Which Hand Held Ham Radio?

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Finding new adventures in old jalopies.
Nov 19, 2003
Livermore, CA
I decided I really should get a ham radio, and learn how to use it before Cruise Moab this year. I'm taking the license test next wednesday, with leaves me with buying a radio.

I see my only practical option is to go with a hand held, because I drive 4 different trucks with trail teams, then have 2 more at home.

I'm wondering what hand helds your using, and your likes and dislikes of them. My first instinct is to go with the Yeasu VX-7R due its feature list sounding much more durable for an off-road environment, although I want to figure out the best option for me which my be a cheaper radio, with an external antenna.

Thanks for the help!
Chances are you'll only need 2M and maybe 70cm? If so save a bit of money and go with a VX-6R. That's what I did for a hand held and I like it.
For sure get a good mag mount external antenna, it'll make a BIG difference - the stock antenna ain't the greatest.
My B-I-L recently bought a VX-150 2M only rig and he's quite happy with it. It's a bit bigger than the Vx6/7 but still comfortable. Only $120 too, IIRC.
Doubt you'd be UN happy with the 7R though.
I am going to CM 08 for the first time and bought the Kenwood TH-F6A for portability and to save the cost of having to put a mobile in each of my rigs. I am very happy with it; particularly with the tri-band and 5 watts transmit power on each band. Many of my fellow club members at Rising Sun have the VX-7R and are happy with their decision. I am pleased with the Kenwood and will probably add the V-710A to my '40 later this year.
Get a VX7r, (waterproof!) and the 12 volt charger, the penlight battery kit, an adapter to connect the SMA connector to SO239, and a good dual band mag mount antenna and you'll be good to go with 5 watts from the 12 volts and the outside mag mount antennas.

Lots of people can dump 200+ freqs into your vx7 via the PC software.

I'll also chime in to support the VX7R even though I don't have one. I have a VX-5 instead. These are great radios with decent sensitivity and selectivity and are rugged. We have about 5 of them in our SAR unit where they get abused pretty regularly without any problems.

Another choice, if you're interested in "APRS" position reporting from your radio is the Kenwood TH-D7A, which has a built in Terminal Node Controller. Connect it to your GPS and you will can broadcast position data. We have one of these and it too has held up well.

Doug W8PM
Not knowing diddly about these things, is there a performance increase between the VX6R and 7R? The weatherproof thing is not a big deal to me.

corrections made

The Yaesu VX-6R and the VX-7R are very close in many features. They are the same physical size (less antenna) and for most uses, they have the same frequency coverage; RX and TX. Both are "submersible" (not waterproof as FJ40_Owner stated) which means 30 minutes at 3'. Certainly enough to not worry if you are in a rain storm or skiing or on a snow run and drop it in the snow.

The significant difference is the dual VFOs on the VX-7R. This is a very nice feature. The VX-7 has a better display in that the characters are formed by many dots/pixels whereas the VX-6 uses the LCD 'stick' characters. However, the VX-6 has larger characters & numbers in the frequency display portion which makes it a little easier for those of us with aging eyesight.

Both are 5w on 2M and 70cm (I think this is correct.) The VX-6 is 1.5w on 1.25cm and the VX-7 is 0.3w on 1.25cm but it also has a 4th band at 6M (1w) that the VX-6R does not have (at least not w/o a mod).

Both are very wide RX; something like 0-999MHz. They both have a LOT of memory channels (900+). Both use a Li-Ion battery and many of the accessories are the same and programming software works with both.

The VX-6 has a backlit keypad and display (red-ish). The VX-7 does not and I have read some grumbling when trying to use it in the dark.

The VX-6 belt clip is a joke and breaks when used. The VX-7 has a much better belt clip. The VX-7 is available in silver and black; the VX-6 is only available in black.

You are welcome to borrow my VX-6 for a few days if you want to play with it. Steve bought a new VX-170 so get his feedback on that one too. I have never used a VX-7R so my comments are slanted to what I know about and have read about the VX-6 and only what I've read about the VX-7.

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You are welcome to borrow my VX-6 for a few days if you want to play with it. Steve bought a new VX-170 so get his feedback on that one too. I have never used a VX-7R so my comments are slanted to what I know about and have read about the VX-6 and only what I've read about the VX-7.


Excellent info, thanks for the writeup. I'm sure it'll help out others too. Can I borrow it, say from 4/27-5/4? :D
Beo - nice comparison on the 6 and 7. My old scoutmaster is a ham from the 60's and he's recommended the 6 to me.

I just passed my Technician's exam today!

He like the 8800 from Yaesu as well. Will probably go with that for the 80 and thinking I can get away with a handheld for the Miata commuter for the time being and run a mag or trunk lip mount antenna on the Miata.
Old thread warning

Congrats on passing your test!

The vx6 & 7 are both great - and prices should start dropping on the used market in anticipation of the vx8 being FCC approved (and available for purchase).

I considered waiting for the vx8 just for the bluetooth option, but decided I didn't really need it for my purposes. I just purchased an Icom IC-7000 as my main radio in the 80 and I purchased a nice used vx7 (silver) yesterday at a local hamfest for $150 in excellent condition.

I see a lot of used vx6 & 7 radios on eham.net and qrz.com but prefer to buy in-person so I can test the radio.

One thing the Icom 7000 is missing is dual VFO receive and cross-band repeat - those would be very nice to have and might lead me to purchase a second radio (though hard to find the space to put it in the 80).

I also considered buying an Icom 91 or 92 handheld for the D-Star and gps features, but the radio is ~$550 and the dang gps mic is ~$350 and I just don't have a need for D-Star or GPS reporting (I really don't even like APRS as I don't want everyone to know where I am every minute of the day/trip and I don't do any rescue type work and hope to not need rescuing myself :)).

Good luck with whatever you choose!
NIce to know about the used market for the VX6. I may have to check it out as opposed to plunking down $250 for a new one. Who knows, Yaesu may put them on close out in a little while here. I just can't pass up the $25 off and free face plate kit ($60) on the Yaesu FT-8800.

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