After charging the test units for 24 hours, testers ran each radio through a series of bench tests-including transmitter power output, frequency accuracy and stability, and receiver sensitivity-using our Ramsey COM3010 service monitor. All radios in our test group met industry standards with regards to the above tests, although some did it slightly better than others. Testers took transmitter power measurements (high and low power) directly off the radio antenna port.
Testers evaluated handheld VHF radios from three leading marine electronics makers. From Icom, we tested the M92D and M24. Standard Horizon submitted the HX290, HX300, and HX400, and from Midland Radio, we reviewed the Nautico 2. The VHFs in our test group ranged in price and features from a $50 basic, budget-friendly model to a $299, feature-rich handheld with DSC and GPS capabilities. All offered channel scanning, channel 16 quick select, NOAA weather radio, and weather alert. Unique features among the group included scrambler capabilities and remote microphone options.
There is no shortage of sailing watches on the market, and weve reviewed our fair share. So when Garmin released its first mariner-specific GPS watch, we were interested to see what features, if any, set it apart from the crowd. After nearly six months of testing Garmins Quatix watch on and off the water, we can report that it is not your ordinary sailing watch. It bundles multiple miniature marine electronics into one small, impressive, hands-free package that is made to withstand life at sea.
Practical Sailor Chandlery: August 2011. This month reviews a tiller, tool toter, and smart-phones.
I wanted to try a little experiment this week. Something safe, with little risk of getting hurt. Something I could do while drinking coffee and listening to Puccini . . . or the Rolling Stones . . . or Mumford and Sons. Something on the Internet. It got off to a bad start. I dropped in on one of those Internet forums where angry people wait to spring on innocents like me. The deeper I dug, the angrier they got.
Garmin’s new scroll-wheel Colorado 400c and touchscreen Oregon 400c offer some unique features, but their multi-sport focus falls short in satisfying all of a mariner’s needs. Although both new units are high-quality handhelds, testers preferred an older-generation GPS, the Garmin GPSMap 76CSx, which was the Practical Sailor Best Choice in a previous test. Practical Sailor tests compared the units’ features, performance, ergonomics, and price, along with how well they meet sailors’ needs.
In an effort to find an inexpensive, reliable way to connect a PC (or Mac) to our onboard electronic navigation system, Practical Sailor testers scouted basic NMEA 0183 multiplexers with good track records. We zeroed in on the easy-to-install MiniPlex Lite from Holland-based ShipModul. This multiplexer was one of the first high-speed NMEA 0183 multiplexers capable of handling the data rates required for some of the newer electronics like AIS receivers. With very little effort, the Mini Plex Lite allowed us to network our Dell Latitude D620 laptop, AIS, GPS, and chartplotter, and it handled the data transfer without a glitch. Our chief gripe: This entry-level model uses the laptop for its power source.
Practical Sailor last looked at Automatic Identification Systems, or AIS, in November 2008, reviewing the Raymarine AIS250, a receive-only device. Since that report, the pool of AIS products has grown to include several affordable transceiver options for recreational sailors. In this head-to-head test, we review two AIS-Class B devices capable of sending and receiving AIS data: the Navico NAIS-300 and the West Marine AIS1000. AIS transceivers are split into Class A (commercial) and Class B (recreational). AIS devices improve safety at sea by receiving and broadcasting a wide variety of information about a ship, including its name, latitude and longitude, course over ground, speed over ground, heading, status, and Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number.
Weve been following man-overboard (MOB) beacons, flags, and lights for more than 30 years now. In our testing, weve found that a major shortcoming of many electronic MOB transmitters is their inability to track the person in the water; most simply alert the crew that someone has fallen overboard. But in the past two years, with the integration of the Automated Identification System (AIS) and Digital Selective Calling (DSC), MOB-recovery technology has changed dramatically. We recently put it to the test with field trials of the Kannad SafeLink, McMurdo Smartfind, and Mobilarm V100 MOB beacons.
Practical Sailor tested eight high-end marine handheld VHFs from three manufacturers: Cobra, Standard Horizon, and Uniden. Among those tested were two updated Standard Horizon VHFs, the HX500S-LI and HX600S-LI, and three of the companys latest floating VHF radios, the HX750S, HX760S, and HX850S. From Uniden, testers evaluated the MHS450 and MHS550. They also tested the Cobra HH425 LI. These feature-rich handheld marine radios, priced from $130 to $350, were tested for transmitter power, frequency accuracy, frequency stability, receiver sensitivity, audio output, and audio quality. They also were submerged in fresh water, dropped from 4 feet onto concrete and batteries were left on for 15 hours to test battery life.