Let’s face it. There’s a plethora of HAM radios on the market. If you’re a beginner, choosing the right one is sure to get overwhelming for you.
This is especially because many HAM radios can give beginners a really hard time, both with their operation and programming.
But you’re in luck if you’re reading this article, as we have done all the hard work for you and found the 5 best HAM radios for beginners on the market.
Let us walk you through them below.
Best Beginner HAM Radios
Here are our beginner ham radio reviews.
The BaoFeng BF-F8HP is a dual band radio that offers a perfect combination of power and ease of use for beginners. It’s incredibly easy to program with straightforward functions. You can program it using both CHIRP and the BaoFeng software, and there are also other options that make it a pretty versatile HAM radio for beginners.
8 watts of power is great at this price point, and the BF-F8HP also includes a fairly high-performance antenna. The frequency range is impressive too, although you wouldn’t be able to explore it all if you’re not a licensed HAM.
Reprogramming the radio as soon as you receive it is important as using many of the pre-programmed frequencies could land you in trouble with the FCC.
- Very easy to use and easy to program with two software options
- Surprisingly powerful
- Includes a high-quality antenna
- Long-lasting battery and solid build quality
- Must be reprogrammed as many of the pre-programmed frequencies aren’t allowed in the US
2. Yaesu FT-60R
If you’re new to HAM radios but have some experience with portable radios, the Yaesu FT-60R will turn out to be a much better choice for you in terms of functionality.
Despite being one of the best handheld HAM radios out there, it’s surprisingly easy to use and program, thanks to the great controls and an easy-to-understand manual. The frequency range on the receiver side is particularly impressive, and you would have no problem using it for things like monitoring aircraft or weather bands.
The 3 transmit power levels offer a great bit of versatility, with the highest setting being 5 watts. The radio allows you to use the pre-set repeater offsets as is as well as manually program them your way.
- Solid build quality and great functionality
- 3 transmit power options
- Easy to program and operate with great controls
- Large frequency range
- It’s very compact in size which is good but it also means a small keypad for you
- The supplied antenna connector is an SMA one but a BNC one would be better
The AnyTone AT-D878UV is an excellent dual band DMR HAM radio that offers great advanced features without making the operation difficult for the beginners. You can use both the bands at the same time and FULL 8 watts of power, which is very rare even in this price range.
The audio is crystal clear and the speaker is incredibly loud. Both the analog and digital functionality is impressive, and there’s also the great color display and a long battery life.
Beginners would be glad to know programming analog simplex and repeater frequencies is surprisingly easy with the keypad.
- Great dual band functionality
- FULL 8 watts of power
- Incredibly loud and clear audio
- Color display, long battery life and easy programming
- The receiving can be a bit off at times with the included antenna
The BaoFeng UV-82HP is another great offering from BaoFeng. It offers pretty much everything a beginner can ask for, while being incredibly easy to use and supporting the CHIRP software for programming.
It’s a dual band HAM radio too, and offers a perfectly clear and loud sound, with the reception being surprisingly good as well, even with the included antenna. We can only imagine what it can do with a higher quality extended antenna!
It’s also one of the most powerful handheld HAM radio in this price range with 8 watts of power, with the battery life being decent too. The build quality, just like the other BaoFeng radios, is solid.
- Amazingly functional for beginners
- Easy to use and easy to program with the CHIRP software
- Great sound and incredible reception even with the standard included antenna
- Great 8W power and solid build quality
- Some users aren’t able to get 8W from this radio consistently
In fact, it comes with so many functions users find it hard to explore them all. The reception is surprisingly good, and the same goes for the performance of the included antenna.
It’s also a very versatile device with 5 watts of power, and you can use it for a variety of things like emergency, prepping and of course HAM. It’s also super easy to use, although the programming can get a little tricky for absolute beginners.
- Great price
- Lots and lots of functions
- Great reception with a quality antenna
- Backlit dual band display
- The programming can get a bit challenging for beginners
Beginner Ham Radio Buyer’s Guide
You must consider a few important factors to make sure you choose the right beginner HAM radio for your needs.
Overall Ease of Use
If you’re a beginner, the overall ease of use is going to be the most important factor for you. HAM radios in general can be very confusing and overwhelming for a beginner, but there are a few products that make life easy for someone trying to get into Hamming.
Both the operation and programming are important here. Great controls and easy-to-read display usually help ensure an easy operation, and supporting the CHIRP software can be a big relief when it comes to the programming for beginners.
The output power is a very important factor to consider as it greatly impacts the overall performance. 5 watts (max power) is the bare minimum even for beginners, but if you’re looking for better performance something with anywhere between 5 to 10 watts would be great.
A dual band beginner HAM radio would be much more functional than a single band radio. All the radios we reviewed above are dual band radios, with the AnyTone AT-D868UV being particularly impressive here as it allows using both the bands at the same time while also working great for both analog and digital.
The overall functionality is important as well. A higher power output is nothing without a good reception and loud sound.
In addition, the battery life, LCD display and overall build quality matter as well.