nav-vhf_radio-largeProbably the very first piece of electronic equipment that a boater should get, if they are going out on a large body of water, is a VHF Radio.

The Coast Guard monitors VHF, so do many police forces and a wide range of other boaters; private citizens also monitor VHF Channel 16. Most marinas have a radio on in their office, too. The VHF is a vital piece of safety equipment and next to life jackets, the best thing to have in the event of a breakdown or a problem. So, it makes perfect sense that the time-honoured and proven VHF radio should see its capabilities expand as new technologies come out.

Two important new technologies are GPS and AIS. GPS is the Global Positioning System while AIS is the new Automatic Indentification System. With a GPS receiver, you can pinpoint your location to within a few feet almost anywhere on the planet. AIS is an automatic identification signal that is broadcast by vessels that are equipped with AIS (such as all commercial ships, most yachts and a growing number of smaller pleasure craft). The AIS signal identifies the boat and its position and even more detail in the case of larger vessels.

Now, Standard-Horizon, a very well-established maker of VHF radios, has introduced their new GX2100 MATRIX model VHF radio. This new unit has received a lot of attention and recently won an Innovation Award from the National Marina Manufacturers Association at the Miami International Boat Show.

The GX2100 MATRIX has an integrated AIS receiver to display AIS target vessels directly on the VHF radio's display using the dedicated AIS key. The GX2100 will display AIS target information (the MMSI identification number, the ship's Call Sign, Ship Name, bearing, distance, speed over ground and course over ground) and will allow you to contact an AIS-equipped ship directly using the digital selective calling (DSC) feature on your VHF radio that you program in to show your vessel's position in relation to AIS targets. On top of that, it can alert you when an AIS ship may be approaching to close to your location via the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) Alarm. It's a big bunch of acronyms but each stands for a valuable feature.

Incidentally, while the GX2100 has integrated AIS, Standard-Horizon also offers the GX2000 version which is AIS-compatible for the mariner with AIS already onboard.

Both MATRIX units feature the familiar controls and top functions like an 80dB commercial grade receiver with Local/Distance attenuator, Class D DSC (dedicated channel 70 receiver continuously watches for DSC calls) and also a powerful 30-watt PA/Loud Hailer with preprogrammed fog signals.

Other key features include an optional voice scrambler, ClearVoice noise cancelling speaker microphone, 4.5-watt audio output, NOAA Weather Alert, Programmable Scan, Priority Scan and Dual Watch functions.

Another important feature is that it is also capable of entering and saving up to 100 waypoints and these may be selected and navigated to by using a unique navigation compass display which shows your vessels SOG (speed over ground), COG (course over ground)and the BRG (bearing) and DST (distance) to the waypoint. It becomes a basic GPS navigation system and you can also output the display on a larger screen.

Another unique MATRIX feature is the ability to "poll" (request and send) the GPS location of another vessel and show that vessel's position on the radio's alphanumeric display. When connected to a compatible GPS chart plotter, the MATRIX allows the position of the polled vessel to be shown on the chart plotter display. This is a great feature for maintaining contact with fishing or cruising "buddy" boats.

We think that the GX2100 and GX2000 MATRIX radios represent particularly versatile products at an attractive price. These are VHF radios that you can upgrade to, or be the starting point for your growing array of new electronic boating aids, no matter the size of your boat.

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