Garmin VHF 200 Review
The Garmin VHF 200 is the middle unit in a group of three marine VHF radios available from this marine electronics maker’s lineup. This boat radio is marketed as a sophisticated top level integrated unit.
The VHF 200 ships with the radio, detachable microphone, plastic tilt bracket, fused power cable, cables to connect an optional external speaker and hailer horn, flush mounting hardware including screws and gasket, owners manual, and installation instructions. A pair of upper and lower front panel bezels matching the current Garmin chartplotter line give the unit good looks and cover the flush mounting holes.
Another version of this radio designed for use outside of North America is designated the Garmin VHF 200i.
The 200i gives up NOAA weather channel reception as well as US and Canadian voice channel capability while adding Automatic Transmitter Identification System (ATIS) designed for use in certain parts of Europe. ATIS must be activated for use by a dealer.
Both the Garmin VHF 200i and VHF 200 have multilingual user interface capabilities.
The radio face measures 7.2-inches wide by 3.9-inches high. The radio housing extends back about 5-inches from the front panel back—where the radio would contact the panel in a flush mount—and just under 6-inches wide and 2.3-inches deep. This leaves a large step for the mounting gasket to help keep water out from behind a flush mounted radio installation.
Controls and Operation
The Garmin VHF 200 front panel has three knobs, one each for channel selection, volume, and squelch adjustment. The larger channel selector knob also acts as a pushbutton enter key for menu operations and selects the weather channel band. Dedicated pushbuttons offer single press control this boat radios power on or off, quick selection of channel 16 or 9, and to set transmitter output power to high or low.
You will also find pushbuttons to select DSC operation, open the menu, and clear an entry. Three soft keys located just below the large display screen provide more functionality. A button located on the lower left corner under a red protective door marked with the word, distress, provides for a single action distress call.
Some of the more obscure functions like screen backlight and contrast adjustments, key beep, navigation data configuration, channel group selection, and modifying channel names are handled via menus. The menu button and channel knob manipulate and select items. I found all the menu function names to be clearly spelled out and easy to read and use. One interesting menu function I found in the VHF 200 is the ability to sample the foghorn frequencies using the radio speaker.
The VHF 200 will interface with a Garmin marine GPS chartplotters as well as gear from other makers via the NMEA0183 and NMEA2000 protocols. This radio will transfer will send received DSC distress calls and position data to any compatible chartplotter. Of course the radio will display position and time data received from a connected GPS unit.
Additionally, when you connect this radio to a Garmin plotter you will be able to use the chartplotter to setup some calling functions. Also, if you were to initiate a DSC distress call designated as Man Overboard from the radio the chartplotter would also enter the MOB mode and if connected to a Garmin autopilot will prompt you to start a Williamson turn back to the man overboard.
Garmin VHF 200—Added Features
This radio has output for an external speaker that had no problem driving a small external speaker I hooked up to test and verify the output. The VHF 200 also has a built-in 20-watt hailer with listen-back functionality. When an optional hailer horn is connected the hailer public address will also function as a foghorn. The radio is preprogrammed to automatically sound a variety of foghorn signals.
When using the automatic foghorn the radio listens for incoming VHF signals between horn signals. The automatic fog signals use a prolonged blast, short blast, and a bell to produce the appropriate signals, all worked properly in my testing. The foghorn can also be used manually and the tone can be adjusted from 200 to 850 Hz with the default set at 350 Hz.
The VHF 200 can use the Garmin GHS 10 full-function handset. This unit is a microphone capable of full control of the radio. When connected to the GHS 10 the radio will provide intercom service between the handset and the main radio.
The standard microphone used with the VHF 200 can be moved from its front panel connector to a rear panel connector if you desire.
Receiver sensitivity was rated good as was receiver selectivity of 70 dB. Garmin claims an audio output of 94 dBA and that is exactly what I was able to measure while listening to a weather broadcast. When the volume was set at high levels there was a bit of distortion noted in the voice output. Overall the Garmin VHF 200 has a very good audio system.
I am rating the VHF 200 display screen good. This Garmin marine VHF boat radio 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, channel group and comments. If the channel comments are too long to display all at once the information will scroll slowly across above the channel numbers.
The top row of the screen has individual status icons for transmitter power setting, transmitting, receiving, and when the radio is receiving GPS data. The bottom of the screen is sectioned off to display soft key functions. Functions change as appropriate to the screen in use.
The VHF 200 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.
The Garmin VHF 200 has several scan modes available, it can scan all channels in order or only saved channels or use Dual Watch or Tri-Watch modes. Soft key functionality provides some unique features when doing an all channel scan. A simple press of a soft key lets you skip a channel when a stuck microphone or extended conversation locks you into an undesired channel. You can also choose whether you want to monitor channel 16 in order or between every other channel.
Digital Selective Calling
The Garmin VHF 200 is rated as a Class D radio. This means it has two receivers built-in, one for voice communications and the second to continuously monitor channel 70 for any incoming DSC calls. Before you can proceed with using any DSC functions you must enter your MMSI number. These days this is especially important as penalties for improper use have increased significantly. Once the number has been entered and with the radio connected to a GPS unit you will be able to make DSC calls that transmit your information and position data.
You can send a distress call with or without adding a nature of distress message. The VHF 200 lets you select from a list of emergencies that include fire, flooding, collision, man overboard, and several more. In addition to a distress call, this Garmin boat radio will make individual, all ships, group, position request, and position send calls. A DSC call log will display information on up to 40 individual entries. The VHF 200 will store up to 200 names and their associated MMSI numbers in a directory.
The Garmin VHF 200 is a nice looking boat radio that matches up well with Garmin chartplotters. It offers gobs of functionality beyond regular communications duties with its ability to relocate the microphone, provide intercom service when using the GHS 10, and generate automatic fog signals.
One downside I noted with this radio was its 2-year warranty. Just about every other brand of fixed mount marine VHF I have reviewed has a 3-year warranty. Garmin needs to beef up the length of the warranty period of the marine VHF radio.