Best HAM Radio For Beginners in 2020: Entry Level Amateur Radio Equipment

Before we start, I want to congratulate you on your decision to buy your first Ham radio. Well, I guess the reason can be any of the three:

      • You need a dearest companion for emergency situations
      • Looking for a stepping stone to the two-way communication
      • To start a new hobby or leisure

The justification may be anything, but I know you want nothing but the best ham radio for beginners.

However, getting a quality entry-level amateur radio is not as easy as that it sounds. You need to know the right features which make the radio a great asset for a newcomer.

On the other hand, the good news is that we have done the job for you. Yes, we have what you are looking for and here goes the list:

Best Entry Level Ham Radios: Comparison

Product Highlight
BaoFeng BF-F8HP: Our Top Choice ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • Durable radio shell
  • High/Med/Low power settings
  • 30% larger battery
  • Value for money
BaoFeng UV-82HP ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • 8-watt high output
  • High gain V-85 antenna
  • 128 programmable channels
  • Selectable dual or single PTT button
Radioddity GD-77: Most User Friendly ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • Digital/analog mode
  • Exceptional audio quality
  • Offers SMS function
  • 1024 channels
Baofeng UV5RA ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • 128 channels
  • Compact, rugged design
  • Battery saver feature
  • Economical
BTECH UV-5X3: Most Rugged ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • Tri-band frequency range
  • Display sync
  • Feature-rich model
  • Excellent build quality and affordable price
Yaesu FT-60R ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • 1000 memory channels
  • 3 power output settings
  • Affordable
  • Tough and rugged
Yaesu FT-857D ➥Check the Latest Price on Amazon
  • 200 memories
  • 100-watt output
  • Excellent price
  • Compact unit with a wide range of operations

Why beginners should choose a Ham with care?

Ham radio is an excellent tool for communication for users looking to connect with local or global operators. Amateur radio enthusiasts love it for its ease of communication.

However, this little gadget can be troublesome for beginners with no prior knowledge!

      • As a newbie, you should start with an entry-level ham radio instead of investing in expensive equipment. It will provide some necessary know-how and get you started!
      • Fancy gadgets can be quite confusing and challenging for beginners. Thus, mobile or handheld ham radios are your safest bet!
      • For someone who has never used ham radio before, it may also be tricky to find one that is top quality.
      • Many users end up spending bucks on fake products! Always order yours from trusted and reliable brands for the best experience.

Best Ham Radio for Beginners: Top 7 Reviews

We have reviewed some of the highly rated, beginner-friendly models to save you the hassle of research. Choose your starter ham radio from the list and get the best transmission for your needs.

A handheld ham radio is the best way to start your ham radio career. So, you will find a lot of them in the reviews. But trust me, that’s all you need at this stage.

1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP : High-Performance Beginner Ham Radio

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The BaoFeng BF-F8HP, dual-band radio, is an outstanding portable hand-held transceiver. It has a durable outer casing along with twice the output power of previous models. It transmits at VHF and UHF at 8 watts.

The best thing about this handheld device is that this is the best ham radio for preppers. The unique model boasts a 30% larger battery, which proves handy in emergencies. To make the power last even longer, you can customize your power settings to high (8-watts), medium (4-watts), and low (1-watt).

Designed in the USA, the BF-F8HP is a top-of-the-line ham radio equipment for beginners. It offers an in-depth user manual to help you kickstart the experience. The brand also provides exclusive customer help to provide a smoother user experience.

The best part about the BaoFeng BF-F8HP two-way radio is that it includes all handy accessories! You get an earpiece, power adapter, belt clip, hand strap, charger, V-85 antenna, and more.

As a newbie, it is understandable that you may not want to spend a fortune on a device. This feature-rich model is available at an economical price! It is small, yet has power, range, and all the functions you would want in a hand-held transceiver!

We recommend it based on its ease of operation, reliability, and exceptional quality. We bet you will be satisfied with your purchase, as well.

If you find the BF-F8HP model slightly pricey, you can opt for BaoFeng UV-5R, which is pretty inexpensive comparatively. You can check it’s price from amazon by clicking here.

The latter boasts 128 channels, dual-band display, and offers a tri-color background light. It is compact, lightweight, and economical.

It operates at 4-watts, compared to BF-F8HP, which outputs at 8-watts.

2. BaoFeng UV-82HP:  Powerful handheld Device

The BaoFeng UV-82HP is remarkable when it comes to functioning. It comprises of five color options to give you the transceiver of your dreams. The device operates at three variable power settings – high, medium, and low for a customizable experience.

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If you’re wondering what makes UV-82HP the top-choice among customers, here’s why:

      • High gain V-85 antenna
      • Dual push-to-talk button
      • 128 programmable memory channels
      • External accessory compatibility
      • Emergency alarm
      • In-built flashlight
      • Louder speaker
      • Solid casing

Not everyone is a radio-expert! Owing to this, the brand prioritizes user-friendliness over everything else. That means you can gain knowledge regarding capabilities and customization with help from the customer service and manual.

BaoFeng UV-82HP is an upgrade from the UV-82 and UV-5R series. That means to get additional features, power levels, and also chipset revision.

Users cannot stop raving the UV-82HP for its solid feel in hand. It boasts sturdy buttons on the front and side. It also has exceptional reception and audio quality.

If there’s a checklist of features you have, you may want to tick it all! BaoFeng UV-82HP has everything you would like, and more!

Most importantly, the battery on this model lasts for days and is ready for any emergency!

If you want to read more about the ham radio, click here for the BaoFeng UV-82HP review.

3. Radioddity GD-77 : Most User-friendly Option for Newbies

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The Radioddity GD model is an utterly fantastic model for newbies and experts alike. The best thing about this beast is that it is one of the easiest ham radio to use. This is exactly why you will love this.

Moreover, the radio offers some of the top-notch features needed to fulfill all your professional and communication needs. One such feature is its exceptional sound quality. We bet you will be surprised for the crystal clear audio and noise-free transmission! It can’t get better than this.

The GD-77 has a pretty cool feature that allows you to use it as a cell phone! It enables you to send text messages from one transceiver to another.

It also includes an emergency button that sends an alarm signal to another radio device. It works as a shortcut to ask for help in emergencies.

Users are impressed by the Radioddity GD-77’s feel-good shape and size. It fits into the hand reasonably easily and has a rugged appeal.

As for programming, the software is available on the company website. It allows for quick and convenient programming.

For under $100, it is a decent dual-band DMR radio. We would recommend it to beginners for the convenience and comfort it offers!

4. Baofeng UV5RA: All Round Option

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If you fancy a handheld transceiver that offers two-way communication, look no further than the BaoFeng UV-5RA. It consists of dual PTT keys and incorporates 105 DCS and 50 privacy codes.

It works as an ideal communication device for survival due to some it’s handy features. It has an emergency alarm, LED flashlight, and a built-in key lock. It also has a tri-color background light!

Why BaoFeng UV-5RA?

      • Covers 2 meters and 440 MHz
      • Dual watch
      • Dual reception
      • 128 memory channels
      • Battery save function
      • Large LCD
      • Time-out timer

A newbie should not have to spend a lot on a beginner ham radio. That’s why this BaoFeng model is a great pick! Not only is the UV-5RA inexpensive, but it also offers handy features needed to get out of an emergency.

BaoFeng makes programming easier for its users. We recommend using a programming cable if you don’t feel comfortable punching in the frequencies manually.

If you’re looking for extensive range coverage, you may need to add an external antenna for the best results.

What users love the most about this compact model is its durability. Its low price has nothing to do with the quality! You can drop it a few times and still have it functioning with no problem. However, that certainly does not mean you go around damaging yours!

5. BTECH UV-5X3: Rugged Starter Ham Radio

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Next on the list is the BTECH UV-5X3, a solidly-built tri-band radio. This entry-level ham radio has features you may not find elsewhere!

The BaoFeng Tech UV‑5X3 model allows operators to synchronize the display. It displays all the necessary information at once. This feature enables the UV-5X3 LCD to show channel name and frequency simultaneously.

The updated menu on this device allows you to add or remove channels from the scanning list. You won’t have to perform the task using a computer anymore!

It is the first affordable VHF, 1.25M, UHF tri-band handheld transceiver on the block, and we’re ecstatic! The 222 MHz band inclusion with decent power is a significant plus.

Most importantly, it has an excellent battery life, helping you stay connected even in hours with no power. If you are looking to upgrade from the UV-5, then you can use all the existing accessories with this model!

This starter ham radio is rugged enough for indoor and vehicle use. However, it may not be so much of an outdoorsman radio.

6. Yaesu FT-60R

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If there’s a reputable brand known for its incredible gadgets, it’s Yaesu. One such versatile device is the FT-60R. It is a dual-band VHF/UHF amateur radio. Here’s why it has become customers’ favorite over the years:

      • CTCSS/DCS
      • Lighted keypad
      • Alphanumeric display
      • 1000 memory channels
      • Emergency channels
      • Includes battery, charger, antenna, and belt clip

The device has an abundance of positive reviews from users. They claim it to be of high quality and find it excellent in terms of value.

The radio has a sturdy construction and a robust belt clip for easy carrying. What we love the most is that all ports are protected using rubber covers to help extend the product life.

Further, the charger is easy to use and does the job exceptionally well.

If you’re worried about the functions and keys on this model, you need not worry. The in-depth manual contains all the necessary information you need to master this ham radio equipment for beginners.

However, you may need to keep in mind that it is a compact radio. Due to its size, the keys are smaller and closer together.

7. Yaesu FT-857D:  Best Beginner-Level Mobile Unit

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Last on the list is another great radio by Yaesu. This is the best beginner ham radio if you are looking for a great mobile ham radio for the money.

It transmits 160 through 2 meters, plus 70 cm UHF too. It outputs on 100-watts on 6-160 meters, 50-watts on VHF, and 20-watts in UHF.

Some of the notable features of the FT-857D are:

      • Built-in digital signal processing
      • 200 memories
      • Spectrum display
      • CTCSS
      • Includes microphone and power cable

Please note that the Yaesu FT-857D package does not include the battery. However, there are some amazing ham radio batteries that can make your Ham a beast. Get one of them.

If you desire a radio that operates at HF, VHF, and UHF, this is the top-rated product to look into. Most operators and experts recommend this for your first radio. It provides a combined value of a compact unit and an extensive range of operation.

The starter ham radio is reliable, fun-to-use, and quite long-lasting. If you’re planning on considering this model, know that the investment will be worth it!

Best Beginner Ham Radio Buying Guide

In most cases, beginners look for starter ham radios that cost low. Besides the price, you need a ham which is easiest to use and doesn’t eat away your time.

There are various factors and features that can help you shortlist the right device for you.

Band

The most crucial feature in any ham radio is the frequency/band coverage. Most typical devices operate at VHF and UHF. These are known as the dual-band radios.

Additionally, you may want to look for a radio that is linked with the RF activity in your locality. It helps with monitoring emergency transmissions in nearby areas.

Power Output

The next most important function is the power transmission of your device. If you’re looking for a portable, handheld option, you should be aware that they transmit at 3-5 watts. Higher power output results in better transmission. However, this also means using more battery!

Weather and Emergency Alerts

recommended entry level ham radio As a driver, it becomes essential to stay up to date with weather news. With unpredictable weather conditions, having a ham radio with NOAA alerts can help you prepare for harsh conditions.

Moreover, emergency alerts can warn you in case of hazardous roads or closures.

Such features come in handy in an emergency, ensuring your safety and security.

Memory Channels

To access your favorite channel (frequency), you need a ham radio with plenty of memory. It helps to store all radio configurations.

Having significant memory allows you to arrange the channels any way you want! Ideally, the best choice is any device with 100-200 memory slots.

Display

When using the radio in dim or nighttime light, you may want a device with a backlit display. It allows for easy reading, helping to prevent accidents.

Keep in mind that the backlit display can drain your radio battery. To avoid this, customize the power setting to low during the daytime, so you have plenty of power by the end of the day.

Battery

What’s a ham radio without adequate battery supply? Nothing!

Large-sized radios come with their own larger battery packs. The advantage that handheld radios have over these larger devices is that they use alkaline AA or AAA batteries.

Having spare batteries comes in handy when you want to power your radio with no electric source.

Moreover, manufacturers are coming up with batteries that have a longer life. The BaoFeng models also have three power settings, which allow you to save battery in emergencies.

CTCSS and DCS

The Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and digital code squelch (DCS) are electronic circuits. They work efficiently in reducing annoyance to users. Additionally, it also offers constant communication in the same frequency.

Programming

What more ham beginners are unaware of is that these devices come with programming features. The programming can be done manually, as well as through a computer.

It results in smoother, faster, and convenient programming. You can download the free software online and follow a few tutorials to get the hang of it.

FAQs

How much does it cost to set up a ham radio?

The cost of entry-level ham radio, including the device and essential accessories, is about $160. In addition to this, you will be required to register for the license.

To obtain the license, you will need to pay for the testing material and register for the test. It costs a little under $60.

The total adds up to $220, which is pretty economical, given the ham services and features.

How do you set up a ham radio?

Your first step is to get to know your device and its accessories. Connect it to the power supply and have it well-charged.

Next, you would want to identify how to make it work. For this, you can gather all the information from the user manuals.

Following this, you may need to download programming software and connect the radio using a programming cable. It allows ease of programming and simplifies the process.

One such useful software is CHIRP, which allows you to add channels to the list. Once done, test the radio to check if it is working correctly.

What do I need to get started in ham radio?
  • If you want to communicate with operators around the world or are looking to talk locally, you will need a general class license. To prepare for the permit, you can order a manual and study at home. Alternatively, you can join a local club and take classes.
  • Once you receive your license, the next step is to get the right equipment.
  • A handheld radio is an excellent starter ham radio option as it is compact and portable. However, you can also get a mobile ham radio. You will need to figure this out, depending on your needs.
  • We recommend beginners to get a dual-band, dual receive radio. If you are looking to operate a radio in your car mostly, you can opt for mobile ham radio. But, if you are looking for one that travels with you wherever you go, the handheld is the one to go for.
Can you use a ham radio without a license?

If you’re wondering the same, the answer to it is both yes and no. Some of the ham radio services you can use without a license include listening to the FM radio and weather radio. You can also listen to local municipality radio.

Additionally, it allows you to scan local frequencies and use the in-built flashlight.

However, without a license, you cannot transmit. Many newbies shy away from ham radio owing to the time and effort it requires to obtain a permit. However, by putting in some effort, you can legally use the ham as an excellent backup communication tool.

What happens if you use a ham radio without a license?

When you are a licensed operator, the FCC ensures that the frequencies do not overlap with those of another user. If you are an unlicensed user, you may not be able to get through the same channels.

Additionally, if you get reported, the FCC can fine you, which can mean thousands of dollars!

Can I use a ham radio as a walkie-talkie?
Some operators find the amateur radio to be quite similar to a walkie-talkie. But, due to the power imbalance, it can be illegal to connect a ham radio with a walkie-talkie. So a rule of thumb is that it can connect with another ham radio, but not to any other communication tool.
Can I use a ham radio as a CB?
It is illegal for ham radio to connect with a CB. Most manufacturers in the US design their radio equipment with frequencies locked out to prevent accidental interference. However, modifications are possible to operate on other frequencies, but it is unlawful.

Ready to buy Your First Ham Radio?

When it comes to buying the best ham radios for beginners, there are various factors to take into consideration. If you’re looking to get the ultimate best, you need to review power output, memory channels, price, and construction, among other features.

We have discussed some of the top 7 radios in the market today. It shall prove helpful in making an informed decision. If you choose any of the above-listed products, the experience shall undoubtedly be worthwhile.

The BaoFeng BF-F8HP is a hot-selling handheld ham radio, and our top choice. It meets all communication needs and is also beginner-friendly!

Begin your new journey by finding the best transceiver that offers responsiveness and reliability like none other.

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