Even if your boat has a fixed mount Very High Frequency (VHF) marine radio, it is always advisable to have a handheld VHF radio as a backup. A handheld marine radio is advisable precisely for its portability so that, when disaster strikes, you'll have a way to communicate with rescue forces. Even if there is no real emergency, it is always convenient to be able to communicate with others while you're up and about on your boat.
With any portable device, battery power is very important and this applies to VHF marine radios too. If you're planning to get a handheld VHF radio, then you should pay special attention to its battery life. One of the best options on the market from this perspective is the Standard Horizon HX400.
The HX400 is a commercial grade VHF marine radio with exceptional battery life, build quality, and feature set but it is not completely without flaws. Here’s our review of this device designed to help you decide if the Standard Horizon HX400 is right for you.
A Brief Overview of Standard Horizon
Standard Horizon is a well-known name when it comes to VHF marine radios, whether they're fixed mount or handheld. This isn't surprising as the company has been active for more than 50 years. Apart from retailing to individual buyers, Standard Horizon has also supplied various governments all over the world.
Standard Horizon is part of the publicly listed Japanese company Yaesu Musen Co. Ltd. Yaesu Musen was founded in 1959 by an amateur ham radio enthusiast who ended up turning it into a globally recognized name.
How Will the Standard Horizon HX400 Benefit You?
What makes the Standard Horizon HX400 really special and is probably the reason you're considering it is battery life. The battery life of this handheld VHF radio is nothing short of amazing. Its 2550 mAh Li-Ion battery offers the maximum capacity in its market segment.
This means that you'll be able to use the HX400 for as long as 17 hours without recharging it. If you don’t turn it on very often, then it can last you for up to a week. That’s some seriously impressive battery capacity on a handheld marine radio, especially since they're mostly used as backup options.
Something that makes its already impressive battery life even better is recharge time. The battery supports rapid charging and can go from zero to full strength in only three hours. This keeps the downtime low and ensures that you're always ready to talk even on longer trips.
The other feature that sets this handheld VHF marine radio apart from its competitors is its Land Mobile Channel (LMC) capability. With the right programing, the Standard Horizon HX400 will give you access to your choice of LMCs. Up to 40 channels can be programmed on this device within the 137 to 174 MHz range. You should, however, be careful that using LMCs is only possible if you have the appropriate licenses.
The HX400 has a water resistance rating of IPX8. This makes it extremely resilient in wet conditions and even makes it possible for it to survive a thorough dunking. IPX8 means that this handheld VHF radio can stay up to 1.5 meters underwater for up to 30 minutes without getting damaged in any way.
Sound quality on the Standard Horizon HX400 is excellent too. Your voice is loud enough to be heard in most circumstances and it is crystal clear due to built-in noise cancellation. A scrambler has also been integrated into the device and it will allow you to keep your conversations private if required. Needless to say, the other device also needs to have voice scrambling capability.
This VHF marine radio is built to last, which means that it can withstand the usual bumps and scrapes that come about from being carried around everywhere. It is built on a die-cast metal chassis and is encased in a sturdy polycarbonate outer housing.
Controlling the Standard Horizon HX400 is very intuitive as well. There are eight soft key buttons to the front of the device which can be locked to prevent inadvertent use. On top of the device and next to the antenna, you'll even find a rotary controller for managing volume or turning it off completely. Next to the rotary controller is a jack for adding a headset or a microphone, which are available as options.
This handheld marine radio is accompanied by all the essential peripherals such as hand strap, removable antenna, belt clip, battery, and three charging options in the form of the drop-in charging cradle, the DC charger and the AC charger. Even the manual of the HX400 is more detailed and better designed than its competitors.
Other features of the Standard Horizon HX400 include:
- Three-year warranty on the handheld VHF radio and 12-month warranty on the battery
- Weather alerts and weather channel compatibility
- 5W transmit output
- Programmable channel names
- Preset keys for up to 10 favorite channels
What Are the Disadvantages of Standard Horizon HX400?
For a VHF marine radio, the one glaring gap in the Standard Horizon HX400’s feature set is that it doesn’t offer Digital Selecting Calling (DSC), which can be a big problem in emergencies.
In addition to this, the HX400 also doesn’t have built-in GPS in case you wish to share your position with someone. The absence of inbuilt GPS, while not a deal breaker, has to give you a pause since there are other similar options with GPS available at lower prices.
The most outstanding quality of the Standard Horizon HX400 is its battery life but there’s a flipside to having that feature as well. The greater battery capacity is a result of a larger and heavier battery.
As a result, this handheld marine radio is not only larger than most other similar devices on the market but also heavier. It weighs a hefty 12.5 oz. and measures 1.57” thick, 5.24” tall, and 2.24” wide and that is without its antenna and knobs on top.
You should also be mindful of the fact that this device doesn’t float. This is fairly unconventional when it comes to handheld marine radios as most of them float. Perhaps it’s a compromise you have to make to have a strong handheld VHF marine radio with such long battery life.
Go For It If You Need Long Battery Life and LMC Capability
If you have need of a handheld VHF radio with long battery life, then you won’t find any device in the market better than the Standard Horizon HX400. The HX400 is also a good bet if access to LMCs is one of your key requirements.
Apart from those two features, the Standard Horizon HX400 is a good basic handheld marine radio. While it is slightly on the expensive side particularly if you consider that it neither offers DSC nor GPS, the overall built quality and strong reception is what you pay for!