Floating Handheld VHF/GPS Combo Review
The Icom M92 is a floating marine handheld VHF radio and GPS navigator combo. Its full designator is the IC-M92D. This VHF/GPS combo features a built-in high-sensitivity 48-channel GPS receiver that includes navigation capabilities with a man overboard function.
Other standard features include a high capacity lithium battery pack, large dot matrix display screen, built-in DSC functionality, and a powerful audio system.
Icom Exclusive Features
It also has a couple Icom exclusive features, including provision for a visual alarm should the unit go in the water as well as AquaQuake to rid the speaker of water quickly following a submersion.
The Icom M92 handheld marine VHF radio package ships with the radio, rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, charger tray, AC charger power cord, belt clip, DC charger power cord, wrist strap, screws to permanently mount the cradle, and an instruction manual.
A long list of optional equipment is available for the M92 including a variety of rapid chargers and a water proof speaker microphone.
The radio body stands just under 6-inches tall, is about 2.6-inches wide and 1.6-inches deep not counting the removable belt clip attachment. Overall height including the removable antenna is right at 12-inches.
On my scale, with the 1500 mAH lithium-ion battery pack installed, the IC-M92D weighed in at 10.7 ounces. That weight places this radio on the light end of the weight spectrum when compared to other GPS equipped marine handheld radios.
The drop-in charger cradle will hold the radio with the battery installed or charge the battery alone. A complete charge cycle with the supplied AC charger system can take as long as 13 hours depending on the battery state of charge when the unit is place in the cradle. No charge time is stated in the manual when using the DC charger cord and I did not test this feature. This charger displays a yellow-orange light to indicate charge in progress and green light to indicate a fully charged battery.
All controls on this radio are pushbutton, with 14 buttons on the front panel, 1 on back, and 1 on the left side. The left side holds the push-to-talk switch with the case back holding the DSC emergency calling button under a spring loaded red cover. The front panel has up/down, left/right arrow keys, four soft keys, volume/squelch, menu, clear, enter, and power buttons.
The antenna on this unit is removable and with proper coupling could be connected to your vessel's main antenna on a to provide backup VHF capabilities with increased range over use with the standard small whip antenna.
One button soft key operation is available for a number of functions including the selection of transmitter output power, switch to weather channels, entering channel name menu, selecting screen backlight slider, choosing a favorite channel, using AquaQuake, using the MOB function, going to the waypoint list, and selecting the compass page as well as several others. Addition functionality is available by accessing the main menu.
Scan modes include weather alert watch, DSC watch, dual watch, and triple or tri-watch. In the tri-watch mode channels 16 and 9 will be scanned with the third being user selected. Dual watch monitors 16 and a working channel. You can also scan your favorite channels using priority or normal mode. Priority marches through channels sequentially while also monitoring channel 16; normal mode scans strictly in numerical order. A channel can be added or removed as a favorite with a single soft key button press.
The Icom M92 can use all Canadian, International, and US marine VHF channels, and NOAA weather channels.
GPS, DSC, and Other Special Features
The Icom M92 incorporates a built-in GPS receiver and digital selective calling capabilities. To initiate the use of DSC functions you must register for, obtain, and then enter an MMSI number.
GPS functionality is straightforward. The M92 can store a single MOB waypoint and navigate to the position just a couple button presses, a very nice feature in my opinion. Up to 50 waypoints can be stored. Present position waypoints are stored for use with a single button press. Waypoints can also be entered manually by entering the latitude and longitude with onscreen menus. Each point can be assigned an alphanumeric name up to 10 characters long.
You can navigate to a saved waypoint by selecting it off the waypoint list and choosing to navigate to it. Once done, a screen showing range, bearing, course over ground, speed over ground, and a compass graphic appears. An alternate navigation screen dispenses with the compass rose and instead shows present position. Other GPS screens include a compass page and a pair of satellite status pages.
After you have programmed an MMSI number into the Icom IC-M92D it will be capable of making a DSC distress call simply by lifting the red distress cover and pressing the distress pushbutton located on the case back. The radio can also make an individual, all ships, group, and test calls. Position request and report calls capability exist as well. You can attach a nature of distress message to a distress call. Up to 100 DSC addresses can be stored in memory with up to 10 characters in the name.
When the battery icon drops to one third charge showing the M92 will be restricted to low power only for transmitting. You should also note, the lower power screen icon will flash and you will not be able to select high power.
AquaQuake is an Icom exclusive. It generate a loud low pitch tone, when selected on with a single soft key press, to quickly clear any remaining water droplets out of the speaker should the unit get dropped in the water or be used in heavy rain.
I tested the Icom M92 using the supplied 7.4-volt 1500 mAh lithium-ion battery pack. The standard BP-275 battery pack is the only acceptable power source for Icom M92 radio. As such, it would be wise to carry a second battery pack aboard when conditions warrant.
Icom claims the audio system of the IC-M92D uses a large speaker and has high power output. I found that to be the case with a measured output of 94 dBA while monitoring a weather channel broadcast. The audio was clear and understandable even at these volume settings and I rated the audio performance excellent.
The Icom M92 features a full dot matrix display screen that measures just 1.7-inches on the diagonal. This equates to a screen with a height of approximately three quarters of an inch and a width of 1.5-inches. A bit smallish, but still this screen displays tons of information with a clean, crisp view because of its high 64 by 132 pixel count.
VHF radio mode.
In the VHF mode, channel group, transmitter power setting, and a GPS status icon are displayed in the top line of the display. The bottom row holds labels use white on black reverse type for each of the four soft keys. The left/right arrow buttons scroll the numerous functions as needed. The right third of the screen show the selected channel number, channel comment, and alpha status.
The selected transmitter power output level is shown onscreen with the Hi icon indicating 5-watts and LOW for 1-watt or output power. A small battery level indicator is located on the upper left portion of the screen with filled battery shaped icon when full. As the battery charge level drops the battery icon empties in thirds. Present position and date/time are all visible on screen at all times in this mode.
This radio is waterproof and carries a IPX7 rating. This means it can be submerged to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes without sustaining any damage. It passed both the drop and submersion tests with no glitches. When the radio detects water it displays a message and the screen and button backlight flashes as a warning.
The Icom M92 marine handheld VHF radio carries a full 3-year warranty.
Battery Life Testing
The Icom M92 marine handheld VHF/GPS combo managed to last for 9 hours in our battery life test while maintaining the ability to transmit a full power. In the tenth hour and beyond the radio was restricted to low power output due because of protective circuitry that limits transmit power once the battery indicates only one-third charge remaining. The M92 continued to be fully functional, with low power transmit only, for two more hours.
To test the unit I transmitted at full power for 3 minutes every hour and listened to a weather channel broadcast at a moderate volume level for 5 minutes every hour. This is generally considered the industry standard hourly duty cycle for handheld VHF radios.
The Icom M92 floats, has an internal GPS, can navigate, and make a DSC emergency call with both position and nature of distress. Lots of functionality as well as the Icom name should make this radio a best seller for boaters. I am rating it a buy.
Buy this Icom marine handheld VHF with built-in GPS here.