Choosing a Handheld VHF Radio
the Standard Horizon HX 270S
A marine handheld VHF radio can be used to communicate from boat to boat, boat to shore and shore to boat as well as to communicate with large ships. You can use vhf to summon rescue services and talk with harbours and marinas.
All VHF radios operate on the VHF frequency range, between 156 to 174 MHz. and at maximum power, about 5 watts, their effective range is determined by the height of the antennae. In normal use on a boat you can expect a range of 3-4 miles.
If your handheld VHF is going to be the only VHF radio on the boat, you need to buy one that is/has:
- water resistant
- very durable
- good battery life
- fully functional
- good range
You’re also looking for a radio with all the necessary functions and no more. Extra functions that are not absolutely necessary can make the operation of the radio more complex and add significantly to the cost.
The functions you need are:
- volume control
- squelch control
- channel selector
- hi/low power switch
- dual watch switch
- channel 16 override switch
- press to transmit switch
- large LED display
- good night illumination
Take your gloves when you go to buy your radio. You need the keys and switches to be large enough and far enough apart so that you can use them with sailing gloves on.
The Standard Horizon HX 270S
The Standard Horizon HX 270S (HX 270E in the UK) is a compact, rugged handheld VHF that covers all the bases above. This radio was selected as the best marine VHF handheld by the test team at Practical Boat Owner in January 2008.
The US model features all International, USA and Canadian marine channels. One button is dedicated to selecting distress channel 16 and hailing channel 9. The programmable scan allows you to scan any number of channels and the preset key allows you to recall the 8 most frequently used channels including NOAA weather alert.
The LCD display features large, clear digits and bold information flags including battery life indicator. The LCD and keypad are backlit for optimum night visibility.
The 1400mAh Nickel Metal Hydride battery that will give over 16hrs use at 5/5/90 operation (5% transmit, 5% receive and 90% standby). Also, this type of battery can be recharged at any time without damage, even if it’s not discharged.
Another good feature is the waterproof alkaline battery tray allowing you to use standard AA type alkaline batteries as a backup power supply.
It also comes with a drop-in cradle charger, 12v charger lead and AC mains charger.
The HX 270S exceeds JIS waterproofing standards and will still operate normally if it’s dropped into 3 ft of water and left there for 30 minutes.
At around $100 this radio is one of the lowest priced on the market. In the Practical Boat Owner test it was judged the best against radios costing more than twice as much.
If you’re looking for a handheld VHF, I recommend this one.