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  Class-D DSC Radio: Uniden UM525

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Author Topic:   Class-D DSC Radio: Uniden UM525
jimh posted 02-05-2006 08:36 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Uniden has a moderately priced Class-D DSC radio, the model UM525. I spent a few minutes fiddling the knobs on this radio on display at a dealer's shelf. When trying out a new product like this, I attempt to figure out how to operate it without consulting the owner's manual. This gives me an idea of how difficult it will be to operate the radio.

The front panel has a large rotary knob that functions as a channel selector. It also has a button marked MENU. If you push the MENU button, the display shifts from channel information to a menu list. You scroll the menu list with the large rotary knob. So far, quite intuitive. Next I wanted to select a menu choice. What button to push? It took a moment to deduce that you push the rotary knob inward to make a menu selection. OK--I had learned how to operate and navigate through the radio's menus and set-up procedures.

I could not explore all the choices because the radio had not been programmed with an Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI). As required in the Class-D recommendations, a DSC radio should not be able to perform certain DSC functions until it has been programmed with an MMSI.

Operating and setting up the radio seemed intuitive. I have owned an ICOM radio for several years and I still have not learned how to navigate among its many features. Many of the ICOM functions require pushing and holding multiple buttons to access. This Uniden radio seemed much easier to operate.

This large display was very visible. It had enough screen area to be able to display many messages or a vessel position in latitude and longitude without using horizontal scrolling of the message. My ICOM has a much smaller display and has to scroll messages horizontally across the window to display them.

Uniden UM 525 Manufacturer's web page
http://www.uniden.com/products/productdetail.cfm?product=UM525BK& filter=Fixed%20Mount

This radio is available retail for about $165. At that price it delivers an amazing amount of features and Class-D qualification for DSC. Recall that Class-D is now the current minimum recommendation from the U.S. Coast Guard for recreational vessels who wish to voluntarily equip themselves with a DSC radio.

jimh posted 02-05-2006 08:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The Uniden UM525 radio has a couple of interesting features:

GPS Intuitive--the radio automatically suggests which channelization plan (American, Canadian, International) should be used based on the vessel position as provided by a connected GPS. For boaters who are crossing into Canadian water on a routine basis, this might be very handy. (I confess: I operate in Canadian waters often and I do not recall ever changing the channelization on my radio!)

WHAM Input--wireless handheld controller/microphone(s) can be used with the radio.

jimh posted 02-05-2006 09:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The UM525 radio also includes reception of VHF weather broadcasts. You can configure the radio to monitor a selected weather broadcast transmission and listen for weather alert messages broadcast with Special Area Message Encoding (SAME) information.

Excerpt from the UM525 instruction manual:

Using SAME Alert
The National Weather Service precedes each weather alert with a digitally encoded SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) signal, then a 1050 Hz tone. The SAME signal includes a FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) area code, and an event code that corresponds with the type of alert being sent. You can configure your radio to operate in SAME Standby mode, where it monitors a selected weather radio station for SAME alerts for areas you specify. You can program your radio with up to 30 FIPS codes for the areas you desire.

Chuck Tribolet posted 02-05-2006 09:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
My SH Spectrum has a very similar user interface, except that
you push the Menu button to select. That's more intuitive,
less prone to error (I can see accidently pushing the
rotary knob while turning it on a snotty day), and less
manufacturing cost (no switch in the rotory knob).

It will be interesting to see if Icom has improved their user
interface in their new generation of radios.

Uniden's WHAM mic seems to me to be a really good idea. It's
been out a couple of years, and I'm a bit surprised that SH
and Icom haven't come out with a wireless version of their
remote control mikes.


Chuck

jimh posted 02-05-2006 11:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Chuck--it is funny you should mention the notion of pushing the MENU button to select the menu choice: that is exactly what I did when first using the radio! And, even after I discovered that you have to push the rotary selector to select the menu choice, on several tries I kept pushing the MENU button again, apparently out of an ingrained sense of how it should work, not how I had just learned it actually did work.

Also, I wonder about the long-term life of that rotary selector and push button. In the course of using the radio that control is going to get used more than any other. By the way, I was able to discover that you have to push the selector from a small legend on the front panel, PUSH/SELECT, adjacent to the control.

One of the requirements of Class-D DSC radios is that the operator be able to learn how to use the radio in less than ten minutes. (See http://continuouswave.com/whaler/reference/dscClassD.html for more information.) The user interface of the UM525 seems like it will easily meet that criterion.

Riverwhaler posted 02-07-2006 09:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for Riverwhaler  Send Email to Riverwhaler     
I replaced a smaller ICOM radio last year with a Uniden 525 and couldn't be happier. Sometimes we overlook less popular brands like Uniden without looking at the alternatives. It has a nice big screen, well made with metal chassis and was fairly easy to setup. Big screen could be very helpful in an emergency especially for the older somewhat visually needy types. Imagine if your glasses were blown away by a gust or whatever and you needed to operate the radio! It was easy to hook up to GPS. Just keep in's and out's straight. If anyone does it with Garmin I would be happy to tell what I did.

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