Best Portable HF Ham Radio Transceiver

You may be wondering what a transceiver is; well, it is a unit comprising both a receiver and a transmitter. Also known as Ham Radios, these devices have become quite popular among various professions.

HF Ham transceivers are best known for their capability to communicate over long distances via relay towers and satellites.

In terms of technology, they are impressively versatile – making it a challenge for you to select from different radio models. The good thing is, you shouldn’t fret over a “wrong” choice of model or brand because most of them perform very well on the basics.

To help you select the best of the lot, we have put together a list of the top 10 best HF Ham radio transceivers in the market.

Our Top 10 Picks

1. Yaesu FT-450D

Yaesu FT-450D

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If you are new to HF transceivers, the Yaesu FT-450D is the best device to start with. It is among the most popular due to its pocket-friendly price and advanced features.

This receiver transmits an output power of 100-watts and has a support for the 6-160m bands (UHF, HF and VHF). It comes with the radio frequency applications of AM (Amplified Modulation) and FM (Frequency Modulation).

The Yaesu FT-450D has a portable weight of 12.9 pounds and a 12v 30-amp battery that enables you to travel wherever or still remain in communication at home in case of a power outage.

It comes with a built-in antenna, a facility for auto-tuning and can receive short waves ranging from 30KHZ to 35MHZ. This receiver outshines its more expensive competitors by far with its classic design, illuminated key buttons and the MH-31A8j knobs.

However, it has a limited internal auto-tuner.

2. Yaesu VX-6R

Yaesu VX-6R

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You definitely don’t want to drown or damage your radio; hence the Yaesu VX-6R will become your best buddy especially if you mostly operate in remote and rugged areas.

It is known for its durability as it is protected from heavy knocks and major drops by its solid magnesium casing. Yet, its highest selling point is the excellent waterproofing.

It is fully submersible and has the capability to remain six feet under water for about 30 minutes. Hence, no damage would be caused to it in the event of a storm or a quick river dunk.

The Yaesu VX-6R comes with a backlit keyboard, a large LCD screen and anti-slip surface that is heavily textured.

Its FNB-101 Lithium battery can be recharged and stores 1500 mAh. You can listen to FM and AM local and international radio stations enhanced by its large channel storage capacity of almost 900.

3. Kenwood TH-D74A

Kenwood TH-D74A

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This extremely versatile device supports Bluetooth, a micro SD card, color display, add to it a built-in GPS and GPS tracking data.

Kenwood’s TH-D74A is by default an analog radio which supports a dual-frequency that allows you to receive and send VHF and UHF simultaneously.

It has a 12-ounce frame making it portable. It makes digital communication possible via D-STAR and can handle a little spill of water or dust attributed to the IP54 ingress rating.

It may cost you a few extra dollars but no other model competes with the Kenwood TH-D74A when it comes to extra features.

4. BaoFeng BF-F8HP

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

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Known for its long battery life of 2000mAh, the BaoFeng BF-F8HP stands taller than its competitors. On mid-range power mode, it can go up to 24 hours, and 20 hours while on high range setting. So you will be spared the hassle of carrying extra batteries and the frustration of your radio going flat mid-conversation.

In addition to the extra battery charge, it comes with a built-in FM radio, a flashlight, a seven-inch antenna that is high-gain and a maximum power output boosted to 8W.

The company has also included a “concierge service” for warranty support and faster customer service.

If your desire is better battery life, then the BF-F8HP is your best choice even though most BaoFeng radio prices are quite competitive.

5. TYT Tytera MD-380

TYT Tytera MD-380

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This hand-held digital device weighs only nine ounces, yet still rates highly on features. Its light weight is a welcome relief if you loath carrying weight or anything cumbersome.

In terms of battery performance, you can get 24 hours or more from a single battery as it can run on both low power and mid-range power modes. However, you may need to purchase a spare battery as it can take almost 8 hours to get it fully charged.

Most digital hf transceivers may require some extra expertise to have them set up but “how-to” guides are available online for this specific model.

It comes with 1000 memory channels and supports standard digital features like encryption, text messages and group calling. It has the UHF 400-480 MHz band widths, a programming cable and a pair of antennas.

If you are looking for an inexpensive and lightweight option, the MD-380 is the best choice.

6. BaoFeng UV-5R

BaoFeng UV-5R

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This is one of the cheapest transceivers in the market. If you are on a budget and still want to get a feel of the ham radio with minimal financial commitment, the UV-5R turns out to be your best option.

The low price doesn’t mean it has compromised on the main features. It has UHF/VHF support. To elongate battery life, it has low and high power modes, an FM radio reception and a built-in flashlight.

The range provided by its standard antenna isn’t great but you can add a high-gain alternative that is inexpensive which can boost the receive and transmit distance like the Nagoya NA-771.

It is still considered best by most experienced users for backcountry use since it’s cheaper to replace in the case of a fall or damage.

7. Yaesu FT-857D

Yaesu FT-857D

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Yaesu is well-known for its quality radios. The FT-857D is one of them. Specifically designed for in-car use, its small frame allows it to be placed in dash slots or under the dash. Despite its small size, it still contains the features found in larger transceivers.

It includes an FM broadcast reception, 200 memory channels, supports HF, VHF and UHF bands and can adjust the power output from 5W-100W.

You might find the menu interface a bit challenging at the onset, but once you get used to it, it becomes easier to access a wider range of its settings and features.

If you need a reliable radio for your car or truck, then the Yaesu FT-857D is a brilliant choice.

8. Kenwood TH-D72A

Kenwood TH-D72A

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Backed by its solid construction, reasonable pricing and rare features, the Kenwood TH-D72A is unmatched when it comes to transceivers.

It is among the few devices that come with a built-in GPS receiver which can export data via the USB port to a PC mapping software.

You can use it continuously for about 6 hours at 5W (highest) output mode and can reduce up to 0.05W, with over 30 hours of battery life.

When it comes to weatherproofing and durability, the D72A meets both the IP54 and MIL-STD810 standards. It also supports the VHF and UHF bands.

9. Alinco DX-SR8T

Alinco DX-SR8T

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It comes with an output power of 100 Watts and has most features from other brands incorporated in it.

It operates from 30KHZ to 35MHZ and supports bands of 10-160M, with 600 memory channels. It functions with a 12-Volt DC at the highest rate of 21 Amps.

This device has 3 power levels with dual VFOs and 10HZ display. In case of a weak electrical signal, it can pre-amplify to strong output signals.

Setting up this device can be a tad bit cumbersome though.

It is durable; the package includes an owner’s manual, power cables and a microphone.

10. BTECH UV-5X3

BTECH UV-5X3

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This is a tri-band transceiver designed with a solid outlook and versatile construction. It supports both UHF and VHF transceivers.

It has 128 memory channels, can make both international and local calls and is very ideal for outdoors.

Its battery capacity is 1500mAh which is rechargeable, has 3 power settings and it can keep track of the changing weather conditions around you.

How to choose the best HF Ham Transceiver

Now that we have discussed some of the best 10 portable HF Ham transceivers, what’s next?

You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed as you try to narrow down on the best option for your personal needs. This is where this buying guide comes in to assist you.

Here are the things you need to consider before finalizing on your best purchase.

Factors to consider while purchasing portable HF transceivers

Frequency

You have to first figure out where you will be frequently using it, whether it is on open space or in densely populated areas. This will help you get the proper frequency allocation. Low frequency that is below 1GHZ can operate well in areas with obstacles like towers, walls and buildings due to its short wavelength.

Quality of Product

ou don’t want to purchase a transceiver that will break down in just a few months. You would definitely want one that is durable and of high quality. So it is important that you factor in the quality of the product before you purchase.

Display

You may need to decide if you prefer the illuminated keypad or the alphanumeric LCD unit. This will depend on whether you will be using it during the day or at night. If you’ll need to use it at night, then the illuminated keypad will be your best option.

Power Output

The higher the output power, the higher the signal transmission capacity. Consider how far you would want your voice heard.

Design

Consider the kind of space you want to place it. Is it for in-vehicle use or the rugged outdoors? Also, please choose a design that makes it easy for you to operate. For instance, you could choose a transceiver with a touch screen.

Program

Do you prefer a device that is manually programmed or one that can be programmed using a computer? The latter option will save you tons of time and money.

Features

Each transceiver has some basic features. However, a device with more features would be ideal as it is user-friendly.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

How many types of transceiver licenses are there?

There are 3 types of licenses. The General License, the Technical License and the Amateur Extra License.

To qualify for the any of the licenses, there is a test that you have to take.

Can anyone use an HF Transceiver?

Yes! Anyone can use a transceiver irrespective of their location or race. You will however need to get a license and adhere to your government’s policy on the usage of transceivers.

What is a HF Transceiver?

Also known as an “Amateur Radio” or a “ham Radio”, it is a communication device comprising of a receiver and transmitter.  It can be used for personal or commercial purposes.

If you are interested in one, you will have to take a test for you to qualify for a license.

Can one listen to a ham radio without a license?

Yes, you can listen or receive signals without a license. However, you will need a license to transmit or create radio signals.

What distance can a HF transceiver cover?

If you have a 2-meter hf radio, you can reach other ham radio users 15-20km away. A radio using a repeater frequency can reach hundreds of kilometers, while a high frequency radio with favorable conditions can reach any corner of the world.

Conclusion

Recently, the HF Transceiver has gained popularity due to its portability, hand-held features and mobility; not forgetting its superiority over phone communication and internet.

Its capacity to transmit signals over long distances makes it more powerful than the CB radio or business band, hence its ever-increasing demand.

It is important to remember to check with your government’s policy on their usage, as well as acquire a license for it.

Based on this buying guide, we believe we have placed you on the right path towards acquiring one and that you are well-equipped with the necessary information to purchase the best transceiver that suits your needs.

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