Cobra sent me one of the handheld VHFs from their new line, the MR HH325VP, for some extended testing. This $120 unit has all the usual features for a VHF of its type, like full weather watch, an external speaker/mic jack, power output up to five watts, multi-station watch, and a NiMH rechargeable battery and battery charger. It adds scanning into the mix, which is a nice option often reserved for fixed-mount units.
So, how does the 325VP really differ from the gazillion and one other handhelds on the market? First off, it offers three different power settings: one, three, and five watts. That could come in handy if you’re having a conversation with someone who’s a bit too far to reach with a single watt, yet you want to save some battery juice and back it off of five watts. Secondly, I like the signal level indicator. At first I thought it was gimmicky, but then discovered that when you flip through the weather channels at warp speed it tells you at a glance which one will come in the clearest. Still, these are not exactly make-or-break features.
Far more important is what I discovered when I (OOPS!) dropped the 325 VP on the deck, kicked it into the corner, and hit it with the washdown hose. (Sorry, Cobra. You shoulda seen it coming.) It’s what I discovered when I dropped it into my fish tank, where it was pecked at by pipefish, grass shrimp, and mummichog minnow. And it’s what I discovered when I let it ride in the fishbox, along with two bags of ice and (eventually,) a few nice striped bass: This unit is built like a tank.
Built like a tank? Errrr… yeah.
In the past – let’s be honest here, folks – Cobra has produced some radios that wouldn’t stand up to this kind of abuse. But the 325 VP passed with flying colors. You can feel the unit’s heft in your hands, and it meets JIS7 submersible standards (which means it’ll survive submersion in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes.) More importantly, it survived my real-world torture tests – which means it should have a long, long lifetime packed securely in your gear bag.
The bottom line? In the 325 VP I find a straightforward, competent, hearty handheld VHF, at a very reasonable cost. But what’s more important is that, with this new line of handhelds, Cobra has staked a clear and serious claim in the world of handheld marine electronics – and judging by the 325 VP, they deserve to hold it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a chartplotter I need to go beat up.