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I am interested in acquiring two portable radios to talk between a family member and me (both new hams), e.g. when we go trekking in a National Park or to communicate in the same city. We used PRM radios before, but we got now a ham license to be able to transmit at higher power.

We have looked at different models, but we are still not sure whether to choose a radio that transmit in analog or digital mode. In both cases it is to transmit on VHF at 5 Watts.

What do you recommend for new hams, start with the traditional analog mode or jump directly to digital modes?

Thanks in advance.

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    $\begingroup$ I know this is up for close vote as opinion based, but I think that there's huge value in understanding the differences between the two operating modes for new hams in the community at large, and would love to see it kept open. $\endgroup$
    – webmarc
    Commented Jan 20, 2023 at 21:12

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I would suggest Analog FM only, to start with.

  • Most repeaters are still FM, you won't be missing out on any coverage if you don't have digital.
  • The digital landscape is still a bit fragmented, with some clubs installing D-star and some DMR repeaters. Handheld radios will only do one digital mode, each manufacturer supports their favourite.
  • All digital radios are (currently, 2023) hundreds of dollars more expensive than FM-only ones, which makes them more than double the price of the better FM radios.

The digital-capable handhelds I can find, are all also capable of regular FM, so you will always have that option if you do choose digital.

Digital handhelds can offer useful features like messaging, paging, photo transfer, GPS and automatic location transfer to the other radio, which are all difficult on analog radios, and certainly not built-in.

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  • $\begingroup$ Most digital radios also can do analog and are often easier to program. $\endgroup$
    – AI7OW
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:10

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