The 10 Best Ham Radios
This wiki has been updated 12 times since it was first published in March of 2019. Whether you're a hobbyist looking to invest in a new communications system or a cautious prepper making sure that you have all the necessary gear to survive natural disasters, alien invasions, and the zombie apocalypse, one of these ham radios should be perfect for your needs. We've included a variety of both handheld and desktop models that will suit a wide range of budgets and applications. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 04, 2020:
All of the entries on our previous list were viable in terms of functionality and build, however several of them had been experiencing stock issues or had even been fully discontinued over the past year. In their place we've added a variety of new choices that are equally worthy of a spot on our list.
The Icom 7300 and Xiegu G90 are definitely our two highest-quality additions, and although they're not the most expensive models on the market they still cost a pretty penny. Their prices are not without justification though, and while they may be a bit much for a beginner they both make perfect choices for avid ham operators who are looking for advanced features and heavy-duty builds. Only the Icom 7300 features a touchscreen display, but both model's screens offer vivid color, high detail, and refresh rates that allow for live scopes of various kinds. The Icom 7300 is simply an excellent choice for anybody's home rig, and it's packed with useful features such as the ability to record audio to an SD card. Its 100-watt output power is also likely to be perfectly adequate for a majority of users. The Xiegu G90 is about half the price and is geared towards those who want something mobile, though it would also work perfectly well as a small desktop device. It's similarly feature rich, and while it lacks a touchscreen its interface is still notably user friendly. Those who prefer a desk- or dashboard-mounted experience but aren't looking to spend too much might be better suited by a more basic model like the AnyTone AT-778UV.
We also added a few handheld walkie-talkie-style selections, and while all of them are on the more inexpensive side that doesn't mean their appeal is limited to beginners. This style of radio is often favored by emergency-preparedness enthusiasts and even experienced operators who are looking for a portable model they can use as a backup. The Yaesu FT-60R is already considered an affordable choice, but those who desire an even lower price point may prefer the Radioddity GD-77 or the BaoFeng UV-5R, the latter of which is one of the least expensive choices on the market. The Yaesu FT-60R is definitely the best in terms of build quality, but those who are just starting out with the intention of upgrading later on will be well served with the BaoFeng UV-5R as their first radio. The Radioddity GD-77 sits right in the middle in terms of price and build, and it's also the only one of the three to offer DMR functionality. DMR is a digital signal standard that offers a few distinct advantages over analog broadcasting, but while it's definitely worth experimenting with the GD-77 still makes a perfectly fine choice even if this feature is never used.
After selecting your radio you may want to consider accessories such as antennas or frequency counters, however you're not out of the woods just yet. Before broadcasting on your new setup be sure that you're aware of all local and national regulations, as in most places ham broadcasting requires a license, and even then some frequencies you may be able to access are actually illegal to transmit on. It's always best to be an informed and responsible amateur radio operator.
March 29, 2019:
For much of this category, there's a pretty direct relationship between wattage and price, meaning that the farther out you want to be able to talk or listen, the more you're going to have to spend, especially if you don't want to have to make additional investments in larger antennae or amplifiers. The Kenwood model that made it number one, offers the most power of anything on our list.
Another Kenwood model that should have earned a higher spot is their TH-D74A, which would be an incredible performer in emergencies with its reliable GPS location and color screen, but its best features also wound up being the things that killed its battery life.
Anyone new to the hobby would do well to start out with the one BaoFeng piece that we included, as it's a cheap, but steady selection.