VHF HAND HELD RADIO REPORTS

 


M298 Handheld VHF radio
By Dave H

I owned a M298 for about 15 months and was perfectly happy with it's performance. Unfortunately, the last two trips when it got rained on showed it's weaknesses.

Generally the unit feels quite well made and although the buttons are a little small, I never had any problems with them. There are two switches on the left hand side - one is the PTT transmit switch and the other is the squelch suppress button.
When you're used to the unit, you know which iswhich, but to a beginner or someone using it in an emergency, there's the possibility of pressing the wrong one when trying to make a call.

The combined on-off/volume switch on the top of the unit is solid enough and has a positive click when turning on and off. The bright red Ch16 button in the centre of the panel is obvious enough.
The battery is a NiMh rechargeable unit which doesn't suffer from the 'memory' problems of a NiCd battery and it a good feature of the radio. Recharging it is via a small jack plug on the right hand side. By fortunate co-incidence, the fitting is the same as on a Nokia mobile phone charger, so I cannabalised one to make a power lead for use in the boat.
You will need to do this if the radio is your main unit, as the best I got from it on it's own battery was around 3 hours use - 99% of which was just sitting there waiting for a transmission. Actually using it to make calls would cut that time down drastically.

The output is 4W on high and 1W on low. This was adequate for me, as I never go more than 2 miles from shore. The Coastguard always picked me up whenever I made a call. You can program any number of channels into the memory, then automatically scan them in turn. It will alternate scanning each channel with scanning Ch16.

It's major weakness was it's ability to shrug off water. It's advertised as 'water resistant' but both times it got light rain on it, the unit failed. The transmit light stayed on, and no other functions would work. I was obviously concerned that I was transmitting (even if I wasn't) so switched the unit off immediately.
Fortunately, after drying the unit out for 24 hours in a warm room, it worked perfectly again. A waterproof bag is available as an option extra but makes the unit much bulkier.

I paid £120 for it, but it can be found for around the £100 mark if you shop around, which makes it one of the cheapest handheld VHF's on the market. I've now replaced it with an Icom IC-M31 which is a guaranteed waterproof unit (30mins @ 1m depth), but costs £140 - like most things I suppose you get what you pay for

In summary, the M298 is a well featured budget priced handheld VHF, suitable as a backup unit for a fixed VHF radio. It's fine it you keep it dry, but don't bank on it to work if it gets any water on it. I wouldn't recommend it as the primary radio on your boat unless you buy the waterproof bag


 

Uniden Mystic VHF/GPS

By Geoff


Home web page Uniden Handhelds

(I'm probably going to get slaughtered by the purists as the unit was puchased whilst on holiday in Florida) Having said that the unit has been thoroughly tested & has all the channels in all the right places when set to the 'International Marine Channels'
There is a price to pay ($320) for the convenience of having communication, DSC and navigation capabilities in a single device but I feel the peace of mind it gives is well worth it.
This is used as a back up unit and not a primary means of navigation.

Specification
Precision engineered waterproof gasket
Easy grip knobs important for nightime use
Illuminated LCD and Key Pad
W.A.A.S. accuracy of under 5M
Sealed Rubber Keypad
Unique waterproof speaker
Full DSC (Digital Selective Calling) operation with the ability to map other boats position on the display
Magellan MapSend Streets & Destinations USA CD or BlueNav CD included
Capable of using optional Magellan BlueNav software maps
JIS7 Sumersible
Full Screen Mapping GPS
Full Navigation Screen
Calling Party Position Indication
Compass Screen
PC Interface for Uploading and Downloading Map Information
S.A.M.E. WX
Triple Watch Plus
Memory Scan
All USA, Canadian & International Marine Channels
LiON Battery
Drop-In Charger with built in Dataport
Swivel Belt clip
Speaker/Mic capable

Design
The Uniden Mystic's two-tone black-and-gray housing consists of almost all high-impact plastic, save for a thin rubber grip lining each side.
Measuring 6.8 by 2.8 by 1.5 inches and weighing close to one pound, this is one hefty handheld.
The Mystic's large (2.2 by 7.5 inches) monochrome display are 12 evenly spaced VHF and GPS function buttons, including a four-way cursor button for changing channels, scrolling through menus, or panning maps.
The display provides two levels of backlighting, as do the function buttons, and it's readable under all lighting conditions.

Features
The Uniden Mystic has all the features you'd expect in a quality handheld VHF radio, including triple-watch channel scanning; one-touch connection to emergency channels (16 and 9); access to all U.S., international, and Canadian marine channels; and multiple SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather channels.
You can also save an unlimited number of channels for automatic scanning.
The Mystic supports DSC (Digital Selective Calling), which allows you to instantly send a distress alert, or Mayday, to the Coast Guard, relaying your position, vessel name, and type of emergency. DSC also allows you to receive distress alerts from other boaters, and you can place private ship-to-ship calls to other DSC-enabled radios.

The Mystic's GPS features include 32MB of internal memory for storing optional BlueNav marine maps.
Storage of up to 500 waypoints with icons; GOTO (straight line) route creation; and a built-in compass.
The device boasts nine navigation screens, including satellite status, map position, compass, and speedometer, as well as a cursor mode that displays information relative to your cursor's position on the map.
The Mystic includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, a drop-in charging cradle, a nine-pin serial data cable for PCs, and cigarette-lighter and AC power adapters.

Performance
Most handheld VHF radios are limited to a range of about 5 miles at high power (5 watts).
No problem communicating with a land-based radio while positioned 3 miles from shore, closer to the 5-mile mark, the more garbled the transmission becomes, though this is usual for line-of-sight communications.
The Uniden Mystic's GPS receiver is strong and precise, establishing a lock on five satellites within 30 seconds and navigating to waypoints with a high degree of accuracy.
The Mystic's battery life varies, depending on factors such as back lighting and mode of operation, and Uniden gives a rated time of 10 hours in continuous use with which I agree, however you can plug into a cigarette lighter socket if you wish to recharge during longer trips.

The Bluenav charts are easily installed & offer the detail you'd expect when purchasing a local chart.
The europe charts aren't listed for use with unit but they work a treat.
The software can be uploaded to the unit as many times as you like to the installed memory (no MMC card) - trips plotted at home can be uploaded & used, deleted, saved, or altered & uploaded again.


 

Icom IC-M35 VHF Transceiver

Manufacturers Specifications

Dimensions (W×H×D) : 62×139.5×43 mm (projections not included)
Weight (approx.) : 295g (with battery pack, belt clip and antenna)
Operating temperature range : –15°C to +55°C
Keypad back lighting
Waterproof construction equivalent to IPX7 (1m depth for 30 minutes)

Report by David Proudfoot courtesy of Planet Sea Fishing

Scrabster-based small boat owner, David Proudfoot, freely confesses a habit of accidentally dropping expensive kit out of boats. The new Icom IC-M35 Marine Transceiver is a waterproof, floating handheld VHF unit, and Planet Sea Fishing could think of nobody more suited to ‘wet test' the device... Freed from the packaging the smart Icom IC-M35 looks a robust piece of equipment intended to build on the success of the IC-M33 model. Contained in the box are a comprehensive set of contents comprising the handset, a flexible ‘rubber duck' antenna, a re-chargeable Lithium-Ion battery pack with charger, a battery pack which holds 5 AAA batteries for backup, a belt clip, hand-strap and user's manual.

The first step is to charge the main battery overnight. It's a simple task to locate the battery pack in the handset and to secure it in place by turning the stainless screw with a coin. The charger, which can be secured to a flat surface using the supplied screws, is plugged into the mains using the AC adapter and the transceiver is located in the cradle. Charging from a fully discharged condition should take around 10 hours and the charger will automatically switch off after 14 to prevent overheating. For charging at sea or in the car from a 12v source a cigar lighter lead is available.

Ample battery life

Both the re-chargeable battery and the AAA battery pack have a robust rubber O-ring which prevents the ingress of water should the set become submerged. The battery is advertised as having a life of eight hours between full charges but I found that it was possible to have two days out on the boat without full loss of power. I did however have the spare pack loaded with its batteries to be on the safe side.

The belt clip is a well made accessory with a sturdy, metal sprung clip and while I didn't actually attach it to my belt like Batman might, but it proved useful to fasten onto the steering console of the boat. The wrist strap is simple but functional, although I tend to forego using these as I find they tangle on projections in the confines of a boat.

Attaching the antenna simply requires it being screwed onto the fitting on the upper surface of the handset. There is a connection for an external speaker / microphone adjacent to the antenna but I did not have the opportunity to try this out.

Easy operation

The buttons on the IC-M35 are large and easy to operate even for those with ham-like hands, or when wearing gloves in winter. The unit is powered up by pressing the power button and the screen immediately displays the basic setup. The PTT - press to transmit - button is easily reached on the side of the set and is positioned so that left or right handed users should find it accessible. The transmission power of 6 watts is higher than almost any other handheld VHF, giving this unit an excellent range. To extend the battery life the set can be switched to low power where it operates at 1 watt although this does have a resultant loss in range.

Several of the keys have multi-function modes which are accessed either by additional key presses or by pressing and hold the required key for one second to change its state. The keypad operation soon becomes second nature and is intuitive. The centre placed arrow keys change the selected channel or act with other keys such the volume. The top left button automatically selects channel 16 safety channel, and can also be set to dual watch between this channel and your working channel.

AquaQuake

Water can sometimes muffle the sound from the speaker and Icom have introduced the excellent ‘AquaQuake' water draining function. By pressing the Scan and Hi/Lo buttons simultaneously a low frequency tone is emitted which vibrates the speaker, clearing any water.

The IC-M35 can be set up to scan tagged channels. When scanning, the set will run through these channels listening out for broadcasts. I have programmed in tags for channel 16, the Scrabster port channel 14 and the general channel used up here which is 12. This allows me to listen in on all three channels without having to switch back and forth between channels.

In addition to being fitted with a noise cancelling microphone which reduces the effect of background noise on the transmissions, the set also has a function called ‘Clear Voice Boost'. The set automatically monitors background noise levels and if the background levels rise, the set adjusts the volume of the incoming or outgoing transmission so that your conversation remain audible whatever the background levels... a very handy function given the noise levels from older outboard motors.

Waterproof

The set is fully waterproof to a depth of one metre which affords protection from the elements, spray and fish debris when using it on an open boat or from a kayak. The final bonus is that the set floats as I proved much to the amazement of passers-by when I deliberately, for once, dropped the set into Scrabster harbour.

As a handheld VHF the IC-M35 is the best that I have operated to date, and for anyone boat fishing inshore or working from a kayak I don't think you will find a better set for the money. For those venturing further offshore, this unit will make a perfect back-up set in the event of a fixed VHF unit failure.

Online registration of your set at the manufacturer's website gives a three-year extended warranty and the owner's manual can be downloaded here.

Further information on the IC-M35 and accessories – Icom UK


 

Standard Horizon HX280E VHF Transceiver

Report by Mike Thrussell courtesy of World Sea Fishing

Standard Horizon have introduced a new hand held VHF radio in to their range, the HX280E.

Taking the set out of the box the battery cell simply clips in to the back of the set, the antennae screws on to the antennae connector and the set is ready to work. It couldn’t be easier!
Its dimensions equate to 56mm wide x 133mm high and 27.5mm deep. It weighs just 310 grammes so is easily carried in pockets and trousers. The antennae is also fully flexible.
We like the simplicity of the design too. The ON/OFF switch and volume control rotary switch is on top of the set, so is less likely to be inadvertently switched on. The PPT (transmission) switch is a simple continual press in type and is situated on the left hand side of the set and ideally placed for use by both left or right handed users.
The internal speaker is at the top of the radio face and provides a powerful 700mW output at full volume. We tested this when aboard a 16ft boat powered by an outboard at full cruising speed and could still hear conversation from the radio easily and clearly. This means the set is ideal for open top boats and centre console craft.
The wide screen is positioned in the middle and highlighted in an orange surround. During testing we liked the bold black numbers and letters which are highly distinguishable against the screens light grey background in all light levels, and when water splash is on the screen. The screen is also backlit for night time use.

Screen information obviously includes the current selected channel, also a 5-level Squelch indicator, it indicates which power band, 1W or 5W, you are currently set at, also highlights when a channel is busy, plus has an all important battery life indicator.

The function keys are arranged in 3 x 3 rows below the screen. The middle row carries the most important function buttons, Channel Up, Channel Down and 16/9 Dual Watch. Other functions keys include Squelch, Scan and Preset options. The Preset key gives you access to no fewer than 10 separate channels. The set carries 57 channels in all. An important point is that the function keys are nice and big, so those of you with big hands and fingers will find the set easy to work with, even with gloves on, plus the key pad is fully back lit too.

You can switch transmit power between 1W for close range personal conversations to 5W which gives more power and therefore a greater transmission range for contacting the Coastguard or Marina etc. The set also features a time out facility which sees transmission time to 5-minutes which eliminates unintentional prolonged transmission. Anyone who’s used hand held radios will appreciate how important this feature is.

Battery life is the main concern of all users of hand held VHF radios but the HX280E is one of the best. It uses a powerful 7.4volt 1650mAh Lithium-Ion battery. This is quoted as being capable of powering the radio for 13 hours on a single charge when used on 5Watts power. We found during testing that our set slightly exceeded this, though the battery was obviously brand new and fully charged. We judged this over several full charges and virtually complete discharge.

The set is also waterproof to IPX7 standard. This means should the set be inadvertently immersed in water to a depth of 1-metre for 30 minutes it will still work. Again this vindicates its choice for RIB’s, open boats and centre console craft where water splash when under way at speed is a factor.

The HX280E is supplied as a complete kit including the antennae, lithium-ion battery cell, belt clip, AC charger and charging cradle. It is also covered by a full three-year waterproof guarantee.

OVERALL CONCLUSION
A terrific all round buy with superb performance and audio features. We tested the set for nearly two months and couldn’t fault it!
We liked the simplicity of use, also that it’s easy to operate with cold wet fingers, and with gloves on. At night you also have clear channel numbering and indicator recognition even with rain and salt splash on the screen.
Also impressive was that even when under way at speed the volume and clarity of audio was excellent, signal reception was also outstanding.

The sets compact sizing also makes it easy to fit in to coat pocket, or for easy stowage in a small corner of a centre console for quick access and constant monitoring.
Our overall rating would be 9/10 with no hesitation! We’d give it 10/10 if it came with its own carry case for protection when not in use!

PRICE
The Standard Horizon HX280E Hand Held VHF radio retails for £99.95 including VAT, though shop around for the best prices.

FOR MORE INFORMATION Standard Horizon, Unit 12, Sun Valley Business Park, Winnall Close, Winchester, Hants, SO23 0LB, UK Tel 00 44 (0) 1962 866667. E-mail: marinesales@standardhorizon.co.uk Website: www.standardhorizon.co.uk


 

Disclaimer: Everything written in these reports are based on personal experience and the individual's opinion only. I have tried my best to present the facts correctly, but I/we take no responsibility for any mistakes or omissions.

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