Tough and pocket sized, this radio keeps all crew members in the loop.

This new compact radio from Icom has a broader remit than just maritime communications. The IC-U20SR is what is termed a PMR446 – a personal mobile UHF radio that transmits within the band of 446 MHz. It has sixteen predesignated channels and requires no license to use, so handing one out to every crew member poses no practical or legal problems.

It can’t transmit on any marine frequency like channel 16, so has no use in a mayday situation, but considering most skippers rely on a fixed VHF DSC set for emergencies, this is hardly an issue. PMR446s are used in a variety of situations, on-site communications and security being the most common. UHF provide better transmission in built up areas than VHF, but range is shorter, and a PMR446 has a maximum output of 0.5w. From a boater’s perspective the IC-U20SR is perfect for keeping in touch with onshore crew members, especially in areas with no mobile phone signal. It is also ideal for ‘on board comms’ as shouting from the flybridge to the engine room during passage, or trying to make yourself heard in an open boat at 50 knots, has its limitations. For these scenarios this radio has some handy extras in the forms of several ear phone microphones and headsets, in particular the HS-95 hands-free headset with boom-mic.

ICOM IC-U20SR Easy USB charging

Easy USB charging

The big question is how far this 0.5w radio transmits, considering handheld VHF radios generally have outputs between 1 to 6 watts. There is no straight forward answer, but I have used Motorola PMRs effectively out to a mile in undulating countryside. The Icom will not be any less effective in terms of antenna gain compared to a Motorola, so its effective range at sea for flotilla communications, or talking to someone ashore when coming into port is easily within its capabilities.

Key features

Ultra-Compact Design: The IC-U20SR measures only 50(w) x 26.7(d) x 94(h) mm taking little space when put in your pocket or on your belt, and weighs only 156 grams. It is easy to use, as a minimal number of buttons, and a large LCD screen make it user friendly. It has two emergency Buttons in the form of two programmable keys, which can be set according to your needs and use: There is an orange emergency button on the top, which with a long press sends an emergency audio signal to other Icom IC-U20SRs on your agreed channel. The second emergency button is a side key, which allows the Call-Ring function to make group calls by ringing the other Icoms on your network. There is also a smart-ring function, which checks whether a group member is in range or not. Crucially it is equipped with a VOX (Voice-Activated Transmit) function, which when enabled provides hands-free operation, ideal when at the helm of a fast boat.

ICOM IC-U20SR - This is one of the most compact PMR446 radios available.

This is one of the most compact PMR446 radios available.

With a 2350 mAh Lithium-Ion battery, this radio offers 21 hours of standby time. It should be said that this will not relate to 21 hours of transmission, but even so this is pretty good. There are three different ways of charging the IC-U20SR: There is direct radio body charging with USB Type-C cable, there is a drop-in charging cradle, and a specific battery charger for the lithium-ion battery. Despite its small lightweight body, like all Icoms it is built to withstand challenging environments. Its polycarbonate case is waterproof to IP54 standards, and it is approved by the military certification MIL-STD810-G to protect it against dust, water and heavy use. Clear Audio is provided by a 600mW speaker that will make itself heard in most noisy environments.


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