Best Handheld Ham Radio for Beginners

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Do you want to know the best handheld ham radio for beginners in 2020? We have a list the five best radios that fit different budgets and newbie skill levels. Note that they are not arranged in any particular way.

We highlight both the pros and cons of each ham radio unit so you can make an informed decision regarding which ham radio you can purchase.

If you’re new and unsure whether amateur radio is something that you will do in the long run then you can try one of the more affordable ham radios in our list. If you’re serious about amateur radio, then you might want to try the more durable yet expensive units.

Yes, that purchase represents a bit of an investment but our selection includes ham radios that are well worth the cost. Our list includes some of the best ham radio for beginners in the market today.

Retevis RT82

The first on our list of best handheld ham radio for beginners is the reliable Retevis RT82.

This is a two way analog and digital dual band radio. It is a versatile ham radio but easy enough even for beginners to use. It can transmit both on UHF and VHF bands.

This amateur radio unit can store up to 3,000 channels. It can also record a total of 8 hours of audio, which is quite impressive. You can also store up to 10,000 contacts on this unit.

If you’re a beginner but are rather serious about your amateur radio career, then the RT82 may be a good long-term investment.


  • Lone worker function
  • IP67 weatherproofing
  • Very versatile
  • Easy to use
  • Dual band handheld ham radio


  • Since it can operate on VHF and UHF, it may require some practice for beginners to get the hang of it.
  • Slightly pricey


Next on our list is an entry level ham radio—the TYT MD-380 DMR. DMR stands for digital mobile radio. These models are relatively new comers as far as amateur radio is concerned but they are proving to be quite a good addition to anyone’s collection.

The MD-380 is inexpensive, which is great for newbies who are just testing the waters as it were, and it is easy to use. Despite its simple design and limited features, it is still a capable radio.

It only has a single band ranging from 400 to 480 MHz and it allows beginners to try using a GMRS handset. It can broadcast using analog mode but if you switch to that you won’t be able to send and receive text messages.

Note that this ham radio is best suited for indoor use. It doesn’t come with a protective exterior shell like the ones that can be used for outdoors and survival.


  • Simple design and features, perfect for beginners
  • Highly programmable, allows newbies to practice
  • Easy to use and easy on the budget
  • One of the inexpensive ham radios in our list


  • The numerous features can be challenging for newbies
  • Programming this radio can be difficult and has a bit of a learning curve too

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

The BaoFeng BF-F8HP comes with a full kit, which adds value to your purchase even for a beginner. Think of it as an investment into your new hobby. This is one of the more popular hams in our list of best handheld ham radio for beginners.

Note that this is actually an upgrade from a previous design model. Having said that, expect it to be pricier than the other handhelds in this list. Nevertheless, the extra features and capacity will be well worth it especially for serious amateur radio enthusiasts.

Note that the BF-F8HP is outfitted with a battery that is 30% bigger than the previous model. That significantly increases its total operating time—which means there will be fewer times when you need to charge it.

Don’t let the size of this radio worry you. Despite its looks, it is light and is quite slim. It’s still a very portable and it may be a good option in case you want to use it outdoors or when you’re hunting. You can check with other portable ham radio reviews if you wish.


  • Lots of features to practice on
  • Powerful radio with extra boost in battery life
  • Durable and lightweight, portable ham radio
  • Suitable for outdoor use


  • The numerous features can be challenging for newbies
  • Programming this radio can be difficult and has a bit of a learning curve too

Quansheng UV-R50

Next in our list of best handheld ham radio for beginners is the Quansheng UV-R50. If you’re a bit short on the budget, then may be this radio will be a great option. It is small but durable with 128 channels. It comes with weatherproofing features so beginners can try their amateur radio skills in the outdoors.

The UV-R50 features the auto squelch technology, which can be helpful for beginners who are still fumbling around on the dials and channels. This feature automatically cancels out any interference, which improves the clarity of the audio without making you make a lot of adjustments.

The radio itself is a good option for beginners and is quite useful too. However, you can’t say the same for the user’s manual that comes with the package. The English is broken and the instructions are kind of vague. However, there are guides and tutorials that you can find online, which compensates for this downside.


  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to use
  • Auto squelch technology
  • Weatherproofing


  • Poorly worded user’s manual
  • No CHIRP technology—i.e. you need to program it manually

Yaesu FT-60R

What is the most powerful handheld ham radio in our list? The Yaesu FT-60R is probably it. It is dual band, which means it can broadcast in both VHF and UHF bands. You can say that it is a notch above the Quansheng and BaoFeng models mentioned above.

It has a larger range, which means you can transmit and receive communications from other ham radio enthusiasts rather quickly. Simply put, it will be less frustrating for newbies since they don’t need to deal with interference and other annoyances that much.

It offers 1,000 channels, which includes emergency channels within the 800-900 Mhz band. It also features the NOAA Weather Alert function, which can be useful if you need to need to know the current weather conditions.

This weather alert will be quite useful when you’re out hunting or out in the woods camping. The FT-60R is built with durability in mind. Aside from weatherproofing features, it is constructed with a solid aluminum body, which allows it to take a lot of abuse.


  • Built for outdoorsy users (durable and weatherproofed)
  • Plenty of channels to try
  • Weather alert
  • Wider range


  • It can be a bit pricey
  • It takes some practice to learn how to program this radio

This completes our list of the best handheld ham radio for beginners. We have included both pricey and budget friendly options. Remember to choose the model that has the features that you want to start with as you practice your amateur radio skills.

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