Buying a handheld HAM radio is not difficult as someone familiar with the HAM world, but as a beginner? You bet!
There are way too many HAM radios on the market and you wouldn’t be able to figure out which are the ones you will be able to operate without wanting to pull your hair out.
But we don’t want to see you in that situation so we have just went ahead and reviewed the 5 best handheld HAM radios for beginners available at different price points.
Best Handheld HAM Radio for Beginners
Here are our beginner handheld HAM radio reviews.
The BaoFeng BF-F8HP is the perfect combination of ease of use and functionality. Many users that were brand new to HAM purchased the BF-F8HP and were able to use it well in no time. It’s easy to program as well and supports both the CHIRP and the BaoFeng software.
As far as functionality is concerned, it’s hard to beat the BF-F8HP, especially at this price. It has no problem hitting local repeaters that are far away from your location, and the audio sounds clear and loud.
The battery life is surprisingly long too, and the BF-F8HP has a very rugged feel and should last you a long time. The output power is 8 watts (very good at this price), and the BF-F8HP is a dual band radio covering the 136-174MHz VHF & 400-520MHz UHF frequency ranges.
- Very easy to use, operate and program
- Can hit faraway local repeaters with ease
- Impressive audio quality
- Long battery life and solid build quality
- You would have to reprogram the BF-F8HPbefore using it in the US as it doesn’t come pre-programmed for the US
2. Yaesu FT-60R
The Yaesu FT-60R is an excellent 2 meter dual band radio with a power output of 5 watts. The controls are easy and the manual makes the operation much easier than you would probably expect.
The frequency range is 144-148Mhz & 430-470Mhz for transmitting and 108-520Mhz and 700-999.99Mhz for receiving. It supports NOAA weather alerts, one thousand memory channels, and three different power output levels.
The build quality is great, and the programming isn’t too hard to figure out. It’s also one of the most functional handheld HAM radios you will find in this price range, with both pre-set repeaters and the option to manually program them, with great transmit capability and impressive sound quality.
- Easy controls and operation
- Great dual band performance with strong transmitting capability
- Very functional and fairly easy to program
- Great build quality
- A flat base would have allowed this radio to be more stable when putting on a table than the one it has
The Kenwood TH-D72A is one of the most advanced beginner HAM radios you can buy without making your life difficult. It comes with a built-in GPS receiver APRS firmware, built-in 1200/9600 bps TNC, 1000 memory channels and more. The VHF range is 118-174Mhz and the transmit is 144-148MHz.
However, the Kenwood TH-D72A is still surprisingly easy to use and operate, and every button it has can be mapped to any function you want. The programming software is easy but advanced as well and allows you to import from other formats.
It also has dual VFOs, which along with the GPS and APRS, takes its functionality to the next level. The sound is good and the build quality doesn’t leave much to be desired either.
- One of the most advanced beginner-friendly handheld HAM radio
- The integrated TNC boasts APRS and pocket capabilities
- Very versatile and functional
- Great sound and build quality
- The antenna mount is of a low quality, nothing like the rest of the radio
The BaoFeng UV-82HP is one of the most popular handheld HAM radios on the market, and that’s because it turns out to be a great choice for beginners and experts alike.It’s a dual band radio with a frequency range of 136-174mhz for VHF and 400-520mhz for UHF.
It’s also very functional offering the users NOAA weather alerts, broadcast FM and more. The three power output levels are programmable with the max output being 8 watts. There’s a bright built-in LED flashlight and the display LCD is functional enough as well.
The battery life is longer than you would expect, the sound is good, and the build quality lives up to the name of BaoFeng.
- Very functional with broadcast FM, NOAA weather alerts and more
- Easy to program with some impressive customization options
- Bright built-in LED flashlight
- Long battery life and great durability
- The VFO mode is a little awkward and difficult to use at times
This is one of the cheapest handheld HAM radios for beginners but surprisingly, it’s a dual band radio too. The 136-174/400-480 MHz range is impressive as well.
It does pretty much everything you would want to do as a beginner; connect to your local stations, get important weather alerts, get quick updates about the emergency responders and more. Programming all the NOAA and emergency frequencies is a breeze, and the same goes for the rest of the programming requirements as well.
The range is good as is but a longer antenna will get you much more in terms of the range. The build quality, despite the cheap price, is pretty impressive. The sound wouldn’t disappoint you either.
- Great value-for-money dual-band HT
- Allows you to do pretty much everything as a beginner
- Easy to program
- Good range and fairly rugged
- Recharging the battery can be a pain at times due to the poorly designed tray charger
Beginner Handheld HAM Radio Buyer’s Guide
It can be hard for a beginner to understand what to look for when purchasing a handheld HAM radio. This is especially because as a beginner, your requirements would be much different than the more experienced hams out there.
Ease of Use
This is a no-brainer. If the HAM radio asks too much in terms of operation and programming, you would want to avoid it as a plague if you’re a beginner.
Radios that have a complex operation or programming requirements may make you lose your interest in the hobby before you even get started with it properly.
All the radios we picked above are very easy to use, operate and program, which is why we think they are a great option for beginners.
Sure, you want the ease of use, but you don’t want a toy. You want your HT to be functional enough to allow you to make your way into the ham world.
The frequency range, band, memory channels, versatility, the extent to which you can program the radio and its functions, the LCD screen and sound are all important factors here.
Many beginners buy a handheld HAM radio to help them in emergency situations and stay updated with weather alerts. For them, access to emergency stations and weather alerts would be the most important.
The Baofeng UV5RA and the Yaesu FT-60R would turn out to be two great options here.