This isn’t a full feature review. This is a real life review. The difference is this is what you would experience if you owned the same product. If you want a traditional review then this may be more suitable but IMHO not as useful.
I have been using the HX851 since it was released in 2013. It has survived two years of use in some pretty rough conditions. I have used it on board in competitive power boat racing and also for leisure. It has had an entirely typical life being knocked around the boat, chucked in bags, dropped and the rest.
Standard Horizon know how to make good kit. Their RF experience with radio equipment is very good indeed, and using this it shows. After the time I have owned it, it is still performing as good as when it was new.
Battery life is great, I have never had it run out on me even when using it for a weekend of boating – but it is only on when needed.
Audio quality is absolutely fine, and the inbuilt speaker is really quite loud when you need it to be. I have been able to hear race instructions on a race boat whilst wearing a crash helmet, with a noisy engine running. It surprised me how clearly I could still hear the audio.
It does float – I have tried it! (Intentionally I may add) and after two years it is showing no signs of ingress or any future potential future problems.
DSC features are pretty cool. I have had a few interesting things pop up from other boats (emergencies and such) but I have never actually used it myself to send messages. That also surprised me as I’m a geek at heart.
There are really two things to say against the HX851. The first slightly annoying quirk is there is no nice way to charge this VHF from a 12 source. Due to the design there are no plugs accessible on the VHF to plug in a charger. You HAVE to use a little charging cradle, and that plugs into the 12v supply. This is a bit annoying. It looks messy and really the cradle wouldn’t be at all suitable on say a Rib or open sports boat.
The second REALLY annoying. The screen; it scratches far too easily by being the most proud part of the radio when lying face down. One day the last summer I put the radio in the glove box on boat. About an hour later I removed it and the screen was scratched so badly that the lower 1/4 of the screen was impossible to read! I did however manage to polish it out to the point that it was readable again, but that is a silly oversight and really frustrating – so be warned.
Great audio performance, great battery life. Fantastic feature list (some of which you may not use) full DSC capabilities only let down by a cosmetic design flaw.
Would I still recommend it? Absolutely yes.