Before mobile phones and wireless internet connectivity, citizens band (CB) radios were the primary mode of on-the-go communication. CB radios were often associated with truckers who use it to listen to weather channels or to chat with their truckers.
These days, you still see people using CB radios, whether it is for personal or work-related purposes. These radios are useful for keeping up-to-date with important events and information. Examples are weather or traffic updates, or for contacting emergency services in extremely remote areas.
We’ve listed below seven what we think are the best handheld CB radios for 2020.
The Best Handheld CB Radio Reviews of 2020
1. Midland 75-822 40 Channel Handheld CB Radio
- Portable CB radio with 40 CB channels, 10 NOAA channels, and 4 Watts of output power
- Power with six AA batteries or included cigarette lighter adapter for mobile use
- Instant access to NOAA Radio, channels 9 and 19; Dual Watch monitors channel 9 and additional channel
The Midland 75-822 is another handheld citizen band radio from the Midland Radio product range.
It comes in a very compact, portable, and sleek black design. The only thing that makes this handheld CB radio appear bigger is the included rubberized antenna, which you have to attach yourself.
It also features a well-backlit LCD screen, so you can easily view frequencies and operational bands in all light conditions.
One standout feature of this device is its keypad lock feature. It prevents any accidental changes by locking in your preferred settings.
You have access to 40 communication channels on the Midland 75-822’s 4-watt output power. It has automatic channel scan features that stop for five seconds at each time it reaches an active channel.
It also has an integrated automatic noise limiter, which instantly improves reception when faced with a weak signal.
This handheld device has an input memory that allows you to store and immediately access up to five of your favorite frequencies for ease of use. Also, each time you turn on the device, it automatically reverts to the last channel you were in before you switched it off.
Like most handheld CB radios, the 75-822 allows quick access to the NOAA weather radio that always keeps you informed.
The Midland 75-822 works with six AA batteries with a hi/low power settings for added battery efficiency. You can also use the included mobile adapter so that you can use your car’s cigarette lighter port as a direct power source.
The pitfall of the 75-822 is that it has an extremely short range. Despite the included antenna, the maximum range in excellent conditions would perhaps be at the 3-mile mark.
While purchasing an additional external antenna to mount on top of your car can increase the range, this also creates another pitfall. It makes an unpleasant static noise, which renders the additional range pointless.
Overall, however, the compact size of the Midland 75-822 and its ability to charge with the car lighter port, make it the ideal CB radio for close communication when traveling in convoys or groups.
- Compact design.
- Keypad lock feature.
- Input memory
- Short range.
- Static sound when using an external antenna.
2. Cobra HH50WXST Hand Held CB Radio
- SOUND TRACKER SYSTEM - Don’t miss any important information due to interference or static, with the soundtracker system cutting 90% of the noise, you'll hear clearer communication
- STAY INFORMED - NOAA Alerts for weather and emergencies. Built into the radio so you can be prepared for anything.
- CHANNEL SCAN - Find the channel with the best signal automatically, with 40 channels to choose from. You won't have to manually search for a strong signal again.
Cobra Electronics is a Chicago-based corporation that designs and manufactures a wide range of navigation and mobile communication products. Their product range includes two-way radios, telephone answering systems, cordless phones, power inverters, radar and laser detection systems, and wireless products.
The Cobra HH50WXST comes in a slim, compact design in a rugged matte black finish.
In terms of channels, this radio can reach 40 citizens band channels with a high and low power switch feature. This feature allows you to use your battery efficiently, extending your battery life by up to 75%. You can set it to low power when talking to someone at a close range. On the other hand, you can switch it to a higher power for having longer distance communications.
The Cobra HH50WXST covers ten weather channels, so you are kept up-to-date with any essential information from NOAA.
It also has a SoundTracker system, which cuts up to 90% of communication noise, allowing you a clearer understanding of the person on the other end.
The Cobra HH50WXST’s dual watch feature may appeal to you if you want to monitor two frequencies constantly simultaneously.
Additionally, the Cobra HH50WXST has an integrated omnidirectional microphone. It is a feature that picks up voice from multiple directions and provides lesser distortion levels. You can also use the integrated microphone or speaker jack for added sound and mic amplification.
Power-source wise, the Cobra HH50WXST comes with rechargeable NiMH AA batteries. You can use the integrated recharging jack to charge it in the 12V port in your car. Alternatively, you can charge it with an AC wall charger, which you will have to purchase separately.
In addition to not including a wall charger, another criticism we found with the Cobra HH50WXST is its relatively short range. Depending on the geographic terrain, this handheld device’s range spans only between 0.5 and 4 miles.
Overall, however, this slim handheld CB radio has enough features to make it the ideal handheld CBD for job sites, or any other activities requiring shorter-range communications.
- Slim design.
- SoundTracker system cuts up to 90% of noise.
- HiLo switch extends battery life up to 75%.
- AC wall charger not included.
- Relatively short range.
3. Uniden PRO501HH Professional Series Portable CB Radio
- The Uniden Pro-Series PRO501HH compact handheld CB radio offers high-performance full 40-Channel CB operation and 10 weather channels in a compact rugged handheld design
- Extremely popular for industrial commercial and off-road use Use high power to punch out the strongest signal or low power to preserve battery life selectable 4 Watt Hi /1 Watt low power Instant channel 9/19
- Noaa weather keeps you informed when severe weather threatens And the dual watch feature lets you talk on one channel while keeping an ear on another channel you are interested in
Uniden is a Japanese company well-known in the wireless communication industry. Other than CB radios, their product range includes baby monitors, dashcams, phones, and home security and surveillance devices.
The Uniden PRO501HH is a relatively larger handheld CB radio that comes in another rugged matte black finish. It has an ample-sized LCD screen with an orange backlight, so you have high visibility of the frequencies and battery status in dark or bright lighting conditions.
It allows you to tune in to up to 40 CB frequencies. It also has an NOAA weather alert feature to keep you in the loop of any severe weather threats.
This device also has a dual-watch feature. This feature means you can talk on one frequency while you monitor another channel. This feature is great when traveling in groups. You can use one channel to communicate with the rest of the convoy, and another to monitor the weather and travel updates.
Additionally, the integrated automatic noise limiter fine-tunes the performance of the radio by eliminating background noise.
You have two power options when it comes to this handheld CB radio device. You can use the included rechargeable Ni-MH batteries (9 AA), which easily plugs into your car’s cigarette plug. Alternatively, you can separately purchase nine alkaline AA batteries for more mobility.
One notable thing with the Uniden PRO501HH is its limited signal range. The manufacturer has no published range for this device. However, we managed to achieve a 1-mile scale between devices for clear reception from experience.
The other thing is it is on the larger size of handheld CB radios. It may not be your choice if you are looking for one that easily fits onto your pockets or smaller bags.
In summary, if you are after a basic handheld radio that works for short distances, the Uniden PRO501HH may be a consideration.
- Well backlit LCD screen.
- Dual watch feature.
- Limited signal range.
- Bulky for a handheld device.
4. Cobra HHRT50 Road Trip Handheld CB Radio – Emergency Radio
- MAGNETIC MOUNT MOBILE ANTENNA - Allows mobile operation from your vehicle. Mount the magnetic antenna to the roof of your car and use your radio easily from inside your vehicle.
- SOUND TRACKER SYSTEM - Don’t miss any important information due to interference or static, with the Sound tracker system cutting 90% of the noise, you'll hear crystal clear communication
- 10 NOAA WEATHER CHANNELS - Be the first to know of incoming hazards or changing weather w/ instant access to NOAA weather channels 24 hours a day and audible tone if an emergency or threatening weather is nearby while monitoring up to 3 channels at once
The HHRT50 is another handheld citizens band radio from Cobra Electronics. The design is very similar to another Cobra product on our list, the Cobra HH50WXST. It comes with the same backlit LCD screen. The difference is that this device comes with a magnetic-mount antenna when you are in the car.
Most CB radios don’t come powerful enough to bypass a car’s frame, so you end up getting weak or no signal between devices. This externally mounted antenna solves that issue, plus the magnetic feature makes attaching and detaching such a breeze. Additionally, this external antenna extends the signal range between devices to up to about four miles in perfect conditions.
Channel wise, the HHRT50 can reach 40 CB channels in addition to the 10 NOAA weather frequencies. It has an automatic channel scan feature, making it easier for you to navigate between these.
Again, it has the dual-watch feature, so you can speak on one channel and actively monitor another.
Like the HH50WXST, the Cobra HHRT50 has the SoundTracker system eliminating up to 90% of interference or static noise.
Power comes from rechargeable NiMH AA batteries that plug into your car’s 12V port. You also have the choice of buying an AC wall charger for stationery charging out of the vehicle.
Our criticism with the Cobra HHRT50 is similar to what we didn’t like with the Cobra HH50WXST. The short-range and exclusion of an AC wall charger seems to be a universal negative in Cobra handheld units.
Overall, however, the magnetic mount antenna makes the Cobra HHRT50 the ideal choice if you are looking at a handheld CB radio for car use.
- Magnetic external antenna mount.
- SoundTracker system.
- AC wall charger not included.
- Relatively short range.
5. Uniden PRO401HH Professional Series Handheld CB Radio
- The Uniden PRO401HH delivers the convenience of a handheld CB radio with the security of knowing you have the longest range possible so you can always stay in touch.
- Features a low-power setting to conserve battery life and a high-power setting so you can extend your range When needed.
- Designed for use in the citizens band (CB) radio service, the PRO401HH mobile radio will operate on any of the 40 CB frequencies authorized by the (FCC).
The Uniden PRO401HH is Uniden’s downgrade version of the PRO501HH. It has the same basics of any handheld CB radio. However, it is without some of the features that the PRO501HH and other CB radios have.
For one, the PRO401HH has a smaller LCD screen and does not have a bright orange backlight. The characters against a black background, however, still ensure adequate visibility in various light conditions.
This handheld device can reach 40 CB channels and has a hi/lo power setting for efficient battery use.
You choose between the rechargeable 9 AA Ni-MH battery or nine AA alkaline batteries to power up this device. An integrated switch is conveniently located in the battery compartment to switch between these two power modes. It also comes with a DC power cable so you can recharge the rechargeable batteries as needed.
Because this handheld CB radio is light in features, it is also logical that it is more affordable than the rest of the CB radios on this list.
Perhaps the apparent disadvantage is the lack of access to NOAA channels. So if you are looking for a handheld CB radio to use in extremely remote areas, this may not be your best option.
It also has no channel memory, so you would have to scan through channels manually the next time you use it.
If you are searching for a handheld CB radio that is affordable and has the essential functions, the Uniden PRO401HH may be a contender. This feature-light device is perfect for communicating during campings, hiking, or hunting.
- Cheaper than most handheld CB radios.
- Dual power options.
- No access to NOAA channels.
- No channel memory.
6. Midland 75-785 Handheld CB Radio
- 7W input, 4W output
- Full 40-channel pull
- Great for all your needs
75-785 is another CB radio from Midland Radio Corporation.
This device is perhaps among the most basic and straightforward handheld citizens band radio from the Midland product range.
It comes in a rugged black design with a tiny backlit LCD screen– small enough to display only two digits. The display, however, is bright enough to be seen in various lighting conditions, such as the day or night. Another great feature in terms of the screen is it turns off when not in use to conserve power.
It has two easy to use knobs so you can quickly control volume as well as navigate up and down through channels.
The 75-785’s 4-watt output power allows you access to 40 communication channels.
Communication wise, an integrated automatic noise limiter, enhances the reception of weaker signals. At the same time, the additional squelch control features ensure limits background noise further. An electrostatic microphone also helps improve the quality of transmissions from your end.
Another useful control is the automatic gain control, maintaining a constant sound level across channels.
An integrated Hi/Lo switch adjusts between output powers depending on the strength of the current frequency.
Power-wise, the device runs on 9 AA batteries or rechargeable NiMH batteries. A charging jack and charger come with the device, which you can plug into your car’s DC charger.
Another distinct disadvantage to this basic handheld CB radio is the absence of NOAA weather channel access. Also, in case you are planning to use the device between cars, you will need to purchase additional external antennas to achieve a reasonable signal quality.
Overall, however, if you are after a CB radio that covers the basics at a low price point, the Midland Midland 75-785 may be one of your options.
- Power-saving LCD screen.
- Hi/Lo switch and automatic gain control.
- No access to NOAA weather channels.
- Low to mid-range signal range.
7. Midland 7w44 Portable CB Radio
- This durable radio is built to go wherever you go! Made of a rugged construction, the Portable CB Radio has 4-wall output power and 40 channels to choose from so you will have a maximum communication range. Whether you are hunting, hiking, or any other outdoor activity, take the 75-785 with you and keep you communication lines open. Power: 7w Input, 4w Output * Full 40-channel Pll * operation With Pinpoint Channel Tuning Accuracy * High and low Power Switch Redu...
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The Midland 7w44 is another basic CB handheld radio from Midland Radio’s list of products.
It comes in rugged, all-black construction and the same tiny yet brightly backlit LCD screen that comes with the Midland 75-785. Just like the 75-785, this screen might be small, but it is power efficient, as the screen fades off when not in use.
Functionality wise, it comes with a detachable and easy to attach the included rubberized antenna. It also has two easy-to-use knobs, allowing you to change between channels or crank the volume up or down.
Although it has fewer features than other CB radios, this handheld CB device manages up to 4 watts of output. This output allows it to gain access to up to 40 CB channels, giving you a lot of options to ensure optimum communication ranges.
Like most handheld CB radios on this list, the Midland 7w44 has a low/high switch to enhance and save battery life.
It has an integrated 3.5 mm aux input port so that you can plug in an earphone or a headset and free your hands for other tasks.
One notable feature of the 7w44 is its integrated PLL channel selection. This feature allows for pinpoint fine-tuning when navigating through channels on your radio.
It also comes equipped with integrated noise-control features to limit as much background noise as possible, resulting in clearer communication between users.
Power-wise, nine alkaline AA batteries operate the 7w44.
As it is very similar to the Midland 75-785, our criticisms for the Midland 7w44 are also identical. That is, the absence of access to NOAA weather channels, and it’s limited signal range.
Overall, however, the Midland 7w44 is another contender for affordable handheld CB radios that meet the most basic of functions.
- Power saving screen.
- Hi/Lo switch for battery efficiency.
- No access to NOAA weather channels.
- Limited signal range.
Handheld CB Radio Buying Guide
Aside from its handheld feature, there are some special considerations when handheld buying CB radios. We discuss some of them here to help you narrow down your options.
- Transmission range. This feature is probably the most crucial consideration when buying a handheld device. If you intend to use your CB radio for short ranges, such as job sites or camping or hiking with friends or family, then a shorter range can suffice. If you intend to use it for longer ranges, such as communicating between cars, you may need longer ranges.
- Need for an external antenna. Speaking of longer ranges, if you plan on using your devices between cars, you may need to purchase external antennas. Although these antennas can extend the range, you also have to think about the external environment. More obstructions can still cause signal disruptions despite added range. In the same manner, fewer blockages produce crisper signals despite the absence of additional external antennas.
- NOAA weather channel. If you use the handheld CB radios primarily for travel, we recommend that you go for one with NOAA weather capability. This feature is essential to keep you updated with any severe traffic or weather warnings that may impact your overall travel. A dual-watch feature is also helpful in similar situations, as you can communicate through one channel and monitor updates via another.
- User-friendliness. You will most likely use the device while on the go. For this reason, try to choose handheld CBDs with function keys or knobs that are simple and easy to operate. If it is primarily for the car, is there a hands-free option to keep your driving hands free and undistracted. Options for hands-free operation include devices with aux input ports where you can plug in your headsets, saving you from holding the machine all the time.
- Power source and battery efficiency. If used a lot for travel, you probably want to go for CB radios that you can charge from your car. Most devices come with cables that charge the device using your car’s cigarette lighter inclusion. You want to look for features that extend battery life. Examples of these features are hi/low settings or those that minimize the brightness of the displays when not in use.
- Portability and durability. Depending on the type of use, you also should consider the portability and strength of your device choice. Is it more for outdoors? If so, you probably want to pick one that is durable and can withstand accidental falls or various weather conditions.
- Screen display. Although not an essential feature, having an adequate screen display is always handy as it shows you what’s going on. Choose easy-to-read screens in various weather or lighting conditions.
- Of course, one should not forget about the price. If your handheld CB radios are primarily for hobbies in the outdoors, then you probably will be okay with the basic features, which means you can buy them at lower price points. It is also reasonable to spend more on your device if you want it packed with features and functional design.
Our Best of the Best Handheld CB Radio:
Our top pick for the best handheld CB radio in 2020 goes to the Midland 75-822 40 Channel Handheld CB Radio.
Its compact and portable design stands out. The well-lit LCD screen enhances the user-friendliness of the device, in addition to its keypad lock feature. It has a full, 40-channel range, including 10 NOAA weather stations.
The input memory is excellent for storing up to five channels and remembering which frequency you used last. Although it only has a 3-mile range, the addition of an external antenna quickly resolves this issue. All of these make the Midland 75-822 a small yet feature-rich handheld CB radio.