Heft is the Humminbird VHF5 handheld radio's most obvious characteristic. It's especially unusual because the electronics world is geared toward the miniature. I happen to like the size and weight; this radio feels indestructible. My only gripes: It isn't waterproof, and it's too large for my short fingers.
Splined knobs atop the radio control on/off, volume, channel selection and squelch. The minute detents in the channel selection knob lend an air of precision to the radio. I like to select the channel and volume with knobs. It seems more natural than using keys. On the downside, the channel selector also adjusts the squelch, but you have to push the function button just above the PTT to toggle between the two functions.
The function button also lets you toggle between the dual functions of each of the four buttons below the display. At first, this feature annoyed me, but after a short day using the radio, I realized I didn't need the function button during normal use, except to adjust the squelch. On the other hand, it's a key ingredient in the programming formula. You may program the radio to store your most frequently used call channel, which you access by pushing the call key on the face; to scan, normal and priority; or to provide dual watch, dual watch with weather, or triple watch. The triple watch toggles among Channel 16, your call channel and the current channel. The VHF5 has 10 memory locations, and you access programmed channels by pressing the memo/m.prg button, then pressing and holding the scan/dual button for a few seconds.
I loved the big sound from the VHF5. The speaker is clear and crisp to let you easily hear messages when the noise level on the boat is high.
Although the VHF5 isn't waterproof, it's more than adequately resistant to spray, rain and moisture. Humminbird supplies a waterproof pouch of clear vinyl that kept our test radio dry after a thorough soaking. The pouch has a positive seal at the base, an extension for the antenna and a finger extension that lets you reach the knobs. Turning the knobs wasn't all that easy, but I could use all the other buttons as easily as I could when the radio wasn't in the pouch. At a suggested retail price of $130, this is a fine radio if you don't mind its extra heft.
Humminbird, (800) 633-1468; www.humminbird.com