Skip to main content

Tested: Raymarine aSeries MFD

The frozen Raymarine aSeries MFD had almost finished a two-day low temperature test, but that was only the beginning of its suffering. Next it had to run another two days in a high-temperature cabinet with 85 percent relative humidity, followed by 19 more days of torture as part of Raymarine’s ERT (Early Reliability Test) Qualification Process.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

The frozen Raymarine aSeries MFD had almost finished a two-day low temperature test, but that was only the beginning of its suffering. Next it had to run another two days in a high-temperature cabinet with 85 percent relative humidity, followed by 19 more days of torture as part of Raymarine’s ERT (Early Reliability Test) Qualification Process.

The venue for this cruelty-to-electronics extravaganza was Raymarine’s R&D center in Fareham, England. Some of the testing was difficult to see in action, like the intense, Red Sea-level sun, humidity and spray simulated within the Q-Sun Xe-3 Xenon Chamber. (Although I did think of how little the RD418HD radome on Gizmo’s mast has faded since I began testing it in 2009.) Similarly, they couldn’t safely show us what happens in the Near Lightning Strike (NLS) closet. I doubt Raymarine can prevent all forms of lightning damage, but I am glad they are seeking out all fixable weaknesses. Meanwhile, 550 pounds of salt tablets stacked along a hallway suggested how the salty fog chamber reaches Icelandic levels.

The shock and vibration testing was especially dramatic. At the time of our visit a new a12 MFD on the shaker table was undergoing a protracted sine sweep with the computer graphing the vibration of both the table and the display. Frequencies that cause harmonic reactions stand out so either the MFD mount can be modified or the device tested further with the more difficult vibes. Chris Landry, of Soundings Trade Only, videoed this test and another with a nasty machine that whacks screens and other parts with precisely measured blows.

Chris’s video also shows the water jet and spray booth, which is the last stop for devices that have been frozen, baked, vibrated, etc. Apparently, testing to IP (ingress prevention) standards should be done with “aged” equipment. And besides, according to Raymarine’s director of engineering, Gordon Pope, they test beyond IPX6 and 7 standards, because the ultimate goal is to avoid major warranty issues. He noted, for instance, how an aged MFD with failed gaskets might survive the IPX6 100-litres-per-minute jet at 100 kPa from 3 meters, because the pressure actually resealed the unit, but the same unit might fail the lesser IPX3 spray test.

In the photo at the top of this page, Pope is explaining one of Raymarine’s several EMI (electromagnetic interference) test chambers to some of the other visiting journalists. The sounder module on the table, which is powered up and receiving transducer data, is being targeted with EMI that might emanate from other gear on a boat, while the test engineers use that white camera to watch what happens on the screen of a networked MFD that is on the floor. 

The module will also spend time in a chamber that looks very similar, except that a receive-only antenna will measure any EMI the sonar throws off, so hopefully it passes whatever government standards it’s meant to meet.

As a side note, while I was touring the facility, I found myself thinking back to FLIR’s acquisition of Raymarine a couple of years ago and what may have been some of the drivers behind the decision. One conclusion I reached was that FLIR (and Garmin, which also made a bid) clearly saw value well beyond the brand name and distribution network. In fact, while the R&D facility in Fareham may be relatively new, Raymarine’s engineering and marine culture stretches back to its Autohelm days. The engineers there clearly know what they are doing and what works and doesn’t work out on the water.

I’ll close with a bigger thought. My visit to Raymarine impressed me a lot, but I also saw some excellent R&D science and cadence when I visited Garmin a few years ago. I once characterized Navico as “firing on all cylinders” (which still seems true), and would now say the same of Raymarine. I have also long admired Furuno with its powerhouse hardware developers in Japan and software team in France. We live in a good time for marine electronics, people!

For more of Ben Ellison’s insights into marine electronics, go to



11th Hour Racing Team's Green Mission

“I’ll admit, it’s still hard to watch the boat leave the dock sometimes,” says former Volvo Ocean Race sailor Mark Towill. Since meeting during a Transpac campaign over 15 years ago, he and his teammate Charlie Enright have sailed thousands of miles together aboard two Volvo more


Boat Review: Dufour 61

Dufour, long one of France’s most well-respected builders, has been producing sailboats in La Rochelle since the dawn of fiberglass boatbuilding. Having recently merged with another La Rochelle-based builder, Fountaine Pajot, Dufour has now joined other European mass-production more


The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean more


Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the more


Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, more


A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the more


Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s more


Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to more