There are a multitude of radios that are available for purchase ranging from Handy Talkies (HT’s) through to Mobile units, and even through to Base stations (although many use the mobile units as Base Stations).
Your first interest is likely to be an analog FM unit, possibly a Handy Talkie, and this will due mainly to the lower cost. Your interest in the HT might be because you have already noticed many other hams running around with one as well.
You will find these devices available on Ebay, Amazon, Bangood, Aliexpress, ICOM distributors/resellers, Yaesu Distributors/Resellers, Hamfests etc.
Now the cheapest on the market is the Baofeng series of radios starting at $AU50 which includes the charger, charging base, radio. The only thing you need to be operational is a programming cable.
Now you will hear that Baofeng’s have a bad rap, some are clear why, others just give the blanket answer, baofengs are Chinese garbage. Lets look at the current rap sheet on the UV-5R
- The FCC banned the radio from being imported into the U.S. and several other EU countries followed suit. It is our understanding that there was a number of issues, including that this radio could transmit on frequencies outside what was specified. It is also understood that there are now several iterations of this radio where it has been corrected, but its not clear how you can tell. Many Hams are starting to not recommend this radio. Unless you want to really take the time to investigate which one you are buying, you are prone to getting it wrong, or picking up old stock that has been stock piled.
- Many hams are showing that the UV-5R is producing harmonics with specifications that are outside the quoted details for their FCC approval. Now in simple terms this means that the UV-5R is creating interference where it should not and the one thing that Hams are interested in, is not causing more QRM (there is enough of it already).
Now to be fair, there are a lot of hams with these radios, and there are still a lot of these radios being bought. You need to probably choose whether you want to spend a few more dollars and get a more compliant radio and one that does not need you to investigate hours on end before buying. The other thing to be wary of is that these radios are rebranded, so if looks like a Baofeng, smells like a Baofeng, then it probably is.
So what is the alternative?….there are other Chinese manufactured radios that are still relatively low cost, and do not have the same issues as the Baofeng in terms of harmonics. These include the Retevis (go past the Retevis UV-5T model however – just rebadged UV-5R), Wouxon, Kydera, Anytone, Ailunce and then you also look at the brand names such as Icom and Yaesu. The main thing before you buy, is really do your research, which includes forums, reviews and talking to other hams.