Icom IC-M1V Handheld VHF

Icom sweats the details, including a case with easy-grip indentations.

Many modern electronic devices have more features than I'll ever use, primarily because I hate to read the operating manual to learn the procedures. Even this Icom IC-M1V handheld VHF is more sophisticated than I need, but its solid construction, small size and easy-to-use basic functions made me want to own it.

I wouldn't own a handheld if it didn't have a lithium-ion battery, as the Icom does. Such batteries don't have a memory of their last power level, so you can recharge them before they are drained. They also last longer than Ni-Cad batteries.

The IC-M1V has concentric on/off and squelch knobs on its top. Though I need both hands to operate these, I prefer their infinitely variable control compared to the set increments buttons give you. The IC-M1V feels good in my hands (I have short fingers), and I can operate the keys equally easily with each hand. When the device is in my left hand, I can reach all the keys with my thumb. Holding the VHF in my right hand, I operate the keys on the face with my thumb and the push-to-talk key with my forefinger. The battery case on the back of the radio has indentations similar to those on a car's steering wheel. A small detail, but I was surprised by the extra security the indentations offer. Not that dropping this handheld matters; it survived my drop test-from about 5' above the cockpit sole-so I imagine a few bounces won't kill it. It's waterproof, too, but it doesn't float.

Modern handhelds don't leave much to desire in the way of reception and broadcasting quality. Most are very good. The Icom, though, seems to have a higher-quality speaker than I'm accustomed to hearing. I also like the comments at the bottom of the display that identify the channels (commercial, pleasure, calling). Icom programs these at the factory, but you can change them. On top of the radio is a connection for the optional external speaker/microphone.

Suggested retail price is $463; the external speaker/microphone is $70.

Contact: Icom America Inc., (425) 454-8155; www.icomamerica.com.