Electronics 2011
The Best & The Brightest

By Lenny Rudow, Ann Dermody, and Michael Vatalaro

Today, technology changes at warp speed, and marine electronics evolve at the same breakneck pace. You want to keep up with what's hot and what's new? Of course. So here's an update on the latest and greatest 2011 has to offer.

All-New Navigators
You still haven't found the perfect multifunction display system for your boat? Geonav is a new player in the marine electronics game, and it's worth checking them out. Though this company has been building units in Europe for years, they're busting into the U.S. market in 2011 with a pair of new multifunction displays. The 12.1" GIS 12 and the 10.4" GIS 10 are NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 compatible, network via a one-gigabit Ethernet to share radar, video, AIS, instrument data, and sonar, and they even offer a side-imaging sonar system designed for bluewater boats. These units come with a built-in background map, and you can add either C-Map or Navionics chartography. Price: $3,299 (GIS 10), $4,299 (GIS 12); www.geonavgroup.com

No Excuse Not To Have A Back-up VHF
Icom recently launched their most economical marine VHF radio, without compromising top-end performance. The IC-M412 is a rugged, watertight, medium-sized fixed-mount VHF with a large LCD screen that provides easily readable channel numbers. A frontfacing speaker gives loud, crisp output, and in submersion tests it remained undamaged in three feet of water for 30 minutes — so over-the-bridge waves or heavy downpours aren't going to upset this radio. Available in black or white for $199; www.icomamerica.com

Long Distance Looker
You want nearly eight times more signal processing bandwidth from your radar? Of course you do — so Garmin brings you the new GMR 404 xHD (four-foot) and GMR 406 xHD (six-foot) open-array radars. These four-kilowatt dual-speed scanners boost your radar vision out to 72 nautical miles, improve target separation and detection, and have a dual-range feature that lets you see two ranges simultaneously, on a network-compatible Garmin multifunction display. The GMR 404 xHD pumps out a 1.8-degree horizontal, 25-degree vertical beam width, and the GMR 406 xHD utilizes a 1.1-degree horizontal, 25-degree vertical beam width. MSRP is $3,699.99 for the 404, and $4,499.99 for the 406; www.garmin.com

Get Juiced
Torqeedo, makers of electric outboards, have brought a lithium-manganese battery to the marine market. The waterproof 24-106 can provide 2,685 watt-hours in a 44-pound package, more than four times the power density of a conventional lead-acid battery. The 24-106 is also intelligent, with an integrated battery-management system that protects against overcharging, overheating, deep discharge, and reverse polarity. It's green but it's not cheap, at $2,499; www.Torqeedo.com

Wrap Your Arms Around This Monitoring Device
SPOT continues to eat up the satellite-messaging market with a new security device for boats. The SPOT HUG comes with a built-in GPS that checks the boat's position and detects any unauthorized movement. If the device decides something's amiss, it notifies the boat's owner and local authorities. You can also use its sensor-alert monitoring for things such as high bilge water, low battery, door ajar, and smoke detection. A text message and e-mail are sent to the registered boat owner or their ascribed contacts telling them what's wrong. Price is $450, plus an additional annual subscription that includes unlimited boat asset monitoring, personal satellite messaging, and a direct link to assistance from BoatUS Towing; www.findmespot.com

See At Night
Raymarine has introduced their new T300 and T400 series thermal-imaging cameras, with single- and dual-camera configurations available. Both series pan 360 degrees and tilt 90 degrees for complete coverage of your surroundings. Standard and high-resolution thermal-imaging cameras are available in both series, while the T400 dual-camera model also boasts a low-light video camera. Control the cameras directly from a Raymarine E- or G-series display or with a joystick. The T300 series starts at $8,995, the T400 series at $14,995; www.raymarine.com

Call Your Boat The Office – And Really Mean It
For those creeping into the larger-yacht market (60- plus feet) who just can't leave their work behind and who need a commercial-grade broadband connection, there's the impressive Intellian v60, a 23.6-inch antenna system with exceptional tracking performance. It can be configured for high-speed Internet, weather and chart updates, e-mail, file and image transfer, video conferencing, and several more features you'd expect to find at, oh, maybe NASA. It's built to give the greatest reliability in the harshest conditions at sea. In other words, you may lose your lunch but you'll still have your Internet connection. If, that is, you pony up to pay the $25,000 price tag; www.intelliantech.com

The Ultra Networker
With today's multitasking navigation displays, the more screen area you have, the better. Simrad's new NSO Offshore systems (available in 10-, 15-, and 19-inch displays) utilizes a powerful NSO marine processor with an 80 GB hard drive, to control up to three monitors while networking with up to four other processors at the same time via Ethernet and SimNet/NMEA 2000. They also work seamlessly with the NSE8 and NSE12. A simple rotary controller, dedicated chart, echo, and radar keys, and an alphanumeric keypad make them user-friendly. Adding StructureScan side-scanning capability is plug-and-play easy, and the NSO will be a good upgrade option for older Simrad GB40 Glass Bridge systems.

Pricing details for the upgrade have not yet been finalized; the Simrad NSO marine processor has a suggested retail price of $4,799. The 10-, 15-, and 19" displays cost $1,599, $2,999 and $7,299 respectively, and are sold separately. The NSO15 package including the processor, controller, and DI15 15-inch display is $7,699; www.simrad-yachting.com

Sonic Central
A "must have" addition to the entertainment ability of your boat is the Simrad SonicHub. The system lets you control your iPod or iPhone, MP3 player, or DVD player input (make sure you're docked, of course), all from your primary NSO display. SonicHub goes for $399; www.simrad-yachting.com

Music To Our Eyes
The MU series of high-definition marine displays from Furuno offer more screen in less space. The 15" MU-150HD and the 19" MU-190HD have 1,000 candela, back-lighted color TFT LCD screens with a slimmer design and a smaller, low-profile bezel—so every bit of dash space is put to good use. Interface options include RGB, DVI, and NTSC/PAL, so you can use the MUs to display everything from black-box sounders or radar, to security cameras, to computer screens. $6,495 gets you the MU-150HD; the MU-190HD costs $7,495; www.furunousa.com

Your Electronic Lookout
AIS WatchMate cuts through the clutter with a priority system that allows you to display only boats on a close-proximity course. The filtering profiles can be userdefined, or you can select preset tolerances for your Closest Point of Approach (CPA) based on time or distance. The new 850 is a low power consumption, IP67- rated waterproof, stand-alone display with a Class-B transponder and GPS antenna, which can be set in receive-only mode. $1,100; www.VesperMarine.com

Mount This
ultiple manufacturers used to lead to installation headaches, with each manufacturer partial to their own bolt pattern. Edson has taken some of the hassle out of mounting these accessories by creating a universal mounting system for their Vision Series aluminum electronics masts, which includes the first production triple-step mast. With Edson's simplified system, first you pick the mast you need with the appropriate number of mounting points, and then you pick the mounting plates for the brand of accessories you are installing. The universal plate system means that no matter what dish or dome is on top, the plate will fit Edson's bolt pattern for the mast. You can also add wings or extensions, for masthead lights or VHF whips. Basic single-dome mounts cost $200; www.EdsonIntl.com

Refreshing Your Electronics

While boat design and engine technology tend to move forward at a stately pace, marine electronics push ahead by leaps and bounds — much like the rest of the technological world. "Marine electronics is like the computer industry," says Jim McGowan, marketing manager for Raymarine. "Even five-year-old electronics may have speed and performance issues compared with current systems." If your electronics are older, chances are you'll benefit from starting with a fresh slate.

A huge change in marine electronics in the past decade has been the rise of the multifunction display (MFD). What began as a chartplotter with integrated GPS and maybe a depth sounder is now a bigger, brighter, and more powerful display capable of showing charts, radar, sonar, engine info, video, satellite weather, AIS information, and even thermal imaging, all in the same place. Gone are the days of multiple, stand-alone devices. You don't even need a separate autopilot with Simrad's latest MFDs. If the components above aren't already built into the MFD, there are now modules, or "black boxes," that hide away under the dash and are networked into your displays. In fact, the biggest decision you have to make when setting out to update your electronics (other than which brand you prefer) is, how big of a display do you want? Or possibly, how big of a display can you fit at your helm?

After choosing your display, you can focus on the merits of adding radar, an autopilot, AIS, thermal imaging, or other functions as your boating habits dictate. A couple of additional points to consider: While your old transducer might still work and be adaptable to your new sounder, transducer performance does degrade over time, and new transducers are optimized to work with modern sounders. Replacing your old "puck" is usually worth the time and investment.

On the other hand, the mechanical components of an autopilot system are often perfectly serviceable, and you may be able to keep most of the existing system in place, saving installation time and money. It's worth inquiring with your installer. While the dedicated do-it-yourselfer can install today's electronics, you should consider having your new components installed by a reputable dealer. "The quality of the installation makes a huge difference to the user experience over the life of the product," says McGowan. "If it's done right the first time, you'll have fewer problems down the line."