With the emergence of cellular networks, like First.net and Verizon Frontline, which are dedicated to first responders, two-way radio manufacturers have created new products to match the new technology available. New Features and products are being made to work on the dedicated cellular networks creating some of the best handheld two-way radios.
We are doing a deep dive into what two-way radio products will be available in 2022 and beyond. Handheld two-way radios that are multi-purpose, made for police and other emergency responders and will work on dedicated first responder systems as LTE compatible are our first concern. We will also be covering rugged and durable cell phones made for first responder networks as an alternative to portable radios.
Read this article to learn about the best of the best from Harris radio, Motorola radio, BK radio, and more.
Motorola APX NEXT:
The Motorola APX NEXT or the All-Band P25 Smart Radio is an excellent radio for adapting to your situation. This Motorola two-way radio works great with dedicated first responder networks and offers a plethora of features. It is available in multi-band and single-band to match your team’s specific situation.
With all band technology, the Motorola APX NEXT can operate simultaneously in VHF, UHF Range 1, UHF Range 2, and 700 and 800 MHz bands. With up to 3000 channels and 125 zones, this Motorola radio offers the utmost flexibility. In addition to many channels, this radio also works with digital trunking; it can operate on 9600 Baud, APCO P25 Phase 1 FDMA, and Phase 2 TDMA.
The Motorola APX NEXT features communication technology like Bluetooth and messaging options. With the options to operate on Bluetooth, Wifi, LTE, and NFC. The LTE is built to work cohesively with networks like FirstNet and Verizon Frontline. NFC or near-field communications improve contactless communication abilities. These features allow this Motorola radio to have multiple messaging options like text and smart messaging.
Communications features like all-band technology, thousands of channels, digital trunking, smart messaging, and more equates to an adaptive handheld two-way radio. Adaptivity is exactly what emergency workers like first responders need.
The Motorola APX NEXT has adaptive audio features. It has 3 W speakers, dual-sided operation, noise suppression intensity, and 2 internal digital microphones. Noise suppression intensity will help keep communication clear in the loudest environments.
This portable radio also has design features like a 3.6” touchscreen with a toughened glass lens. It is usable with gloves from a large PTT button, channel selector, angled power and volume knob, a large orange emergency button, and an ABC zone switch.
- Height-5.4in, Width-2.5in, Depth-1.7in, Weight-18.5oz (With standard battery and no antenna)
- Height-7.1in, Width-2.5in, Depth-1.7in, Weight-22.8oz (With high-capacity battery and no antenna)
A standard 4400 mAh battery is used; however, there is the option to use a high capacity 5650 mAh battery. Lastly, the Motorola APX NEXT has GNSS or a global navigation satellite system.
Security for handheld two-way radios is important for safety. The Motorola APX NEXT portable radio features a 256-bit AES or advanced encryption standard, ADP encryption, software keys, P25 authentication, and OTAR or over-the-air rekeying. These features are important because they keep critical information safe and private.
Motorola APX NEXT price:
The Motorola APX NEXT ranges around $4,000 depending on antenna choices etc.
There are great accessory options for the Motorola APX NEXT offered by Waveband Communications. An earpiece for Motorola radio is a great place to start. This single-wire earpiece has a PTT button, microphone, and more. It is great for shift workers sharing earpieces and for comfort.
The Motorola APX NEXT is a great portable radio for emergency workers who work best with adaptable technology.
It is an easy decision to add the Harris XL-200 to a list of the best handheld two-way radios. This Harris radio is reliable and stands up to tests of durability.
The Harris XL-200 has a variety of communication features. With a 12,500 channel/talkgroup capacity, the Harris radio can handle any communications situation.
When making your purchase, you can choose between the XL Mobile without the LTE core connectivity module and the XL Mobile with the LTE core connectivity module. If you choose without, your Harris XL-200 will have immediate access to 52 channels, whereas, with LTE connectivity you get 72 channels.
This is important information to note so you purchase the best handheld two-way radio for your situation. Also, keep in mind, all Harris XL-200 models have firmware, personalities, and feature set over wi-fi radio programming.
Moreover, each model has a frequency range in the U.S. of 136-174 VHF and 378-522 UHF and internationally of 136-174 VHF and 378-522 UHF. To add to the wide range of communication, Harris XL-200s are Bluetooth, wi-fi, and LTE optional.
The Harris XL-200 is designed to be durable and stand up to the toughest situation. It has an 18-bit color LCD, 3.3-inch color LCD, 5 programmable buttons, separate volume, and channel selector knobs, a built-in speaker, and 2 USB-C ports.
- Dimensions—Radio only—2.0x6.9x9.7in
- Radio and control unit 2.4x6.9x12.8in
- Weight with control unit—7lbs, without—5lbs
The audio features of Harris XL-200 are two channels of 15 W of audio and a built-in control head speaker. This accessible feature conveniently pairs with the built-in GPS and GNSS.
Harris radios are intentionally built to be both highly useful and efficient in dangerous and rugged situations. With the XL-200 you will be able to hear clearly and navigate at the same time which is necessary in search and rescue missions.
Moreover, many of those who use handheld two-way radios communicate in situations where there is extreme weather, machinery, and more so the technology needs to be able to withstand these environments. The Harris XL-200 is built to environmental standards to work amid humidity, shock, vibration, dust, etc.
The Harris XL-200 has a host of security features focused on encryption. It has voice encryption in the forms of single key, multiple keys, DES-OFB, 256-bit AES P25, and 64-bit DES. Harris also supplied a general 128 keys, P25 conventionality, and trunked over-the-air rekeying or OTAR.
By having voice and manual encryption you can be sure your communications are safe and secure.
Harris XL-200 Price:
The Harris XL-200 ranges around $3,500+. The price will increase depending on the options like your choice of having or not having LTE core connectivity.
Accessories for the Harris XL-200:
Purchasing a radio that is consistently included in lists of the “best handheld two-way radios” means you want to make sure you get the most out of your product. Accessories always help make use of all of the unique features of two-way radio.
Accessories like a Harris XL-200 headset or a Two-Wire Surveillance Kit can make your radio 100% perfect for your needs. The headset sold at Waveband Communications is lightweight, behind-the-head fit, has in-line PTT, and more. Because it can be worn underneath Kevlar helmets, it is great for tactical teams.
The Two-Wire Surveillance Kit, is great for discreet situations. With a remote PTT that can be run through the sleeve, a high-impact microphone, and rugged reinforced technology, this kit provides optimal covert radio communications.
These accessories pair well with the Harris XL-200 from the tested durability and ruggedness to match the qualities of Harris two-way radios.
BK Technologies BKR 9000 Multi-band radio:
The BKR 9000 multi-band radio is a smart radio for smart situations. With LTE capabilities, a smart battery, encryption, and more, this BK two-way radio is an optimal choice for top technology.
As a P25 conventional radio, the BKR 9000 multi-band radio is a great radio for situations where many radios are in one place at once. It also has P25 Phase 1 & 2 trunking abilities which will ensure constant connection.
The BKR 9000 multi-band radio also features simulcast and vote scan operations as a land mobile radio (LMR). Simulcast operation allows for a wide area of reliable coverage. On the other hand, vote scan operations focus on one area within the network. By utilizing these two forms of technology in one portable radio, you are guaranteed more avenues of connection.
This BK two-way radio is on this list because of the LTE capabilities it carries. The BKR 9000 can support LTE broadband data like Firstnet and Verizon Frontline and has internal wi-fi. Internal Bluetooth with NFC pairing makes the BKR 9000 a great smart two-way radio.
Lastly, this radio features great operating frequencies.
- VHF Band 136-174 MHz
- UHF Band 380-512 MHz
- 700/ 800 Band 763-776, 793-806 MHz, 806-825 MHz, 851-870 MHz
- 900 Band 896-940 MHz
This range of frequencies with P25 connection, LTE, and more makes the communication abilities of the BKR 9000 an intentional and smart radio.
The intentional design of the BKR 9000 is meant to support high-quality communication features. The first priority is power capacity. The BKR 9000 uses a 5000 MAH Li-Ion super high-capacity smart battery with a smart charger. Lithium-ion batteries tend to last longer in both charger and longevity of use.
A long-lasting battery in portable radios is important for jobs that last all day and longer. Often during these long jobs location plays a role, whether it is search and rescue or a large construction project like a stretch of highway. The BKR 9000 has integrated GPS and location services.
In addition to these great features, this BK two-way radio is also made to withstand environmental situations. It meets MIL-spec 810 G and has IP68 water ratings. A color LCD screen, field-programmable keypad, and public safety grade will all be helpful in dangerous situations because these features make your radio easy to use.
Security features are important because in emergency situations information often needs to stay secure to prevent public panic or misinformation. The BKR 9000 has DES and AES FIPS 140-2 L2 encryption, DHC P25 CAP approved, OTAR or over-the-air rekeying, OTAP or over-the-air programming, and AES/DES standard encryption.
BKR 9000 Price:
The price of the BKR 9000 ranges around $3,000+.
Motorola APX 8000:
The Motorola APX 8000 is a great choice for the best handheld radios of 2022 with LTE capabilities. Not only does it function on private networks like Firstnet and Verizon Frontline, but it also has emergency-specific technology like ASTRO 25. This portable radio is optimal for both emergency responders and those who are in emergency-prone situations.
The Motorola APX 8000 stands up to the high standards of Motorola. It has a 700/800 MHZ, VHF, UHF in range 1&2. Because the Motorola APX 8000 has ISSI 8000 roaming, you will stay connected and communicate even while roaming.
Staying in connection is important during emergencies but so is quick transfer and use of technology. This Motorola radio has mission-critical wireless Bluetooth which means technology like Bluetooth headsets, mics, earpieces, and more will connect to the portable radio in less than two seconds.
When creating the APX 8000, Motorola had emergency use in mind. They incorporated ASTRO 25 integrated voice data which allows for additional applications like text messaging, GPS location, fire station alerting, database queries, dispatch notifications, and BOLOs.
Therefore, the APX 8000 is both useful for those responding to emergencies and those who may be at risk for an emergency.
In addition to integrated GPS/GLONASS for outdoor location tracking, this Motorola radio also features IP68 submersion, intelligent lighting, an IMPRES 2 battery, and adaptive audio features.
IP68 submersion is one of the highest environmental water ratings. IP68 means the APX 8000 can work after being submerged under 2 meters of water for 2 hours.
Intelligent lighting is useful for quick communication and notifications. The APX 8000 also has adaptive audio features like a 3-watt speaker with adaptive equalization, dual-sided operation, noise suppression intensity, gain control, and windporting.
- Radio weight without battery—11.25 oz
The security features of the APX 8000 include software keys, radio profiles, dynamic zones, and single-key ADP encryption. If needed, extra security can be provided from the optional features listed below.
- Wi-Fi® 802.11 b/g/n
- RFID Volume Knob
- Multi-key for 128 keys and multi-algorithm
- Programming Over Project 25 (OTAP)
- Over the Air Rekey (OTAR)
- Digital Tone Signaling
- P25 Authentication
- Man Down Sensor
- IP68 (2m/4hr), Mil Std 512.X Delta - T
- LEX L10 Collaboration
Motorola APX 8000 Price:
The Motorola APX 8000 costs $4,000+.
There is a wide variety of Motorola APX 8000 accessories including a Motorola radio earpiece. A list can be accessed at this link HERE.
Rugged Cellular Devices:
In addition to multi-purpose two-way radios, original equipment manufacturers have made heavy investments in developing rugged cellular devices that can withstand public safety use. We have chosen four devices to look out for in 2022.
Motorola Solutions LEX L11:
The Motorola Solutions LEX L11 is a rugged device that maintains the technology of a device developed with emergency workers in mind.
The communication features for the LEX L11 are simple and straightforward. It is able to operate on LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and Wi-fi. The LTE is compatible with private networks dedicated to first responders.
With technology like GPS and NFC, the LEX L11 has the basic technology necessary for emergency situations. The Wi-fi capabilities are within 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz making the communication times standard.
The LEX L11 is made to be durable whilst remaining slim and streamlined. It is known to withstand the challenging environments that critical communications often experience because it is MIL-STD-810G certified for drop and shock and IP-67 rated.
It is designed with features like a dedicated push-to-talk button, an emergency button, a talkgroup rocker switch, and two programmable buttons. These are important features because buttons are often more user-friendly while wearing gloves compared to a touch screen. Moreover, it has the ability to have remote control radio zones, channels, and volume.
Audio features are also a big part of the design behind the Motorola Solutions LEX L11. Elements like noise and echo cancellation, dual front-facing loudspeakers, and howling suppression all work to create a device that allows for clear communication.
- Dimensions (H x W x D) With Standard Battery 6.0 in x 3.07 in x 0.52 in 152.5 mm x 78 mm x 13.2 mm
With a normal battery life of 10 hours and a high-capacity battery life of 20 hours, the Motorola Solution LEX L11’s abilities can last just as long as most portable radios.
The Motorola Solutions LEX L11 is not as extensive as most portable radios; however, it is much more than a standard cell phone and is sustainable.
Features include secure mobile protection like real-time device protection, data-at-rest, and data-in-transit security which all ensure that the information that is on your device and that which is being sent to other devices is protected. The LEX L11 also has malware blocking to prevent viruses.
Motorola Solutions LEX L11 Price:
The LEX L11 is economically friendly at about $1,000+.
Panasonic Toughbook N1:
The Panasonic Toughbook N1 is a great replacement or tool to use alongside a handheld two-way radio. It is compatible with Firstnet and Verizon Frontline.
The Panasonic Toughbook N1 can operate on Wi-Fi; it also is an option to work on 4G LTE through a network like Firstnet or Verizon. This dual functionality is great because if your team is not looking to connect through a cellular network, you have the choice to simply depend on Wi-Fi.
The Toughbook N1 also supports GPS, a Dual Nano-SIM, Bluetooth with low energy, and NFC. This technology is all standard in devices made for emergency responders.
The design of the Panasonic Toughbook N1 is 4.7” fully rugged handheld with Android™ 9(Pie) - Qualcomm® SDM660-2 64bit 2.2GHzx4+1.8GHzx4 Octa-Core. With a 500 NIT screen that has 10-point touch, you know you are getting streamlined technology that will work efficiently.
In addition to a great look, the Toughbook N1 also has outstanding battery life. Supported by a 3200 mAh Li-Ion standard battery pack, the Toughbook N1 has a 19-hour long battery life; however, with continuous data usage, it is rated at 8 hours. It is a user-replaceable battery.
Lastly, the makers of the Panasonic Toughbook N1 understood that it will be treated similar to a handheld two-way radio so it should stand up to similar durability tests. This rugged cell phone is MIL-STD-810G certified for a 7’ drop. It is also IP66 and Ip68 dust and water-resistant certified.
Panasonic Toughbook N1 Price:
The Panasonic Toughbook N1 is often listed at a reasonable price of $1,500.
Accessories like desktop chargers and cords are offered through Panasonic and can be found HERE.
The Sonim XP5S is known for its flexibility in emergency situations.
The Sonim XP5S has Bluetooth, wi-fi calling, messaging, GPS, barometer, accelerometer, and NFC. With wi-fi calling, the XP5S can work in a variety of areas. Moreover, the ability to message widens the ability to communicate.
The XP5S also features a MIMO antenna to connect to LTE. With this antenna, the Sonim XP5S can work on Firstnet and Verizon Frontline.
The dimensions of the XP5S are 141mm x 64mm x 23mm. Within this size, it also has a PTT key, speakerphone key, volume keys, and SOS red alert. The SOS red alert is a great button to have for emergency situations since it is easily accessible.
Lastly, this cellular device also has a 3180 mAh Li-Ion battery. A lithium-ion battery not only has a longer charge, but it also lasts longer overall.
Sonim XP5S Price:
The Sonim XP5S is priced at $200+ making it the most affordable option on this list.
The accessories for the Sonim XP5S include a battery, wall charger, USB-C cable, screwdriver, and quick start guide. Additional accessories for the XP5 and XP8 include surveillance earpieces manufactured by companies like Waveband Communications.
The Sonim XP8 is similar to the XP5S with the addition of other features.
Like the XP5S, the XP8 has a MIMO antenna to have an LTE connection for calling and SMS messaging. It also has the ability to use Bluetooth connection, wi-fi calling, GPS, and NFC.
The Sonim XP8 uses a 4900 mAh Li-Ion battery. It includes a PTT key, programmable key, volume keys, sos red alert, and power on/off button—all very similar to the Sonim XP5S.
The difference between the two rugged cellular devices is the durability certifications. The Sonim XP8 has IP-68, IP-69, and MIL 80G ratings. These statuses mean the XP8 is water and drop resistant, ensuring it can stand up to rugged environments.
- Dimensions: 152 mm x 79.5 mm x18 mm
Sonim XP8 Price:
The Sonim XP8 is about $299+, depending on choices like battery type.
Sonim XPR8 accessories to choose from include, battery, wall charger, USB-C cable, screwdriver, and a quick start guide.
LTE-compatible technology like portable radios for critical communications is no longer a unique tool—it is an expectation. Having a consistent and reliable connection between emergency response teams is of utmost importance and with modern technology, LTE plays a major role in this connection.
Because this is no longer a unique quality to have in a handheld two-way radio, there are many to choose from within the communications market. We hope this comprehensive guide about Harris radio, Motorola radio, and the overall best handheld two-way radios provided the necessary information for you to decide. Comparing the top technology the market offers to ensure you make the right decision for your team, is a key to clear critical communications.