10 Best Ham Radio Transceivers to buy in 2020- Reviews

Without any doubt, ham radios are one of the most widely used two-way radios out there. You can rely on them during emergencies and they are a great way to start your journey into radio communication.

The availability of hundreds of ham radios out there in the market makes it’s fairly very difficult to pick a high quality radio that suits for you. Tell you what, even the experienced ones fail at times in picking the right one.

However, selecting the right ham radio transceiver is very essential and it need not be this complicated too. I believe this is where, we xRoadGPS, comes into play.

We have tested and reviewed some of the best ham radios on the market in this article. Our list involves some of the most popular amateur radios to get your job done.

Top Ham Radio Transceivers- Comparison

Some of the high quality ham radio transceivers in the market are listed below:

  1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP – Best in the Market
  2. ICOM 7300 02- Killer Base Station Ham Radio
  3. AnyTone AT-5888UV- Great Mobile Ham
  4. BaoFeng UV-5R – Best Budget-friendly Amateur Radio
  5. ICOM 2300H- Premium Choice
  6. Radioddity GD-77
  7. Yaesu FT-450D
  8. BTECH UV-50X2
  9. BaoFeng UV-82HP
  10. ICOM IC-718

We have provided a comparison of our top picks below. This will help you choose the right one for your requirement- may it be for a hobby, emergency preparedness, newbies, and whatnot.

ProductHighlight
BaoFeng BF-F8HP
Check Price on Amazon
Upgraded UV-5R version  with improved construction, battery, and antenna
Extended battery life, best for outdoor use
Exclusive customer help and warranty support
Recommended for amateurs
ICOM 7300 02
Check Price on Amazon
Perfect field-day radio
Solid and well-built rig
Outstanding value for money
Efficient RF gain for static and noisy conditions
AnyTone AT-5888UV
Check Price on Amazon
Best for amateur and commercial uses
Compact design
50-watt capability at an affordable price
Straightforward operation and simple programming
BaoFeng UV-5R
Check Price on Amazon
Great entry-level handheld unit
Excellent battery life
Superb value for money
Offers tons of features
ICOM 2300H
Check Price on Amazon
Recommended for outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and biking
Tough construction
Compact design
Simple user interface
Radioddity GD-77
Check Price on Amazon
Fantastic DMR radio for the cost
Perfect for commercial use
Solid and rugged construction
Compact design fits in palm easily
Yaesu FT-450D
Check Price on Amazon
Lightweight and durable design
Great choice for beginners
Good value with many features
Full of features and offers exceptional filtering
BTECH UV-50X2
Check Price on Amazon
Highly reliable and powerful unit
Recommended for beginners
Includes DTMF microphone
Reasonably priced
BaoFeng UV-82HP
No products found.
Sturdy casing
Increased speaker output
Wonderful sensitivity and selectivity
Improved acoustics and design from the UV-5R
ICOM IC-718
No products found.
Compact design
Decent entry-level rig
Handles USB, LSB, AM, CW, RTTY, and digital communications
Great radio for the price

Why Should You get a Ham Radio?

Amateur radio is known to be a ‘geeky’ hobby that brings people together. You can use it at work, or to talk across the town. Most importantly, it’s fun, educational, and in some cases, life-saving too!

  1. One prime reason to consider getting into ham radio is that it lets you stay connected even when disasters strike!
  2. It’s also the ‘OG’ social network meant to keep people connected.
  3. Besides casual communication, you can also get critical information during times of crisis.
  4. It offers a pretty unique experience where you can track contact with astronauts from space!
  5. Many ham transceivers offer emergency and weather alerts. These can come in handy when traveling cross-country. It is one of the prominent reasons why amateur radio appeals to professional drivers and truckers!
  6. It is also a versatile piece of technology and can be used for many other functions! You can use your transceiver as a scanner or use it to relay messages through digital amateur radio techniques.

10 Best ham Radio Reviews

Based on our tests and reviews of 100+ ham radios, we have picked top 10 options in the market. Below is the detailed reviews of each of them based on our rankings:

1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP – Best HT for price, features, and functions!

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

If you are looking for the perfect Ham radio, get his beast! At fewer than a hundred bucks, this ham can be be your best pal!

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Neat button size and placement
Well-built and durable
Larger battery and excellent battery life
Improved antenna performance
Quick and easy programming using CHIRP
Slight learning curve

The unwavering trust of millions in BaoFeng has resulted in consistent high-quality by the brand. This new and upgraded design delivers bang for the buck with its balanced aesthetics, high power, and remarkable performance.

If you’re relatively new, you will find that it has all the functions easily laid out and accessible to the user. For programming, you can use the CHIRP software, which makes things much more straightforward.

  • BF-F8HP offers a useful scan function and comes with a V-85 high-gain antenna.
  • The included whip handles 8-watts of power, which notably improves reception and transmission.
  • At first glance, the device is pretty lightweight. It has a durable plastic casing and offers a great feel in hand.
  • Our favorite feature of the transceiver is the button placement!

In terms of usability, new users may expect a slight learning curve. However, thanks to the ham community, beginners can find tutorials online to get a head-start.

As with most handhelds, you do need a taller, high-quality antenna to reach further away. The external whip can help in areas with weaker signals, improving transmission quality.

What we love the most about BF-F8HP is its usefulness during emergencies. It’s a terrific ham radio for SHTF preppers.

Overall, for the price paid, this ham offers value with the number of features it provides. Begin your journey safely with the BaoFeng BF-F8HP and then move up to other advanced models once you’ve got enough experience.

2. ICOM 7300 02 – Highly recommended base station with all the killer specs

ICOM 7300

In a nutshell, Icom 7300 02 hits a home run. Not only is it robust and highly sensitive, but it is also simple to navigate, giving other amateur mobile transceivers a run for their money!

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Great sensitivity
Includes a built-in tuner
Appropriate spacing between knobs
Spectacular receive capability
Intuitive interface
For a detailed guide, customers need to explore the disc provided alongside the basic “getting started” manual

Get ready to be showered by compliments on the audio quality of this rig. It is surprisingly quiet and helps you pick out weak signals with ease.

In fact, ICOM 7300 is one of the top ham radio base stations in the market today.

In terms of usability, I found the interface to be pretty intuitive. You do not need to navigate through multiple menu options. Any beginner can skip the HT and jump on to 7300 02 with a reasonable learning curve.

Another highlight of the Icom 7300 02 is that it is firmware driven. That means you can easily download and install any updates and revisions.

If you’re not too fond of touch screens, you may not like this Icom model. However, a touch screen on a base unit sure makes sense to us! It reduces multi-function knobs, making the features far more accessible and clearly laid out.

I’m thoroughly impressed with the IC-7300’s higher function operation, user-friendliness, and functions.

The only minor drawback is that the transceiver comes with a starter manual. The full manual is available on the CD, which only requires extra effort. With that being said, would I recommend this unit? YES!

3. AnyTone AT-5888UV – Best mobile base station you can get under $250!

AnyTone AT 5888UV

This AnyTone transceiver is as good as two radios! It offers full dual-band operation with a twin display too!

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Fantastic VHF/UHF coverage
Superior receiver sensitivity
Easy to program using CHIRP
Package includes USB capable
Transmits as advertised
Slow scan

It’s well worth a place in our list of top-rated ham radio transceivers. Not only does it look fantastic, but it also comes packed with handy features. It’s the best deal you’ll find for a VHF/UHF transceiver, that too, with a capacity of 50 watts!

If you are looking for a top quality mobile ham radio, then don’t settle with anything less than this beast.

Most importantly, it boasts four power ranges, which makes hitting distant repeaters or simplex operation convenient. Additionally, you can program the AT-5888UV using CHIRP with the programming cable included in the package.

The only downside to this high-functioning unit is the slow scan. The best way to overcome this is to skip the options for non-priority frequencies to scan.

Another point worth mentioning is that you can use it for public safety, relief services, search and rescue operations, especially when on a tight budget.

If you don’t have the bucks to splurge on big names, then the AnyTone AT-5888UV offers excellent value and functioning on the VHF/UHF bands.

4. BaoFeng UV-5R – Top-rated and feature-packed HT for budget buyers

BaoFeng UV-5R

There’s simply so much to love about UV-5R that it’s difficult to know where to begin!

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Highly configurable
Decent sound quality
Easily programmed using CHIRP
Price-friendly
Not the best build quality
Not FRS, GMRS or MURS certified

Numerous Chinese brands dominate the handheld ham radio scene, and BaoFeng radios top the list! These highly affordable yet attractive units offer pretty much everything that a beginner could need!

The multi-band transceiver offers extensive frequency coverage along with premium monitoring capability. In terms of specs, UV-5R is a complete powerhouse.

This entry level amateur radio delivers a fantastic system for users looking for work-and-play!

The design is modern, too, meaning it fits into the palm or pocket without any trouble. Moreover, the long-lasting battery and durable casing make it the perfect companion for all your outdoor activities.

In short, the UV-5R is a little marvel radio. It’s customizable, which means you can use bigger antennas, program frequencies of your interest, and mount it in a vehicle.

5. ICOM 2300H – A tremendous all-rounded premium mobile radio

ICOM 2300H

There’s no doubt that Icom knows what it’s doing when it comes to mobile amateur radios. IC-2300H confirms that; it impresses in about every category.

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Good-quality microphone
Rock-solid radio
Excellent high power simplex operation
Easy to use rig
Does not include a cooling fan
Complicated user manual

The best aspect of the IC-2300H is the crisp and clear audio – it makes travel more enjoyable. Furthermore, the alpha-numeric display and backlit buttons aid nighttime operation, making viewing and driving far safer.

Some of its other features include:

  • DTMF autodial
  • Auto squelch
  • Automatic repeater
  • Timeout time
  • Auto power-off
  • 207 channels memory

This Icom model has a robust built, strong enough to withstand harsh conditions. However, it does lack a cooling fan, which leads to heat build-up.

But, its unique and handy features make up for this minor drawback. It includes a child lock to prevent accidental transmissions and supports programmed scans, memory scans, and full scans.

The manual is unnecessarily complicated, but thankfully the interface is pretty intuitive and can be learned relatively quickly.

6. Radioddity GD-77 – Fantastic low-cost, DMR-capable HT on the market!

Radioddity GD-77

If you think ham is an expensive hobby, you need to think again! The Radioddity GD-77 not only has VHF and UHF capabilities but an FM and DMR system, as well. Thanks to its sensitive receiver and RF performance, users get outstanding RX audio reports.

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Spectacular overall design
Crystal-clear audio
Easy to navigate
Fairly quick scan
Extended charging time
DMR capability is complex

DMR seems pretty daunting and intimidating at first. However, after watching a couple of tutorials online, you’ll be up and running in no time!

The GD-77 also offers a handy dual-wait feature that lets you monitor DMR and local analog repeaters simultaneously. You may want to note that the package includes the programming cable and antenna – making it a super affordable package!

Here’s what we experienced with this Radioddity model. The audio was crisp and noise-free on the digital and analog channels. Additionally, the monochrome display appeared to be small but offered decent readability.

For its specs, usability, and cost – you cannot beat this dual-band DMR radio!

7. Yaesu FT-450D – Worthy investment for novices

Yaesu FT 450 D

The Yaesu 450D is well-suited to those interested in taking their first step in operating a ham base transceiver. It’s easy to get started with and has plenty to offer.

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Easy to operate
Includes a built-in antenna tuner
Great audio reports
Easy to follow instructions
Slight learning curve
Limited knobs, which perform a variety of functions

What we loved about the 450D was its audio quality on SSB and AM. Moreover, digital communication modes are also fantastic.

Although acclaimed as an entry-level unit, it has a steep learning curve for digital features. Once you spend time getting the hang of the functions, the transceiver will be a dream to use!

Among its list of handy features is the in-built antenna tuner. It reduces the cost and effort involved in the tuning process.

Its lightweight makes the device is semi-portable. You can carry it outdoors to stay connected with the world. Furthermore, it also includes a cooling fan, meaning the unit can be mounted in a vehicle.

8. BTECH UV-50X2 – A well-featured mobile HAM radio in a compact housing

BTECH UV-50X2

Who says mobile radios have to look dull and generic? That’s not the case with UV-50X2. Its modern design, coupled with premium features, gives a satisfying ham experience.

Check Price on Amazon

ProsCons
Easy to understand instructions
Straightforward to program
Good quality sound
Convenient to mount in areas with limited space
Small display
Complicated manual

The radio uses upgraded firmware and internal hardware. This X-series model also introduces their all-new dual-sync mode, enabling you to sync two different channels and display their frequencies simultaneously. 

If you’re a professional driver, you’re going to love this feature! The UV-50X2 comes with a fully customizable LCD screen. You can adjust the brightness and choose among nine colors and set alpha-numeric names to your channels.

We found the rig to be economically priced, given the range of features it has to offer. Moreover, beginners must experiment with its unique functions before moving on to more advanced units.

9. BaoFeng UV-82HP – Hands down, an efficient transceiver for the price!

No products found.

We have been fans of the UV-82HP for quite some time now. Enormously durable with massive battery life, this BaoFeng transceiver holds a special place in our round-up!

No products found.

ProsCons
Exceptional customer service
Long-lasting battery life
Available in several colors
Longer and more flexible antenna
Flimsy accessories
Slightly challenging to program

If you need a robust transceiver for emergencies or relief operations, do not look any further.

This affordable piece of technology has everything you need for outdoor operations. Its battery easily lasts for over two days, with about 5 hours of total usage in a day.

The build is rock solid, and the speaker delivers crisp and clear audio with exceptional reception.

Did you know that UV-82HP is a splendid choice for satellite communication? Yes, you read that right. When paired with a high-quality Yagi, you can communicate with astronauts from the Space station.

The UV-82HP unit is quite the range among novices for its uncomplicated menu options and detailed user guidelines. Moreover, BaoFeng’s exceptional customer service can help users master the device.

If you’re interested in the versatility of UV-82HP, you’ll need to splurge on external antennas. In our opinion, the investment is undoubtedly worth it.

10. ICOM IC-718 – Cost-effective and reliable backup rig option!

No products found.

Let’s cut to the chase: the IC-718 is one of the most sought-after, budget-friendly base transceivers money can buy!

No products found.

ProsCons
Reliable and easy to set up
Semi-portable
Covers long distance and offers smooth operation
Not recommended for use in vehicles due to heat build-up
Single antenna jack

This compact-sized radio has been winning critics over with its balance of quality, features, and performance. After experimenting with the IC-718, many beginners scale-up towards more advanced rigs. It is also an excellent option if you’re looking for a second unit.

  • With this Icom transceiver, you get a simplistic design with fewer knobs and buttons.
  • Moreover, the brand provides a straightforward and well-written guide to help you through the installation process.
  • In addition to the user guide, the device also offers a built-in antenna tuner.

We wouldn’t recommend using this as a mobile radio due to heat build-up. It can potentially damage the components causing you a loss of a few hundred bucks. However, you may set it up in your shack to communicate with locals and get critical information.

It’s quite impossible to beat Icom 718 when it comes to value for money!

What to Look for in a Ham?- Buying Guide

There is a host of equipment when it comes to ham radio. You can find a portable, handheld transceiver or a mobile receiver for your vehicle. You can also choose to set up a base station at home. Additionally, the equipment also varies according to bands, so it is best to select a transceiver that best suits your needs.

Bands

The specific set of frequencies outlined by the FCC includes Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF).

The VHF band is reserved for 144-148 MHz. It allows for line of sight communication and is relatively reliable. It’s among the top band choice of most users as it has lesser chances of interference.

The UHF band ranges from 420-450 MHz. Compared to VHF, this has a shorter wavelength, making it susceptible to interference. However, the UHF’s more extensive frequency range offers significant audio signal quality and higher bandwidth operation.

Type of ham radio

There are different types of ham radio transceivers. Choosing the right type is very crucial to get your job done.

When it comes to VHF and UHF bands, handheld radios are the top choice. You can easily find entry-level units at a lower cost and high-end, feature-rich models for the experts.  These lightweight and easy to carry HTs are ideal for outdoor operation.

One of the most popular models is the BaoFeng BF-F8HP that offers durability, power, range, and more!

You can also choose a mobile transceiver for VHF and UHF operation. Compared to the handheld units, these have more power and features. You can also find multi-mode transceivers that operate at HF, VHF, and UHF bands.

These can be mounted in the dash or under the car-seat. The mobile radio, coupled with a high-quality mag-mount antenna, can offer a drastic shift in range.

Lastly, when it comes to base units, these are the ideal choice for preppers. It can get you on the HF band and have you reach thousands of miles away. Although bulky and expensive, these are bang for the buck given the power and range they deliver.

Cost

If you’re concerned about cost, you need not worry. More and more brands continue to launch affordable yet high-functioning units. You can easily find HTs priced between 30 to 60 dollars.

However, mobile and base units can be found priced at $500 or above.

FAQs

Is ham radio the same as a CB radio?

It is incorrect to classify ham and CB radios as the same. Amateur radio certainly isn’t the same as CB.

A critical difference between the two is the power at which they transmit. The power handling of ham radio is 1500 watts, whereas CB is limited to 4 watts and 12 watts for SSB. This difference in power means that CBers get a reasonably short range.

Furthermore, ham operators experience wide frequency bands, which provide access to several channels. On the other hand, with a CB, the frequency band is capped at 27 MHz. That is why CB is mostly only used for voice transmissions.

What equipment is needed for ham radio?

The equipment required for ham communication has changed over the years as technology progressed.

The equipment involves a transceiver; it can be handheld, mobile, or base station transceiver. Next, depending on your interest, you can wish to add power cable, antenna, scanner, receivers, and far more!

Remember, you need to get a high performing Ham radio antenna to boost the range.

The best way to select the right equipment is to decide on the type of frequency and communication method you wish to use.

Where to buy ham radios?

When it comes to purchasing an amateur radio transceiver, it is incredibly critical to buy it from reputable stores. There exist many cheap knockoffs of the original products, making it difficult to be sure of their authenticity. Moreover, several users tend to sell the real deal at much higher prices by adding profits and taxes.

When buying from a reputable store or dealer, you can find some of the best deals!

You can also find economical, second-hand gear at flea markets, garage sales, and ham events. Keep an eye out on the internet or contact your local amateur radio club to know about these events. There are chances you may end up getting the desired brand and model at a much lower price.

How far can a HAM radio reach?

The average range between two handheld ham transceivers is 1-2 miles. On the other hand, you get up to 18 miles between two base station rigs.

However, this may not be the same everywhere. Range depends on several factors like weather conditions, terrain, antenna size, and power.

Is it illegal to use a ham radio without a license?

After purchasing the required equipment, you can listen in to whatever signal is coming in. But, if you wish to transmit over the ham radio frequencies, you must first obtain a license. Broadcasting without a permit can land you in trouble with hefty fines!

However, you may use the amateur radio to transmit without a license in case of a life and death situation.

Conclusion

If you are a newbie, interested in venturing into the world of amateur radio, you’ve landed at the right place. Start by selecting the right equipment. Depending on your interest and requirement, you can choose between different types, brands, and models.

We believe that this article on top ham radio reviews has helped you in choosing the perfect product.

If you’re new and want to try out ham without breaking the bank, BF-F8HP is a spectacular option! If you need a sturdy and durable companion for the road, what better than the AT-5888UV?

Have you got money to shell out? The ICOM 7300 02 is a feature-rich base unit you must try out!

Last update on 2020-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Spread the love