where handheld ham radios are concerned, but make sure to pick the best radio for your needs. You can experience great value when you choose based on your specific communication requirements and preferences.


More on this topic: 

The Main Difference Between CB and Ham Radio Explained

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