Gear: Standard Horizon Handheld HX870 Radio

These HX series handhelds are full-fledged DSC radios with all the direct/group calling and position polling features found on fixed radios.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
A side-by-side comparison of the HX870 (above far left) and the older HX851 (above left) shows the strides Standard Horizon has made in terms of its user interfaces;

A side-by-side comparison of the HX870 (above far left) and the older HX851 (above left) shows the strides Standard Horizon has made in terms of its user interfaces;

I was impressed with Standard Horizon’s original HX850, and I’ve been happily using the slightly upgraded HX851 model for several years. It’s a fine handheld 6-watt VHF (if you don’t mind the size), plus it’s always ready to place a DSC distress call and/or navigate a liferaft.

But wow, look what they did with the new HX870 model (shown above far left). The screen is at least twice as large, the interface seems usefully updated with soft keys and icons, and the battery is substantially larger.

Despite the change from 1,380 to 1,800 milliamp internal lithium-ion rechargeable batteries, the HX870 still floats. In fact, this new model can even turn itself on and start its strobe light if it falls in the water (with or without you). Another improvement from the HX851 is a 66-channel GPS, instead of 12. The 870 also still comes with AC and DC chargers as well as an alkaline battery, tray all at the same $250 list price.

These HX series handhelds are full-fledged DSC radios with all the direct/group calling and position polling features found on fixed radios. However, a general problem with the non-distress DSC features on a radio like this is figuring out how to use them, which is a reason the new interface seems promising. I only tried the sample briefly, but it was easy to figure out how the left/right arrow keys scroll you through the bottom icons, which you can choose with a soft key. My thumb also liked the central cluster of channel and volume keys, though it took a bit to figure out how to press the squelch button on the left side and then use the volume buttons to set it. An MOB icon represents another new feature.

Large icons make the radio’s menu options easy to navigate

Large icons make the radio’s menu options easy to navigate

The easy-to-see and understand graphics seem to extend deep into the system menus, and the big screen is good for navigation graphics like the compass screen (see above right) which could be taking you to a waypoint or the position of a DSC distress call. GM (Group Monitor) is yet another new feature and while the 870 manual is not yet available, I’ll guess it means that you can track multiple vessels at once if they share a group MMSI.

Standard Horizon is no longer the only manufacturer offering a VHF/GPS/DSC handheld, but the company seems determined to lead the pack. For instance, the HX870 is also a true Class D DSC radio—meaning it has a separate receiver always monitoring DSC channel 70—while the Icom M92D and others are not. All in all, a very impressive bit of handheld electronics.

Editor’s Note: For more of Ben Ellison’s insights into marine electronics, go to panbo.com

Related

Pestilence

Sailor-Punk and the State of Cruising

Back when I was a young man, sailing back and forth across the North Atlantic in an old fiberglass sailboat, it seemed fairly obvious to me how all that was wrong in the world might be set right. Everyone should be issued a boat at birth! Or so I declared to any who would listen ...read more

promoOnTheHorizon600x

Cats On The Horizon

Dragonfly 32 Evolution Denmark’s Quorning Boats has been systematically upgrading its line of folding, performance-cruiser trimarans in recent years as part of a long-term effort to incorporate the latest developments in yacht design, with the latest to receive this treatment ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com The double range  Every skipper knows about ranging two objects in line to keep the boat on track in a cross-current. What’s less obvious is monitoring both sides of a gap such as a harbor entrance. ...read more

FamilyCruise

Bareboating on Puget Sound

Depending on where you are, Puget Sound can look no bigger than a mountainous version of the Intracoastal Waterway. That’s what I thought when I first laid eyes on it from the lighthouse at Mukilteo Park on a sunny day last July. Then I went to the top of the iconic Space Needle ...read more

Bali4point1

Boat Review: Bali 4.1

Coming fast on the heels of its predecessor, the Bali 4.0, the Bali 4.1 adds a number of improvements, many of them inspired by feedback from owners and charterers. She’s an evolution of a concept that has already proven popular and very many benefits from its builder’s ...read more

Headsail

Ask Sail: Silencing A Rattling Headsail

Q: Our Pearson 26 has a 110-percent jib that tends to rattle very noisily at the top hank. We only bought the old boat recently, but it must have been happening for a long time, since there’s a deep groove worn inside that bronze hank. The jib has an unusually large and wide ...read more

Alerion2048x

Alerion Yachts 33, the 90 Minute Get Away

Easy to sail, luxurious, and swift; the Alerion 33 is the solution to your busy life. The intuitive, simple rig design, easy set-up, and put-away mean there’s no need to wait for crew to enjoy a weekend, a day, or an hour out sailing. Her beauty and comfort are evident in the ...read more