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Old 22-08-2013, 06:56   #1
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Looking for a a new VHF handheld

Since my Uniden Atlantis handheld VHF battery only lasts about 15 seconds even transmitting at 1 watt I decided that it may be time for a new VHF handheld rather than buy a new battery for a unit I was a little disappointed in.
I figure floating is a good idea (though I've never dropped one over the side yet), GPS and DSC seem like good features also.
Currently trying to decide between two models :

Icom M92D

Standard Horizon HX851

Though I'm open for other suggestions.
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Old 22-08-2013, 07:41   #2
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

The one I have, (westmarine brand), has a battery tray in addition to the rechargeable battery pack. The tray holds 4 AA batteries and snaps onto the radio in place of the rechargeable pack. This is a really good feature. The radio itself kind of sucks but I will be looking for the battery tray feature when I replace it.
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Old 22-08-2013, 07:53   #3
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbianka View Post
Since my Uniden Atlantis handheld VHF battery only lasts about 15 seconds even transmitting at 1 watt I decided that it may be time for a new VHF handheld rather than buy a new battery for a unit I was a little disappointed in.
I figure floating is a good idea (though I've never dropped one over the side yet), GPS and DSC seem like good features also.
Currently trying to decide between two models :

Icom M92D

Standard Horizon HX851

Though I'm open for other suggestions.
I have the HX851 and think it's a great value for the money...
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Old 22-08-2013, 07:56   #4
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

After 40+ years as both a Ham and sailor I've come to the strong belief that Vertex (Standard is their marine brand, Yaesu their ham brand) make the best hand held units. They were also an innovative player in the commercial Land Mobile Radio (LMR) hand held market before their LMR division was sold to industry leader Motorola. As for the marine gear, great features, good pricing, and very good support (if needed). My favorite is the HX 851, a 6watt unit with built in GPS for under $250. There are other models under $150, all very well thought out.
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Old 22-08-2013, 08:55   #5
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

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Originally Posted by Thumbs Up View Post
The one I have, (westmarine brand), has a battery tray in addition to the rechargeable battery pack. The tray holds 4 AA batteries and snaps onto the radio in place of the rechargeable pack. This is a really good feature. The radio itself kind of sucks but I will be looking for the battery tray feature when I replace it.
I'll keep the Atlantis around as a monitor for weather and VHF conversations by my bunk but, for transmitting I would not trust it. Though maybe I will use the AA batteries to make it it an emergency back up unit like you mentioned.
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Old 22-08-2013, 08:57   #6
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

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Originally Posted by Scott Berg View Post
After 40+ years as both a Ham and sailor I've come to the strong belief that Vertex (Standard is their marine brand, Yaesu their ham brand) make the best hand held units. They were also an innovative player in the commercial Land Mobile Radio (LMR) hand held market before their LMR division was sold to industry leader Motorola. As for the marine gear, great features, good pricing, and very good support (if needed). My favorite is the HX 851, a 6watt unit with built in GPS for under $250. There are other models under $150, all very well thought out.
Scott

Thanks for that info. Did not know they also make Yaesu. I am thinking of the HK851 as a possible replacement.
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Old 22-08-2013, 09:05   #7
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

I've been a ham and sailor for over 50 years and had every imaginable marine VHF radio over that period and the one thing I have learned is that they are all interchangeable. There is virtually no difference in the technology among them and all the contemporary manufacturers make good, dependable handhelds.

Everyone thinks their choice is the best so weigh opinions only after looking at the features you want and comparing features and price. The current crop of cheap Chinese radios are equally good choices.

Regardless of what you choose, consider the ones which allow interchangeable antennas as the typical "rubber duck" antenna which comes standard on most handhelds is the weak link in all of them.
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Old 22-08-2013, 09:27   #8
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

I disagree, I think they do leap frog each other in technology and features and are not interchangeable for periods of time.

For example, the Icom the OP is considering looks identical to the SH under consideration. However, SH had those features for a couple of years before Icom - so there was a time frame of difference. Most likely someone will leapfrog these soon enough.

And I have seen reliability and quality spreads between top and bottom manufacturers you could drive a truck through.

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Old 22-08-2013, 18:57   #9
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

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I disagree, I think they do leap frog each other in technology and features and are not interchangeable for periods of time.

For example, the Icom the OP is considering looks identical to the SH under consideration. However, SH had those features for a couple of years before Icom - so there was a time frame of difference. Most likely someone will leapfrog these soon enough.

And I have seen reliability and quality spreads between top and bottom manufacturers you could drive a truck through.

Mark
My experience with some of the cheaper handheld radios is the electronics hold up well. But, it's the batteries that fail and the companies fall down on customer support and parts. A number of years ago I bought a Shakespeare VHF radio it worked well enough until the battery crapped out. Called Shakespeare they said the radio and parts were discontinued but, for x dollars they would send me a new model VHF. OK I said. I used it for a few years then that battery crapped out. Decided that was end of my dealings with Shakespeare. Bought the Uniden Atlantis same thing happened. The battery still works well for monitoring but, has 15 second transmit life on 1 watt power setting. Hoping the new Icom 92D or Standard Horizon HX 851 units I'm considering do much better considering they will have Lith Ion batteries. I'm hoping the money I'll be spending will be worth it in terms of reliability and battery life.
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Old 22-08-2013, 19:20   #10
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

Choose a VHF walkie talkie with a non-standard set of rechargeable batteries; avoid anything powered by AAA, AA, C, D, 9V batteries. The higher the rechargeable batteries' current, the better the radio's power output. If you examine the schematics/circuit analysis of any hand-held designed by Motorola, for example, you'll never see any transceiver made by them powered by standard batteries; high current requirement dictates the usage of their proprietary batteries. That's all folks!

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Old 23-08-2013, 03:44   #11
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

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Originally Posted by S/V Illusion View Post
I've been a ham and sailor for over 50 years and had every imaginable marine VHF radio over that period and the one thing I have learned is that they are all interchangeable. There is virtually no difference in the technology among them and all the contemporary manufacturers make good, dependable handhelds.

Everyone thinks their choice is the best so weigh opinions only after looking at the features you want and comparing features and price. The current crop of cheap Chinese radios are equally good choices.

Regardless of what you choose, consider the ones which allow interchangeable antennas as the typical "rubber duck" antenna which comes standard on most handhelds is the weak link in all of them.
I'm not sure if all VHF handhelds are exactly the same quality, and I am certainly a disproof of the statement that everyone thinks his current choice is the best.

I've had all kinds of handheld VHF's over the years, with variable results. I had an old Icom with a NiCad battery in the '90s which was pretty good, but the battery was a problem. I still have that radio somewhere.

I had a Uniden which was -- as others have reported -- carp. Worked poorly out of the box and died just out of warranty.

The biggest surprise in my history of handheld VHF ownership was a quite cheap Cobra HH325, which was heavy, beautifully made, and performed excellently in every way. It had splendid controls with concentric rotary squelch and volume controls on the top (just like my expensive Icom handheld amateur radio -- why don't they do that on their marine radios! ). It had a NiMH battery, but didn't seem to have any memory effect and had very good battery life, better than my current Standard Horizon HX 851. Overall was a great radio -- outstanding value for the money (about $100 IIRC). Unfortunately stolen in Cherbourg.

I don't like the HX 851 too much. DSC is fantastic, of course, and not just for distress -- you can do position polling and private calling with it, too. Really great to see at a glance where the dinghy is, for example.

But I hate the controls -- no knobs, just buttons. Volume up and down, squelch plus or minus, and changing channels is all done with the same two buttons -- you scroll through these functions using a third button on the top. Everytime you quickly need to change channels, you find that the controls are changing squelch. So you mess up squelch, have to fumble around resetting it, and then try to scroll to the right position to change channels. Bleh. It's really poorly conceived.

Battery life is not too good, and you get only occasional information about the state of your batts. No indication at all means anything from 50% to 100% (I think), then you get a symbol that you have "some" battery left, then the thing is unexpectedly dead -- that's it.

On the plus side, you can buy a battery tray for it (costly, however) which will allow you to run it in an emergency situation on AAA batts.
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Old 23-08-2013, 05:21   #12
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

Upon reading further, I would have to agree with Dockhead about the controls on the HX851. I was trying to remember my dislikes about it and he reminded me... Overall??? Good radio decent batt life, but not remarkable... BUT.... It's the control buttons that bother me... I want a knob for volume and squelch... The up/down would be fine for all of the other menus, but these buttons control everything...
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Old 23-08-2013, 05:39   #13
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

which radios come with a non nicad battery pack--that is the radio i would buy, as thee nicad batteries limit the longevity of the radio.
does anyone know which ones are non nicad.....
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Old 23-08-2013, 05:47   #14
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

Dockhead & Happymdsailor:

I think the reason for the buttons instead of pots on the HX 851 is it is probably easier to waterproof button controls than a rotating shaft of a linear pot control. Though as you point out not easier to operate. Since I'm thinking this is one of the first things I'd grab if I had to abandoned the boat I'd prefer the better seals if I'm bouncing around in the waves with it trying to hit the "red button". Looks like it's a trade off but, one I could probably live with. No pun intended.
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Old 23-08-2013, 05:52   #15
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Re: Looking for a a new VHF handheld

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which radios come with a non nicad battery pack--that is the radio i would buy, as thee nicad batteries limit the longevity of the radio.
does anyone know which ones are non nicad.....
I know the two radios I'm considering the ICOM 92D and the Standard Horizon HK851 both come with Lithium Ion batteries. Probably a few others out there as well.
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