Testing the Midland Nautico, model NT3, was our first look at any marine VHF from this maker. Midland is well-known for their CB radios. They also produce a variety of other radio and telemetry gear.
We tested the Nautico radio with the supplied 700 mAH Ni-Cad battery pack. Before our review we charged this battery for 24 hours with the supplied AC charger.
The manual states following this long initial charge a recharge should take between 8 and 12 hours. According to the manual the radio can also be operated on 4 AA batteries.
The NT3 has a top-mounted twist knob volume control and that also serves as the on/off switch. The left side has the push-to-talk button and the right-side a microphone/speaker jack and battery charge jack. Both are under a plastic cover.
Five front panel pushbuttons control this radios limited number of functions. You cannot adjust the squelch on this radio; it is set automatically and can be checked by pressing the MON pushbutton.
The CH16 button toggles between channel 16 and the last menu selected channel.
Even though this radio has very limited functionality we still found it tedious to operate. You need to get off channel 16, and then press the MENU button before you can use the arrow keys to select a channel.
You also need to be off of 16 for the MENU key to function on anything other than transmitter power. These procedures were not clearly annunciated in the manual.
The NT3 can scan all channels in order and will stop for five seconds on any channel it receives a signal. A momentary press of the SCAN key turns this on or off.
The NT3 had average performance in our transceiver tests. It earned only a fair rating for transmitter power stability but did get a good rating for frequency accuracy and receive sensitivity.
Audio output was a rather anemic 86 dBA in our output testing. The NT3 failed to complete the transmission time at hour 9 of our battery life test.
It passed the drop test, but took on water during our immersion test.
Even though the NT3 display screen is fairly small we rated it good. It shows channel numbers in readable block letters and the channel group selected toward the top in small text.
No channel comments are displayed, though Alpha channels are shown when selected. An onscreen icon indicates when the radio is transmitting or receiving.
With a street price under $70 the Midland Nautico is the least expensive marine handheld we have ever tested.