Make Your Helm Station Sizzle

By Lenny Rudow

At this year's Miami International Boat Show, the crop of new electronics did not disappoint. Here's what's new, and what's hot.

From radios to nav gear to safety to fish-finding, all types of marine electronics could be found at the 2014 Miami boat show. And as we've come to expect, the list of new units and new technologies to hit the market was both long and interesting. You didn't make the show? No problem — we searched out the latest and the greatest so we could share them with you.

Android Onboard: Argonaut A615

If you've ever wished your multifunction display (MFD) acted more like your phone, the A615 will be of interest. This is a 15-inch bonded touch-screen, waterproof, shock-protected LCD display. What's special about it is that it has an Android processor and a Wifi network. That means you can use it to run apps, get live weather monitoring, and do all of the other things you love to do with your nav gear. Or, with your phone. Unlike many crossover electronics the A615 is built specifically for marine use, and has a shock-mounted internal chassis. It can be flush or surface-mounted, and offers multiple inputs and outputs. $2,899


Sailors can now enjoy touch-screen navigational functionality, including pinch-to-zoom, with the new B&G Zeus2. Unlike most nav systems, this one's designed specifically for sailing and includes several helpful sail-specific features. SailTime, for example, calculates tacks and gives you an estimated time-to-destination figure far more realistic than straight-line calculations. Laylines allow you to view tacking angles, tides are taken into account, and the SailSteer display details key sailing data. The Zeus2 is waterproof to IPX7 standards (submersible to one meter for 30 minutes) and comes with a three year warranty. $1,629.

Also new for the navigating sailor: H5000. This autopilot/instrument system is again designed specifically for sailing, and runs three software options so you can get the data you need whether you're a serious racer, mellow cruiser, or a bit of both. It integrates with the B&G Zeus system and most H3000 sensors, and displays on a five-inch bonded LCD screen. $5,000.

B&G has been extremely busy, with yet another new introduction this year, the V50 fixed-mount VHF, along with the H50 wireless handset. The $399 V50 integrates dual-channel AIS, along with the features you expect in a modern marine radio. It's plug-and-play ready to match up with the Zeus system, can store up to 20 contacts, MMSI information, and provides DSC position polling of up to three other boats. The H50 is IPX7 waterproofed, has an eight-hour battery life, and adds $169 to the cost.

Delightful Delorme

Photo of the DeLorme inReach SE

The inReach satellite messenger provided a serious safety boost to plenty of boaters, but this year, DeLorme goes one better. For 2014 they're introducing the inReach SE, which incorporates its own screen so you can send and receive text messages without having to "pair" the unit with your cell phone. That means emergency communications can take place more quickly and simply. Added bonus: DeLorme has beefed up the battery, so the new inReach SE gets 100 hours of life between charges. Cost: $299. DeLorme also is now offering more flexible "Freedom plans" where service can be activated or suspended month-to-month.

Lowrance Double-Play: Elite CHIRP, And SpotlightScan

Lowrance rolled out some cool new ways to find fish this year, and we actually got a sneak peek at them just prior to the show when we went fishing for snook, grouper, and tarpon on Lowrance test boats. At the helm, we found a new Elite 7 CHIRP that was pinging through the depths in a multi-frequency burst. This brings CHIRP capabilities down to a much lower price range — $669 to $869 for the Elite 7, and $499 to $649 for the Elite 5 — than we've seen from any Navico brand in the past. How do they do it? The frequency range is tighter and the transducer is a standard Lowrance Skimmer. In essence, it's CHIRP-light. In practice, it's a definite boost in detail levels compared to the old Elite units. Although these units don't have the depth range of a full-blown CHIRP unit, they can give you noticeably improved target separation, better bottom discrimination, and TrackBack abilities (which allow you to scroll into the fishfinder's history, mark a spot where you saw fish, and create a waypoint there).

We mentioned SpotlightScan to you a while back, but on the very same boat's bow we found the system fully installed and had a chance to try it out for real. SpotlightScan is designed to help you pinpoint the location of fish up to 150 feet away, just as you'd use a spotlight to pinpoint an item in the dark. Essentially, it consists of a StructureScan-like 455/800-kHz beam shot out at a 30-degree angle. The transducer connects to any foot-controlled, cable-steered trolling motor, and you direct the beam by moving the motor. Every time you move the motor, it displays the current shot, erasing the old one, so at any given moment you can "look" in any direction, 360 degrees. We found it worked quite well for finding structure and fish along the shoreline, and this one will be particularly useful to bass anglers and bay fishermen who spend a lot of time working the edges, looking for hot spots. $499 |

For lots more detail on which kind of fishfinder is right for you, see "Fishfinders Explained".

All-In-One: Standard-Horizon Matrix AIS/GPS GX2200

If anyone knows marine radios, it's Standard Horizon. For many years they've been bringing us multi-function radios that combine with other forms of electronics to provide serious utility. The latest unit matching this trend? Their new Matrix AIS/GPS GX2200 integrating VHF, AIS, and GPS, all in one little magic box of communications. By combining all of this functionality, you no longer need to interface different units to get DSC capability or AIS functionality. Just get power to the unit, hook in a VHF antenna (the GPS antenna is integrated into the front panel), and it's ready to go. The GX2200 has a die-cast metal chassis, a noise-cancelling microphone, can save up to 100 waypoints, is waterproof to IPX7 standards, has a 30-watt loud hailer and a 4.5 watt audio output, and has all the functions you expect out of a modern, high-end VHF. $399 |

Ray, Ray, Ray Your Boat: Raymarine ECI-100

It's frustrating when your engines and MFD won't play nice. The solution? If you have Raymarine gear onboard, the ECI-100 will get a conversation going. This engine/control interface integrates with your MFD, engines (via NMEA2000 or J1939 data bus), and EV-2 drive-by-wire autopilot. All you need to do is plug it into the Raymarine SeaTalk cabling system, and you'll enjoy full autopilot control while getting complete engine data (on customizable screens) right at the MFD. $299 |

Simradical: The Simrad NSS EVO2

Simrad is turning up the electronic heat with the NSS evo2, which aims to serve the navigational needs of offshore anglers and power cruisers. These are touch-screen MFDs, but Simrad includes a push-and-turn rotary knob so you can get a tactile grip when rough seas or dirty hands call for it. As expected, all of the Simrad peripherals, from additional fishfinders (Broadband sounder and StructureScan HD is already built-in), to Broadband radar, to audio-visual entertainment, can be added via simple plug-and-play expansion. What you probably don't expect, however, is the autopilot — there's no need to expand here,because it's another integrated function. Even more surprising is the evo2's doubled-up processing power, which allows the single black box to drive two screens individually — a task that used to require two black boxes, which naturally pushed up the overall price of your nav suite. The NSS evo2 also has HDMI video output, video input, an integrated GPS antenna, and the ability to run Nautic Insight, Jeppesen C-Map Max, and Navionics cartography. For all these features and more, the NSS evo2 won an NMMA Innovation Award at the 2014 Miami boat show (for more award winners, see "The NMMA Innovation Awards"). $1,529 to $5,699 | 

Lenny Rudow is BoatUS Magazine's electronics editor and senior editor for

— Published: April/May 2014

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