Standard Horizon handhelds, another look


I’ve started monitoring New York Harbor VHF traffic on the Standard Horizon HX850S, first tested last September, and its effective tag and scan functions are helping to sleuth out who works which channels. They’re obviously well established as many callers identify neither themselves nor the intended recipient. Using the handheld reminded me of my HX group portrait above, and bigger here. Among other things, it illustrates some features of the 470 Series (which I’ve happily used for years) that I miss in the 760 and 850: like its compactness, its more secure cradle w/ in-front status LEDs, and its squelch/volume knob instead of the two-step VOL or SQL button then up-down key routine. You can also see the fairly significant difference between the dot matrix screens on the 471 and 850 versus the segmented one on the 760. The photo may emphasize it a bit more than real life, but the segmented technology is higher contrast. On the other hand, the screen designers are really limited by those segments, especially when they try to create less visited screens like setup menus, as seen way below, and bigger here

In late September I also got “Sparky” to test the two new Standard Horizon handhelds. He’s a bright young man who assists the local harbor master and is quite knowledgeable about VHF radios. Here are some excerpts from his report:

The radios’ RX range was quite impressive. During one of my shifts I heard a call go out to the coast guard. I was sitting (with handheld at my side), and our 25w base did not even pick this signal up. Next was The TX range and for a handheld it was also pretty impressive. I had a yacht call me from around Rockport harbor on a handheld and they could hear me very well. 
   The radio with the Bluetooth headset is a cool idea, though it’s bulky and does not stay on too well. I tried docking with the headset in and it was actually a big help. Though I have docked boats thousands of times, the headset made it seem easy, but because I am used to a wired mic that’s what I trust to use over and over again. I did not try the VOX setting where you can have it sound activated because I did not want to transmit when talking to crew. {The VOX function does work, but, as Sparky notes, does not know if you are trying to transmit, or cursing yourself, or whatever—B.E.}  

I should also note that voyaging Panbot Russ tested his 850S in the sink and it leaked, and another user sent me photos of one whose case back had started chipping off at the gasket. I hope these are anomalies, and can further report that both the test 850 and 760 went overnight in my sink without damage.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

8 Responses

  1. MaineFog says:

    One would think that for VOX use we could have a keyword to turn the Tx function on. Like saying “transmit” and it would then transmit the following speech until you paused. If you did not say transmit you could holler all you want to a deaf mic.

  2. Russ says:

    I tried a few DSC calls from my boat to the HX850S and worked great. Then I put it in the galley sin, not powered up, to see which way it would float and it when I took it out and turned it on it fogged up. I shut it down and left it for the night. The next morning it wouldn’t power up at all and has been dead since.
    I was in Bermuda at the time so I went to the Standard Horizon web site and submitted an inquiry, that was on November 21. On December 1st I received a reply to send it back to them. I’ve now carried it back to the US and will ship it to them this week.

  3. Russ says:

    I guess I need to edit more carefully. “Galley sin” should be “Galley sink”!

  4. Dan (b393capt) says:

    I like the bluetooth. When you get it in the right position, it stays in your ear real well. You can wear it for hours and forget it’s there. Can wear it while eating too.
    In my case I struggled for awhile believing it would stay put … removing the puffy thing mayde it have more contact with my ear increased my confidence I would notice if it fell out.
    In regards to my range complaints, they have sent a new antenna to remedy. Have not tested yet.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    It turns out that the cracked case I mentioned at the end of this entry has turned out to be a known issue that Standard Horizon is treating seriously. Here’s Jason Kennedy on the subject:
    “As I stated on the phone today, we have recently received a small percentage of returns regarding the HX850S with a cracked rear case. It is believed that the case is cracking due to over torquing of the screws on the assembly line. As I stated, as soon as we realized the crack in the case, we halted shipment of the HX850S and HX750S until we could rectify the situation. All current inventory has been checked and we are 100% confident that any future product shipping from Standard Horizon after 12/22/08 will not experience this problem.
    Please direct any Panbots experiencing the crack in the rear case to Standard Horizon’s Customer Service Department. I have instructed our Customer Service Department to issue a UPS Call Tag and arrange for UPS to pick up the radio at the customer’s residence or place of business. The radio will be shipped back to Standard Horizon for replacement of the rear case at no charge to the customer. I am confident that this is not a widespread problem and if you have any readers that want to contact me direct please feel free to extend my personal contact information.”
    I’m not going to put Jason’s phone number here, but if you want it, email me. Meanwhile here’s customer service info:
    Standard Horizon
    Customer Service Department
    10900 Walker St
    Cypress, CA 90630
    Toll Free: 800-283-7839 ext: 6700
    Fax: 714-527-9472
    Email: [email protected]
    As I understand it, this problem only effected a few dozen units and is usually seen around the upper left casing screw (when viewing the radio from the back).

  6. Russ says:

    I received my HX850S replacement over the weekend. It appears to be a complete new radio.

  7. Jeff says:

    Thanks to this thread about the crack, I went and looked at the rear case on my new HX850s that I’ve barely taken out of the box, and was amazed to find the cracked upper left corner, just as reported here. Thanks to all here for this report! I would have hated to find out about this the hard way, by getting my new radio wet, and have the whole think zapped! And thanks for listing Standard Horizon’s 800 Support-number above…I just called them (10:15 eastern time) and was amazed to have a very helpful and receptive Support tech answer the phone at what was, to him, 7:15am Pacific time. I had my Serial Number ready and everything, but he said there was no need, took my address, and is shipping out a rear case immediately! I’m very impressed!
    Thanks again to Jason at Standard Horizon, and Panbo, and every contributing reader !!

  8. Bruce Toal says:

    Just a note on how great Standard Horizon’s customer service is! I am a loyal customer forever with this kind of service.
    Background: I purchased an HX850S radio in March of 2009. I never had the opportunity to test or rely on its waterproof feature until last month when I took a wave into my dinghy while at a beach. The HX850S was floating in the wash when I got back in the dinghy. Unfortunately, the radio stopped working and upon close inspection, I found the case was cracked near one of the screws on the back – here is a picture:[email protected]/8314182561/in/photostream
    After reading this thread, I contacted customer service mentioning that I understood that there was a manufacturing problem with some of these radios that led to a cracked case that allowed water to render the radio unusable. The three year warranty on the radio had expired earlier this year, but they said that they would repair the radio for free. I just got the radio back and it functions again!!!
    Obviously, Standard Horizon stands behind their products and cares about their customers – what a great company (and the HX850S is a great radio)!

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