HackRF One is a software-defined radio device that allows users to transmit or receive radio signals at a frequency range of 1 MHz to 6 GHz..
It is an open-source hardware platform that works as a USB peripheral or is customized to work as a standalone solution.
While it is a good SDR peripheral, it is not the only one of its kind. Other impressive SDR alternatives include Nooelec NESDR Mini 2+, RTL-SDR, YARD Stick One, and LimeSDR.
However, the best HackRF One alternative is KiwiSDR, thanks to its ease of use, multiple band compatibility, and customization options.
One of the downsides to HackRF One is that it has a relatively high price range. This may make it inaccessible to some students or self-learners.
Another negative is that it may not support the type of software that you are using on your computer.
HackRF also has a learning curve and that may make it undesirable to people who have little knowledge about software-defined radio, wireless communication, and radio frequency.
The good news is that I have compiled a list of relatively cheaper alternatives that offer a straightforward solution so that just about anyone can use them without any special skills.
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KiwiSDR is a software-defined radio that can cover shortwave, longwave, and AM broadcast bands. It can also work seamlessly with various utility stations and amateur radio transmissions.
When using this device, you do not have to worry about location compatibility because it can work anywhere worldwide.
Like HackRF One, it is an open-source hardware and software device meaning anyone can modify it, study it, or create it and distribute it freely without infringing on any copyright laws.
The device has a browser-based interface that lets you monitor and control things on your computer and mobile device. The interface has a pretty straightforward design so you can control activity with a few clicks of a button.
Its interface also allows for simultaneous web connections. Each connection can tune an independent receiver channel over an entire spectrum and that makes this device quite versatile.
Another impressive thing about this SDR is that it has automatic frequency calibration via received GPS timing so you won’t need to spend time on manual calibration.
There is also an extension interface that allows you to add decoders and utilities if that is what you want to do. It has a frequency range of 10 kHz to 30 MHz.
If you are looking for simple hardware to help you zoom in and out of bands, find interesting stations, and listen to someone else’s band, then KiwiSDR can be one of the best solutions.
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The NooElec NESDR is a modified DVB-T USB dongle that is tuned for SDR usage. It includes improved capacitors and inductors that allow it to offer superior performance when compared to generic devices.
In addition, it has a high-accuracy, Japanese-fabricated, GPS-rated 0.5PPM TCXO crystal so you can be sure to get optimal results.
Unlike HackRF One, it is compatible with a variety of software packages including MATLAB®, HDSDR, SDR Touch, SDR#, and Planeplotter, among others.
Another impressive thing about this device is that its power consumption has been reduced so you’ll end up saving on that power bill.
It comes with a strong telescopic antenna for strong reception and a suction mount for easy placement.
It has a frequency range of 25 MHz to 1750 MHz. Unlike many competitors in this category, the NooElec NESDR is relatively cheap and can be installed and operated with little knowledge about how SDR works.
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This RTL-SDR software-defined radio receiver includes an RTL2832U ADC chip, 1PPM TCXO, SMA F connector, and a R820T2 tuner. It also features an aluminum case with passive cooling so you can use it continuously without worrying about overheating.
This receiver has a frequency range of 500 kHz to 1.7 GHz which is quite impressive. It is compatible with a variety of free software like SDR#, HDSDR, SDR-Radio, Linrad, GQRX, and SDR Touch on Android.
You’ll also be pleased to know that it works on different computer systems including Windows, macOS, and Linux. You can even run it on Android systems and embedded Linux computers such as the Raspberry Pi.
The compact design of the device makes it quite portable and easy to store safely. Its robust case helps improve longevity while overall quality parts ensure you always get optimal performance.
The RTL-SDR receiver is quite versatile and can therefore work with many applications including public safety radio, air traffic control, general radio scanning, weather balloons, radio astronomy, meteor scatter monitors, and APRS, among others.
It is different from HackRF because it goes for a relatively cheaper rate.
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YARD Stick One (Yet Another Radio Dongle) is another excellent alternative to the HackRF One receiver. It offers half-duplex transmission and receiving capabilities which is more or less the same as what you find on HackRF One.
Its official operating frequencies are listed as 300 to 348 MHz, 391 to 464 MHz, and 782 to 928 MHz. However, you do not have to stick to these official frequencies.
Instead, you can also opt for the unofficial options that are listed as 281 to 361 MHz, 378 to 481 MHz, and 749 to 962 MHz. In contrast to HackRF One, YARD Stick One comes with rfcat firmware installed.
This firmware is quite versatile and allows you to control the wireless transceiver from an interactive Python shell. You can also control the transceiver from a compatible program installed on your computer.
The device has a CC Bootloader making it easy for you to upgrade the default firmware whenever necessary. This design also allows you to install your own firmware without needing to acquire any additional installation hardware.
This device comes with an SMA connector that allows you to connect to external antennas. It incorporates a transmit amplifier that boosts output power and a receive amplifier that also improves sensitivity.
You’ll also be pleased to know that it includes a low pass filter that gets rid of harmonics when operating within the 800 and 900 MHz bands.
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LimeSDR is another impressive software-defined radio you can turn to instead of HackRF One. It is also open-source hardware so anyone can get it, study it, modify it, and even recreate it without infringing on any copyright laws.
One of the things that makes it stand apart from HackRF is that it can integrate with Snappy Ubuntu Core. This opens up a whole new chapter of possibilities since you can search and find LimeSDR apps from developers across the globe.
If you are a developer, you can also share your own apps for free or for a fee through the Snappy Ubuntu Core.
LimeSDR can work with a variety of applications including radio astronomy, RADAR, Media streaming, 2G to 4G cellular base stations, HAM radio, aviation transponders, and utility meters, among others.
This SDR has a frequency range of 100 kHz to 3.8 GHz.
Next up on this list of the best HackRF alternatives is ADALM-PLUTO. One of the things that makes it a better option than HackRF is that it has a self-contained RF learning module.
That means faculty, students, and self-learners can access the RF lab and learn different things that pertain to software-defined radios.
The RF lab has important resources for people of different levels so you can start from the ground and work your way up to the expert level.
This SDR has a frequency range of 325 MHz to 3.8 GHz with up to 20 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth. It has a USB 2.0 powered interface and a micro-0USB 2.0 connector so you can use it on just about any computer.
It has one transmitter and one receiver so you can tap into other frequencies or share your own.
This SDR is completely self-contained and powered by default firmware so you do not need to worry about acquiring any additional hardware or software.
It also has an intuitive graphical user interface that makes learning a pleasant experience.
If you are looking for a HackRF One alternative that makes it easy to get started with software-defined radio, radio frequency, and wireless communications, ADALM-PLUTO should definitely be at the top of your list.
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The FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus is a software-defined radio designed in the form of a USB stick. This makes it quite portable and easy to use with any computer that has a USB 2.0 port.
The device has a frequency range of 150 kHz to 1900 MHz which is quite significant considering how compact and small it is. It can also display or receive a spectrum of up to 192 kHz.
FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus is extremely affordable. Before you can start using it, you’ll need to update its firmware through an online process.
This is relatively straightforward so you won’t have to worry about reading any complicated manuals. Once you update the firmware, the dongle’s plug-and-play function is activated.
That means you’ll not need to carry out any technical processes when you want to use it. Simply plug it into your device and start running it. The FUNcube SDR is compatible with most computer systems including Windows, Linux, and macOS.
It can receive a variety of signal types including VHF and UHF. The USB dongle has a female connector so you can easily join it to an antenna for signal clarity.
To ensure even better reception, use a USB extension cable when connecting because this allows it to avoid the noise emanating from your computer.
8. DXpatrol SDR
The DXpatrol SDR is another option you should consider in case you want to tap into different radio frequencies. It has a frequency range of 100KHz to 2GHz so you can rest assured that it can cover a significant area.
It incorporates a +33dBm IP3 preamplifier which helps ensure you get superior quality performance regardless of prevailing conditions. It has a robust aluminum shield case that helps ensure longevity.
There is also front-end input antenna protection so you don’t have to worry about damage. This portable device has quality band filters that help ensure that your signal reception adheres to acceptable standards.
The DXpatrol SDR has SMA golden antenna connectors for seamless connection and LED power indicators so you can get a quick understanding of what is going on with regard to function.
You can easily connect it to your computer thanks to the micro USB connection design. It works with most computer systems including Windows, Linux, and macOS.
The device also works seamlessly with Android and iOS devices. Unlike HackRF One, it offers almost similar results at a fraction of the cost.
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CollibriNANO is another excellent SDR you can use to capture different radio frequencies. It has a low profile design that makes it easy to bring along on outdoor trips and even to store safely.
Its robust casing ensures that everything in the inner compartment remains protected. The casing is designed to provide passive cooling so it will not overheat even when used over prolonged periods.
The SDR has a low power consumption usage so you won’t need to worry about incurring abnormal power costs. When used in undersampling, it can reach a frequency range of up to 500 MHz.
The device features a plug-and-play design so you’ll simply have to connect it to your computer to start using it. It is compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS devices.
Like most alternatives on this list, it has a USB 2.0 connector so you should be fine connecting it to most modern computers. In contrast to HackRF One, the CollibriNANO includes an ExpertRemote System making it possible for you to enjoy remote operation.
Finally, the Elad FDM-S1 SDR Rx can also do an excellent job when it comes to capturing radio signals. It comes in a beautiful small bag for safekeeping and portability.
Inside the bag, you’ll find a USB cable for easy connection with your computer and a CD for setup purposes. This is a compact SDR so it will take up little space regardless of where you place it.
It can work as an SDR direct sampling receiver with a range of 20KHz to 30MHz. When switched to the downsampling mode, it can go up to 200MHz.
It has a low power consumption which is why it can be powered fully through the USB connection to your computer. Its software has a native DRM decoder so you can decode DRM transmissions without requiring any additional software.
KiwiSDR offers a versatile way for you to tap into shortwave, longwave, and AM bands seamlessly.
On the other hand, alternatives such as DXpatrol SDR and FUNcube Dongle Pro Plus offer a simple and affordable solution for you to receive different radio signals.
That said, pick the one that suits your needs the best.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.