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Simrad RS35 review (VHF + AIS)
I ordered a Simrad RS35 in April at Defender's annual sale. It arrived in late June, just in time for my summer cruise. I've been using it for about 20 days now, 4-8 hours per day.
I was very excited about the RS35 on paper. It uses NMEA 2000 (or 0183) instead of only using NMEA 0183 like the Standard Horizon VHF+AIS radios. This would make for easier wiring and not use up all of my 0183 ports on my Raymarine e7d plotter. The remote mic (HS35) is wireless, which makes for much easier installation and keeps one more wire out of my crowded pedestal.
Summary: Don't buy, at least not yet.
The installation was easy, including networking. I ran a Raymarine SeatalkNG (NMEA 2000) drop to near the radio, then used a SeatalkNG to NMEA 2000 converter cable to plug in the radio. My plotter and the rest of the hardware on the network found it easily.
Reception is as good as other fixed VHF radios that I've used.
The optional RS35 remote mic has good ergonomics and easily clips to something in the cockpit, a pocket, or PFD.
AIS integration with my Raymarine e7d was easy. As soon as I hooked it up the plotter started to draw AIS-transmitting boats on the map and lets me see their speed, course, and all other AIS details.
Sound quality is so-so. I don't find the HS35 to be loud enough when sailing in high winds (20 knots or more) or when motoring. The quality also isn't great, fidelity could be a little better. It's not that VHF ever sounds great, but this one sounds worse than my previous Uniden (not a high standard for a radio).
Responsiveness is also mixed. If you try to use the unit too quickly it won't respond to button presses. The menu system is slow to go through.
There are some annoying bugs in the software. The worst is that when listening to channel 16 the radio randomly switches over to weather. This happens about once or twice per 8 hour cruising day. I don't have any weather alert features turned on (I've checked this many times). The handset and radio both still show 16. Getting back to channel 16 requires pressing WX twice, once to convince the handset that it is in weather mode, and once to switch back to VHF mode.
The scan feature is terrible. Rather than letting you set a list of stations to scan it scans the entire band. I'm currently travelling in Canada where weather is broadcast on 21 24x7. This makes scan entirely useless because it will always stop on 21.
You can do a 3 channel scan, but 2 of the channels are fixed at 16+9.
On my other radios I often scan the frequently used or traffic channels (9/16/22A/13/68/69/72/5A) to catch most of the interesting conversations on the water. On the RS35 I can't do that.
The RS35 wasn't tested with Raymarine equipment and can't pick up the GPS coordinates from my e7d (so DSC does not work). I checked with Simrad support and got the list of PGNs necessary and checked that the e7d is sending those PGNs, but no luck. Simrad was not responsive when I asked what equipment they've tested the radio with.
Simrad customer service is not very helpful in general. They often don't respond to my emails, or respond to only one of the questions. There is not a customer service forum like the one that Raymarine provides. This is a big disappointment to me, especially since I had been considering switching to the sailing oriented B&G Zeus MFD. With their customer service I can't see doing so.
I haven't used the lower cost Lowrance Link-8, but it shares a lot with the RS35, so I assume it has some of the same issues. This is too bad because it is the cheapest VHF+AIS radio on the market.
I also haven't used the Standard Horizon GX2150, but have read enough reviews to know that people find it to work very well. It would have been more complicated for me to install due to it's use of NMEA0183 (I'm using both ports on my MFD), but that extra cost/hassle would have been worth it compared to dealing with the annoyances of the RS35 every day.
If Simrad can fix the scan mode, bugs, and test the RS35 with the most popular MFDs (Raymarine and Garmin because their own brands) then I could recommend buying it. Without that I don't.
I'm no longer participating on SailNet.
Last edited by Alex W; 07-20-2013 at 12:15 AM.