K0TFU

Handheld Ham Radio Features

There are many different features available on handheld amateur radios. Sometimes the manufacturers use different words or descriptions for these features, which can make it confusing to compare features from different brands. This page describes all of the features included in this buyers guide, with a detailed description of each feature.

Antenna Connector

The type of antenna connector on the radio. For example, if the value is “SMA Female” like on a Kenwood TH-D72A, then you need an antenna with a SMA Male connector. Values include:

APRS

The Automatic Packet Reporting System is a real-time two-way digital communication system using AX.25 packets sent on 144.390 MHz (the frequency varies by country and region). APRS is typically used to send out periodic location beacons, weather reports, messages, or inquiries.

Bluetooth

Indicates the capabilities a handheld offers via a Bluetooth wireless connection. Handhelds that include Bluetooth radios have differing capabilities available over Bluetooth connections:

Bands

It’s confusing, but in amateur radio we use “bands” to describre multiple things. This one doesn’t refer to the frequency ranges on which a handheld can transmit, for that one see Transmit Bands. Most handheld manufacturers use this term to refer to A and B bands on the radio. Many radios can be configured to have two “bands” or frequencies set in the radio at the same time. A button switches between them, making one of them the active or transmitting band. Here’s the values used to describe the various capabilities:

Battery Type

The voltage and type of battery used by the handheld. Most handhelds have batteries available from both the handheld manufacturer as well as other third party battery manufacturers. These batteries often come in various capacities. We don’t try and specify all of the model numbers of battery, but we do try to indicate the stock battery included with the radio by the manufacturer, which helps you determine if the batteries from two different handhelds are interchangable. With the Chinese manufacturers, this is often difficult because there are so many variations of batteries packed with the radios.

Display

Most handheld radios have some sort of display so the user can see the selected frequency, signal strength, and other parameters. Displays can be of the following types:

GPS Receiver

Indicates whether or not the radio includes a Global Positioning System satellite receiver. Radios with this feature can set their internal clock to the correct time, and can use the received satellite signals to determine their location. Location information derived from GPS satellites can also be used for more advanced capabilities like APRS

Ingress Protection

The International Electrotechnical Commission has defined a system to describe the degree of ingress protection an enclosure offers against dust and water. The levels of protection are described by an IP Code. If the handheld has not been tested or no degree of dust or water protection is claimed, we show “Not Rated”.

Transmit Bands

The frequency bands on which the handheld can transmit signals, and the claimed transmitted power outputs on each band. Most radios have multiple transmit power settings. Sometimes radios have lower transmit power on the 70 centimeter band than they do on the 2 meter band. Handheld amateur radios are authorized to transmit on the following bands:

Handheld amateur radios transmit using the FM mode or one of the digital modes. They do not transmit using AM or SSB.

Some handhelds can be physically modified or programmed to transmit on other frequency bands like GMRS or MURS. This is sometimes called a “MARS Mod”.

Released

The year the radio was made available to the public for purchase.

Receive Frequency Range

Refers to the frequency ranges on which the handheld can receive signals. Many brands market their handhelds as “broadband receive”, which typically means the handheld receives signals on more than the amateur 2 meter and 70 centimeter bands. Most handhelds specify a frequency range on which they can receive signals. There are certain frequency ranges that the FCC prohibits handheld radios from receiving, for example the 700 MHz band used by many cellular telephone networks. These carve-outs are rarely noted in the radio specifications, but are implied or assumed.

Handheld radios receive signals using the FM mode, or any of the digital modes they support. Most handhelds marketed as broadband receive can receive AM modes in the aviation frequency band, because it is the only mode used by aviators.

There are the most common frequency bands and radio services which can be received by broadband receive handheld radios.

Amater Radio Bands

Other Radio Bands and Services

Receive Circuit

The circuit type used to demodulate the incoming radio signal. Options are

Speaker/Mic Connector

DC Input

All handheld radios have a battery. Some have an additional direct current input jack that can power the radio and maybe charge the battery. For this feature, we either specify “None” to indicate that there is no direct current input jack, or the voltage accepted by the jack.