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Lowrance Link 8 Fixed Mount VHF Radio Review

Lowrance Link 8 VHF marine radio review
Lowrance Link 8 VHF marine radio review

The Lowrance Link-8 VHF Radio is a High-res Flush Mountable Class D Fixed-Mount VHF Radio built with a Dual Channel AIS receiver and NMEA 2000 Connectivity. It has a total of 25 watts of transmission power, a full-waterproof design, and an easy-to-use interface. Considered a top contender for its high-resolution display among VHF radios,  the Lowrance Link-8 boasts a  large screen and an overall item weight of 6 pounds.

Reliable and complete with all the best safety features, the Lowrance Link-8 VHF is a must-have VHF radio for boaters. Because of its rugged, waterproof design, and reasonable price this marine radio is a great communication tool for mariners on the water regularly.

Main Features

The Lowrance Link-8 comes with some great features that make it one of the highest-quality entry-level VHF marine radios out there. Here are some of its main features:

  • Waterproof - The Lowrance Link-8 has a waterproof rating of JIS-7 (immersion-resistant) which means water cannot enter the unit when its submerged. It’s also well constructued and able to withstand everyday use in harsh ocean conditions. 
  • High-Resolution Dot-Matrix Display- No more squinting or finding a good light in order to read the display. The Link 8 comes with its own high-quality LCD with 128x256 resolution. You can easily see your current position and also read and receive messages conveniently. A handy feature for emergency situations.
  • Dual Channel, AIS receiver, and AIS plotting functionality - this enables you to send AIS target information like your ship name, sign, distance, and bearing to your chartplotter. 
  • 25 W / 1 W transmission power - allows you to change transmission power from 25 watts to 1 watt.
  • User-Friendly Interface - Link-8 is designed with a very easy to use interface that allows you to set controls, change menu, and scan through channels quickly. 
  • High-Quality Mic with built-in speaker and easy-grip rubber overmolding - Clear quality audio that isolates background noise and enables you to receive and send high-quality audio messages.  
  • Log Distress Calls - It can save up to 10 distress calls and 20 individual DSC calls which is very useful for search and rescue operations.
  • The Lowrance also includes a hailer horn output listen back feature and a dedicated MOB button.
  • Track Your Buddy Technology - allows you to connect your VHF device with DSC position polling with your chartplotter to show location of up to 3 friendly vessels on your chart. 
  • 2-Year warranty and includes an LVR880 Suncover and a VHF Radio Mic Clip.

What Does it Mean when a Device is NMEA 0183 & 2000 compatible?

For boat owners with no background or knowledge about marine electronics, the NMEA standards can be confusing. For starters, every time you buy electronic equipment, you must first check the functionality of each piece. While some pieces can work in a stand-alone fashion, others need to be equipped with a network connection in order to be used with other on board devices like chartplotters etc.

NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 are today’s communication language for marine electronics. NMEA 2000 supersedes NMEA 0183 and is currently the protocol used when creating new electronics. Also, NMEA 0183 is near being phased out due to the rise of equipment with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, when your device has both, it makes the device even more versatile, compatible and able to connect to almost all existing marine networks.

Comparing The Lowrance Link 8 With The Simrad RS35:

Let’s compare The Simrad RS35 to the Lowrance Link-8. The Simrad RS35 is one of the premium VHF marine radios today and like the Lowrance Link 8 it also features its own integrated AIS receiver. This is a unique feature that’s very valuable for marine radios today. Today, the successful GX2200 is the leading marine radio with this feature. 

simrad rs35 VHF radio

The Link-8 and Simrad RS35 are both AIS receiving. However, unlike the Lowrance Link, the Simrad RS35 allows connection to wireless handsets making radio calling available from anywhere on board. This is very useful when you’re in a larger vessel and have several crew members on-board. The Simrad also looks better compared to Link-8 in our opinion. Cheaper than the Simrad RS35, the Link 8 is a great option for a VHF radio with an integrated AIS receiver if you have no need for a wireless handset and looks are not important to you.

Standard Horizon GX2200 VS Lowrance Link 8

Next, let’s compare the Standard Horizon GX2200 and the Lowrance Link 8. The GX2200 is a VHF marine radio complete with an Integrated 66 Channel GPS receiver and AIS receivers, overall, it has better connectivity than the Lowrance Link 8. When it comes to the interface, the Link 8 is arguably more user-friendly and easy-to-setup compared to the GX2200. If you’re looking for a cheaper and cleaner designer, the Lowrance link outshines the Standard Horizon GX2200 in our opinion. 

Standard horizon GX2200 with Ais and GPS

Final Thoughts:

The Lowrance Link-8 is a must-have VHF marine radio for people looking for cheaper and simpler alternatives to the Standard GX2200 and Simrad RS35. With full coverage of USA, Australian, New Zealand, & International Channels, it offers great reliability during emergency situations. Despite lacking in other connectivity and wireless features, the Lowrance Link-8 is complete with all the important basic functions for a reliable and rugged marine radio that you can use regularly. For an entry-level radio, the Link-8 has all the necessary features making it the perfect choice for the cost conscious  sailor. 

ICOM M605 Review – New Premium Class VHF Marine Radio

ICOM M605 review
ICOM M605 review

Being prudent with funds is definitely a virtue but maybe this financial prudence should be set aside when it comes to your safety. This is especially true if you have an adventurous side and take your boat out on the the water often. Since the most important safety equipment on any boat is the fixed-mount VHF radio, perhaps this is where you should begin. 

The ICOM M605 is the most advanced fixed-mount marine radio available right now. The device has pretty much everything you can ever desire in your Very High Frequency (VHF) marine radio. It is not only full of features that very few other radios possess but its performance and reliability also exceed its competitors’.

This is a high-end radio that is well worth the expense. What specific features can make an expensive device like this worth buying? Here’s our review of this fixed-mount VHF radio.

Information about the Manufacturers - ICOM America

The ICOM M605 is the flagship device of ICOM America as it is based around the latest technologies and has an exhaustive feature set. ICOM America, itself, has been at the forefront of the fixed-mount marine radio market for a while now.

The company is backed by ICOM Incorporated, a publicly listed firm that was established as far back as 1954. Even though they began by providing old-school ham radios, they’ve since become leading communication equipment manufacturers in aviation, terrestrial, and marine sectors.

What Are the Advantages of Choosing ICOM M605

Icom m605 color display

The ICOM M605 is unique. It is the only VHF marine radio in the market right now that features a color LCD display screen. In fact, its 4.3” display screen is so good that we recommend you get this device simply to experience it.

Not only is the ICOM M605 the only fixed-mount marine radio with a color display screen but it was also the first VHF marine radio with an LCD screen. The color LCD screen isn't just a gimmick either. It improves usability and functionality of the device significantly.

Users that have tried this screen have found it very difficult to go back to dot matrix displays precisely for these reasons. For example, the M605’s display screen offers a 180° viewing angle which is great for seeing the screen even if you are not directly in front of it; something you can’t do with a dot matrix screen.

Additionally, it has a ‘Night Mode’ too. The purpose of this mode is to make the screen non-intrusive in the dark. Turning on this mode will darken the display background while the icons and text on the screen will turn red. Moreover, the brightness of the screen is adjustable even during the day and the graphics are sharp and vibrant making the interface very intuitive.

The intuitive nature of the user interface is, further, helped by soft-touch keys and high-resolution characters. There is a directional, alphanumeric keypad and a series of shortcut buttons at the bottom of the display corresponding to the most frequently used functions of the VHF marine radio.

The clarity and ease of use of the display screen adds value to the integrated Automatic Identification System (AIS) since other vessels, their bearing, and the distance between them are more clearly visible. As is the case with all ICOM fixed-mount marine radios, the AIS receiver has three display settings which are the Danger List, the Target List, and the Plotter.

While the color LCD display screen is the biggest lure of the ICOM M605, its flexibility and versatility is not to be scoffed at. This fixed-mount VHF radio is one of the most flexible when it comes to system configuration. You can connect up to three separate controllers to the main unit on this device.

You can choose to install secondary control units anywhere on your boat including the sleeping area or even the fly-bridge. You won’t have to worry about how elaborate the secondary controllers are since you can use them to control all the functions of this VHF marine radio. Moreover, you'll be able to use them as intercoms!

This versatility makes the ICOM M605 ideal for larger boats. In terms of what type of secondary units are available, you'll be able to choose between the more permanent RC-M600 with its own display screen or the portable HM-195 handheld controller

The RC-M600 can be installed up to 50 meters away while the handheld has an installation range of 18.3 meters.

The ICOM M605 comes with an inbuilt Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver which should negate the need for an external GPS system and save you a pretty penny. Like all ICOM fixed-mount marine radios, this one has a water resistance rating of IPX8, which is the highest in its class.

The M605 also has ICOM’s proprietary AquaQuake water draining technology. The AquaQuake technology uses vibrations to eject water from the ICOM M605 controller. Water in the microphone or speaker can affect sound quality. AquaQuake, combined with the active noise cancelling feature of the M605 ensures that the transmission remains clear and audible.

  • There are numerous other features that make the ICOM M605 so useful. These include: 
  • NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 compatibility to connect third-party devices.
  • Up to two minutes of automatic last call recording.
  • A 30W 2-way Hailer to communicate with the deck or even the shore.
  • 25W or 1W of output power.
  • Class D DSC receiver.
  • Horn and Foghorn with multiple preset patterns.

What Disadvantages of ICOM M605 Should You Be Aware Of

The disadvantages of the ICOM M605 are a direct result of the features that make it such an exceptional product.

The first of these is cost. This is probably the most expensive fixed-mount VHF radio in the market right now but how could it not be? It has so many features and offers a multitude of unique benefits that it has to be expensive. The big question is whether it is worth all that money.

We believe it is. Not a single buyer of this fixed-mount marine radio has regretted their purchase. The ICOM M605 may be expensive on a standalone basis but when you look at its features and benefits, you'll realize that it offers excellent value for the money.

The other downside of the M605 is that it isn't the most compact. The ICOM M605 measures about 121.5mm in depth, 114mm in height, and 274mm in width. Again, this is a result of having numerous benefits. To offer so many benefits and features, additional components need to be added. This, in turn, means that the device gets bigger.

After all, if you're going to enjoy the advantages of having such a large display screen, it is only natural that the device will be bigger than the screen. 


What Is True Quality And Safety Worth To You?

Everything has a price. The most fully featured devices will cost you more than low-end devices. Our question to you is what true quality and safety are worth to you? If you're one of those discerning people who can’t bear mediocrity and realize what true safety means, then this VHF marine radio is designed explicitly for you.

Standard Horizon GX2200 Vhf Radio Review

Standard Horizon GX2200 vhf two way marine radio

First launched in 2014, Matrix GX2200 is a fixed-mount VHF radio filled with useful features and an intuitive layout to help insure a safe and secure boating experience. It is one of the first-ever VHF radios to include receivers both for AIS and GPS. The Standard Horizon Matrix Series GX2200 is designed for use in USA, International, and Canadian regions. Its basic features include position sharing, waypoint navigation, DSC calling, and AIS and AIS SART target. The GX2200 has a switchable RF output power of 1-25 watts and can be used with 11-16 VDC. It’s also capable of entering and saving up to a hundred waypoints - all navigable using the device’s navigation compass display. 

The GX2200 is an all-in-one device complete with all the basic features and practical design. It is created with a 66-channel integrated GPS antenna integrated into its front panel and a built-in duplexer that enables the device to just have one antenna for AIS and VHF.

It’s convenient, compact, and perfect for daily use.

Standard Horizon Matrix Fixed Mount VHF w/AIS & GPS - Class D DSC - 30W - Black

Main Features

Easy to Use and Comes in a Compact Size ​​- When looking for a great marine radio, the first thing you have to consider is the size of the device and if it’s easy to control and operate. The Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200 is the appropriate size for a fixed VHF radio. It can fit anywhere easily - perfect when you have a smaller boat and don’t have much room to mount your radio.

ClearVoice noise canceling microphone and speaker​​​​ ​​- Wind elements that can interrupt transmission will be reduced with Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200’s ClearVoice tech feature. It will result in better communication and faster search and rescue operations.

Collision and Avoidance Alarms - Shows your ship’s position and alerts all AIS ships approaching too close to your location. A great life saving tool that helps ships avoid disastrous collisions.

30-Watt Waterproof Speaker - The Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200 boasts of its powerful and durable handy mic and speaker that can survive up to 30 minutes being submerged in the water. The mic is also fixed with channel switches and for a direct Channel 16 switch.

Class D DSC - The Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200 is equipped with a Class D DSC transmitter which enables ships to communicate easily using their MMSI. With this feature, you can contact other registered MMSI vessels within your range.

Integrated 66 Channel WAAS GPS antenna - features a 66 channel WAAS GPS antenna fixed in the front panel of the fixed radio for easy DSC and AIS functioning.

AIS (Automatic Identification System) - Technology that allows the ship to have access to static and dynamic data of other ships in its range.

standard horizon gx2200 display

30 Watt Audio Amplifier - The device includes a programmed listen back feature and fog signal generator so that you can hear your last selected channel despite environmental disturbances.

Integrated GPS Feature - This allows the device to save up to a hundred waypoints making navigating easier and quicker.

NOAA Weather Alert - Helps you prepare during the worst weather conditions. Standard Horizon’s NOAA weather alert keeps you informed whenever a weather warning is issued.

Multi-Channel Monitoring (Dual Watch) - Monitor multiple channels at the same time. With this feature, you have access to emergency channels 9 and 16 as often as you need.

RAM3 Seconds Station Control - The Standard Horizon Matrix GX2200 allows you to remotely control another VHF device at a second station. This also allows communication between two radios. Perfect for contacting your cruising or fishing buddies out in the sea.

RAM3 is available to purchase from Amazon.


Other Features:

  • 80dB Commercial grade receiver
  • GPS Compass Display
  • AIS/AIS SART target Display
  • Navigation information (SOG, COG, Time, LAT/LON)
  • Programmable Scan
  • Priority Scan
  • High and Low Voltage Warning
  • E20 (Easy-To-Operate) system
  • 4800/38400 NMEA baud rate selection
  • Waterproof, Submersible IPX7 (3.3 feet for 30 minutes!)
  •  Die-cast chassis
  •  Quick channel select button
  • User-changeable channel names
  • Local/Distance attenuator
  • Voice Scrambler (optional)
  • Programmable CPA and TCPA collision avoidance alarms

Specifications:

  • Dimensions : 7 1/8"W x 3 3/16"H x 6 5/16"D
  • Display Type: Backlit Alphanumeric LCD
  • Mic Controls: 16/9 key, channel switching
  • Weather Alert: Yes
  • Microphone Controls
  • Transmit Power: 25/1 Watt
  • Amperage 0.5 Amps (Standby)
  • 5 Amps (Transmit)
  • NMEA 0183 Input: GGA, GGL, RMC, GLL, GSA, GSV
  • NMEA 0183 Output: DSC, VDM, and DSE
  • Colors: Black or White
  • Warranty: Three years

Included with Purchase:

  • GX2200 Transceiver
  • DSC Warning Sticker
  • Flush Mount Template
  • Mounting Bracket
  • Power Cord
  • Owner’s Manual

Closing Thoughts and Suggestions:

A marine radio should have all the basic features to enable easy and reliable communication on open waters. The Standard Horizon GX2200 is complete with all the basic features and extra functionalities for a secure fishing or boating trip. No matter if you’re a recreational boater, fisherman, or sailor, we highly recommend this fixed mount marine radio to help ensure your boating trips are safer.

ICOM IC-M506 Review – Fixed Mount VHF Radio with NMEA 2000 and AIS

Icom IC-M506 Marine radio
ICOM IC-M506 21 Fixed Mount VHF with Hailer, N2K, Front Mic and AIS

When it comes to safety on the water, next to your life jacket, nothing is more important than a fixed mount Very High Frequency (VHF) marine radio. Some seasoned sailors may even say that a marine radio is more important than your life jacket because it improves the chances of a rescue. If you spend a lot of time in your boat, then it is likely that you already know all this but how do you translate this knowledge into action?

For example, do you pay special attention to the quality of your fixed mount VHF radio? Did you make sure that you have the best possible one for your boat? There are, after all, multiple options available online. The ICOM M506 is one of the better VHF marine radios out there. Why? We will go over all the reason why in this review.

About ICOM America and ICOM Incorporated

You wouldn’t buy an electronic product manufactured by a little known company located in a third world country, especially a product that your life may depend upon someday. You want only the best product manufactured by the best company. Well, ICOM is definitely one of the best.

The ICOM M506 is manufactured by ICOM America which is a subsidiary of ICOM Incorporated. ICOM Inc. is a publicly listed company in Japan that traces its roots as far back as 1954. While ICOM began with a focus on providing equipment to the amateur radio industry, they have since made a name for themselves in professional-level communication equipment suited to marine, aviation, and land based vehicles.

What Are the Advantages of Choosing the ICOM M506

icon m506 AIS function

The ICOM M506 is one of the best options within its price bracket. This fixed mount VHF radio isn't one of the best because of its exceptional technology but because it has a much more advanced feature set for the pice.

The foremost of these is water resistance. While most marine radios are built to resist water, this fixed mount marine radio does it better than all of them. The water resistance rating of the M506 is IPX8 while its competitors can, at best, only offer IPX7.

There’s even a special water resistance feature of the ICOM M506 known as the AquaQuake. The purpose of the AquaQuake feature is to drain the water out of the speakers so that its sound output doesn’t get garbled.

Speaking of sound output, this fixed mount VHF radio’s output quality and volume is the best in the industry. Its audio output of 15W puts many of its competitors to shame. High sound output is important because it makes the transmission easier to hear even in conditions like engine noise and strong winds. With a higher sound output, transmissions will always be clear and you’ll never miss any crucial information.

Another great aspect of this fixed mount marine radio is that it offers the option of establishing a second station on your boat. The second station can be established with the help of an add-on called COMMANDMIC. You can set up your second station as far as 60 feet from the main unit and it’ll give you access to all the functions too. Furthermore, it has a soft-key interface which should make it easier for you to use the device.

If you do choose this add-on as you should, you should also know that you won’t have to worry about water affecting your second station. It has a water resistance rating of IPX7, which is only a single point below the main unit. The second station will allow you to forego a backup handheld VHF radio. Handheld VHF radios tend to have less power and low resistance to water. This is why the second station option is so great on the ICOM M506.

Another unique feature that ICOM has provided in the M506 is last call recording. This functionality allows the last two minutes of your previous call being recorded automatically. However, you'll also have the option to manually record any call, if that is what you need.

This fixed mount VHF radio is also more compact than many of its competitors. It measures about 4.5 inches in depth and height, while its width is approximately 7 inches. Its smaller size means that it won’t eat up a lot of space on your helm, which should open up options for other equipment, if required.

Other features of the ICOM M506 and their respective benefits include:

  • An Integrated AIS Receiver: AIS stands for Automatic Identification System. It automatically transmits relevant information about your vessel like your position, your speed, and the direction you're moving in to others around you. The AIS receiver, on the other hand, translates incoming information about other vessels and presents it to you on a screen so you can plot your path safely and avoid collisions. The ICOM M506’s AIS receiver has three display settings – the Plotter, the Target List, and the Danger List.
  • Two-Way Hailer: This fixed mount marine radio has a 25W two-way hailer. With this hailer, you'll be able to use your external hailer horn to communicate with people on other parts of your boat or even people on the shore.
  • Active Noise Cancelling: The digital noise cancelling feature of this VHF marine radio reduces background noise by up to 90% on received signal and up to 30% on transmitted signal. This means clearer communication even in adverse conditions.
  • Built-in Horn: The ICOM M506’s built-in horn, once connected to your external hailer horn, will give you access to four automatic horn patterns. You can, of course, use it manually too.
  • Optional Scrambler: You’ll also have the option to get an add-on voice scrambler in case you want to prevent third-parties from listening in on your discussions.

What Disadvantages of the ICOM M506 Should You Be Aware Of

There isn't much wrong with the ICOM M506. It is a very solid device whose reliability ensures your safety in even extreme and adverse conditions. However, there is one flaw in the M506 that you need to consider very carefully before making the purchase decision.

This is the fact that it doesn’t have built-in GPS. This could be a deal breaker for many people because GPS or NAV ensures that your emergency or DSC calls carry your position information for rescuers to zero in on. If you don’t ensure that your VHF radio has GPS support, going to regions with minimal traffic i.e. farther from the shore could be risky.

Even so, the absence of an internal GPS module is balanced by the fact that ICOM has provided the option for an external GPS/NAV interface. So, the ICOM M506 you buy will be compatible with NMEA 2000 provided you get the latest version. Older variants will still allow external GPS module connection but only through NMEA 0183.

This is probably why certain buyers have complained that this fixed mount marine radio works with a NMEA 0183 device but doesn’t support NMEA 2000. It is also possible that these individuals have been unable to set up their device properly which is why they're facing this problem. The company clearly advertises that the ICOM M506 supports NMEA 2000. We doubt they’d do that and risk lawsuits if the device didn’t support NMEA 2000.


Comparing the ICOM M506 to the Standard Horizon GX2200

Standard Horizon GX2200W 30 Watt Class D Matrix Fixed Mount VHF (White)

The direct competitor of the ICOM M506 is the Standard Horizon GX2200. Many people may be tempted to choose the Standard Horizon GX2200 simply because of its lower price bracket. However, when it comes to a VHF marine radio, the phrase “you get what you pay for” really does apply.

The slightly reduced price of the Standard Horizon GX2200 is a result of the absence of some key features. The foremost of these is the NMEA compatibility. The Standard Horizon GX2200 offers NMEA 0183 compatibility, while the ICOM M506 provides compatibility with NMEA 2000.

If you know and understand marine radio electronics, you will know that NMEA 2000, or N2K as it is commonly known, is more advanced than NMEA 0183. In practice, this means that N2K devices tend to offer more versatility, greater integration with other devices, and a better network control. Moreover, N2K devices support multiple users while NMEA 0183 only supports one pair.

There are multiple other areas where the Standard Horizon GX2200 falls short of the ICOM M506 as well. For example, it only offers an audio output of 4.5W while the ICOM M506 boasts of 15Watts of audio output. This means that its sound output is lower and may not be as audible on speaker as the M506’s.

The GX2200 doesn’t even have AquaQuake or the last call recording function. Absence of AquaQuake means that its microphone offers reduced performance when being used in a lot of water. Not having the last call function takes away a clear convenience too.

A much bigger limitation of the Standard Horizon GX2200 in comparison to the M506 is that it is only rated for IPX7 water resistance. When it comes to safety, even a single rating point can make a huge difference. Don’t you agree?

There is one area where the Standard Horizon GX2200 does better than the ICOM M506, though – GPS. The GX2200 comes with an inbuilt 66 channel GPS component which can be vitally important.

If you don’t already have a GPS or NAV system on your boat that you can connect to your fixed mount VHF radio, then you'll definitely want to go for the Standard Horizon GX2200. However, there is no fixed mount marine radio out there that offers a better feature set and real world performance than the ICOM M506.