(R)evolutionary electronics - Soundings Online

(R)evolutionary electronics

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Marine radar just got a whole lot better. Raymarine, Garmin, Simrad and Furuno have introduced new solid-state systems that give you the power — and confidence — to extend your boating safely into the darkness, through fog and rain or in congested waters. Garmin’s and Furuno’s units use Doppler technology, which takes some of the guesswork out of reading radar by showing a live view of targets as they move.

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“I usually find the phrase ‘game-changing’ an exaggeration,” says Ben Ellison, who runs the electronics website Panbo.com. “But I’m seeing Doppler target speed discrimination as the killer feature that will really make a difference, leading to safer, more relaxed boating. I even picture salty veteran power cruisers and sailors with conventional radars having ‘come to Doppler’ moments.”

With Doppler, targets moving faster than a certain speed — 3 knots for Furuno and 5 knots for Garmin — toward your boat are shown as red marks, and those moving away are green. How simple is that?

“This is not just a marine electronics product. It’s an entirely different technology being put into use in front of our eyes,” says David Laska, owner of L&L Electronics, a retailer and installer in Branford, Connecticut. “The technology is not new, but it’s new for recreational marine.”

Radar may be the headliner, but secondary acts — larger, higher-resolution multifunction displays, autopilot for single-outboard boats and thermal-imaging engine room cameras — deserve attention, as well.

Boaters face an ever-changing whirlwind of technology when it comes to choosing electronics. We’ll guide you through it all, highlighting each manufacturer’s best three new products. Hopefully you’ll come away with a clearer picture of your options.

Garmin

Garmin unveiled seven major products this year. “We’re hitting all the electronics categories — radar, sonar and chart plotting, autopilots and some cool and useful wearable tech instruments,” says David Dunn, senior manager of marine sales and marketing. The Fantom solid-state Doppler radar leads the pack as Garmin’s most significant new product, followed by the GPSMAP 84/8600 with the company’s largest MFD (24 inches) and the quatix 3 marine GPS smartwatch, which streams speed, water temperature, fuel level and other data. Additional new products include the Nautix in-view sunglasses attachment that also streams data, the GHP Compact Reactor autopilot for boats 30 feet and smaller and the PS21-TM Panoptix transom-mounted transducer with live forward-looking sonar. garmin.com

• Garmin’s GMR Fantom radar ($6,999-$7,499) is a 40-watt solid-state, pulse-compression Doppler system with MotionScope instant moving-target detection. When targets move toward you at a speed of 5 knots or more, they appear red; when stationary or traveling under 5 knots, they’re green. Pulse compression delivers high-resolution images from about 20 feet to 72 nautical miles. Available with a 4- or 6-foot open-array antenna.

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• The GPSMAP 84/8600 ($7,399-$11,999) all-in-one “glass” helm displays deliver the highest resolution of any marine MFD on the market today, says Garmin. And with new processors based on the Linux system, they have the fastest chart-drawing capability of any Garmin MFD. “In-plane” viewing allows you to read the display from minimal acute angles. Available with 17-, 22- and 24-inch screens.

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• The quatix 3 marine GPS smartwatch ($599) streams NMEA 2000 data — water temperature/depth, wind and more — from compatible Garmin electronics. Like other Garmin wearables, the quatix 3 is loaded with multisport functions for golfing, standup paddleboarding, rowing, swimming, hiking, skiing and running. It is sunlight-readable and water-rated to 100 meters.

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Furuno

Furuno’s Doppler radar (DRS4D-NXT) tops the list of its new offerings. “The move to solid state is pretty significant, and an example of marine catching up to other fields. Plus, Doppler gives boaters a higher level of safety,” says Jeff Kauzlaric, advertising and communications manager. Furuno also has a big hitter under the sonar category — two standalone fishfinders that deliver super-sharp detail. The third product delves into crowdsourcing for cruising through the popular ActiveCaptain network, now standard in Furuno’s top-of-the-line MFD, the NavNet TZtouch2. “It’s a quick way to enhance your charts, and it’s just the start of our crowdsourcing plans for TZtouch2,” says Kauzlaric. furunousa.com

• The new FCV628/588 standalone fishfinders ($895 and $1,595) now have RezBoost technology to bring sharper pictures to the screen with a conventional narrowband transducer. It cuts out the need for a more expensive broadband transducer. RezBoost, introduced last year for the TZtouch2 MFD, delivers an image as much as eight times sharper than narrowband signals.

• Furuno’s DRS4D-NXT solid-state, pulse-compression radar ($2,600) includes Doppler frequency shift-sensing (Target Analyzer). Green echoes show vessels that are stationary or approaching at less than 3 knots. Echoes moving toward you faster than 3 knots turn red. It has RezBoost for clear, high-resolution images with less clutter. Bird Mode adjusts gain and sea settings automatically. With Fast Target Tracking, a selected target’s speed and course vector is displayed for a few seconds.

Raymarine

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FLIR Maritime, which owns Raymarine, wants to bring better technology to less expensive electronics that are easy to install and operate, says FLIR marketing manager Jim McGowan. The company’s leading trio of devices illustrates that effort, with the Quantum solid-state radar starting at about $1,600. “It’s our highest-level radar, but it’s also our entry-level radar,” McGowan says. “Boaters avoid upgrading because of installation. With Quantum, it’s truly do-it-yourself.” The FLIR AX8 thermal-imaging engine room camera and Raymarine’s eS Series MFDs round out the top three. An honorable mention goes to its latest handheld thermal-imaging camera, the Ocean Scout TK, whose price has dropped from $2,000 to $599. raymarine.com

• Raymarine’s Quantum CHIRP radar ($1,599.99) is the first recreational marine radome featuring CHIRP pulse-compression technology, known for its close-range detection. This solid-state radar develops imaging from 9 feet to 24 nautical miles. Designed for boats smaller than 35 feet, it uses multiple compressed radar pulses for target separation. With Wi-Fi capability, installation requires only one, smaller-gauge cable.

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• The eS Series ($1,099 to 3,549) is Raymarine’s bread-and-butter group of MFDs that run its Lighthouse II software. The screens (7-, 9- and 12-inch) are larger than their predecessors and come with HybridTouch for both multitouch and keypad/knob operation. Wi-Fi, GPS and sonar are built into the units, which work faster and have more memory than previous units.

• The FLIR AX8 thermal imaging system ($1,199) combines thermal and conventional cameras for monitoring critical equipment, such as engines and exhaust manifolds. The AX8 integrates with Raymarine MFDs and sends audible and visual alerts when there are problems. The system won an innovation award at the Miami International Boat Show earlier this year.

Simrad

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Two of Simrad’s three leading products captured marine industry awards for innovation — HALO radar and StructureScan 3D sonar. Simrad last year became the first of the four major electronics companies to introduce a solid-state radar for recreational marine use. “We were alone for a while, so it was good to see other companies come forward [with solid-state radar] and agree that this is the future — there is value in the way radar technology is progressing,” says Stephen Thomas, Simrad product line director. StructureScan 3D (covered in the May issue’s fishing feature) has been a big deal, too, showing your vessel’s movement within a three-dimensional sonar image. With the GO XSE Series, Simrad brings a suite of functions to standalone GPS plotter/sounders typically found only in networked navigation systems. simrad-yachting.com

• The GO7 XSE ($599 to $749) and GO5 XSE ($419 to $469) plotter/sounders are standalone units for smaller boats but loaded with big-boat electronics functionality. With their NMEA 2000 ports, the units can link to VHF radios with AIS, serve as an autopilot control head or even take the place of — or back up — engine gauges. Equipped with multitouch high-definition screens, they can accept Simrad’s ForwardScan forward-facing sonar.

• HALO pulse compression radar ($4,500 to $5,500) combines broadband’s close-range accuracy with the long-distance detection of conventional pulse radar. With a range of 20 feet to 72 nautical miles, HALO produces highly defined images with little clutter. Preset gain levels — Harbor, Offshore, Weather and Bird modes — maximize accuracy in any situation.

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• Simrad StructureScan 3D ($999.99) allows anglers to see fish, bottom contours and structure in relation to the boat’s position. The StructureScan 3D transducer currently can only be used with the Simrad NSS evo2 and NSO evo2 navigation systems and the StructureScan 3D Skimmer transducer and module.

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Magnetron Solid State

A magnetron radar consists of a high-powered single transmission that uses one frequency. Solid-state radar “uses several compressed frequencies to envelop its target, with a pulse of an effective longer duration,” says David Laska, owner of L&L Electronics in Branford, Connecticut. “With magnetron radar, it’s like you’re using a single pencil to draw a picture. With solid-state, you have a handful of colored pencils to use as your tools to create images.”

Solid-state radar’s higher amount of information allows it to be used in different ways, says Laska, whose business carries the four major electronics brands: Garmin, Simrad, Raymarine and Furuno. “What we’re seeing is the addition of Doppler frequency shifting because of this solid-state technology,” he says.

The other big difference? Power. With solid-state radar’s lower transmitting outputs, ranging from 25 to 100 watts, it uses less battery power and emits a lower level of radiation than magnetron radar. Also, magnetron radars require a 60- to 90-second warmup while solid-state radars are ready for operation almost immediately.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue.