For Comparison’s Sake: Handheld VHF/GPS Combo Units

These combination units offer standard VHF features as well as GPS capabilities.

If you’re going offshore or frequently boat in sloppy conditions, you’ll want to take a look at these must-have handhelds. They have a standard VHF with DSC (digital selective calling) plus a bare-bones GPS that you can use as a backup in case you lose fixed-mount capabilities.

Standard Horizon HX851
Call Sign: Ruggedly constructed with polycarbonate housing and die cast frame. Rubberized outer case adds to the shock protection and offers a reliable wet grip. Four transmit power options up to 6 watts. The HX851 has a soft, flexible antenna. Glow-in-the-dark gasket aids in locating at night. Powerful strobe light flashes when it falls over side. There’s a three-year warranty.

The Buzz: The display is a miserly 1.5 by 0.875 inches. NMEA-compatible for 0183 but not 2000.



Simrad HH33U
Call Sign: The 1.5-by-1.5-inch display makes for better reading of screen data. Quick access to DSC button. It has simple, intuitive keys and is waterproof and submersible. It comes with a powerful, 7.4-volt, 1,400-milliamp-per-hour, lithium polymer rechargeable battery and is compatible for both NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 standard.

The Buzz: The maximum power output is only 5 watts. Lack of rubberized grip could make it a bit slippery in wet conditions.



Icom IC-M92D
Call Sign: This new combo unit is fully submersible to IPX-7 standards and features both DSC and GPS technology. It also boasts noise-canceling technology that Icom claims reduces background noise by 90 percent. It floats if you drop it overboard and has a flashing light to help you find it. There’s a 48-channel GPS receiver.

The Buzz: Only 50 GPS
waypoints capability (compared with 500 for the Simrad and 200 for the Standard Horizon).



Conclusion: These combination units offer all the features found in any of the quality VHF radios available in the market today. The addition of the GPS, even in its very basic, non-chart-plotting format will give comfort to those who do a lot of fishing and cruising and don’t want the added expense and clutter of a separate, dedicated handheld.