PracticalBoater

Electronics | Award Winners and Favorites

 

Miami Brings The Heat

By Lenny Rudow
Published: April/May 2012

If you want to see the hottest new marine electronics on the water, the Miami International Boat Show is the place to be. Here are our editors' top picks, from Miami 2012, offered by this season's generation of innovative manufacturers.

Photo of touchscreen navigation

Furuno Navnet TZ Touch

Photo of the Furuno Navnet TZ Touch

Furuno's new pair of super-powered touchscreen MFDs are out: The TZT14 (with a 14.1-inch, high-resolution, 1,200x800 pixel WXGA screen) and the TZT9 (with a 9-inch, 800x480 pixel WVGA screen) are the first new units to make big news for Furuno in several years. These units can do one thing other marine MFD touch-screens can't: offer pinch-and-pull zooming. The fog-free, bonded LCDs are crystal clear and the menu system is incredibly intuitive, though the absence of a tactile backup means they're going to best be utilized on larger boats, which aren't bounced around by rough seas. There's a knob for fast menu navigation and zooming, plus a port that accepts SD cards. Unlike many brands, these MFDs accept chartography from a range of sources, including Jeppesen (C-Map) and Navionics. You like accessories that network with your MFD? No problem. The TZTs have ports for CanBus, LAN, USB, video in and video out, and line out. Furuno also introduced a Wi-Fi Navnet data viewer at the show, so you can bring up your nav screens on your smartphone using a free app. And if you want to actually control your marine electronics from a remote location, that's no problem either — all you need is an iPad and a Wi-Fi connection, and you can navigate the NavNet TZ Touch from your tablet. $7,695 for the TZT14; $5,695 for TZT9; www.navnet.com

Vesper Marine Watchmate Vision

Photo of the Vesper Marine Watchmate Vision

By now, we all know AIS is a great safety feature. But we also know it can clutter your chartplotter screen so much that you turn it off — right when you need it most. That's why Vesper designed the Watchmate Vision, a stand-alone AIS unit, which won the NMMA Innovation Award for Safety this year. This unit displays on a 5.7-inch full-color touch-screen, and its menu is thoroughly intuitive. Although it can show you reams of data at a glance, it's not confusing, because this AIS only displays the information you need. It can be set to ignore vessels that don't pose a threat, for example, while still showing their "shadow" on-screen. If they change course and suddenly a collision becomes possible, they reappear in full color. The Watchmate Vision can also communicate with your cell or tablet via Wi-Fi, for digital AIS viewing of a portable nature. Available in April. Price TBD:www.vespermarine.com

DeLorme inReach

Photo of the DeLorme inReach

This hot little number impressed the judges of the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) Innovation Awards so much, it was voted the winner of the 2012 Electronics category. The inReach is a satellite messenger that can send preprogrammed text messages to friends and family, or an SOS alert to the authorities. Other text messengers can do the same, but unlike the competition, the inReach is a two-way unit that can both send and receive. What sets it apart, even more, is the ability to interface with your Android smartphone or a DeLorme Earthmate PN-60w GPS, via Bluetooth. Once these units start talking with each other, you can use the keypad on the Android or the PN-60w to send outgoing texts up to 160 characters, or read incoming texts. The inReach utilizes the Iridium satellite system, so coverage is nearly worldwide. Are you an Apple fan? Stay tuned. Rumor has it an iPhone version is in the works. Ready for a real shocker? The inReach costs only $250. Service fees start at $10 a month and go up depending on how many texts you send. Still, that's a lot less expensive than a sat phone. Besides, in this day and age, who wants to chat on the telephone when you could be texting? www.delorme.com

Raymarine e95/97 and e125/127

Photo of the Raymarine e95/97 with built-in HD digital fishfinder

When Raymarine rolled out the e7, we were excited: touch-screen technology with tactile backup controls, the ability to run ClearPulse CHIRP fishfinder technology, and heavy-duty networkability meant this unit was a sure-fire winner. But, a 7-inch screen just isn't big enough for heavy hitters. So, we're doubly excited to take note of the e95/97 and e125/127 units, which offer everything that made the e7 hot and take it to the next level. The e95 has a 9-inch display, the 97 adds a built-in HD digital fishfinder, and the e125/127 takes display size up to 12.1 inches. All these units can link up with Raymarine's ClearPulse CP450C CHIRP fishfinder, so now you can get a more detailed view of what lies below — clear down to 10,000 feet. These units also have built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Video can be streamed to iPads and iPhones, and if those handy gadgets run Navionics, they'll synchronize wirelessly. $2,799 (e95); $3,099 (e97); $3,299 (e125); $3,599 (e127); www.raymarine.com

B&G Triton

Photo of the B&G Triton

In this day and age, few makers of marine electronics focus purely on sailors. So those who are dedicated to wind power will be excited to hear about the Triton displays. These are the only multifunction instruments on the market that display data galore, ranging from depth, to speed, to wind, to heading, to autopilot info, on a single full-color, LED back-lighted, 4.1- inch LCD display. What's more impressive is how these units will catch your eye. Thanks to bonded-glass screen construction, the colors are amazingly crisp and the numerals are crystal clear. The Tritons are NMEA 2000 compliant, waterproofed to IPX 7 standards, and draw a mere 50-150 mA. They don't come cheap at $599, but considering all they have to offer, you'll get what you pay for. Added bonus: That bonded glass display is viewable at a 170-degree angle, and we found that they didn't black out when we looked at them from the sides. B&G also introduced a new handheld autopilot remote to go with it. www.bandg.com

Fusion MS-AV700

Photo of the Fusion MS-AV700

Fusion wowed us a few months ago with their FusionLink, which allows you to integrate your stereo with the rest of your boat's electronics systems. The FusionLink repeats your stereo system's data on remotes, displays, and navigation units, while also allowing you to take control of it via MFD displays. Add the Wi-Fi router and put Fusion's app on an Apple iPad, iPhone, or Android product, and you'll also get instant wireless remote control of the system from anywhere on the boat. The MS-AV700, which pushes a hearty 70 watts per four channels, takes this control a step further by adding visual capability to your nautical audio system; it can play DVDs, as well as video files stowed on your iPod or iPhone. Output it to that big flat screen in the salon, and you'll think you're in the theater. $599; www.fusionelectronics.comEnd of story marker