Handheld VHFs have always been convenient, even lifesavers. The latest, however, are far more than simple radios. There’s integrated GPS, Digital Selective Calling (DSC) to transmit automatic distress alerts, Bluetooth to use the radio as your cell phone, even recording features to play back a missed transmission. We put four of the latest models to the task.
Standard Horizon HX851
What Sets It Apart: A 12-channel GPS receiver records up to 200 waypoints and navigates via compass display. DSC functions allow you to send a distress call with GPS coordinates, and to call boaters privately. Memory scan allows channel programming.
Our Experience: The ultimate tool for a ditch bag, it lets us enter and navigate to waypoints and could have sent our location to radios within range if there’d been an emergency. A strobe was activated when the unit was dunked, and it can blink SOS. We like the ability to run it on AA batteries in a pinch, and a luminescent rubber gasket helps locate the radio in the dark. The rubber cover over the distress button, however, can be difficult to open. The 851 also had the smallest display font. The price is a lot lower than we expected.
Bottom Line: $269.99; standardhorizon.com