Which HT is Right For Me?

June 2018
David Golden
Culver City ARES

For our CCARES group here in Culver City, we have our base station Emergency Operation Center – EOC – located at fire station # 1 and use our handheld radios – HT’s – for work in the field. So, if you want to work as a radio operator asset for CCARES & CERT you will need an HT radio. The CCARES repeater is K6CCR at 445.600 which is in the 70cm band and and we work on Simplex channels in 2 meters for each of the three districts in Culver City, which means, a dual band radio is your best radio for CCARES. With that in mind, which HT is right for you?

There are dozens of possible Handy Talkies – HT’s – to choose from but how do you figure out which radio is right for me? For most of us cost, use, desire and cost all play out when you are considering a purchase of an HT and all three of these factors need to be considered in deciding which HT will work for you. You really need to ask yourself a few questions about what you want from your new HT radio and a few of them might be….

How much money do I want to invest in this radio and the hobby? What am I going to do with this radio and is it easy to use?
I have no idea of which radio should I consider!

Cost is always an issue and most people will opt to start with a less expensive radio to start their journey in the hobby and I agree, this is a prudent option. That said, build quality could influence your HT radio decision and the cheaper radios are not built as well and may have sensitivity or failure issues.

All of the HT radios made today are manufactured in China regardless of brand name. It is the build and the quality of the parts used that will make your radio perform better and last longer, thus, spending a bit more on your first HT will make your radio more reliable and enjoyable IMHO.

At the moment, you can buy a Basic HTs from Alnico, Anytone, Baofeng, Hytera, ICom, Kenwood, PowerWerX, Tytera (TYT), Wouxun & Yaesu,

Don’t forget the myriad of different systems you can explore beyond analog radio. There is D Star, Fusion (Yaesu) and DMR radios that use IP’s as well as analog to transmit amateur radio signals. But they tend to be a bit more pricy to get started in the $200.00 range a few makers are listed below.

Alinco, Anytone, Connect Systems, Hytera, TYT MDSeries, Radio Oddity are a few of the DMR radio makers.

You can search for radios and reviews at the following websites………

e-Ham.net RadioReference.com Ham Radio Outlet gigaparts.com hamcity.com

You have looked at a few radios and talked to a few friends who have radios and are still on the fence regarding which HT will be your first Amateur radio. As the old saying goes, “Opinions, are everyone has…. an opinion”…. And here are my 2 cents….

For radio suggestions, I don’t think you can go wrong with buying a Baofeng UV-5R as your first radio. You will need a hand mic, an extra battery and I suggest an after market antenna that will out perform the rubber duck antenna that comes with your radio. There will be issues, pro & con with any HT radio you purchase, but the Baofeng will get you on the air and let you play with Amateur radio, so that is a good thing! If you wanted a better built radio, you might consider the Yaesu FT-60R or it’s new less pricey option the Yaesu FT-65R coming in around $120.00.

Finally, there is no perfect answer to which radio is the best choice for you. You need to try a radio that fits your original ideas about what you need and its price point. If you don’t like your first radio, you can sell it and buy another. Or like many of us, we try multiple radios and still have most of them. One thing about price points of HT’s in general is that you get what you pay for and the cheaper radios will fail faster than better made radios. That said, as our own K6CRW is fond of saying…”You can buy a Baufeng HT for the price of a large pizza” which translates into if you aren’t happy with the Baofeng, the experience didn’t cost you that much to begin with and you gained valuable information.

I personally own 3 Baofeng UV-5R radios
Kenwood Th F6
2 Tytera (TYT) dual bands and 1 MD-380 DMR radio
2 – Wouxun KG-UV-5D & KG-UV8D
Yaesu VX-7R & FT-70DR
Some other articles you might find interesting are listed below…..
More information:
The ARRL also offers ideas and information at this link about which radios might be best for you.

Guide to Choosing your First Radio by Joseph M. Durnal N3PAQ on the eHam Site https://www.eham.net/newham/firstradio