The Icom GM1600 is a marine handheld VHF specifically designed for use aboard survival craft. It can also be used aboard ship and meets rigorous GMDSS requirements.
We tested this radio with two different batteries. It ships with a 750 mAH rechargeable nickel cadmium (BP-224) for shipboard use. When stored aboard a survival craft it designed to be equipped with a 3300 mAH non-rechargeable lithium ion (BP-234) battery. This battery adds $199 to the already steep price tag for this radio. The included AC charger will bring up an empty BP-224 in about 12 hours.
The GM1600 functions on the marine band only and has a very limited feature set, limited channel availability, and restricted output power. To extend battery life for the survival conditions it is designed to operate in the output power on this radio is reduced to a maximum of two watts. A lower power setting of one watt is also available. Channel selection is limited to 18 simplex channels.
A top-mounted knob turns the unit on or off and adjusts the audio volume. Six front panel positive action pushbuttons select channels, quick select channel 16, quick select preset channel, and switch from high to low transmitter power. An optional microphone/speaker plugs into a jack located on the top of the unit.
The radio is bright yellow in color and is rather large and bulky. It weighed in at almost one pound. A placard with operating instructions is affixed to the back of the unit. A small light near the top of the unit turns green when receiving and red when transmitting.
This Icom handheld radio has 11 conditions that can be turned on or off via a menu. Some of these functions include setting the display screen backlighting level, turning on/off an onscreen signal strength meter, and turning on/off an onscreen battery voltage meter. These are functions not seen on many handhelds radios.
The GM1600 performed exceptionally well during our transmitter and receiver testing. It barely noticed any temperature changes when we put it in the freezer or our torture heat chamber. Transmitter power and frequency stability were both rated excellent; very few handheld radios earn those ratings. Audio performance was good too with output reaching 95 dBA.
With the BP-234 survival craft battery installed the GM1600 still showed a full battery at the end of our 15-hour battery test. The rechargeable BP-224 battery lasted 11 hours in our battery life testing. It passes both the drop and submersion test.
We rated the GM1600 display screen good. It uses large block style numbers to show the selected channel and can display several meters and icons onscreen. The battery charge remaining meter is always displayed.
This specialty Icom handheld VHF radio is pricey and adding the dated lithium ion battery will add another couple hundred to the cost. The GM1600 carries a 3-year warranty.