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May 12, 2010

Hot Electronics for 2010

I worried that 2010 might be a bit slim in the innovation department, but lucky for you and me, electronics companies just can't sit still...
100-0510units VEII

Every winter at the Miami International Boat Show, we encounter new electronics and pre-released units timed to hit the market that spring - right about the time you're reading this. This year proved no different, and as a judge for the National Marine Manufacturers Association's (NMMA) Innovation Awards, I got a sneak peek at these items before the general public.

I worried that 2010 might be a bit slim in the innovation department, but lucky for you and me, those electronics companies just can't sit still. And as usual, the Miami show gave us plenty of brand-new units to inspect and play with. Here's what we saw - and what you'll want to see.

Mega Screens
You want a new mega-display at the helm, and you want it to present the finest picture possible? Then you'll be psyched to hear about VEI's new LED series. These displays run from 12- to 32-inch models; operate via a separate control unit that allows up to six screens; boast one DVI input as well as four VGA and four composite inputs; and project it all behind a scratchproof, anti-glare glass screen. Touch screens are optional, and bezels are available in different colors, wood grain or color fiber so you can customize the look. Prices range from $2,995 to $12,995, and you can check them out at www.vei-systems.net.

 
 

Illuminating Prospect
You want HD night vision? Ocean View says no problem as it rolls out its new Apollo II HD high-def thermal/low-light camera. This dual-cam configuration with simultaneous feeds produces images at 640 x 480 pixels, the highest resolution available in any thermal imager. The sealed-aluminum camera housing pans, tilts, and sports a 4x digital zoom and "return to home" control. Price is $17,995, and you can see one in action at www.nightboating.com.

 

 

Get the Signal
KVH also introduced a new, get-all-bands antenna, the TracVision HD7. Instead of using a switcher, this unit simultaneously tracks Ka, Ku and DirecTV satellites by using a tuned sub-reflector to concentrate the signals and then relaying them to a tri-rod dielectric feed. This means everyone can watch whatever they want wherever they want throughout the boat. Nice. But choice comes at a price, and in this case, that price is $13,000. Another cost of doing business this way is size; the HD7 sports a 24-inch antenna. Still, if you have the boat and the budget to support it, the HD7 will give you everything you could desire in at-sea TV. Visit www.kvh.com for more info.

 

 

Space Jammin'
Fusion's MS-IP series of iPod-compatible docking units has been showing up on more and more boats, and now you'll be able to mount a Fusion where space is at a premium. The unit the company introduced this week at the show, the MS-RA200, is a compact stereo head that can be mounted at the helm or in a stateroom and paired with a MS-IP dock. When I say "compact," I mean compact - this little sucker sits in the palm of your hand. That means you can put the MS-RA200 into very tight spaces where regular marine stereos don't fit. It costs $170, puts out 4 x 50 watts and has a USB connector to play MP3s from a jump drive. Don't let the website's name, www.fusioncaraudio.com, fool you because Fusion's marine units are designed and built from the ground up for marine applications - they aren't bastardized car units.

 

 

Cell Saver
Have you ever dropped your cell phone overboard, kicked it across the deck or watched as it fell (in slo-mo, of course) from the flybridge to the cockpit sole? Boats are hard on cell phones, and recognizing this, Cobra introduced a handheld VHF, the MR HH475 FLT BT, which comes wired with Bluetooth. When you step aboard, simply pair the radio up with your cell phone and then stow the phone belowdecks, safe from shipboard abuse. When there's an incoming call, you can answer it on the radio without risking your cell phone out on deck. The HH475 costs $180, floats, is waterproof and puts out 6 watts. Check it out at www.cobra.com.

 

Hi-Def Dome
Raymarine wowed us with the open-array high-def radar antenna, and now the company has brought high-def down the line to its domes: the RD418HD 48-nm, 18-inch dome ($2,640) and the RD424HD 48-nm, 24-inch dome ($2,860). Compatible with C-, E- and G-series displays, these digital domes produce better long- and short-range target detection, picture clarity and high-speed tracking. But my favorite feature is bird mode, which focuses the radar's sensitivity to an area above the horizon so it's better able to see birds as they wheel and dive overhead, says a rep at the Miami show. Visit www.raymarine.com to see more.

 

Saving Grace
Few things scare a captain more than the thought of a crew member going over the side without anyone noticing. BriarTek puts this fear to rest with its new ORCAdsc man-overboard alarm. The dual-mode transmitter isn't much larger than a deck of cards and weighs half as much. Wear one of these water-activated beauties around your neck, and if you go into the drink, an alarm will start blaring over the VHF. A cost of $275 is a small price to pay for this peace of mind. Check it out at www.briartek.com.

AIS, Anyone?
Standard Horizon proves yet again that it has mastered the art of pairing tools with VHF radios. This time it's AIS (Accident Avoidance System), and it's a great idea. In fact, the new Matrix AIS radio took top honors in the NMMA Innovation Awards Electronics category. This unit combines a DSC VHF with a Class A and B receiver, which shows AIS targets on a small LCD screen. By highlighting a target, you can call it directly using DSC - nifty. I found it amazingly easy to use the Matrix AIS, and what's even better is the price: $399. Considering that the least expensive stand-alone AIS receiver costs at least that much (and some cost more than twice as much), it's like getting a radio for free! Go to www.standard horizon.com for more info.

Get the Signal II
You want the best in television whether you're at home or in the middle of the Atlantic? Of course you do - and Intellian's new d4 is going to help you get it. Packaged in a compact 18-inch dome, it's the smallest dual Ka/Ku band antenna in the world, which means it gets DirecTV, HDTV and standard-definition programming. An internal switcher moves at lightening speed to reduce wait time when going between bands. Wide-range search and Dynamic Beam Tilting ensure interruption-free viewing, and the elimination of a rate sensor and compass makes it easier to install and requires less maintenance. One caveat: Using a switcher means you won't be able to feed signals from different bands to different TVs at the same time. In other words, if the kids want to tune in to Nickelodeon in a stateroom while you want to see the hi-def kickoff in the salon, you're on a collision course. Cost is $5,995; see more at www.intelliantech.com.