Miami Brings The Heat

By Lenny Rudow

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

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;

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

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?

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