The Standard Horizon HX851 is an updated and enhanced handheld VHF radio based on the very popular HX850S, which at the time of its release was the first marine handheld VHF to integrate a GPS receiver. This latest version of the radio adds significant navigation capabilities as well as other enhancements.
You can use the HX851 to show your present position, steer to a waypoint, store up to 200 waypoints, and navigate to a DSC position request call. It also has the ability to store and recall with a single button push 10 of your favorite channels.
Like its predecessor, this Standard Horizon handheld VHF floats, has 6-watts of output power, and has a built-in 12-channel GPS receiver.
This radio is built on a die cast frame with polycarbonate housing that stands 5.6-inches tall, is 2.6-inches wide and 1.7-inches deep. One new feature on the HX851 is a luminescent–glow in the dark–gasket between the case halves. This should make trying to locate this in the dark much easier.
The HX851 ships with both an automatic AC charger and 12-volt DC charger. The AC charger shows a red light to indicate charging and green for a fully charged battery. Maximum charge time is 8 hours. It is one of only a handful of handheld VHF radios that includes both types of chargers as standard equipment. A belt clip is included too.
Most operations and functions on the HX851 are controlled with 11 front panel pushbuttons. Volume and squelch are adjusted by pressing their respective pushbuttons and then using the arrow keys to increase or decrease as needed. I do prefer rotary knobs for these two functions but seeing them on a floating handheld VHF radio is a rare find.
The push-to-talk switch is side-mounted while an optional microphone/speaker jack is located on top of the radio. One button control is available for transmitter power selection, channel changing, weather channel selection, quick selection of channel 16 or 9, strobe light, and some scanning options. You can also get to the main or DSC calling menus with a single button push.
Transmitter power is selectable over four ranges from 1- to 6-watts. The unit is capable of using all US, international, and Canadian channels as well as NOAA weather channels.
A number of display pages using data supplied by the internal GPS receiver are available. The basic display shows radio functions plus the time and position. There are other more sophisticated navigation functions are available through the main menu including a compass page, navigation page, and GPS status page.
The Standard Horizon HX851 has the ability to store up to 200 named waypoints and to provide navigational data to any one of them. I found entering waypoint information to be a bit cumbersome, something not unexpected with this level of sophistication on this type of device.
One thing I really liked about the navigation capabilities of this radio are the number of optional ways you can display the data. You can view only time and position, or add a compass, or display speed and course over ground.
Another advantage of the built-in GPS information is the ability to make a DSC radio call and send position information. I dont know of any other marine handheld VHF radio with this capability.
After youve programmed an MMSI number into this radio it will be capable of making a DSC distress call. To do so, youd lift the red side cover and press the red pushbutton. It will also make an individual, all ships, and group calls. Position request and report calls capability exist as well.
The Standard Horizon HX851 features a water activated SOS strobe light, it activated and worked throughout our dunk test.
This radio is waterproof and carries an IPX7 rating. This means it can be submerged to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes without sustaining any damage.
It carries a 3-year warranty on the radio with a 12-month warranty on the battery.
Performance and Battery Life Testing
We rated the screen on the HX851 excellent; it really doesnt get much better than this in a handheld VHF radio. With a resolution of 132 by 64 the dot-matrix screen proved more than capable.
Top row icons include transmit or busy, transmitter power, channel group, and GPS reception. The selected transmitter power output level is shown onscreen with and H(6-watts), M2(5-watts), M1(2.5-watts), or L(1-watt). A transmission is also indicated by a red light on the case front, when receiving the light displays green.
Audio performance was outstanding. During our output test we measured 98 dBA.
The HX851 turned in a fair performance in our battery life test by lasting 7 hours. When you consider the compromise in battery size and weight needed to make a radio float and to operate all the added functionality of this radio seven hours is still a respectable performance.
It passed both the drop and dunk tests with no issues noted.
The Standard Horizon HX851 floats, has an internal GPS, can navigate, make DSC calls, and display a strobe light. That is a bunch of functionality in a small package and probably explains why this is such a hot selling radio.