Despite challenging economic conditions, the range and quality of new electronic product introductions has exceeded expectations. Thats good news for sailors, because there are lots of exciting choices out there for those who want to outfit a new boat or upgrade existing equipment.
Lowrance have upped the ante in the battle for supremacy in multifunction navigation systems. They call their new series HDS, for High Definition System, and it seems fitting given its capabilities. HDS-multifunction displays are available with 5, 6.4, 8.4, and 10.4 screens, and include the companys latest SolarMAX PLUS feature that improves viewing angles and sunlight viewability.
All HDS models, including the 5 unit, are compatible with Navicos new BR24 broadband solid-state radar. This new Navico technology (see Radar Revolutions by Tim Bartlett, p. KT) is very impressive and demonstrates the level of investment Navico is making in new technologies. All HDS products, except for the stand-alone fishfinder models, are also compatible with Lowrances new LWX-1 SIRIUS Satellite Weather receiver and Navicos NAIS-300 Class-B AIS transponder via NMEA 2000.
The 8.4 and 10.4 HDS models have a new menu system that incorporates softkeys and a new rotary dial/cursor pad that Lowrance refers to as the Flywheel Dial. All their fishfinders now include Lowrances new broadband sounder technology, which provides superior shallow- and deep-water penetration without high-output power and large bulky transducers.
All Lowrance chartplotters have high-sensitivity GPS receivers and are preloaded with enhanced Lake Insight charts, Nautic Insight charts, or a new enhanced base map. The HDS plotters are also compatible with all Navionics cartography, including HD Platinum-Plus. Prices range from about $600 for a 5 stand-alone fishfinder to about $2,800 for a 10.4 Chartplotter/Fishfinder combo.
Lowrance have also introduced a new Sirius Satellite/Radio Smart-Antenna called the LWX-1, for $349, which is compatible with all their new HDS multifunction products. The LWX-1 connects to the HDS displays via an Ethernet cable and the satellite-radio signal can be easily interfaced with onboard sound systems via a standard 3.5-mm stereo jack.
The LWX-1 can be surface- or pole-mounted and has a special memory feature that allows already-received weather data to be stored for up to 30 minutes during power interruptions. Two U.S. subscription services are available from Sirius. The inland package includes high-resolution weather-radar and lightning-strike data. The coastal package includes a comprehensive compilation of weather- and sea-condition information, including sea-surface temperature, wave height, and wind speed and direction. For a small additional monthly fee you get 120 channels of radio music, news, NASCAR, NFL and college football, to name a few.
Raymarines new C-Series Widescreen products are equally impressive, with new super-high-resolution 16:9 aspect ratio displays with more than 25 percent more screen area than traditionally proportioned displays. The extra-wide display works especially well when viewing side-by-side screen combinations such as chart/fishfinder or chart/radar. The new C-Series Wide products are available in three sizes the C90W with a 9-inch, 800 x 480 pixel display ($2,695); the C120W with a 12-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display ($3,695); and the C140W with a whopping 14-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display ($4,995). All three models are loaded with new features such as embedded cartography, internal high-sensitivity GPS receivers, and they include support for Sirius satellite weather data and AIS target tracking. They even allow control of Raymarines SPX-Series Autopilots.
The addition of SeaTalkHS now means that two C-Series displays can be connected together for dual-station operation, and lots of SeaTalkHS sensors can be added via an eight-port switch, including HD-Digital Fishfinders, new 4KW 18 and 24 digital radar domes and HD Digital and Super HD Digital open arrays.
A new graphics co-processor ensures quick 3D graphics rendering and fast redrawing of Platinum photo charts. C-Series Wide can also communicate with a number of Raymarine and third-party sensors via SeaTalk, NMEA 2000, and NMEA 0183. Considering all the features and the quality of these new C-Series Wide products, it will be interesting to see what Raymarine does with the next generation of their popular E-Series products.
The ST70 Plus multifunction color display ($1,750) is another exciting new Raymarine product. Its a maxi-display for the ST70 instrument series and utilizes a high-visibility 6.5 VGA (640×480) pixel TFT color screen that makes it easier to read data from a distance. The unit is compatible with several controllers, including the new ST70 Plus-Instrument Keypad ($545); the ST70 Plus-X-Series SmartPilot Keypad ($595), and the ST70 Plus-Power Boat Keypad ($595).
This unit also makes a great repeater for Raymarines C, E, and G-Series multifunction, navigation products and has many configurable options, including eight user-defined data pages. Multiple displays and controllers can also be connected together to create a comprehensive system that includes SeaTalk sensors for wind, speed, and depth, plus NMEA 2000 engine data.
The big news from B&G is the new line of HVision displays that have been designed to provide superior performance and visibility under extreme conditions. Four new displays are available for boats sizes that range from 30 to 90 feet; the 40/40HV ($5,900); the 30/30HV ($3,202); the 20/20HV ($1,779); and the 10/10HV ($990). The HVision instrument family is designed to work with B&Gs H3000 instrument system, Hydra, Hercules, and wave technology processors. All HVision screens are created with a special bonding technique that prevents display fogging and guarantees excellent viewing angles.
Garmins GWS 10 Wind Sensor ($599) is another interesting new product. The unit is designed to work with Garmins GMI 10 universal marine instrument, 4000 and 5000 series chartplotters, as well as NMEA 2000-enabled displays from other manufacturers. Thanks to its highly efficient wind cups, the GWS 10 can measure wind speeds as low as 0.5 knots. But the most unique feature is that the unit utilizes standard NMEA 2000 interface protocols and a standard NMEA 2000 plug. Theres also a barometric and temperature sensor for weather-station capabilities. Simrads IS20 is the only other rotary-type wind sensor utilizing NMEA 2000, but it does not have a standard NMEA 2000 plug and therefore cant be plugged directly into an NMEA 2000 backbone.