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Marine Electronics: Prepare For Warp Speed

Marine technology continues its rapid evolution as a new decade dawns. We're here to help you keep up.

You want the latest and greatest marine electronics on your boat? Of course you do! Who doesn't love boating tech that will help you catch more fish, navigate more accurately, and boost your safety margin? And for the dawn of this new decade, electronics manufacturers haven't disappointed. Check out these sweet new selections for 2020.

Humminbird

Humminbird announced its new MEGA 360 Imaging last summer, and it's due to become available by the time this issue hits the streets. The system provides 360-degree sonar that reaches out to a 125-foot range. You can ID the exact location of fish and structure all around your boat via range rings, a compass rose, and the ability to create one-touch waypoints on screen. It's compatible with Solix and Helix units, and the transducer fits Minn Kota Ultrex and Fortrex electric trolling motors. $1,199 | humminbird.com

Furuno

Furuno enters the new year with the DRS4DNXT radar, a 24-inch solid-state pulse compression dome antenna with Doppler, target analyzer, and fast target tracking for Navnet TZtouch2 systems ($2,600). But what impressed us even more was its new SC33 satellite compass. Talk about a little box of magic — with a dual-antenna system, three-axis gyro, and acceleration sensors, the SC33 delivers heading accuracy of 0.4 degrees, three-axis speed monitoring, and multi-GNSS GPS abilities (GPS, Galileo, GLONASS, and QZSS satellite networks). That means it can go way beyond position, speed, and heading data to also deliver heave, roll, and pitch — as well as countering multi-path errors. $2,595 | furunousa.com

FLIR

FLIR has revisited and improved its premium M-series thermal-imaging cameras to usher in 2020 with the M300 line. It consists of five different models featuring new pan-and-tilt housings, and the top-of-the-line M364C has a dizzying list of high-tech features. When we took a boat ride in the dark with one displaying on a Raymarine Axiom multifunction display (MFD), the most impressive thing about this camera may have been its 30X zoom. It's so powerful, we could make out the movements of individual people sitting on a restaurant deck from 1,000 yards away. Other techie touches include thermal color vision so you can see the reds and greens of channel markers in pitch darkness, ClearCruise Augmented Reality, and the ability to lock the camera on a visual target so it remains in view even as the boat turns 360-degrees. Starting at $6,495 | flir.com

Garmin GPSMAP

Garmin has a slew of new goodies for this year, starting with the expansion of the 8600 Series to include smaller 10-, 12-, and 16-inch MFDs ($2,499–$5,499). The company has also expanded the GPSMAP series with “Plus” versions that add more engine data integration with J1939 and OneHelm compatibility, expanded cartography coverage, and xs/xsv models incorporating CHIRP, ClearVu, Panoptix, and SideVu scanning capabilities in 7-, 9-, and 12-inch touchscreen displays ($899–$2,899). Finally, the ECHOMAP family also gets a boost with the UHD units, incorporating ultra-high-definition scanning sonar and Panoptix plus built-in cartography with keyed-assist touchscreen 6-, 7-, and 9-inch units ($499–$1,149) | garmin.com

Fusion

Fusion rolls out its MS-RA 210, an in-dash stereo unit that's designed along the lines of the previously announced Apollo MS-RA 670 but scaled back a bit for smaller boats, requiring less complex systems. And as a result, it costs $100 less. The unit pushes 80 fewer watts but still produces a 200-watt peak power, eliminates the ethernet and SPDIF ports, and has two channels and two zones as opposed to the four channels and three zones found in the 670. $349.99 | fusionentertainment.com

Vesper Cortex

Vesper breaks new ground with its Cortex. This unit represents a complete reinvention of the VHF radio. And of SOTDMA AIS. And of remote monitoring systems. So many different units and features are rolled into this one digitized box of marine electronics nirvana that the Cortex won the Best New Product award at the NMEA trade show, then went on to win the Safety Equipment category in the IBEX Innovation Awards. With VHF and AIS integrated into one phone-like touchscreen handheld controller, DSC calling, AIS MOB activation, track-back mode, and numerous other functions become automatic with a tap of the finger. Tapping on a different screen — that of your smartphone — brings remote monitoring into the mix via cellular access. It can tap into NMEA networks and individual sensors monitoring critical information like GPS location, battery levels, and high bilge water alarms. (Additional subscription charges of $10/month are required for remote monitoring use over and above twice-daily updates.) Cortex is waterproof to IPX7 standards, has a 4-inch display, and is available in both wired and wireless configurations. $1,800 | vespermarine.com

Navico radome

Navico (which produces the B&G, Lowrance, and Simrad brands) has developed a pair of new 20-inch radomes compatible with MFDs built by all of the above. The HALO20 and HALO20+ pulse compression radar antennas boost update speeds at close ranges to near-real time, with 60-rpm sweeps up to 1.5 nautical mile ranges. The domes also provide VelocityTrack Doppler with color-coded hazard highlighting, MARPA tracking for up to 10 targets, dual-range operation, and offshore/weather/bird modes. The HALO20 has a max range of 24 nm, while the HALO20+ can reach out to 36 nm. $1,699/$2,199 | navico.com

JL Audio

JL Audio helps make tuning perfect tunes easier with the new MVi line of digital signal processor (DSP) marine amplifiers, including two-, four-, six-, and eight-channel class D units delivering up to 800 watts of potent musical power. Unlike most existing amps, this one has no setting dials or switches. Instead, channel timing, frequency response, and output can all be adjusted using JL's (free) software via a smartphone or computer with Bluetooth connectivity, and six different presets can be programmed in. Starting at $899 | jlaudio.com

Author

Lenny Rudow

New Boats, Fishing & Electronics Editor, BoatUS Magazine

Top tech writer and accomplished sports fisherman, BoatUS Magazine Contributing Editor Lenny Rudow has written seven practical boating books, won 30 awards from Boating Writers International — many for his marine electronics articles – and two for excellence from the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He judges the NMMA Innovation Awards, and is Angler in Chief at FishTalk, his own Chesapeake-based publication. A great teacher and inspirational writer, Lenny hosts many of BoatUS Magazine’s very-popular how-to videos, which can be found on the BoatUS YouTube channel, or at BoatUS.com