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Old 13 July 2018, 17:30   #1
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Choosing a Handheld DSC VHF

I think I want a handheld DSC VHF. The main reason for justifying it is the ability to send a distress call with position to nearby vessels, regardless of their current channel. I'm also hoping that a distress message might get through where a Mayday might not.

I have a fixed DSC VHF in my boat so it will only be my primary VHF if I'm kayaking or similar, and will probably be switched off unless needed. It'd be handy if it floated without added buoyancy.

I'm fairly tech minded & capable, so may use other functions, but don't want to fall for flashy bells & whistles at the expense of robust basic.

I'm also hoping I can make myself a bit more familiar with DSC functions by having 2 DSC radios to play with.

The only ones I can find are:-
Icom IC-M93D
Simrad Hh36
Standard Horizon HX870E
Lowrance Link-2

Keen to hear people's views & experiences. Don't avoid trying to go too technical on me - I can take lap it up!

Thanks in advance.
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Old 13 July 2018, 18:00   #2
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Simrad and Lowrance aren't well known for being big handheld makers. Or even big radio makers really - they do boat electronics. SH and Icom do radio.

You'll find Icom and SH fans on here. Icom is £40 more. Is it £40 (20%) better?

Ideally you want your hands on one (or a simulator). The User Interface is pretty key to this tech being useful. What is your fixed set? If it is Icom you may find the SH confusing, or vice versa. While not the same Ux on the HH its a similar concept.

HX870 - floats, flashes in water and has an option to run (on lower power) from AAA batteries. 3 hour mains charge. Hard to find fault really. IPX8 waterproof

IC-M93 - 'Curvier' Also floats and flashes - but interestingly the DSC alert in float mode will default to MOB (you still have to press Red button). I bet 90% of DSC alerts never have an alert type set but from the water where range may be tricky I think this is a nice feature. Only (tested to) IPX7 waterproof. Has a vibration mode to shake water out the mic and speaker if wet.
Pretty sure the screen is bigger. But do you need a 2 inch Number 16? But perhaps if you are using the screen for other functions it is useful.
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Old 13 July 2018, 18:04   #3
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While not well liked round these parts - you should add Cobra's HH600 to your list.

IPX8, Floats. Flashes. Speaker vibrate £180. For features - it has a rewind function to replay the last message. Think it also does something with an App but not sure what!
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Old 14 July 2018, 02:29   #4
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The user interfaces on DSC handhelds are generally poor (think late 90s Nokia phone) although they might have come on a bit in the last couple of years since I last looked.

I would try to get a proper look at the different models before choosing, to see which of the idiosyncrasies you find least annoying.

Another point to check is battery life, as you may find itís significantly less than a non-DSC equivalent.
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Old 14 July 2018, 03:23   #5
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The user interfaces on DSC handhelds are generally poor (think late 90s Nokia phone)
Much like the fixed units!

Smart phones have certainly increased our expectations of user experience.

I agree what I've seen is not user friendly. BUT it does depend a bit what you might want to do with it. If it is just for the red button... I suspect one red button is much like another... you'd just want to understand how it behaves if the GPS hasn't been on in terms of getting an updated position before firing off the shout for help.

If you are likely to use it for other functions - position, waypoints, navigation, DSC routine calling, DSC position polling other boats etc you'll want to know more about what it can do and how it does it. Cancelling DSC alerts and responding to DSC calls might be worth an explore too. If answering a call needs you to go into a sub menu of a submenu you will get cheezed off...

Even entering an MMSI can be a pain... no number pad...
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Old 14 July 2018, 03:48   #6
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Simrad and Lowrance aren't well known for being big handheld makers. Or even big radio makers really - they do boat electronics. SH and Icom do radio.

Simrad, itís founders and itís predecessor companies (including Navico) have been involved in VHF radios since before you were born. They were also apparently the producers of the first ever H/held DSC radio and a mainstay of the European yachting market before the Japanese manufacturers began to dominate.

Lowrance, whilst a relative newcomer to the h/held DSC game are typically at the more affordable end and no stranger to consumer, portable, marine electronics so you might infer have a handle on what matters - like robustness, water tight integrity etc.

I believe (but anyone wishing to use it should investigate) that the Cobra ďappĒ you mention will allow you to use the radio as a Bluetooth headset for your phone allowing you to keep your phone in the dry and still operate it. My experience of Bluetooth is this will deplete the power on the radio and phone significantly faster. Given I can barely hear the vhf over the engine when underway and that one of the joys of being afloat is disconnecting it wouldnít swing me that way.

As for the icom self selecting mob when wet - that may be nice but is it really going to make much difference? An unspecified DSC alert from a T station (it will need its own license) with no follow up voice comms is going to get a very similar response to an MOB DSC alert with no voice comms.

Johnís advice makes sense to me, battery life in real use would matter to me, and Iíve never used any marine electronics which were intuitive by todayís interface standards - going the same brand as your existing fixed station may save some frustration. If you do long days on the kayak though, especially if you camp, battery life would be more important perhaps unless you left it switched off (which will delay gps position time, mean you miss weather alerts etc).
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Old 14 July 2018, 04:58   #7
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Are the SimRad and Lowrance the same set? I just googled the Lowrance one as I've never given them much thought TBH... and I was convinced it was the SimRad.

Poly - you are right SimRad have been involved in radios for a long time. I dont know if its a good thing or a bad thing - they don't produce a big range. Does that mean they get it right first time and the others have to evolve their product...
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Old 14 July 2018, 05:24   #8
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Icom - this HH is in the bottom region of whole Icom range (which is good, not bad) and their experience. This means you benefit from a lot of high end professional range experience that "by osmosis" ends up on lower range product during design time.

Standard horizon - similar to Icom, but less high end professional-sector experience. I guess reflected in price difference.

Cobra and the rest - well, it's top range for them, which usually means that meeting product spec during design time is a struggle (no "big brother" model to use design solutions from).

Again - you get what you pay for.

When buying my HH I only looked at Icom/SH. Not worth saving half a tank of fuel to end up with different quality product, it's false economy.
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Old 14 July 2018, 05:25   #9
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Choosing a Handheld DSC VHF

Quote:
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Are the SimRad and Lowrance the same set?

Probably, they are sister companies, make sense to leverage the strong brand equity in the US fishing market with the Lowrance name.
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Old 14 July 2018, 11:56   #10
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While not well liked round these parts - you should add Cobra's HH600 to your list.

IPX8, Floats. Flashes. Speaker vibrate £180. For features - it has a rewind function to replay the last message. Think it also does something with an App but not sure what!
I bought it at a discount with a $25 rebate - that even after a year was never fulfilled. Makes me believe that the company won't be around for much longer.

The HH600 has tons of features - but reception is markedly less than the MHS75 Uniden. I used them side by side. I have my doubts if the light plastic construction can hold up when dropped. I carry it now as a backup in a bag.
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