Best DMR Radio For 2024

Best DMR Radio For 2024

Digital Mobile Radio, aka DMR Radios are expensive.  If you are a Ham radio operator you can get a hand held radio that is decent for less than $50.  Not so much in the world of digital hand held radios.   The radio that seems to be ordained for the top slot costs around $329.  John’s Tech Blog has ordained that the best DMR radio for 2024 is the Retevis RT3S which costs about $86 for a non-GPS version, and about $90 for the GPS version.

Retevis RT3S

Best DMR Radio

Retevis RT3S

Mine is the non-GPS version, and yes, the plastic screen protector is still on it.  I generally leave those protectors on until they give up the ghost.

While stating that the Retevis RT3S is the BEST DMR Radio for 2024,  there are some caveats to that statement.

Caveat #1:  You need to blast the original firmware and install OpenGD77 firmware.  More than anything else, this allows you to hold almost 1 million DMR ID contacts in your database.  If you lengthen the DMR ID to 50 characters then it holds around 350,000.  Currently, that encompasses the entire list of registered users.

Caveat #2:  I probably should have said this is the best DMR radio FOR THE PRICE.  The Anytone AT-D878UVII Plus is probably the best DMR radio out there for bells and whistles but it is the one that costs $329.  That is too much for digital hand held radio.

And let’s be real.  We use these radios at home or on the go.  Who wants to leave a $330 radio in the hot sweltering truck?  And if you are home you can view a ridiculous amount of data on your computer screen through Pi-Star or WPSD.  You don’t need a crazy color screen with a great layout for home use.

So forgive me when I say that an $86 radio that holds the entire DMR ID database is the Best DMR Radio for 2024.  Quite simply, it is.


Like I mentioned, you can optionally flash a 3rd party firmware called OpenGD77.   You don’t have to, and if not having a complete DMR ID database in the radio doesn’t matter to you then just keep the stock firmware.  It is still a bargain DMR radio with a decent feature mix.

The process for flashing OpenGD77 is pretty easy and is well documented here.  Probably the most notable thing you lose is the color screen.  It’s my understanding that the developers are working on color screens but I personally prefer features written to memory, rather than colors.

OpenGD77 As A Hotspot

To talk on DMR radio you either need to hit a local DMR repeater, or have a gateway device to the internet known as a “hotspot”.   While there are commercial hotspots such as Openspot most folks take a Raspberry Pi and install Pi-Star OS on it.   You then need some kind of an MMDVM board to act as the gateway.

With an RT3S and OpenGD77 you can simply plug your radio into the Raspberry Pi and IT BECOMES THE HOTSPOT.  That could potentially be cheaper than buying an Openspot or some MMDVM boards.  You of course, then need another radio to communicate with your hotspot.  And because you are using a proper hand held radio as a hotspot, your operational range could be considerably further.  A lot further.

To set it up go to Menu > Options > General Options > Hotspot

It can be set to:

  • Off
  • BlueDV
Best DMR Radio

OpenGD77 Hotspot Settings

And finally, set the modem type in Pi-Star (or WPSD).  OpenGD77 DMR Hotspot (USB) is depicted at the bottom.

Best DMR Radio

Pi-Star Hotspot Settings

That’s a pretty powerful feature.

An Openspot costs over $300.  The Bridgecom Systems hotspot costs around $425.  An MMDVM board generally is going to cost you $70-$150 give or take.  It could just be that two Retevis RT3S radios with OpenGD77 could be an economical choice to get on the DMR networks.


With OpenGD77 you can do APRS provided you have the GPS version of the radio.  I opted against this.  I’m not an APRS guy and there isn’t any APRS activity at all around where I live.

Final Thoughts

If you aren’t afraid to flash a 3rd party firmware, the Retevis RT3S is the best deal going in the DMR hand held radio world.  While the RT3S with stock firmware is pretty vanilla it has a ton of tricks up its sleeve with OpenGD77 installed.   Not the least of which is the ability to store the entire DMR ID database.  Any other DMR radio that holds the entire database is going to cost A LOT MORE than $86.

If you talk on DMR save yourself a few (hundred) dollars and get an RT3S.

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