Order by phone at
Inland location, coastal
US, both, or other?
Touchscreen or keypad?
More than one display?
or Multi-Function Display?
Selecting Networked Marine Electronics
In this era where you can surf the web, take pho-
tos and play your digital song files on your smart-
phone, it's all about being connected. Boaters
want to connect their VHF radio to a GPS, monitor
their fuel consumption and see radar images on
one display. Our electronics suppliers have made
all of these networking tasks simpler, and our
website shows an exploded universe of choices.
If you haven't shopped for marine electronics re-
cently, you'll notice that things have changed a
lot, and the choices can be confusing. We're here
to help, with some questions and answers to as-
sist you in narrowing down your choices.
The sailor's favorite, a chartplotter is
a GPS navigator that displays high-quality marine
maps onscreen, and shows your boat's position su-
perimposed on the chart. Available in many styles
and price ranges, chartplotters do not include sonar
(but you can often add this fishfinder capability by
connecting a "black box" sonar and a transducer). At
the high end of the price/performance range, chart-
plotters become multi-function displays (especially
when they network using NMEA 2000 protocols).
Chartplotter/Fishfinder, Fishfinder/Sonar, Combo:
The most popular style, combo displays marry a
chartplotter and fishfinder in one case, so they're a
good choice for smaller boats or vessels with lim-
ited dashboard space. They usually have a built-in
internal GPS antenna, so might require connection
of a remote GPS sensor when mounted below deck.
Many combos, specifically those intended for the
small boat inland angler, come with a transom-mount
transducer. For the rest, you can purchase a thru-
hull, transom-mount, in-hull or trolling motor-mount
Occupying the high end of
the size and price range, multi-function displays are
made to be the hub of a large and comprehensive
onboard network. Often found on larger boats, you
can place one display at the helm and another in
the nav station, flybridge or tuna tower. You'll usually
purchase a separate, remote GPS antenna, black
box sounder, and usually the cartography of your
choice, since maps are often not preloaded. Look
at the Garmin GPSMAP 8500 Series on page 20, the
Raymarine gS-Series and the Simrad NSO evo2 for
examples of premium MFDs.
Do you want to connect more than one
display to show data on your network?
If you have marine electronics onboard
that are older than a couple of years, they are prob-
ably networked using the NMEA 0183 standard. In fact,
most of the chartplotters, combos and fishfinders in this
catalog communicate with this system. Problems and
complications happen when connecting devices from
different manufacturers, of different ages, and when
one device in the network fails. NMEA 0183 has served
us reasonably well since, well, 1983, but as devices
have become more sophisticated, newer standards
have increasingly replaced it. Simple devices, like a
basic fishfinder, still use 0183 as a serial data interface,
even if it is not a true network.
Our three primary manufacturers
(Garmin, Raymarine and Simrad/Lowrance/B&G)
all provide comprehensive systems built to the
newest networking protocol. NMEA 2000 allows
plug-and-play connection of any product from any
manufacturer, as long as they are all built to the cer-
tified specifications. Build your own network with a
Lowrance fishfinder, Simrad Broadband 3G radar,
Mastervolt inverter/charger, engine monitor, laptop
Type of boat?
What type of boat do you have:
sailing, cruising, fishing?
Depending on your boating style, it often makes
sense to shop by brand. For example, Navico
makes electronics under three brands. Simrad is
oriented toward the larger powerboat, fishing ves-
sel or sailboat. Lowrance caters to the coastal or in-
land fishing vessel in the small/medium size range.
B&G is their sailboat-only brand, with features and
software designed just for sailors. Raymarine prod-
ucts are original equipment on many production
sailboats, and Garmin, the worldwide leader in con-
sumer GPS navigation, began by focusing on the
powerboat market. However, both of these brands
offer comprehensive systems with the versatility
you need, whatever your boating style.
Are you looking for a fishfinder or
chartplotter only, or are you interested
in a multi-function display?
First choice for the inland, small boat
angler, the fishfinder performs one function-show-
ing a picture of what's below your boat. Fishfinders
do not include a GPS receiver, so they're not navi-
gation tools. Many, especially in the economy price
range, do not network with other devices.
What do you want to see?
New types of network sensors, like the new
ForwardScan Sonar from Simrad/B&G, are easy to
connect with compatible multi-function displays via
NMEA 2000 networking.
ForwardScan provides forward-looking, two-
dimensional sonar views of the bottom ahead of your
boat. In shallow, unfamiliar, or poorly-charted waters.
Garmin 7607xsv Chartplotter/Sonar Combo includes both
CHIRP DownV and CHIRP SideV scanning sonar that
provide nearly photographic sonar images.
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