second station ("Command Mic") for my Icom
M604 has been out of commission for three years. It just stopped working. I assumed that I nicked the cable when I installed my new plotter. But I couldn't find the nick. I sent away the Command Mic to Icom
to check for a fault, but they could not find a problem.
Therefore, I have been dependent on my handheld for different comms which have to be done while I'm at the helm
. It doesn't work that well, and I never liked my Standard Horizon HX851 anyway, so when I was in the U.S. last week, I acquired an HX870.
I was eager to see how much improved this radio
is, especially since the maker, Yaesu, had found me a couple of years ago to ask me for suggestions on what to improve.
Here are my first impressions:
1. Some people have written that the new radio
is more compact than the very bulky HX851. All I can say is not by much. It's slightly thinner but still a hefty beast. I think I might even prefer it to be non-floating, if it could be of a more handy size.
life, a big weakness of the HX851, seems to be tremendously improved. I used it all day and only ran it down to about half, and that was with the GPS
active. The HX851 couldn't get through a whole day without a recharge, even with the GPS
3. There is now a normal battery
indicator, showing increments of battery life left, rather than the lame binary "low battery" indicator of the HX851.
4. The HX870 has DSP noise
suppression on both TX and RX. Can't say whether other people can hear a difference, but RX is noticeably improved.
5. The HX870 has a USB port. The publicly available programming software
has limited functions, but you put MMSI numbers into memory (can't program your own, however), program MMSI groups, download logs
calls, upload and download waypoints and tracks, program scan channels. Wish you could program your own channels and change your MMSI.
6. Like the HX851, this unit outputs position and DSC
data in NMEA0183. As far as I can tell (?), the HX870 ONLY sends this data via USB. The HX851 had an RS422 connection wired into the charging
base, which seems to be missing here. I don't use this function so it doesn't make any difference to me, but if you want to use this data for something, this could be good or bad depending on how you're set up.
7. The GPS unit is updated. Like other recent generation GPS receivers
, it is lightning
fast compared to the old ones. It looks like it does WAAS; I don't know about GLONASS.
8. The screen
is much larger -- about double -- and with many more pixels, than the old one, and the menu and display structure is greatly improved. There are GPS screens which more or less duplicate the functionality of older pre-mapping GPS handhelds, which is great.
9. Control ergonomics are greatly improved. There is now a dedicated squelch button on the side, and a row of three soft keys.
10. An lovely surprise -- the charging
base is now suitable for sailboats, holding the radio firmly and being capable of being mounted to a vertical surface. So now you can keep it in the charging base where it will be kept charged up. I kept meaning to rig up some kind of retainer strap for the old radio so that I could keep it in the base, but never got around to it. This combined with the lousy battery life of the old unit meant it was often not charged when I needed it
. But this is now really good. This is also a big plus for the radio as an emergency
comms device -- always in one place, and always charged, to grab before jumping in the life raft.
That's about it. You can see that a lot of thought has gone into designing this version.
P.S. -- after 3 years, I finally had an inspiration about what was wrong with my Command Mic. I think I saw it in a dream last night, actually. I took out the M604 and took it apart, and lo and behold -- one of the ribbon cables
was loose. I put it all back together again and -- now my Command Mic works again. What do you know. So now I will be using the new handheld about 1/10 as much as I have been using the old one.