Handheld VHF Radios by Standard Horizon

"Gear Up" from our November 13, 2006, /SW eNewsletter/

GearUpRadio

Handheld VHF radios are an important part of Sailing World's Boat of the Year competition. With them we contact our contestants out on the water, take directions from our photographer, and monitor weather forecasts. They're also an important part of our safety gear; everyone who spends time on the water should own and know how to use a VHF radio. This year, we asked Standard Horizon to lend us a few radios for the duration of the contest, and they were kind enough to outfit both the Sailing World and Cruising World BOTY campaigns with their HX270S and HX370S handheld VHF radios. Both models have many common features: NiHd (Nickel metal Hydride batteries are more ecologically sound than NiCad, and offer increased capacity and energy density features, which means a longer time between charges and longer running time) batteries, which provide up to 18 hours of use, a battery tray for Alkaline batteries, 12-volt DC and 110 VAC chargers, programmable scanners, dual watch (to monitor two different channels at the same time), and weather alert. Both units are also waterproof to three feet for 30 minutes (JIS7).As one would expect, the higher model number indicates the HX370S has a few more features than the HS270S, and it does. It has a larger LCD screen, can be programmed to send and receive 40 Land Mobile radio frequencies (which require a separate FCC license), has a distress strobe which flashes a Morse code SOS signal, and has a port for optional microphone/headset (you can even buy a four-channel scrambler microphone/headset for private communications, think race committee).Both of the radios performed their BOTY tasks in a stellar manner. We were on the water and using the radios from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and never ran out of juice. We liked the fact you could switch to the battery tray filled with six AA alkaline batteries if necessary. Another nice feature on both radios was the battery level indicator on their bright LCD screens. They both survived a couple of tumbles and the odd soaking with spray. When we use electronics, we, like every other guy on the planet, never revert to the manual. Both radios made sense, button-wise, with on/off/volume controls on the top, squelch and side-mounted buttons for push-to-talk and squelch (OK we'll admit it, we had to ask one of the Cruising World guys where the squelch was). The five buttons on the face controlled channel selection for communications and weather, as well as scanning. West Marine lists the HS270S for $120. Amazon sells the HX370S for $159.99. As always with electronics, a quick scan of the Internet will reveal both higher and lower prices. www.standardhorizon.com