Searching for the best CB radio for that road trip you’ve been planning for weeks? Well, you can finally rest easy. We reviewed seven of the best handheld CB radios in 2021 that you should definitely consider before making a purchase. Of course, our list is not exhaustive, but we’re confident it’ll surely give you a head start in the right direction.
Our top pick from the seven? The Uniden PRO505XL – a compact, professional and affordable choice for many people. We found it to be the most feature-rich for its price, easy to use, and ideal for just about anyone who wants to own his/her first CB radio.
How We Reviewed These Top 7 Portable Handheld CB Radios
True. Reviewing the most expensive products would give us a list of some amazing portable CB radios. However, assessing these radios purely by their price tags won’t be totally fair.
As such, our list incorporates several factors such as the design of the CB radio, its compactness, its useful features, and its affordability.
This way, you get to see a wider variety of products that are not only affordable, but superb in their own individual categories.
Reviews of 7 Best Handheld CB Radios
The Uniden Pro 505 XL is hands down the ideal choice for any CB user in search of an affordable radio with both CB and PA functionality. It comes with a slightly updated look which is synonymous with the Uniden Pro 510 XL. This simple styling makes it easier to blend in with just about any vehicle interior.
- 40-channel operation
- Weighs 2lbs.
- 2-year warranty
- 4-pin electret microphone
Dual CB/BA Functionality
The Uniden Pro 505 XL features both CB and PA (Public Address) modes. A little switch on the front side of the radio can be toggled to change between the two modes.
Backlit Digital Display
This is a fairly new feature in this product line. The digital display can display the channel you’re on and the transmitting/receiving signal strength.
This CB radio is compatible with almost all CB antennas you can find. It uses the CB PL-259 which is a standard connection among many CB radios. This means that you can hook up the radio with custom antennas.
Instant Channel 9/19
Uniden Pro 505 XL comes with an Instant Channel 9 emergency button which can be highly useful in case you get stranded in a remote area.
- Highly compact and lightweight
- Has a backlit digital display
- Has a built-in external speaker jack
- It lacks the ANL switch
- Basic stock microphone
Bikers and hunters can find many uses for the Midland 75-785. Its ruggedness makes it ideal for the harshest of conditions. The flexible antenna, for instance, goes a long way to ensure that you get clear transmissions. In addition, you can attach your standard headphones to the radio via its 3.5mm accessory plug.
- 4W power output
- Uses 9 AA alkaline batteries
- Weighs 0.55 lbs.
- 26.965 – 27.405 MHz frequency band
The Midland 75-785 was built for people on the go. It has a small but rugged construction that enables it to withstand tough conditions. This makes it particularly suitable for hikers and campers.
The antenna on the Midland 75-785 is flexible, and this is a good thing. Antenna flexibility makes the CB radio easier to handle. Traditional antennas usually require you to be careful around them so that they cannot snap. This is not the case with flexible antennas as they make the Midland 75-785 fit in your bag easily.
Compatibility with Mobile CB Antennas
With the help of a BNC connector, you can start plugging in your mobile CB antennas to the Midland 75-785 in no time. Doing this also increases the range of the device. It enables the radio to pick up far-off signals.
- Has built-in ANL
- Compact and versatile
- Easy to install
- The stock antenna is not so powerful
Uniden’s BEARCAT 980SSB sets a new bar on our list because of one main reason – its large digital display. Nevertheless, there’s more to this CB radio than its 7-color digital display. It packs a vast number of features which contribute to its slightly bulky feel. The CB radio does feature plenty of plastic faceplates, but this hardly makes the device feel cheap.
- 4-channel operation
- Weighs 4 lbs.
- Includes 6-pin to 4-pin MIC adapter, DC power cord, mounting bracket, and microphone holder
Large 7-Color Digital Display
We can’t stress enough on the importance of a large display. Other than being able to easily read off values from it, a large display can also show plenty more information. As such, it is easy to see details such as the different menu options and whether they are toggled or not on the Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB.
You can also choose the colors of the LED backlight on the knobs and the digital display. Sure, it isn’t a feature that increases range, but it enables the radio to perfectly blend in with your vehicle’s interior.
Built-in Diagnostic System
The Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB is equally “smart”. Its in-built diagnostic system is capable of checking things such as the antenna match, the RF power and even the supply voltage. These get displayed on the large display too.
- Has a CB/PA switch
- Features ANL for less interference
- It lets you set the talkback level
- Slightly expensive
The Cobra HH 38 WX ST is yet another CB radio that is known for its ruggedness. It works great with hands-free accessories and you could even use standard headphones with this radio. As it is feature-packed and almost ideal for all kinds of uses, it is a worthy choice for people in search of versatility.
- 4W power output
- Weighs 1.2lbs.
- 4-mile range
- 10 weather channels
- 1-year warranty
NOAA Weather and Emergency Radio
The Cobra HH 38 WX ST’s built-in radio NOAA radio receiver lets you know about storms or emergencies around you on the go. This is a useful feature for truck drivers or people who are going on road trips as it lets them reroute.
You can monitor up to two channels concurrently with this CB radio. This way, you can use one of the channels for receiving storm and emergency updates and the other for communication.
Sound Tracker System
Quality goes uncompromised with the Cobra HH 38 WX ST because of its sound tracker system. It is capable of cutting noise up to 90% to facilitate clear communication.
- Highly mobile and versatile
- Has access to 10 weather channels
- Superb short-range capabilities
- A newer model of the product exists (Cobra HH 50 WX ST)
In many ways, the Cobra HHROADTRIP 40-Channel CB Radio is identical to the Cobra HH 38 WX ST. However, the main difference with the Cobra HHROADTRIP is that it is great for longer ranges. This is why it comes with a magnetic mount antenna.
- Weighs 2lbs.
- 1-year limited manufacturer warranty
- 4W power output
- 10 channel weather reception
Magnetic Mount Mobile Antenna
The Cobra HHROADTRIP’s magnetic mount mobile antenna makes it desirable for road trips because it greatly improves range. You can simply mount the mobile antenna on your vehicle’s roof and get clearer signals. When coupled with the other features of this CB radio, it ends up becoming way more convenient than most in its category.
Sound Tracker Noise Reduction System
The Cobra HH 38 WX ST also featured a sound tracker noise reduction system. However, if used with the stock antenna, then the Cobra HHROADRIP becomes clearly better. This is because the sound tracker noise reduction system is complemented with the mobile antenna which increases range. As such, this CB radio may be noticeably clearer.
Similar with the Cobra HH 38 WX ST, you can also monitor two channels simultaneously on this CB radio.
- It comes with a magnetic mount mobile antenna
- Features a sound tracker noise reduction system
- Compact and lightweight
- Its main distinguishing feature from the Cobra HH 38 WX ST is the mobile antenna
Midland’s 75-822 40 channel CB radio brings a fresh new twist to the normal designs of the CB radios we’ve reviewed so far. Apart from the basic features it shares with the other CB radios, it incorporates a keypad lock and has the same rugged construction that we saw with the Cobra CB radios.
- Weighs 1.5 lbs.
- Requires 6 AA batteries
- 4W power output
- Comes with AC and DC adapters
Ideally, this lets you get rid of unwanted background noise that may make communication difficult. It works by simply muting the receiver output noise whenever there is no signal being received by the radio. You can set it low to hear low-level signals.
Automatic Channel Scan
There are some CB radios that lack automated channel scans. That’s not the case with the Midland 75-822 CB radio. Automated channel scans can help you stay focused on the road whenever you need to quickly check any of the 40 channels for activity.
Last Channel Memory
You needn’t find the last channel you were on as the Midland 75-822 automatically saves the last channel for you. As it provides 5 memory channels, you can store 4 other channels for easier accessibility next time.
- Has plenty useful accessories e.g. hand strap, belt clip, AC wall adapter, mobile adapter etc.
- Has built-in ANL
- It has a large backlit LCD display
- Requires a bigger antenna for better performance
The Galaxy-DX-959 has that old-school feel, thanks to the several control knobs it has. The overt analog scale is also hard to miss on this CB radio. It allows for easy reading of the power output, SWR, and also the strength of an incoming signal. Other than the analog scale, this CB radio also features two backlit LCD screens which show the frequency and the channel.
- Weighs 4.4lbs.
- Can transmit 12W instead of the standard 4W
- 2-year limited manufacturer warranty
- Has a 1.0 KHz receive clarifier
- Comes with power cord, mic hanger, and mounting bracket plus screws
5-Digit Frequency Counter
Few CB radios have frequency counters on their main displays. Having a 5-digit frequency counter on the Galaxy DX-959 is thus a big thing. This is because it allows the radio to be more accurate than most others.
Galaxy Noise Filter
The Galaxy DX-959 can pick up far-off signals with the help of the GNF. Coupled with the right antenna, this CB radio could be one of the best for long range communication.
Variable Power Output Control
It is perhaps one of the Galaxy DX-959’s most treasured features. The ability to dictate the power output from your CB radio opens a whole new world of possibilities. If you have plans of hooking up a CB radio with an amp, then you should get the Galaxy DX-959 as it is perfectly tuned for that.
- Highly customizable
- Well performing receiver
- Lacks a 6-digit frequency counter
Who Should Get a Portable CB Radio?
CB radios are for just about anyone who loves communicating freely on the open road. However, it finds plenty other uses for different kinds of people other than drivers.
Campers and Hikers
Campers and hikers should get portable CB radios as they help different groups to stay connected. In addition, portable CB radios also provide a convenient platform for campers and hikers to share their experiences in real-time.
Portable CB radios equally help explorers stay connected in the same way they aid campers and hikers. Explorers can use CB radios to call out for help in case they run into trouble. Since they are far more reliable than smartphones at what they do, explorers can use them in areas that have poor cell reception.
Tour organizers can communicate with each other using portable CB radios. This way they can give better and well-coordinated tours to their clients.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Handheld CB Radio
Coming up with seven of the best handheld CB radios does not mean that we’ve exhausted the entire list of CB radios. In fact, there are hundreds more out there.
Nevertheless, choosing the best handheld CB radio would always boil down to the features that really matter to you and what you needed it for. Here are a few of them to get you started:
The weight of the CB radio might affect how you end up using it. Many of the common handheld CB radios usually weigh under 1lbs. However, you need to perfectly balance the radios portability and functionality.
Most modern CB radios have ANL features by default, but not all do. As you already know that ANL features greatly aid in making communication clearer. You should thus go for hand-held CB radios that have ANL.
Compatibility with Other Accessories
It is an important but often overlooked consideration. Many of the CB radios we’ve reviewed usually come with their own antennas. In all honesty, stock antennas are not usually the best as they are only great for short range communication but poor for long range communication. This will often lead you to purchase accessories for your CB radio. Picking a CB radio with little to no compatibility with other accessories will lock you down to only a handful of accessories.
Most people look for good long-range CB radios. This is because they are more versatile and can be used in many different situations. In many cases though, short-range CB radios can get a significant boost when used with good quality antennas. Thus, you would also need to invest in a good antenna if you want your CB radio to pick up far-off radio signals.
Despite coming up with a list of the seven best handheld CB radios in 2021, there are many more out there. You only need to be keen on the features that are really important to you. For us though, the Uniden PRO505XL pretty much covered it as it scored well in almost every category. It might not be the most feature-packed like the Galaxy DX 959, but it does come with just enough to help you get the job done.