With a HAM radio, you can communicate for long hours, and these portable units are indispensable during emergencies. However, if you’re a beginner, you might have a hard time with HAM radios due to their programming and operation. Further, due to the surge in interest in HAM radios, the market has been flooded with various models, which can make it even more difficult to find a HAM radio for yourself.
But you don't have to look any; further, this article lists the best HAM radios for beginners that are available in the market today.
A Quick Look at The Top 7 Picks
Band - Dual
Power - 8 Watt
Band - Dual
Power - 50 Watt
Band - Dual
Power - 8 Watt
Band - Dual
Power - 50 Watt
Band - Dual
Power - 4 Watt
Band - Single
Power - 65 Watt
Band - Dual
Power - 5 Watt
7 Best HAM Radios For Beginners Reviewed
For beginners, the BaoFeng BF-F8HP provides a perfect combination of ease of use and power. In our review, we were impressed by how easy it was to set up and program this dual-band radio thanks to its simple functions.
It also comes with a comprehensive manual with full information about the customization and capabilities of this HAM radio. This unit also has three power settings of high (8w), medium (4w), and low (1w), which allows you to adjust the power according to your requirements.
Featuring a frequency range of 60-108 MHz, you can easily pick up signals. It also features a V-85 antenna providing you with ample reach. One of the best features of this HAM radio is that it comes with an impressive 2000mAh battery allowing you to use the unit for up to 24 hours.
Not just that, but the unit also comes with exclusive one-year warranty support and concierge customer help which makes it one of the best amateur radios for a beginner. However, this unit only supports commercial FM radio reception, but we don’t find this a major drawback for beginners. The display is bright and crisp but is quite small, which might put off some customers.
The BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 comes with various useful features for beginners. It features a multi-color LCD screen that you can fully customize according to your preferences. You can even customize the channels to display frequency settings or their alphanumeric names.
This HAM radio supports more than 200 programmable memory channels that you can add or remove from the scan list on the go. Due to this, you don’t need to use software to reprogram for minor changes. Another useful feature is the ability to change channel parameters like power, scan, and tones through the keypad without having to delete and re-enter the channel info.
It also features an improved OLED display that supports nine colors that you can configure in any combination of your choice. In our review, we found the display resolution to be excellent. Regardless of your color choice, the display will be crisp and clear. It has a well-built design, and we're certain you'll be using it for a long time. The easy to read manual makes programming and setting up easy even for beginners.
BaoFeng is a reputed brand, and the BaoFeng UV-82HP is another excellent option with plenty of features that beginners will find useful. The first thing you'll notice about this unit is the compact and refined design with sturdy construction that'll certainly last for a long time.
As this Ham radio supports CHIRP software, the programming is very easy even for beginners. If you need help, the detailed manual can guide you through the entire process. In our testing, we were very impressed with the loud and clear sound quality. Even in stormy or windy days, you won’t have a problem with the volume.
This HAM radio offers you the flexibility of three power levels-high (7/8 watts), medium (5 watts), and low (1 watt), which you can adjust according to your requirements. With the addition of the 1800mAh battery, this unit will easily last a day, even in high power settings.
Additionally, this Ham radio also comes with various other useful features such as a flashlight, FM radio, alarm mode, dual PPT headset, among others. The only negative point of this HAM radio is that the user manual provided is not easy to follow. Other than that, you’ll have no reason to complain.
If you are a beginner but don't want something basic, the Kenwood Original TM-V71A is an excellent option. This HAM radio features a 5-in-one programmable memory that allows you to program almost anything related to a particular station and repeater. It has a simple design but is well-built and long-lasting.
It weighs just 3.3 pounds making it a very portable device. The display is quite bright and crisp, and the addition of backlight colors (warm amber/cool green) certainly helps with visibility. Even under harsh lighting conditions, we found the display to be reasonably clear. The unit offers an impressive 50 watts RF power output along with power levels of low/mid/high.
The sound quality is also another plus point. The sound quality is another plus point with great clarity, even in comparison to more expensive units. Despite all these features, the Kenwood Original TM-V71A is very user-friendly and easy to program thanks to the dual volume/squelch knobs, which allows you to set up the Ham radio according to your requirements. We also found the detailed user manual very easy to understand and follow, particularly for new users. However, Kenwood accessories can be very expensive.
The Baofeng UV-5R comes with an affordable price tag with lots of features and accessories. It has a simple design but is also well-built and sturdy. It'll certainly last for some time. Featuring an 8 watts maximum output, this device has sufficient power for your communication needs.
In our review, we were also very impressed with the 700mw speaker output. Even under harsh conditions, you'll receive clear and crisp sound. The 1500mAH battery can power this unit for up to 12 hours, and the battery saver mode will help you save even more energy.
This unit transmits between 1-4 watts, which is adjustable and has 128 channels. For programming this unit, you can do so through CHIRP software, which is simple enough even for beginners. However, programming this unit through the keypad is complicated and time-consuming. This unit features an LED flashlight on the top, which can be useful during an emergency. Despite its affordable price tag, it also comes with various accessories like a hand strap, belt clip, and earphone mic/ headset, which makes the unit a complete value for money.
ICOM offers some popular HAM radios, and the ICOM 2300H 05 has a lot of useful features for beginners. Measuring just 10x5x8 inches and weighing 4.8 pounds, this unit is compact and lightweight. The 207 alphanumeric LCD display is another excellent feature. You can adjust it to amber or green and is easy to read even under different types of lighting.
The chassis of this unit is also made with diecast aluminum, which makes it incredibly durable, and it has also undergone temperature, shock, and vibration tests, so this device will certainly last you for a long time.
Another standout feature of this HAM radio is that it features various scan functions, including priority, scan, bank link, memory, programmed, full, and bank allowing you to choose the best one for your requirements. This unit is also capable of receiving weather alerts allowing you to stay updated on the latest weather conditions and make adjustments to your plans.
The audio is also loud and clear, even under harsh conditions. However, the user manual is hard to understand and doesn't have comprehensive information, which might make the set-up process difficult.
If you’re looking for an affordable yet powerful HAM radio, then the Wouxun KG-UV2D is another excellent option. Measuring 8.1x7.9x4 inches and weighing just 1.75 pounds, it's easily one of the most compact and lightweight HAM radios we've come across.
It also has a sturdy construction, and we have no doubt that it's long-lasting. This HAM radio functions on 4-watts UHF and 5-watts VHF and supports an impressive 999 programmable channels. It supports high/low power options, which you can adjust according to your needs.
One of the standout features of this unit is the 2600mAh battery which will breeze you through an entire day of use. Additionally, the power saver mode helps you to save even more battery, which will be helpful during emergencies.
Another great feature is the LCD display, which is bright and clear with plenty of space to display all the important information necessary to operate the radio. You can even customize the Power-on display, and the voice prompts will help you navigate the menus. The Wouxun KG-UV2D also has many other features, including a stopwatch and a bright flashlight, which we found to be very useful.
Ham Radio - Ultimate Buying Guide
There is no perfect HAM radio as they come with various features, and it comes down to your preference. However, there are certain features that you must pay more attention to. This buying guide will help you figure out which features to look out for when purchasing your unit.
1. Frequencies - It's important to note that not every HAM radio comes with similar frequencies, so you must ensure that the unit you purchase has the frequencies you're looking for. The frequencies you're eligible for depends on the licenses you own. Amateur extra, general, and technician licenses are available for ham radio operators.
Technician license provides you privilege above 50 Mhz. With a general license, you receive all technician privileges along with most amateur HF privileges. The amateur extra license offers you every amateur privilege.
2. Power - Your unit may consume more power according to its construction and size. The power range of HAM radios typically ranges from 5-65 watts. However, it also comes down to your model. If you opt for a more portable unit, it'll consume less power. On the other hand, a base model will consume more power. You must make sure that your unit comes with various power levels so that you can adjust according to your requirements.
3. Portability - Another important feature is the portability. If it's too heavy or large, it'll be very inconvenient for you to carry it around. A compact and lightweight design is a must if you want portability. Additionally, make sure that your unit is also well-built and durable so that it lasts for a long time.
4. Memory - Memory slots depend on your requirements. If you’re mainly going to be using it for communicating locally or for emergencies, a few slots will be just fine. However, if you want to use your HAM radio for international communication, weather updates, and other applications, you must opt for a more advanced unit with 100-200 memory slots.
5. Affordability - The most important factor might be your budget. A Ham radio is generally affordable, but you should get one according to your needs and requirements. If you just want to communicate locally and don’t want many features, you can find older and smaller units that cost very little. However, the latest models can be expensive. Don’t spend your money on Ham radios with features that you’re not even going to use.
A HAM radio can prove to be very useful. After extensive research and use, we narrowed down our list to the above-mentioned units. Design, functionality, and affordability were our main criteria. They are all exceptional HAM radios for beginners, and we assure you that you won’t be disappointed with any of them. If we have to pick a winner, the BaoFeng BF-F8HP takes the top spot thanks to its useful features, durable built, and functionality. If you're under a budget, the Wouxun KG-UV2D is a solid option.