Credit due: Uniden built the first handheld combination GPS/ VHF, but the Mystic was quite bulky and expensive and is now out of production. Standard Horizon's HX850S hopefully represents the first of a new, much more practical combo generation (at least Lowrance has another in the works). With a body about 5.5 inches high and total weight of 11.5 ounces, the 850S packs a powerful 6-watt transceiver with a 12-channel WAAS GPS and a 1,150-mAh Li-Ion battery capable of running both for about seven hours. The combination means you can send a proper DSC distress call from anywhere, even overboard, in which case you'll also appreciate the built-in LED strobe and the fact that this handheld floats. But you can also use the 850S for standard location-aware boat-to-boat DSC calls, perhaps even ship-to-shore phone calls if you're in an area covered by Standard Horizon. The handheld's GPS can even be used with a charting program via the NMEA 0183 output cable built into its included charger cradle. It also has nifty on-screen squelch and volume indicators as well as channel labels and, pending FCC approval, will retail for $250.
This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.