- What to look out for when buying handheld radios -
Handheld radios are a practical addition to a permanently installed radio system on board, as they can be used anywhere on the boat. They're also a good choice on boats where a marine radio system cannot be installed due to size and set-up limitations. Find out here about the differences between the various handheld radios that are available and what you should look out for when buying one.
1. VHF handheld radio for use on rivers and lakes
The most important thing to know first: In Germany, wireless handheld radios are only approved for use at sea and not for use inland. UBI wireless radios or handheld radios for inland waters, which are sought by many of our customers, are not permitted in Germany. This does not apply to other countries, however. In Holland, for example, there's nothing to stop you from using a handheld VHF radio on rivers and lakes. Therefore, before buying a handheld radio, always check first to see if it is approved for the country in which you intend to use it!
2. VHF handheld radio with DSC
Using DSC (Digital Selective Call), you can call other DSC-radios like calling a telephone number. Handheld DSC radios are a big plus in terms of increasing safety on board. This is because with the DSC function, you can use your handheld radio to call for help quickly and easily in an emergency at sea. All boats that are in the vicinty and equipped with DSC will receive your distress call, as will the corresponding coastal authorites, with information about your boat and emergency contacts. If your VHF handheld DSC radio also features GPS, your location can be pinpointed, which further expedites rescue.
3. Floatable handheld radios
VHF handheld radios for marine use may accidentally go overboard. With this in mind, the manufacturers Icom and Standard Horizon offer floatable handheld radios. Find out all about floatable handheld radios in our radio guide.
4. Battery life of handheld radios
Handheld radios usually have a battery life of seven to 20 hours. Factors that can reduce the battery life of a handheld VHF radio are:
- A smaller sized handheld radio
- High transmitting output
- Built-in GPS receiver
5. Transmitting power of marine handheld radios
Powerful handheld radios have a transmitting power of 6 watts, the maximum transmitting power a VHF handheld radio can have. This means that the transmission power of handheld radios - and thus their range - is significantly lower than that of permanently installed marine radios. Typically, a handheld marine radio will achieve a range of 3-8 miles. High transmitting output affects battery life, and does not provide a huge advantage in terms of range.
6. Charging technology for VHF marine radio handsets
When buying a handheld radio, pay attention to how it is charged or the charging cables available for your preferred model. Some handheld radios have a quick charger or a 220 V AC adapter.
7. The display on handheld radios
Handheld radios either have a classic 7-segment LCD display, i.e. each number consists of up to 7 individual bars, or a so-called dot matrix display. On a dot matrix display, numbers look rounder and consist of many small dots. This significantly increases display capabilities. The screen resolution of dot matrix displays depends on the number of pixels used. You should also check whether the display is illuminated when buying a handheld radio. This makes it easier to operate in the dark.
8. The price of VHF handheld radios
The price of marine handheld radios varies according to the features they have. There are affordable VHF handheld radios on the market that come with all the necessary basic functions for as little as 70 euros. Expect to pay between €250 and €360 for high-performance handheld radios with DSC and GPS.