Standard Horizon HX890 Review – Our Top Handheld VHF Radio

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Last updated on May 7, 2021

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It isn’t often that you find a big-name manufacturer listening to their customers. What’s even rarer is a big-name manufacturer designing their new product to fix flaws pointed out by the users of their previous model. However, that is exactly what Standard Horizon has done with the HX890. They paid attention to what people had to say about their previous handheld marine radio model, the Standard Horizon HX870 to fix all issues on their latest model i.e. Standard Horizon HX890 handheld (Very High Frequency) radio.

This, itself, would be astounding but the company’s latest handheld VHF radio is an outstanding piece of equipment. It not only shares all the qualities and feature of the earlier HX870 handheld marine radio but adds to them with some great benefits and features of its own. The Standard Horizon HX890 is going to be a bigger hit than the Standard Horizon HX870 and there’s no stopping it. The HX890 was our #1 pick for the best handheld marine VHF radio as well! 

Here’s our in-depth review of the Standard Horizon HX890. 

About Standard Horizon

Standard Horizon is a brand owned by a Japanese company that traces its roots back to 1959. The company, called Yaesu Musen Co. Ltd. was established by Sako Hasegawa, an amateur radio enthusiast. Initially, the company focused on the Japanese market but when they clinched some government contracts in other countries, they ended up going international.

Standard Horizon hasn’t looked back since and has been a major name in VHF marine radios for a long time now. They manufacture both fixed mount and handheld VHF radios which means that users can have a set of both for their boats.

Why is the Standard Horizon HX890 Special?

The Standard Horizon HX890 handheld VHF radio represents a quality rarely seen in manufacturers – listening to customers’ concerns and complaints. As mentioned earlier, the HX890 is designed to be an improvement on the Standard Horizon HX870. Such is its quality that if you want a well-designed waterproof but floating handheld VHF radio that boasts of good battery life, inbuilt GPS, DSC capability, and a large screen, then you can't ignore the HX890.

This handheld marine radio comes with a 1800 mAh Li-ion battery that can manage up to 11 hours of constant use. If you don’t turn it on or only use it intermittently, you can probably get it to last up to five times as long.

Even if you look beyond battery life, you'll find the Standard Horizon HX890 to be a well-built and well-designed handheld VHF marine radio. In fact, its housing and construction meets MIL-STD-810F military standard. This makes the Standard Horizon HX890 very sturdy and reliable in even physically demanding situations.

Floating Body Design

Moreover, it is a submersible handheld VHF radio with a rating of IPX8. This means that it can remain functional up to 1.5 meters underwater for a minimum of 30 minutes. Also, the die-cast chassis used in this device is also buoyant which allows the device to float on water.

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Not only does it float but it also becomes visible in water. As soon as it comes in contact with water, a white strobe light comes on. Therefore, if you drop this handheld marine radio overboard or even go overboard with it, you won’t have any trouble finding it as the device will float with the light turned on. 

Built in DSC and GPS

The Standard Horizon HX890 has GPS compatibility as well as Digital Selecting Calling (DSC) capability. These two features are very useful in emergency situations as they allow the device to send relevant identification and position data to rescue authorities. The two features are made possible by the presence of the 66-channel WAAS GPS receiver. The same receiver allows for waypoint functionality and navigation as well. 

Huge Display

The display screen on this handheld VHF marine radio is one of the largest in its market segment. Spanning 1.7” x 1.7” (2.3” diagonal), the large screen ensures that you don’t miss key details even if you're in a hurry. The interface behind the screen is intuitive and very user friendly especially combined with its soft-touch keys.

The screen even has two modes – day and night. In the night mode, the screen darkens and the text becomes red preventing glare from affecting your vision over the water. 

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The Standard Horizon HX890 offers voice scrambling too for those of you who want to keep your conversations private. In fact, it doesn’t just offer voice scrambling but offers them in two formats – the 4-code CVS2500A and the 32-code FVP-42.

Additionally, when you're not using the Standard Horizon HX890 to communicate with people on other boats or the shore, you'll be able to entertain yourself with the help of its integrated FM Broadcast band receiver.

This handheld VHF radio offers all these features and qualities without being too cumbersome or heavy. As a matter of fact, the Standard Horizon HX890’s dimensions fall well within the accepted industry standards. It is fairly compact, measuring only 5.32” high, 2.6” wide, and 1.5” thick. Bear in mind that these measurements don’t take the antenna and the knob into account. The device is also fairly light, coming in at only about 10.94 oz.

Color options

You can get it in two colors – black and navy blue. These aren’t the only features that the Standard Horizon HX890 possesses. They are just the most standout. Other features worth mentioning include.


  • 1W, 2W or 6W transmit power options
  • Noise Cancelling Function along with 700mW Loud Audio feature
  • Weather alerts through NOAA Weather Channels access
  • Programmable Dual Watch and Triple Watch Scanning
  • 3 Year Waterproof Warranty
  • DSC Group Position Call can be used for group monitoring
  • PC programming through the provided Micro USB Data jack

What Are the Disadvantages of the Standard Horizon HX890

There’s not a lot that is wrong with the Standard Horizon HX890. Its design is perfect and its performance flawless. However, there are some users who have faced some difficulties. At the same time, we feel that those difficulties are associated more with individual pieces than this VHF marine radio on the whole.

One problem that is more widespread is the quality of the belt clip. The belt clip that comes with this handheld VHF radio is not as sturdy and strong as it should be. It has a tendency to simply break with rigorous movements. This means that you should be careful if you're using the clip.

Standard Horizon HX890 Vs. Standard Horizon HX870: How Do They Compare?

The Standard Horizon HX870 is an incredibly popular handheld marine radio that was a worthy successor to the earlier model, Standard Horizon HX851. Now, it is all set to be replaced as the best in the market by the Standard Horizon HX890. The HX870 is an excellent device that does everything right except for a few flaws.

Standard Horizon HX870 marine radio review

With the HX890, Standard Horizon has fixed those flaws and then added even more qualities to make it virtually irresistible. The biggest issue with the HX870 was its display screen. Users had complained that the bright white LED illumination of the screen was a hindrance in the night as it affected visibility on the water. The company fixed this problem by introducing the ‘Night Mode’ on the HX890.

Another big problem with the HX870 was that it could only be programmed with a single Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). If you wanted to change the MMSI number, you would have to send that handheld marine radio all the way back to the service center to be fixed. This, effectively, tied a handheld VHF marine radio to a single ship.

The system on the Standard Horizon HX890 is different. It is possible for you to change the MMSI number on it by contacting the company remotely. You'll have to provide the company with your MMSI number and the ATIS code, after which they’ll give you a reset code. The MMSI number can still not be changed on the go but at least you have the option to do it yourself without sending it to the service center.

Not only is Standard Horizon HX890 thinner than the Standard Horizon HX870 but it is also sturdier owing to its military standard construction.

The DSC on the HX890 is more advanced than the one on HX870 as well. The HX870 handheld VHF radio boasts of a Class D DSC operation while the HX890 handheld marine radio supports Class H DSC operation.

The HX890 also boasts of newer features that were completely absent on the HX870. These include the two new scrambler systems and the FM Broadcast band receiver. You can also get the HX890 in navy blue or black while the HX870 was only available in one color.

The Standard Horizon HX890 Will Be the Next Big Thing

Here’s a prediction: the Standard Horizon HX890 will be the next big thing, superseding the HX870 just like the latter superseded the HX851. It has all the features that any modern seafaring individual needs. In addition, it is rugged and fairly compact. In our opinion, you'll be hard-pressed to find any handheld VHF radio better than the Standard Horizon HX890.

About the author  Robert Finn

Robert has over 20 years of experience boating and selling boat equipment. His passion for the latest and greatest gear helps our clients find what they need. His favorite boating place is the Florida Keys.