In the present state of the art, coherent optical receivers most often operate in the heterodyne mode. Here a photodiode-amplifier combination having bandwidth greater than twice the bit rate (B) is needed: indeed bandwidths considerably greater than2Bare preferably employed to ease design of the bandpass filter needed for noise limitation, and to avoid demodulator penalties in some modulation schemes. For the high bit rate systems now coming into service (560 Mbit/s-2.4 Gbit/s), the optical receiver design requirements become more stringent for coherent heterodyne operation. The various modes of "zero IF" operation, however, require only baseband receiver module bandwidth. The options available are either homodyne (phase locked) operation, or phase diversity (multiport) techniques. In this paper, we compare these options, and show that phase diversity techniques are capable of good performance for high bit rate coherent receivers. In phase diversity operation, not only is phase locking avoided, but also the necessary frequency locking does not have high stability requirements. Furthermore, there are advantages in operating with a small frequency offset from zero (of the order of 1 percent of the bit rate). An experimental receiver has been operated at 320 and 680 Mbit/s, demodulating both amplitude shift keying (ASK) and differential phase shift keying (DPSK). Operation with FSK is also possible. Sensitivities so far achieved of -47.5 dBm (320-Mbit/s ASK) and -42 dBm (680- Mbit/s ASK) with limited local oscillator power are capable of substantial improvement when higher power local oscillators and lower noise receive modules become available. Demodulation of DPSK at 320 Mbit/s has also been achieved and shows a measured receiver sensitivity improvement of over 4 dB over ASK at the same bit rate and local oscillator power. These practical results show clearly that phase diversity is a very realistic option for high bit rate systems.