Handheld VHF Marine Radio Reveiws

We do extensive testing of different handheld marine HVF radios.

Handheld VHF Marine Radio Reveiws

Having a handheld VHF radio on board can keep you and your crew safe. (Courtesy Standard Horizon/)

Today’s handheld radios can save time searching for boating friends, ease communications in port, and keep you apprised of threatening weather conditions. Most important, in the case of an emergency, some can continuously broadcast an SOS complete with your GPS coordinates beginning at the touch of a button. Though some older radios still function without digital selective calling (DSC), this functionality is required by federal law on new fixed-mount radios, and a number of high-end handhelds now also have this feature. DSC has an important convenience in addition to its safety advantage of auto-hailing in an emergency. By using DSC technology along with a radio registered (at no cost) with the FCC via boatus.com and other sources, you can directly hail a single vessel via its maritime mobile service identity (MMSI) number, or hail a group of MMSI numbers programmed into the radio’s memory. All but one of the handhelds we tested has DSC capabilities.

How We Tested

How do these radios stack up? First, we could not test the radios’ SOS capabilities—that is illegal because it could initiate a search-and-rescue mission. We didn’t want US Coast Guard swimmers dropping out of choppers at our launch ramp. So, we have to trust the government agencies that regulate this element of VHF communication devices. We also didn’t test the DSC capabilities because the radios are permanently assigned to vessels and ours would be returned to the manufacturers.

Transmission Clarity

We posted a team of experienced boaters on two vessels about 2 miles apart, each with two of the test radios. Each made a call at the highest output setting to the other, and we subjectively noted the clarity on each radio. Then we swapped radios to repeat.

Reception and transmission clarity were scored on a scale of 1 to 5.

Read Next: Common Mistakes When Using a VHF Radio

Icom incorporated an AIS receiver in its handhelds, adding safety.
Icom incorporated an AIS receiver in its handhelds, adding safety. (Courtesy Icom/)

Icom M94D

$300; westmarine.com

icomamerica.com

Warranty: 3 years

Professional-grade and powerful, this DSC-equipped handheld VHF was first to boast an internal GPS, and is now the first to include an AIS receiver to keep boaters informed of surrounding vessels’ AIS signals regarding destination, course, and speed and collision alerts. (It was interesting to note several neighbors broadcast AIS in their backyard moorings.) Select a favorite channel to scan or scan them all. Dual Watch scans your selected normal call channel, plus Channel 16. Tri Watch covers Channel 16, a call channel and one more.

Likes

  • AIS reception gives a wealth of information about surrounding vessels transmitting AIS.
  • An LED flashes automatically when the floating radio falls into the water.
  • Adding MMSI numbers for direct hailing is easy via DSC for up to 75 individual MMSIs and 25 groups of MMSIs.
  • A 2,400 mAh battery.
  • Flash-and-float feature automatically turns on a flashing strobe if dropped overboard.
  • Aqua Quake, a speaker vibration tone, can be activated to shake water from the speaker after submersion and is handy in stormy weather as well.

Improvements

  • LCD screen is legible, but doesn’t meet the high- clarity resolution of the Uniden.
  • This unit is more feature- filled, but the radio is bulkier than the other candidates.
  • AA battery pack is optional.

In the Box

  • Antenna, FA-SC59V
  • AC adapter, BC-123SA
  • Battery charger, BC-251
  • Battery pack, BP-306
  • Cigarette lighter cable, CP-25H
  • Belt clip, MB-133
  • Hand strap

Output Power: 6 watts (high), 1 watt (low)

Battery Life: Up to 10 hours

Battery: 2,400 mAh

Waterproof Rating: IPX7

GPS: Built-in

Floats: Yes

Usable Channel Groups: INT, USA, CAN, WX channels

DSC: Yes

Dimensions (W×H×D): 2.4-by-5.7-by-1.7 in.

Weight (approx.): 12.6 oz.

Test Results

Transmission Clarity: 5

Reception Clarity: 5

The Icom’s clarity of transmission and reception made this model most important in testing because it helped determine the clarity scores of the other radios.

Link your phone to the Cobra to receive calls on the VHF.
Link your phone to the Cobra to receive calls on the VHF. (Randy Vance/)

Cobra MR HH600W FLT GPS BT

$210; amazon.com

cobra.com

Warranty: 3 years

“Breaker one-nine!” is what pops into the brain when most think of this popular citizens band radio manufacturer, but Cobra’s experience in VHF marine radios is extensive. It shows in this marine white-and-international-orange-colored, fully featured DSC- and GPS-equipped model. Like Icom, Cobra has a rewind function that allows message playback, and adds recording and saving capability too. Ten weather channels and a dedicated MOB hard key add convenience and safety.

Likes

  • Bluetooth connectivity enables mobile-phone use through the waterproof radio, keeping the phone safely stowed.
  • Included extra AA battery pack and charger-stand adapter enable continued use while charging the lithium battery pack.
  • Hard keys are provided for the MOB and play-again functions.
  • Power-save mode for GPS extends battery life.
  • Flash-and-float feature automatically turns on a flashing strobe if dropped overboard.

Improvements

  • It was audible to all ears, but Cobra’s radio wasn’t as crisp and clear while listening or calling.
  • Screen resolution was legible but not as sharp as the Uniden.

In the Box

  • Antenna
  • AC adapter
  • Battery charger
  • Battery pack
  • AA battery pack
  • Charger adapter for extra battery pack
  • Cigarette lighter cable
  • Belt clip
  • Hand strap

Output Power: 1, 3, 6 watts

Battery Life: 10 hours at 6 watts

Waterproof Rating: IPX7

GPS: Built-in

Floats: Yes

Usable Channel Groups: INT, USA, CAN, WX channels

DSC: Yes

Dimensions (W×H×D): 2.83-by-5.71-by-1.87 in.

Weight (approx.): 11.6 oz.

Test Results

Transmission Clarity: 3

Reception Clarity: 3

Cobra’s features, such as Bluetooth connectivity and its play-again feature, balanced what we thought was disappointing (when compared to the others) but functional audio clarity.

A powerful, clear-sounding radio, but it lacks DSC, which is important for safety.
A powerful, clear-sounding radio, but it lacks DSC, which is important for safety. (Randy Vance/)

Uniden Atlantis 275

$125; unidenfactoryoutletstore.com

uniden.com

Warranty: 3 years

Uniden has a long history in radio communications. We’ve tested its work before in both Uniden-branded radios and a West Marine private-label radio, and clarity in transmission and reception was tough to beat. It is compact in the hand and light in weight. The floating, waterproof radio has a strobe/LED that illuminates when immersed.

Likes

  • This VHF features an extremely clear, crisp LCD screen.
  • Screen’s backlight is dimmable and changes from red to white.
  • Most-used functions, like watts output, backlight, weather and dual scan, have hard keys.
  • Squelch and volume conveniently share the same toggle button.
  • Unit rotates to remove from the belt clip.
  • A transmit boost key raises output to 6 watts for calling when radio is set to low watts.

Improvements

  • Channel numbers are not accompanied by channel use designations.
  • Transmission wattage is adjusted with channel selection.
  • Operating menu is not intuitive, requiring memorization of multiple simultaneous keystrokes.
  • Lithium battery is permanent, limiting operation to one cycle between charges, and is not designed for quick removal and changing.

In the Box

  • Antenna
  • AC adapter—space-saving design
  • Battery charger
  • Cigarette lighter cable, CP-25H
  • Lithium battery pack
  • Spare AA battery pack
  • Belt clip, MB-133
  • Hand strap
  • Data cable

Output Power: 6 watts (high), 1 watt (low)

Battery Life: 10 hours

Waterproof Rating: IPX8

GPS: Built-in

Floats: Yes

Usable Channel Groups: INT, USA, CAN, WX channels

DSC: No

Dimensions (W×H×D): 6-by-2.5-by-1.7 in.

Weight (approx.): 8.46 oz.

Test Results

Transmission Clarity: 5

Reception Clarity: 5

The Uniden is modestly priced but lacks DSC. Still, one of our testers is an electrical engineer with a long history in radio equipment and immediately took a shine to this radio.

Logical menus and easy-to-navigate soft keys.
Logical menus and easy-to-navigate soft keys. (Courtesy Standard Horizon/)

Standard Horizon HX890

$199.99; westmarine.com

standardhorizon.com

Warranty: 3 years

Like Icom, Standard Horizon’s VHF is professional-quality, and the HX890 has most of the top safety features, save for the AIS receiver sported by Icom’s M94D. The built-in FM receiver allows for casual listening. Two scrambler systems allow private communications between Standard Horizon radios similarly equipped. The case is slim and comfortable in the hand.

Likes

  • AA spare battery pack allows emergency use without external power.
  • Menus are easy to navigate.
  • Soft keys are programmable for specific functions.
  • High-power output improves transmission strength.
  • A 1,800 mAh battery.

Improvements

  • Man overboard (MOB) is soft-key accessible and could be hidden, hindering quick access.
  • Screen resolution is legible but lower than the Uniden.

In the Box

  • Antenna
  • AC adapter—space-saving design
  • Battery charger
  • Cigarette lighter cable, CP-25H
  • Lithium battery pack
  • Spare AA battery pack
  • Belt clip, MB-133
  • Hand strap
  • Data cable
  • European power adapter

Output Power: 6 watts (high), 1 watt (low)

Battery Life: 11 hours

Waterproof Rating: IPX8/Mil-STD-810F

GPS: Built-in

Floats: Yes

Usable Channel Groups: INT, USA, CAN, WX channels

DSC: Yes

Dimensions (W×H×D): 2.6-by-5.43-by-1.5 in.

Weight (approx.): 10.94 oz.

Test Results

Transmission Clarity: 4

Reception Clarity: 4

We tested two of these radios because the first one was defective. The second one, acquired at West Marine, fully functioned up to expectations.

Source : Boating Magazine More   

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Kairos – stunning and timeless superyachting

Phil Draper reports on Kairos a 90m concept which debuted at the Monaco Yacht Show, designed to operate much of the time with zero environmental impact Oceanco’s latest concept Kairos takes ‘sustainable yachting’ to a whole new level. This 90m what-could-be vision debuted at the Monaco Yacht Show in September. The design reimagines how space aboard can be utilised and how sustainable yachting can be and how it can develop into the future for right-minded owners. Kairos is the result of […] This article Kairos – stunning and timeless superyachting appeared first on Motor Boat & Yachting.

Kairos – stunning and timeless superyachting

Phil Draper reports on Kairos a 90m concept which debuted at the Monaco Yacht Show, designed to operate much of the time with zero environmental impact

Oceanco’s latest concept Kairos takes ‘sustainable yachting’ to a whole new level. This 90m what-could-be vision debuted at the Monaco Yacht Show in September. The design reimagines how space aboard can be utilised and how sustainable yachting can be and how it can develop into the future for right-minded owners.

Kairos is the result of a creative huddle between the Dutch gigayacht builder’s ‘NXT’ think tank, the naval architects at Lateral in the UK, and that Italian design and engineering giant Pininfarina, which has not only been responsible for some of the world’s most iconic car creations of the past nine decades, but has also been regularly making waves in the marine industry, not least recently working with Princess on its foiling R35 and more radically styled X Series motor yachts.

In terms of onboard spaces, Kairos proposes an alternative interaction between guests and crew, especially less segregation. All the usual features will be there, of course – everything from palatial cabins, lounges and dining areas inside and out, not to mention balconies and beach clubs, helicopter capabilities and garages packed with tenders and toys – but at the heart of the yacht think Italian ‘piazza’, an open meeting space with views to the sky.

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Everywhere else the use of glass opens up share spaces in fabulous new ways. Think walking down a sidewalk in New York and looking up at the skyscrapers and sky, says Kevin Rice, Pinifarina’s chief creative officer. Walk through this boat, he says, and you will look up and see the decks above and the mast towering above. Then look to one side and you see the sea and to the other family space or a restaurant. This is the special thinking behind the very special Kairos experience.

An important starting point in the creative process was to not think about boats, says Rice, because boats are about moving from somewhere to somewhere. A key goal with this project was to pause the conventional passage of time, to create a timeless environment, where various aspects of life can co-exist – work, family and play – and regardless of where the yacht happens to be in the world.

Is this just another whacky concept? Oceanco is emphatic it represents an authentic step forward, meaning what is proposed could actually be built today with present technologies.

Instead of suggesting an infeasible net zero environmental impact all of the time, which is not possible presently, the Kairos ‘E-Hybrid’ solution could realistically operate for 70% of the day with zero impact, says James Roy, managing director at Lateral.

Perhaps more important still is this design’s ability to adapt as technology and expectations evolve, especially as regards developments in battery technology. Such things will become increasingly important now as cruising grounds begin to restrict access for polluting vessels. Roy says, while they aspire to “total zero” which isn’t yet possible, they can already deliver “local zero”.

Although capable of becoming a reality, Kairos has not been developed with any one client in mind. Rather it is intended to appeal to more people and probably more younger people than Oceanco’s traditional gigayacht clientele, and especially those with a genuine interest in sustainability and perhaps that coming to yachting without the usual preconceptions. It is about fostering the right sort of conversations.

Kairos incidentally is a Greek word and effectively translates as ‘timely’.

This article Kairos – stunning and timeless superyachting appeared first on Motor Boat & Yachting.

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