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Electronics Review

Handy marine communication with the rugged Cobra MR HH400 XVP VHF radio (continued)

Range and Power: Two key elements determine the range of communications with every VHF radio. These are antenna height and output power. Because VHF is a line-of-sight system, which means the signals generated from the VHF radio won't bend to follow the curvature of the earth, a tall antenna is needed to gain distance. Portable handheld radios usually come with a short antenna that limits the range. To compensate for this shortcoming, handhelds must rely on substantial power output. The Cobra VHF radio we tested had an output power of 1 (Low) or 5 (High) Watts. When we were in relatively close range (within a mile or two) to a harbor or other boats, we set the radio to 1 Watt and found our MR HH400 XVP had very good clarity. Next, we tested the unit at full power and we were able to achieve a communication range of nearly five miles on the ocean during a calm day with little swells. Clarity and volume was great at 5 Watts given the standard short antenna length.


Battery life on the Cobra is excellent. The ability to set the power output to low or high saves a lot of battery power, especially when five Watts is not needed under normal operating conditions. The NiMH batteries are rated at a high capacity of 2100 mAh. This is enough energy for several outings before requiring a recharge. If you do use the handheld radio often, we recommend that you charge the unit up before each trip so you’re running on a full battery charge just in case.


Included are four high capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries for many hours of radio usage


Display: A wealth of information can be seen on the LCD display of the Cobra MR HH400 XVP radio. Large numbers for the channel are clearly shown and can be easily seen with a quick glance. Surrounding those large numbers are icons with your current settings such as high or low output, scanning mode, Tri-watch, weather channels, transmit, weather alerts, memory feature and number, battery meter, signal strength, and more. When we used the unit, cloudy overcast or bright shinny days we had no trouble reading the display at all. During our early morning salmon runs before grey-light we were able to hit the easy to access backlight button which lights up the display brightly in low light conditions.


A large TALK button makes it easy to press especially on rough waters


Features: You won't be disappointed with the Cobra VHF handheld because it's loaded with useful features. Because there are so many features we can't cover them all but here are a few that stood out:


Tri-Watch: The Tri-Watch feature is very handy especially if you have fishing buddies that like to communicate via different channels. With the Tri-Watch mode you can easily and quickly monitor 3 different channels. When you activate the feature via the TRI W button on the front of the Cobra radio you are scanning the 3 channels that are most important to you. Though it scans three channels, one of them will be fixed to channel 16, the emergency channel. The other two slots are programmed by you and can be changed at any time. We found this feature very handy as during our trips out on the ocean we have different buddies that like to talk on different channels, even in the same general, reachable areas.


Memory Locations: With the MR HH400 VHF handheld radio you have the ability to preset ten memory locations. Instead of shuffling through all the VHF channels to reach the one you want, you can quickly hit the memory button and then scroll up or down your most widely used channels. In addition you can also quickly scan those same channels using the memory location scan. A feature we found very helpful when trying to locate different parties on the water.


The case is well protected with gaskets all around to prevent water from entering


Waterproof: For many anglers, a handheld VHF radio will probably be used as a backup unit incase their fixed unit goes bad or in case of emergency or disaster. Having a unit that offers some degree of waterproofing is a must and should always be one of the requirements when purchasing a handheld unit. Cobra's VHF radio has the second highest JIS standard of water and dust resistance. Submersible up to one meter for 30 minutes, the radio meets the JIS7 standards. We conducted lab tests dunking the VHF radio into water for 20 minutes at one meter depth without any problems. We didn't notice any fogging inside the display nor was there any presence of water inside the radio when the chassis was later removed for inspection.


The belt clip allows the radio to come off only when turned upside down


Belt Clip: The belt clip is such that the radio can only come out one way after the handheld has been inserted. This is a great securing feature. If you're hiking or bouncing around, there's no way the Cobra HH400 can accidentally slip out of the clip. The only way to remove the radio is by turning the radio upside-down and sliding it out.


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