The Lowrance LHR-80 is a floating marine handheld VHF/GPS combo radio and navigator. It features a 12-channel GPS receiver, high capacity lithium battery pack, and large dot matrix display screen.
This radio is marine electronics conglomerate Navico’s entry into the handheld radio combo market. I am testing the US version of this radio, another version, the EU, can be purchased for European markets.
The radio body stands approximately 5.6-inches tall, is about 2.6-inches wide and 1.4-inches deep not counting the removable belt clip attachment. Overall height including the antenna is tidbit over under 11-inches.
On my scale, with the 1400 mAH lithium-polymer battery pack installed, the LHR-80 weighed in at 10.6 ounces. That weight places this radio toward the lighter end of the spectrum when compared to other similarly equipped marine handheld radios.
The LHR-80 handheld marine VHF radio package ships with the radio, rechargeable lithium-polymer battery, charger tray, AC charger power cord, belt clip, wrist strap, NMEA data cable, hardware to permanently mount the cradle, and owner’s manual. An optional DC charger cord is available for this radio.
The drop-in charger cradle will hold the radio with the battery installed or charge the battery while it is out of the radio. A complete charge cycle only takes about 3 hours depending on the state of charge when the unit is place in the cradle. This charger shows a red light to indicate charge in progress and green light to indicate a fully charged battery.
All controls on this radio are pushbutton, with 7 buttons and a 4-way arrow pad on the front panel , 1 on top, and 2 on each side. The left side holds the push-to-talk switch and the DSC emergency calling button under a red cover. The right side sports up/down volume buttons and a jack for a speaker/microphone.
The dedicated up/down volume control buttons have been a useful feature as I have worked my way through testing this VHF/GPS combo. The power button is located on top of the unit. Two soft keys located just below the display screen offer varying functions depending on the mode of operations.
The antenna on this unit is removable and with the proper fitting could be connected to a ship’s main antenna which would vastly increase the VHF radio range of the Lowrance LHR-80.
One button control is available to select any one of 2 levels of transmitter output power, channel up or down, set the volume up or down, switch to weather channels, quick select channel 16 or 9, view to a GPS screen, display the GPS status page, and call a buddy.
Scan modes on the LHR-80 include dual watch, three-channel, and all channel scan. The dual watch mode, selected on/off with a soft key press, monitors the selected working channel and channel 16.
Selecting the three-channel scan mode, also done with a soft key press, adds your selected favorite channel to the aforementioned scan. Finally, an all channel mode scans channels sequentially while at the same time checking channel 16 every couple seconds.
The LHR-80 can use all Canadian, International, and US marine VHF channels, as well as all NOAA weather channels.
The Lowrance LHR-80 incorporates a built-in 12-channel GPS receiver and can store up to 500 waypoints with alphanumeric names up to 6 characters long. I found GPS functionality is rudimentary and straightforward.
You can navigate to a manually entered waypoint with a few soft key presses. Two navigation screens are available, the first uses the top half of the screen to continue to show VHF radio info while displaying bearing, range, cross track error, and course over ground to the waypoint in numeric format on the bottom half of the screen. Unfortunately you cannot enter a present position waypoint.
A graphic navigational display page, called Plotter Mode, also lists the waypoint name, bearing, distance, cross track error, cross over ground in small text around the screen perimeter. The center of the page is dominated compass rose showing your boat in the center and the waypoint on the correct azimuth. The compass rose graphic can be zoomed in or out as desired.
DSC function use requires you to first register for, obtain, and then enter your own MMSI number.
After you have programmed an MMSI number into this radio you will find it capable of making a DSC distress call simply by lifting the red side cover and pressing the red distress pushbutton. The radio will also make an individual, all ships, and group calls. You can make up to 20 entries to your calling Buddy list each of which can be identified with a name up to 11 characters long.
I tested the Lowrance LHR-80 using the supplied 1400 mAH lithium-polymer battery pack. An alkaline battery tray is also supplied as well and holds 4 AAA batteries. When the alkaline battery pack is in place transmitter power output is limited to 2.5-watts.
The LHR-80 has a powerful audio system; I measured 94 dBA while listening to a weather channel broadcast at maximum volume. Some voice distortion was noted at peak volume, but lowering the volume slightly removed the vast majority of distortion while maintaining high output volume.
The LHR-80 features a full dot matrix display screen using a square layout that measures 1.5-inch on each side and has a diagonal measurement of 2-inches with 128 by 128 pixels of resolution. I rated the screen good and find it quite large for a marine handheld VHF radio. Pressing any key will backlight the screen and pushbuttons.
Channel group, transmitter power setting, and a GPS status icon are all displayed onscreen. The selected transmitter power output level is shown onscreen as Hi or Lo and an icon appears during a transmission. A battery level indicator on the top right of the screen shows a filled battery shaped icon when full. As the battery charge drops the battery icon empties.
This radio is waterproof and carries a JIS7 rating. This means it can be submerged to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes without sustaining any damage. It passed both the drop and submersion tests with no glitches. The radio case and battery pack are individually sealed. Should you dunk this unit you should separate the battery and dry everything out to avoid future corrosion.
This Lowrance marine handheld VHF radio carries a 1-year warranty. An additional warranty can be purchased as an option.
Battery Life Testing
The industry standard duty cycle for a handheld VHF radio is 3 minutes of transmitting at full power and 5 minutes of receiving every hour. I test handheld VHF radios using this standard by doing a full power transmission for the specified time and listening to a weather channel broadcast at a moderate volume for the specified time.
For the first couple hours of the battery life test, the Lowrance accomplished this just fine. However, at the three hour mark the radio would no longer transmit at full power but did continue to transmit at low power. This is a battery saving feature built into this radio. I continued the test and each time within a few seconds of beginning a transmission the radio would revert to low power.
Every other handheld VHF radio I have ever tested on the Marine Electronics Reviews website has met this industry standard, therefore I can only give the Lowrance LHR-80 marine handheld VHF/GPS combo credit for 3 hours of the battery life test. The caveat is the radio continued to function normally, albeit on low power only, for another 5 hours which yielded a total operating time of 8 hours.
The Lowrance LHR-80 floats, has an internal GPS, can navigate, and make DSC calls. It has lots of functionality in a compact package. However, it’s limited warranty of 1-year is a hindrance when compared to the 3-year warranty offer by other marine electronics companies.