In 1994 when I first got my Ham license, most people I knew purchased an HT (handie-talkie) for their first radio due to the cost difference between HTs, mobile rigs or base stations. This was back when Radio Shack actually sold radios (don’t get me started here, I could write an entire post about this subject) The Radio Shack HTX-202 and HTX-404 models were still in production in 1994, so the 2M HTX-202 was the first radio I ever bought, and I paid around $150 for it. Most of the YaeComWood (got this term from another Ham) radios were $300-$400 minimum for HTs, and probably twice that for a decent mobile rig.
Today you can get entered into Ham Radio for much less money. Radio Shack no longer makes any Ham Radios at all, but the newest thing to hit the online and hamfest markets has been all of these Chinese radios. I was hesitant at first, but I have spoken to other Hams who use these radios, and read reviews online, and the general consensus is that these radios work quite well for the prices they draw. Sure, you aren’t going to get a $1000 Yaesu base station radio for $200 in a Chinese model, but you can get some decently priced FM radios for VHF and UHF ham use.
Here is a short list of what I have found. I own a couple of these, but I am planning to buy more also. The Wouxon and Baofeng HTs that I have work great, and I have no complaints.
Baofeng UV-5R Dual Band HT
$32 on Amazon for a dual-band radio. There really is no excuse anymore for avoiding this hobby because of pricing.
Wouxon KG-UVD1P Dual Band HT
$100 – I bought one of these at HamCom this year and paid $90 for it, including the software and programming cable. It feels more durable than the Baofeng radios, but is also a bit more bulky. It is still a nice, small HT size, though. Tx/Rx work great.
No, this isn’t a Chinese radio, this is a real Kenwood. Less than $150 for a mono-band radio from Kenwood is a great deal. And 65 watts of power, too. I should buy one of these just to have it 😉
TYT TH-9000 Monoband Mobile Rig
$160 – This is Chinese language translation issues I am betting, but this radio comes in 3 different bands, yet the model number remains the same. All of them are TH-9000 models, but you can get one for 2M, 220MHz, or 440MHz. The VHF rigs do about 60 watts and the UHF rig does 45 watts. I don’t have one of these yet, but I plan to buy a 220MHz model soon. This is an UNHEARD OF way to get into 220MHz. You can’t find many radios for this band at all, and the ones that are out there are usually several hundred dollars more.
Anytone AT-5888UV Dual Band Mobile
This one is more than the rest, but a dual-band mobile rig for $300 isn’t bad at all. This radio will do 50 watts/40 watts on 2M/440, respectively. I am told that Anytone is soon releasing a tri-band radio that will include these 2 bands, plus the 220MHz band, and the price will remain close to what this radio is now. I expect that the price of this radio will drop after that release. I’ll be watching for news about this radio in the upcoming months.