Electronic Evolutions 2013By Lenny Rudow
Published: February/March 2013
Prepare to be awed by the latest electronic technologies and navigational novelties.
Things don't stay the same for long in marine electronics and, as always, a new year means there are plenty of cool new gadgets and goodies for us to check out. 2013 is no different, and we found these hot offerings being introduced at the fall boat shows up and down the coast.
Jeppesen jumps into 2013 with some new data delivery for C-Map that's downright dazzling. Their new high-res bathymetric imagery is far advanced over the old stuff. Jeppesen has taken survey data, track data, spot soundings, and other information, wrapped it into a vector cartography database, and created high-res digital charts for the East Coast, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Great Lakes regions. See the old and new side by side (below), and the advantages are obvious -- detail levels are enhanced, and contour lines are far more numerous. Anglers should be particularly attracted to this new cartography, because the detail boost exposes many more of those humps, bumps, nooks, and crannies, which hold fish. Price varies based on coverage.
Another intro from Jeppesen is C-Map's Plan2Nav for Android platforms. Plan2Nav, C-Map's free navigational planning app, was introduced last year for Apple products. Now, Android users can get in on the action as well, free! www.jeppesen.com/marine
Raymarine is another electronics manufacturer that's been extremely active lately, and this year the progress continues with LightHouse v5 software for e-series, c-series, and a-series MFD units. This version comes with a lot of perks: video over IP camera connectivity, which allows you to swipe-and-view Ethernet-connected cameras; fuel management with calibrated fuel tank levels, low fuel alerts, and a dynamic fuel range ring, which can be overlaid on the chartplotter display. But our favorite is "Slew-to-Cue," which allows a new form of control for FLIR thermal-imaging cameras. This function allows you to identify a target onscreen, such as an AIS target or a radar target, by simply tapping on it. Then click the Slew-to-Cue function, and the camera will lock in and follow the target as your boat moves. You can also preset the system to automatically activate Slew-to-Cue whenever the MOB function is activated, so the camera always points to the MOB as you maneuver for retrieval. MSRP: This is a free software upgrade for a-, c-, or e-series users. www.raymarine.com
Intellian is making life easier in the next year for international cruisers. In the past, when you went from one region to another, you'd have to physically change a satellite TV antenna's LNB module (which receives, boosts, and changes the signal so it's acceptable to the receiver) to keep getting service. But Intellian's latest s80HD WorldView dual-band antenna (which gets both Ka- and Ku-band signals) has a WorldView Trio LNB, which does the switching automatically. The s80HD is a three-axis, 34-inch dish antenna and comes with Intellian's Multi-Switch module, which allows TV viewing on multiple screens. $24,995. www.intelliantech.com
Furuno has been busy lately, and after introducing their touch-screen TZtouch last year, they gave it some new capabilities. Now it's compatible with FLIR M-series night-vision cameras with pinch-to-zoom and touch-to-point control. New TZtouch software also boosts the camera's tracking capabilities, allowing it to lock in on radar or AIS targets, buoys, and MOBs.
Also new from Furuno is Fantum Feedback software, for the NavPilot 700 autopilot. With Fantum Feedback, you eliminate the need for a physical rudder-feedback unit. That makes installation simpler and faster. A time-based rudder gain process does the trick, eliminating the need for conventional rudder angle-based control, and the system works with planing or semi-displacement outboard boats from 24 to 50 feet, with one to four engines. The full autopilot system (including a dedicated 4.6-inch LCD display) is $4,095. www.furunousa.com
Flir continues to evolve its handheld thermal night-vision units with the First Mate II. These thermal imagers have a dark-gray casing instead of the bright yellow older units featured, but more importantly, they also have InstAlert. This function highlights the strongest/hottest heat signatures in red, so they really jump out at you on-screen. The First Mate II still has an all-weather design, 240x180/320x240 pixel resolution screens, and zoom options. One more thing that remains the same -- pricing. $2,000. www.flir.com
Garmin has a slew of new offerings to greet 2013: the echoMAP 50s and 70s, and the GPSMAP 500 and 700 series. The echoMAP 50s is a 5-inch VGA chartplotter/fishfinder, and the 70s a 7-inch combo with a multi-touch WVGA touch-screen. Both units come with a 77/200-kHz transducer, and a 10-Hz GPS receiver that provides position updates up to 10 times per second. From $499 to $1,099.
GPSMAP 500 and 700 series touch-screen units have the same 5-inch and 7-inch screen sizes, but these also offer built-in Spread Spectrum "CHIRP" fishfinder capability. That means you'll get better target separation and definition, as well as greater depth range. Plus, the GPSMAPs offer BlueChart g2 Vision expandability. Go for it, and you'll be able to use the Auto Guidance feature, which suggests the best routes to get you from A to B. From $649 to $1,699. www.garmin.com
KEP knows that bigger isn't always better. Well, maybe it IS better when it comes to marine electronics screens, but we don't always have room in the glass bridge for one more monster LCD. So they've introduced a new display, their smallest ever, a 7-incher. Although this is a little guy for a KEP (you might remember that last year, they introduced a 21-incher), don't let the small package fool you. It's still a sunlight-readable dual touch-screen, which is waterproofed from the front. Price not available at
KEP has also rolled out the Enix line of marine computers, which are solid-state, fan-less models with no moving parts. Designed for navigation, communication, PC media storage, and camera/security requirements, these are heavy hitters destined for serious cruising yachts. All models feature an Intel Core i7/i5/i3 Quad/Dual core G2 processor; PCI, and PCIe expansion for integrating custom serial boards, radar, and additional network cards; a dual HD drawer; and they are compatible with Linux, and Windows 7 and XP operating systems. Prices start at $3,849. www.kepmarine.com
Lowrance has gone touchy-feely for 2013, with their touch-screen HDS Gen2 series. These new HDS units come in 7-, 9-, and 12-inch versions. All units feature simple menus and full touch-screen function -- most operations are buried no more than a swipe or two deep -- but they also have backup buttons on the right-hand side, so you aren't forced to poke and prod in error when the seas get rough and the boat's bouncing around. And the HDS Gen2 Touch units also come with a very cool built-in feature that used to be an add-on module in the HDS line: Structure Scan. Just add the extra transducer to your boat and plug it in.
More perks: 3-D perspectives, Navionics and/or HotMaps expandability (Insight USA is included), and Structure Scan/chartplotter overlay capabilities. An even more unique cartographic capability, however, is Insight Genesis. This web-based application allows you to gather sonar log recordings, upload them, and then create your own personal high-definition bathymetry map of the areas you've been fishing. $1,299 to $3,249. www.lowrance.com
Iridium has rolled out some new communications gear you'll want to hear about: the handheld Extreme and the Iridium Pilot. The Extreme is their latest hand-sized sat phone, and it's their most compact yet. The Extreme is also built to play rough: It carries MIL-STD 810F and IP 165 ratings. That means it's shock, dust, and water resistant. It has a talk time of 3.5 hours, 30 hours of standby, and SMS/email capability. $1,395.
Do you need even more communications options? Then check out their new Pilot system. This includes an antenna and a belowdecks black box, and it takes care of both broadband and voice communications. The system can handle up to three phone lines at a time -- so you'd better get a bigger yacht, if you're going to test its limits. The Pilot offers pole-to-pole coverage, and data rates are up to 134 Kbps. $5,000. www.iridium.com
Simrad is another mover and shaker this year, with the GoFree wireless viewer and control app and the WIFI-1 wireless gateway. Install the app on your tablet or smartphone, and it becomes a viewer and remote control for your nav suite. Signals are routed through the WIFI-1, which is an IPX-5 water-resistant unit that supports simultaneous connectivity with multiple units. The apps are free on the Apple App Store. The WIFI-1 is $199. www.simrad-yachting.com
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What will the future hold? As we move farther into 2013, keep your eyes out for more integrated functionality in single units; note that much of the evolution we see in this year’s crop of gadgets includes getting more for less, in one package. At this point, most of our gear can be controlled remotely with phones or tablets, so it's a fair bet that future units will also integrate more wireless functionality. Another bright spot is pricing. Have you noticed that functionality has gone up while the pricing has stayed flat? That's a trend that we hope continues, as the electronics evolution moves forward.