Electronics 2015

Re-Energize Your Boat

By Lenny Rudow

Does your boat seem a bit old and tired? Then give it a shot of energy, with some new electronics.

It's a good bet that most of us have upgraded to new computers, cell phones, or tablets at some point in the past three years. But how old are your boat's electronics? With every new year comes a slew of new chartplotters, fishfinders, radios, and more, all of which are light-years ahead of yesteryear's generation. Here are the hot new navigational goodies you'll want to consider in 2015. Ready, set, upgrade!


Lowrance introduced a new outboard autopilot this summer, the Outboard Pilot, which works with both hydraulic ($999) and cable ($1,499) systems and can be controlled via your HDS unit. The Lowrance "SmartSteer" interface can integrate control of a MotorGuide Xi5 Pinpoint trolling motor, and you can switch between the outboard and the electric at the push of a button. OK, that's nifty — but what's new with HDS itself is much bigger news.

  • Photo of the Lowrance Outboard Autopilot
    Photo of the Lowrance HDS7 Gen3

Lowrance's HDS system is in for a big change, with the introduction of Gen3. In seven-, nine-, and 12-inch models, Gen3 units feature a faster processor and more built-in fishfinding capability. Best of all for small boat owners, the buttons are back. You can use the touchscreen when appropriate, but in rough conditions or when your hands are covered with chum, there's a full keypad ready and waiting.

StructureScan, DownScan, CHIRP, and wireless connectivity are all built into the new generation HDS, and you get plug-and-play options like Broadband radar, SiriusXM weather, SmartSteer control, SpotlightScan, AIS, DSC VHF, and SonicHub Marine Audio. Whew! $1,249 to $3,149, excluding transducers | www.Lowrance.com


Raymarine has a pair of new electronic goodies for you to consider, and though they both carry the number 200 in their names, the CP200 and the CAM200IP are very different products. The CP200 is a $609 sonar module that lets you add DownVision (as in, Dragonfly-style) views as well as long-distance side-view imaging, to your multifunctional display (MFD) screen. Raymarine claims side-viewing range is a whopping 600 feet, significantly more than most competitors, thanks to the application of CHIRP SideVision. When I tested it, I didn't have a tape measure that long, but I'm confident I looked at a seawall from more than 130 yards away.

  • Photo of the Raymarine CAM200IP
    Photo of the Raymarine CP200

The CAM200IP, meanwhile, is an IP67 waterproof camera that provides HD video to any Raymarine MFD running LightHouse II. It has a low-light mode with an infrared LED array, and can be powered over Ethernet or a direct 12-volt supply. $699 | www.Raymarine.com


Garmin has introduced an extensive array of new electronics for the new year. None are what you'd call earth-shattering, but a huge portion of their lineup has been updated and redesigned to include the many features and functions that have popped up in the recent past. One of these updates of interest to boaters is their echoMAP series, long a favorite on the Garmin menu. The new versions come in four- through nine-inch display sizes, ranging from $299 to $1,299. All have HD-ID sonar and DownVu scanning ability, and the 70 and 90 versions also have SideVu technology built into their brains. Hardware has been upgraded, with a 5Hz internal GPS antenna and plugs that fit directly into the tilting, swiveling mount.

The GPSMAP MFD series also gets a boost for 2015, with new 7400 and 7600 (chartplotter and chartplotter/fishfinder) series units. These range from seven to 12-inches, and now incorporate features like digital switching, thermal/IP camera display, and pinch-to-zoom touchscreen capability. Fishfinder models have all the goodies built-in, like traditional sonar, CHIRP, and side- and down-scanning. The built-in GPS antenna is a blazing-fast 10-HZ model. This unit also incorporates improved sailing features, including laylines, estimated wind, and a current slider. $1,499 to $3,499.

Boaters in areas inclined toward fog will want to hear about Garmin's new xHD2 series of open-array radar. Available in four-, six-, and 12-kW models ($3,999 to $6,599) with horizontal bandwidths of 1.1 and 1.8 degrees and a maximum range of 72 miles, the xHD2 series now has a dedicated "bird" mode (for locating flocks over schooling fish), dual-range modes, and constantly adjusting filters. Believe it or not, this isn't even a complete list — we've just covered the new Garmin gear with the widest appeal. www.Garmin.com


Fusion has become a powerhouse in the world of marine stereos in the past few years, and it's no wonder: They build stereos that actually are designed to survive the marine environment, instead of merely marinizing automotive stereos. Their new MS-BB300 Black Box Entertainment System is no different. It's Bluetooth-capable and compatible with a list of iOS and Android devices too long to print here. So, let's just say if you have a smartphone or an iPod, you're in luck. Better yet, the MS-BB300 (which has three zones and comes with a wired remote) will play nice with Fusion-Link and NMEA2000. That means you can get audio control right on your MFD screen. $499 | www.FusionEntertainment.com


IRIS is aiming to give mariners more night-vision options, with their NightSpotter handheld scope. The IRIS240 has 384 x 288 resolution (160 x 120 for the 241 model), digital zoom, is rated IP66 (waterproof), and has a video output. These scopes have up to eight hours of battery life, and several different color palettes. Added bonus? There's a built-in flashlight. But the really interesting detail here is price. $2,795 and $2,995 | www.Boat-Cameras.com


Icom has a new fixed-mount radio, the M506, and it just took the Best Marine Radio award at the 2014 National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) show. Highlights include NMEA 0183/2000 plug-and-play functionality, an integrated AIS receiver (certain versions only), last-call recording (two minutes), background-noise cancellation up to 90 percent, and a 25-watt two-way hailer. It's also expandable to a second station, and is rated IPX7 submersible. $350 to $450 | www.ICOMamerica.com


Furuno is cutting the radar cord, with their 1st Watch Wireless Radar. Essentially this is an iOS app, which allows you to pull up and control your radar on an iPhone or iPad. Or, maybe you'd like to use both at once? No problem. Two units can connect to the 2.4-GHz wireless LAN at the same time. Visual signals are provided by a 4-kW 19-inch radome with 24-nautical-mile range. $1,695.

Also new from Furuno is an upgrade in the 700-series autopilot line, with the 711C. Actually, the autopilot itself remains the same; what's changed here is the display unit, which (in case you didn't guess from the “C” designation) is now color. The unit's face has also been given a lift, to match the look of Furuno's TZtouch MFDs. $3,695 for the complete system; $3,370 for the outboard version | www.FurunoUSA.com

Standard Horizon

Photo of the Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld VHF Radio

Standard Horizon has the HX870, a new handheld VHF for 2015. The coolest thing about this radio is that it floats, so dropping it overboard is not a tragedy. And yes, it's waterproof, too, rated to IPX8 submersible standards, even though it'll bob up to the surface after submersion. It has a built-in GPS receiver and offers DSC, pumps out a better-than-average six watts, and even displays basic navigation data — (like lat/long, speed, and course) on the display. More about that display: It's far larger than those on previous models, which makes using all that info do-able even on a handheld unit. $250 | www.StandardHorizon.com. 

— Published: February/March 2015

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