Garmin VHF 100 Review
The Garmin VHF 100 is one of three marine vhf radios in the marine electronics giants communications stable. This one is marketed as a sophisticated entry level unit and is priced accordingly.
The VHF 100 ships with the radio, front panel bezels that match the current Garmin chartplotter line, plastic tilt bracket, fused power cable, flush mounting hardware including screws and gasket, owners manual, and installation instructions.
The VHF 100 will interface with a marine GPS chartplotter via the NMEA0183 protocols and can both receive position data and transmit DSC call log information to the plotter.
This radio has output for an external speaker that had no problem driving a PA horn I hooked up to test and verify the output.
The large radio face measures 7.2-inches wide by 4-inches high. The case extends back about 5-inches from the front panel back and just under 6-inches wide and 2.3-inches deep. This leaves a substantial step for the flush mount gasket to keep water out from behind a flush mounted radio, a nice feature in my opinion.
The front panel features three rotating knobs, one for channel selection, one for volume, and one for squelch adjustment. The channel selector also serves as a pushbutton enter key. One-button control exists for on/off, quick selection of channel 16 or 9, high/low transmitter power, DSC, menu, and clear. The unit also has three soft keys located just below the large display screen. A distress call button is located on the lower left corner under a protective door.
Other functions less used functions like the screen backlight and contrast adjustments, key beep, navigation data configuration, channel group selection, and modifying channel names are handled through the main and system menus. The menu button and large channel knob manipulate and select menu items. All menu function names are clearly spelled out and easy to read and use.
The VHF 100 is rated waterproof to IPX7 standards which means the radio could be submerged to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes without sustaining damage.
Receiver sensitivity was rated good as was receiver selectivity of 70 dB. Audio output sound quality was good and sound pressure levels measured at a very powerful 97 dBA. When the volume was set at high levels there was very little distortion noted in the voice reception. Overall the Garmin VHF100 has a very good audio system.
We rated the display on this Garmin marine VHF radio good. The VHF100 uses a 3.1-inch monochrome dot matrix screen with 132 by 64 pixels of resolution to display channel numbers, alpha channels, navigation and time data, selected channel group, and channel comments. If the latter are too long to display all at once the information will scroll across the top of the channel numbers.
The top row of the screen displays individual system status icons to let you know the transmitter power setting, when the radio is transmitting and receiving, and when it is connected to a working GPS unit. The bottom of the screen is sectioned of to display soft key functions, these names and functions will vary depending on the use.
The Garmin VHF 100 is able to scan all channels in order or only saved channels or use Dual Watch or Tri-Watch modes. All channel scan has some unique features made available by soft key functionality. You can skip a channel with the simple press of a button, this could prove valuable passing over a channel with a stuck microphone or where an extended conversation is taking place. You can also choose whether you want to monitor channel 16 in order or between every other channel.
Digital Selective Calling
For DSC operations the Garmin VHF100 is rated as a Class D radio. This means it has two separate receivers built-in, one for voice communications and the second to continuously monitor channel 70 for any incoming DSC calls. Once your MMSI number has been entered and with the radio interfacing with a GPS unit this radio will make DSC calls that transmit your position.
As an operator you can decide to send a distress call with or without the nature of distress. The VHF100 lets you select the nature of distress from a list of emergencies that include fire, flooding, collision, and several more. In addition to a distress call, this radio individual, all ships, group, position request, and position send calls. A DSC call log will display information in up to 40 individual entries. The VHF100 will store up to 200 names and their associated MMSI numbers in a directory.
Garmin VHF 100i
This radio is also available as the Garmin VHF100i designed for use outside of North America. The VHF100i forgoes NOAA weather channel reception as well as US and Canadian voice channel capability. The VHF100i adds Automatic Transmitter Identification System (ATIS) designed for use in certain parts of Europe. ATIS must be activated for use by a dealer.
The Garmin VHF 100 is a very nice radio with lots of functionality and an exceptional audio system; however it only carries a 2-year warranty. Every worthwhile fixed mount marine VHF I reviewed has a 3-year warranty. Garmin needs to step up to the plate and match the best on warranty coverage if they want to compete effectively in this arena.