Red Hot In Fort Lauderdale

By Lenny Rudow
Published: October/November 2011

It preludes the 2012 model year, so the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show always gives us a sneak peek at the newest and coolest in marine electronics.

Pressure Cooker
Raymarine's New Electronic Offerings

Raymarine will present a wealth of new goodies at Lauderdale, which are headlined by their new e7. This all-new MFD has a completely different look than older Rays, and the word is they'll be transitioning more units to this new style in the future. But for now, we'll have to be satisfied with this seven-inch touch-screen, which has a joystick/rotary control as a tactile back-up, built-in GPS, a built-in fishfinder option (on the e7D), and extreme expandability.

Photo of Raymarine e7 MFD

Using this unit is similar to using a smart phone: A start-up wizard gets the ball rolling, then you customize each page via drag-and-drop placement of icons. The e7 can "talk" with many different units, to gather or share information. Radar, thermal imaging, video, instrument and engine data, multimedia, and satellite weather all speak the e7's language, and it has built-in WiFi, can use Bluetooth to network with up to six displays or remote system control, and can even stream music and data to iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touchs.

If you'd rather have your engine and instrument data front and center on a dedicated display, Raymarine's i70 instruments (list cost: $595) will be of interest. These share the e7's new look, low-profile flush mounting, and minimal bezel size. They display their data on 320 x 240 pixel, four-inch screens in full color, and of course, are NMEA2000 compatible. Display choices include red pallets for night viewing, and "virtual" analog gauges.

Raymarine is also rolling out its P70 autopilot control, which again shares the new look for this company's electronic offerings. The P70 is a button-controlled unit (the P70R version has a rotary control), with a 3.5" LCD display. It works with X-series core packs, via SeaTalk connectivity. Highlights include trolling patterns, power-steer mode, 3-D pilot display, and wind-compensated track mode. The P70 will cost you $595, and the P70R ups the ante to $645.

Photo of Raymarine P70 autopilot control

With all these new intros, you know Raymarine hasn't been sitting around on its AIS ... in fact it's introducing a new one of these, too. A pair of units, actually: the AIS350 and AIS650. The AIS350 ($649) is a receive-only unit, which puts AIS targets onto your MFD, chartplotter, and/or radar via the SeaTalk network, NMEA0183, or a USB link. Mount it belowdecks; it's rated IPX2 water-resistant.

The AIS650 is a class B unit, which has the same reception capabilities as the 350 along with a 50-channel GPS and transmission abilities. One nifty feature is the "silent mode," which mutes your broadcast and can be activated from your MFD. Another interesting perk is the addition of an SD card slot, which you can use to log AIS data as it's received. Both of these units have dual-channel receivers, which provide faster updates and target acquisitions. They're also smaller than Raymarine's previous AIS offerings, by about 50 percent.

Touchy Subject
Simrad Yachting NSS Chartplotter/MFD

A few months back we mentioned that Simrad was going to introduce a touch-screen MFD, called the NSS. Since then we've gotten the chance to use an NSS first-hand, and come Ft. Lauderdale, you will, too — the upcoming boat show marks its first big introduction to the general public. Our hands-on testing brought a few interesting facts to light. First, we found the touch-screen extremely intuitive to use and very app-like in nature. Simrad says they spent a year and a half exposing boaters to interfaces found in smart phones and tablets, until they found what worked best. Each screen is drag-and-drop customizable, and icon-taps open different menus.

Photo of Simrad Yachting NSS Chartplotter/MFD

By now just about everyone smart enough to write their own name has used touch-screens so much they're second nature, but plenty of boaters have also had "can't-touch-that" experiences in rough weather. So during our test we ran through two and three foot seas at speeds over 40-mph while using the rotary and keypad back-ups, to see how well they worked. And we discovered that as using the touch-screen became difficult, the tactile interface allowed us to perform simple functions easily and accurately, if somewhat more slowly.

Screen sizes of 6.4", 8", and 12" are available, they have SimNet/NMEA2000 compatibility, and are expandable to include Broadband radar (including the farther-reaching 3G version, also ready for its coming-out at Lauderdale), side and down-looking fishfinders, SonicHub entertainment systems, and Sirius satellite weather radio. MSRP starts at $1,895 for the NSS7, goes to $2,845 for the NSS8, and hits $3,995 for the NSS12. Check them out at — or come to the show and let your fingers do the walking first-hand.

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