Panbo

Icom's "New Look" family: M92D, M424 & CommandMicIV

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Feb 23, 2012

Icom_M92D_handheld_GPS-DSC-VHF.jpg

I don't know why Icom didn't hold a press conference in Miami because the company certainly has significant new products to brag about. Maybe it's because neither the GPS/DSC/VHF handheld M92D above nor the fixed M424 sibling in its new family of radios is currently FCC certified, and therefore they aren't yet for sale or even priced. But quick FCC approvals seem possible and if priced right I'll guess that "The New Look of Icom" -- that's the theme of the ad campaign -- will draw customers...

I'm a longtime fan of handheld VHFs with GPS built in and hence the ability to place DSC calls, including automated Distress. Radios like the Standard Horizon HX851 and the Simrad HH33 can also be used for small boat navigation and can even be position polled from a mother yacht. Naturally Icom seems to have incorporated most all their features into the M92D and added at least one more. That's active noise cancelling on both the user voice transmission and incoming calls; I'm not sure if it's the same technology used in Icom's M36 handheld, but if so my experience is positive. The M92D also claims full Class D DSC specs, meaning that it has a separate receiver to constantly monitor the digital calling channel (70). {Apparently this was a mistake based on looser European Class D standards, see comment below} By contrast, the Simrad handheld DSC VHF, and its Lowrance LHR-80 sibling, only meet the SC-101 specification, and I've seen the latter miss DSC calls when busy on a voice channel. (I'm not sure of the HX-851, but think it's also Class D. {The HX-851, like the Icom M92D and the others, is SC-101}). Meanwhile, the M92D also features an interesting new interface with four soft keys, and that's the real meaning of Icom's "New Look"...

Icom_M424_New_Look_fixed_VHF.jpg

Note how the new M424 has the same four soft keys driving a very similar menu structure as the handheld screen at top. The M424 also claims the same noise cancelling features, and even the new optional CommandMicIV it supports has the New Look. So the idea is not only an improved inferface, but one that will be familiar all around an Icom-equipped boat. Smart!
   Now in fact many of the VHF manufacturers offer easier to use soft key interfaces these days---I'm thinking of Standard and Garmin particularly---and their remote mics and handhelds (if they offer them) are similar. But I'm not sure that any other manufacturer has been so conscious about making all the interfaces as "family" as possible. Hopefully readers will dig into the various product pages for more comparative detail on this and other features. Better yet, maybe we'll get to try all these new Icoms soon. But before I close, there's one more thing... 

Icom_CommandMicIV.jpg

Yes, indeed, Icom has quietly introduced an "affordable" black box navigation system that can support one or two 12-inch monitors and can be ganged with other processors all sharing Icom radar and fishfinder modules!  I don't know if the boating world can support another MFD system but the MarineCommander system I saw in Miami certainly looked rugged. More to come.

Icom_Marine_Commander_MXP_5000.jpg

Comments

Turns out that I have an Icom release listing prices for both the radios at $299, and the CommandMic at $199, when they ship in April (after FCC approval).

Posted by: Ben at February 23, 2012 10:43 AM | Reply

But where is the N2K connectivity for DSC?

Posted by: Jonathan Udell at February 23, 2012 10:47 AM | Reply

I like the new UI. Do you know if they will be updating their SSB radio products as well?

Posted by: Robert Sutton at February 23, 2012 10:48 AM | Reply

Good point, Jonathan. It will be a great when Icom and Standard Horizon finally put NMEA 2000 into their fixed VHFs -- easy GPS integration for DSC Distress calls, plus hopefully easy direct calls to AIS targets and also easy plotting of incoming DSC calls and position polls. (All of which works well with Garmin's N2K radios, at least when networked to their MFDs.) But at least Icom is using N2K in MarineCommander, so their engineers are getting familiar with it. And the same it true at Standard Horizon, where N2K is getting added to the CPN series.

Robert, I don't know about any changes to Icom's SSB radios, but that is a much smaller market.

Posted by: Ben at February 23, 2012 11:10 AM | Reply

Icom is a bit late to the dance: Garmin used a consistant user interface through at least 6 generations of GPS's.

Posted by: Sandy Daugherty at February 23, 2012 11:39 AM | Reply

Ben, Is there an issue you are aware of using Garmin's VHF w/ non Garmin MFD's per your comment "All of which works well with Garmin's N2K radios, at least when networked to their MFDs" ?
We are about to place 3 VHF200's paired with Simrad NSS8's on a trio of new boats. Am hoping they all play nicely. I'll let you know if we find otherwise.

Posted by: Jonathan Udell at February 23, 2012 12:59 PM | Reply

I didn't mean to imply issues, Jonathan. For instance, I'm confidant that your Garmin VHF 200 radios will get GPS from the Simrad NSS 8's no problem. Which is probably the main thing you're looking for?

But I don't think that the NSS has the "call AIS target" feature the VHF 200 supports, and I'm not sure if it can plot DSC calls or position polls received by the radio. Please do let us know how it all works out!

Posted by: Ben in reply to Jonathan Udell at February 23, 2012 1:35 PM | Reply

Yes, soft keys! I suspect this is going to make the use of DSC features possible without needing to crack open the manual each year.

Not to be too judgmental, but the lack of a knob or rotary dial of some kind feels like an omission, considering some brands of MFD's did away with rotary controls and then quickly brought them back in subsequent generations.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at February 23, 2012 9:21 PM | Reply

Great stuff!

Ben I'd love to hear from the CNP product line. It looked fantastic when they announced the products with all the bells and wissels but we have not heared from them since. There is very little reviews out there. Is it a flop? Why are they keeping quiet and is no one talking about it?

Posted by: David at February 24, 2012 1:49 PM | Reply

David, the CPN Series isn't shipping yet! There were samples in the Standard Horizon booth, and they seemed to be running well, but SH is not quite ready to declare a real shipping date yet.

It may be worth noting that a prototype of Icom's MarineCommander was in their Miami stand in 2010, but not in 2011, though now it's apparently ready. Good work takes time?

Posted by: Ben in reply to David at February 24, 2012 2:04 PM | Reply

Jonathan, I expect that you will find that you can see the position of a DSC caller on your NSS8 as:
- the Garmin VHF 200 outputs the standard PGN for this function, 129808
- the NSS has 129808 listed under "NMEA 2000 PGN (receive)"
- the NSS documentation only has the sentence "You can also see messages and position for DSC transmitting devices within range" regarding this whole subject but that is a fairly strong indication that what you want is there.

I don't expect, though, that you will be able to set up a call on the VHF 200 using the NSS as there is no standard PGN defined to set up a VHF call by NMEA and, as a result of this, the integration between Garmin radios and MFDs must use a proprietary PGN which won't be understood by any Simrad MFD. There is also no corresponding proprietary PGN in use by Simrad equipment at all (as far as I know) and no mention of any ability to set up a VHF call in the NSS documentation.

Posted by: Henning at February 24, 2012 3:34 PM | Reply

Why doesn't the fixed mount radio have built in GPS, a la the Standard-Horizon?

GPS integration is the single biggest problem confronting recreational craft DSC radios....as the USCG have said.

Posted by: Glenn at February 24, 2012 11:20 PM | Reply

I had hoped there might be news by now of a VHF with AIS transponder...not just a receiver. Did you here anything on this at Miami Ben?

Posted by: paul greenhalgh at February 25, 2012 6:12 AM | Reply

Paul, I don't know of any manufacturer working on a combined Class B AIS transponder and VHF radio, and in fact it may be an impossible task due to all the design regulations involved.

I do see why combining all that hardware is attractive, just like it seems a "no-brainer" to put a GPS into a fixed VHF radio. However, I think a better solution on most boats to have all the parts -- GPS, transponder, VHF, and MFD -- all talking to eachother on a NMEA 2000 network. I've seen this work very well, and very easily, though there remain some very annoying issues like the possible lack of a standard message (PGN) for setting up a DSC call, or if there is one, lack of support for it. (Thanks for your work in this area, Henning!)

Posted by: Ben in reply to paul greenhalgh at February 25, 2012 9:00 AM | Reply

Garmin and Simrad are great N2k partners. I run a Garmin 740 and Simrad NSS8 both connected to a Garmin N2k backbone. They share navigational data between the Garmin GA30 GPS Antenna/Simrad GS15 GPS Antenna, the embedded sonar in the NSS8 passes temp/dept/water speed to the Garmin/both units pass nav data to my ICOM504/SH GX2100 vhf's via NMEA0183

Here are some screen shots.

http://i676.photobucket.com/albums/vv129/bluewaterpirate/Simrad%20to%20Garmin%20N2k/IMG_1915.jpg?t=1330205286

N2k device lists for both units.....

http://i676.photobucket.com/albums/vv129/bluewaterpirate/Simrad%20to%20Garmin%20N2k/23FEB12_1722_03.jpg?t=1330092307

http://i676.photobucket.com/albums/vv129/bluewaterpirate/Simrad%20to%20Garmin%20N2k/23FEB12_1722_04.jpg?t=1330092307

http://i676.photobucket.com/albums/vv129/bluewaterpirate/Simrad%20to%20Garmin%20N2k/shot3.png?t=1326756715

Tom

Posted by: bwp at February 25, 2012 4:34 PM | Reply

Tom, your message about how well N2K can work across manufacturers is great, as are all your efforts to explain the nuances of marine electronics. But it would be nice if you could get beyond those long individual photo links. Have you considered Picasa, for instance? It's totally free and once you've learned it putting those photos into a single online album with captions would be a breeze. I guess Flickr offers similar features, and there are others, but my main point is that there are better tools to do the good work you seem willing to do.

Posted by: Ben in reply to bwp at February 25, 2012 5:48 PM | Reply

Ben ....

Their already in albums 7 to exact average 85 pictures per folder. Be glad to breake them out.

Posted by: bwp at February 25, 2012 10:09 PM | Reply

You can also use the network bridging functions of the the NSS8/740 to exchange/use NMEA 0183 data via a N2k network. In this example the NSS8 is using a Garmin GA30 (NMEA 0183) data via the Garmin 740 a hto fix own ship on the NSS8.

Network Bridging

Tom

Posted by: bwp at February 27, 2012 10:41 AM | Reply

Posted by: bwp at February 27, 2012 11:31 AM | Reply

Thanks for the concise link, Tom. Your first attempt was just missing one quotation mark.

Head's up, readers, the following html works in comments, without the outside quotes:

"Concise Link"

Posted by: Ben in reply to bwp at February 28, 2012 8:40 AM | Reply

I agree with Glenn, what about GPS integration?

Posted by: John at March 3, 2012 12:16 PM | Reply

A radio without knobs is simply and completely unacceptable.

I can change channels *very* quickly on my Icom M-602s and 502s, almost without looking at it.
Muscle memory is a powerful tool that button-only interfaces nullify.

Buttons for volume and squelch are even *more* aggravating because one can operate those completely without looking at them, not even to find them.

Synthesizers went through this when they went to software DSP implementation (ignoring the analog/digital feud), only much worse - using a mouse to manipulate knobbish things.

Now "control surfaces" are the hottest area of MIDI devices - they let you have real knobs and sliders so real-time performance is again viable.

Vendors who take the knobs off radios are simply exercising their free-market right to try something others have already proven is flat wrong, if not patently stupid.

The knobs will be back, after the Stupid Tax is paid in full.

Harumph

Posted by: Mike at April 18, 2012 10:11 AM | Reply

Seems like you got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, Mike. I like a channel knob too, but don't take your absolutist stand on it.

I struggle with highly negative comments like this, especially when the commenter is not willing to take responsibility for it with his or her full name. However, it's good for readers to be aware of knob versus button issue, and I believe we're all learning to take strongly worded critiques with care.

But you then went on to use the Icom Marine Commander entry for a diatribe about whether NMEA 2000 is an open standard or not. That's not going to happen. It's not fair to other readers trying to learn about Icom or Icom itself. Take it to the Forum please. Also please check Panbo commenting policy: http://goo.gl/tGKK9

Posted by: Ben in reply to Mike at April 18, 2012 11:01 AM | Reply

I sure favor squelch and volume knobs. All things being equal, I would surely choose one radio over the other to obtain those two settings on knobs rather than buttons.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at April 18, 2012 5:02 PM | Reply

Agreed Dan, and really my only complaint on the HX851... using it for general purpose radio I much prefer to grab my inexpensive Humminbird VHF with the big old knobs on top than the fancy HX851.

Knobs are still by far the most logical and intuitive user-interface for both volume and squelch, it's annoying manufactures as high-end as Standard Horizon and Icom even CONSIDER buttons for these functions.

Posted by: Patrick at April 18, 2012 11:42 PM | Reply

I learned that Icom America has stopped calling the M92D handheld VHF a Class D radio:

http://www.icomamerica.com/en/products/marine/handhelds/m92d/default.aspx

There may have been confusion because the European version of the radio purportedly does meet the Euro Class D standard, but the FCC is stricter. It seems that the only true Class D U.S. handheld VHFs are the West Marine VHF460, the Uniden MSH235, the Lowrance Link-2, and the Simrad HH36.

Posted by: Ben at December 20, 2013 3:13 PM | Reply

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