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Standard Horizon CPV550 Review

The Standard Horizon CPV550 features a massive 12-inch color screen and will do about anything but cook dinner.

It’s a full-function chartplotter packed with a VHF and a number of bonus capabilities. Plus, it has the ability to hook up to an optional black box sounder and AIS receiver.

standard horizon cpv550

The Standard Horizon CPV550 can do it all, from VHF duties to chartplotting.

The across-the-board capabilities of the CPV550 required an extensive series of tests to complete a review. To begin, we did a series of VHF radio bench tests.

VHF Test Results and Features

Overall the Standard Horizon CPV550 preformed well in our transceiver testing. It earned excellent ratings for transmitter power stability and receiver sensitivity. The only glitch we noticed was a slight drift off frequency when transmitting after being in our cold torture chamber. Still the unit remained well within industry and governmental specifications at all times. According to Standard Horizon spokesman Scott Iverson, the company is looking into why the CPV550 drifted off frequency during our low temperature test. Since most boating takes place at temperatures well above 15F we consider the performance to be more than adequate. We didn’t check it at the high-temperature extreme because it was too big to fit in our heat chamber.

The amount of selectivity a radio has will establish how well it is able to reproduce only the signals received on a selected channel and not the signals on other nearby channels even though the latter may be very strong and close by. Standard Horizon gives the CPV550 a selectivity specification of 80 dB. A very high number ranked with the best radios we’ve reviewed.

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While running, wind and waves make a boat a very noisy place. It is essential that a marine radio’s audio system perform well. The CPV550 generated a powerful 95 dBA during our audio output testing. Our tester also gave it a sound quality rating of good while monitoring a weather channel broadcast.

A long list of features like an integrated 30-watt hailer with automatic and manual foghorn capability, sophisticated DSC capabilities that includes a second receiver dedicated solely to the reception of digital signals, a large rotary knob for channel selection, and the ability to connect to up to two remote microphones rank the CPV550 communications with the best standalone VHF radios.

Screen Size and Viewability

The Standard Horizon CPV550 features a huge 12-inch color display screen with a resolution of 800 x 600. For testing purposes we mounted the unit to a test board using the beefy metal mounting bracket shipped with unit. In a permanent installation, whenever it is possible to do so, we’d opt for a flush mount for a display unit this size.

To evaluate the CPV550 chartplotting capabilities and assess the display screen we took the unit out for a spin on our test boat. The CPV550 display screen was bright and sharp in daylight conditions with our best view attained by selecting the Sunlight color palette. The Normal setting also worked well.

While viewing the screen in daylight with polarized sunglasses we noticed it darkened slightly even when viewed from directly in front, it continues to darken a bit more as one views it from more severe angles. Without the glasses we found the screen usable at just about any angle. Testers were able to read detailed information onscreen from about 4 feet away.

Night Vision mode darkens the screen colors to reduce glare and improve low light viewing. By going into the menu and increasing the font and symbol size from normal to large we were able to read details even further away.


We found the CPV550 plotter easy to operate by using dedicated buttons and the joystick to move around menus. Each of the six soft keys takes on a dedicated function depending in the page you have selected.

For instance, if you cursor over a waypoint the soft keys will let you edit, move, or delete the point with a single button press. If soft key function labels are not displayed a press of any soft key will bring into view onscreen. We gave the CPV550 an excellent rating for plotter user interface. The full alphanumeric keypad was just icing on the cake.

Odds and Ends

Several other features impressed us. The course predictor on the CPV550 works well and is adjustable. Data blocks display valuable information across the top or side of the map page in a variety of configurations that are user adjustable. Hitting the mark key puts a waypoint at the present position while moving the cursor to a desired position and pressing the route key enters a waypoint in a route. Continuing adds waypoints one at a time.

We found routes very easy to build. Waypoint names can be up to 10 characters long and use one of 16 symbols. A navigation page display user selectable data blocks in a large easy to read format that our testers had no trouble reading from over 10 feet away.

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Final Thoughts

We like the CPV550 for all its wide-ranging capabilities and its huge display screen. The unit has a long 3-year warranty.