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April 02, 2007

Plugged Into 2007: An Electronics Compendium

Many new electronics products offer improved interfacing communications

With the boat-show season behind us and spring launch time here, it's time for a look at what you can expect in marine electronics that will help ensure your boating and fishing success this season.

Multifunction displays have enjoyed the most major improvements we're likely to see for a while. For now, expect refinements in data gathering and an increased speed of screen updates, sensors and transfer mechanisms. Look for the NMEA 2000 protocol to engender many improvements. Watch sonar get stronger and images more distinct. And it's not too far-fetched to imagine future sonar units showing aquarium-like images rather than electronic blobs and lines. Communications continue to evolve and combine with other electronics (i.e., combo MFDs and VHFs), and that trend will only continue as Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons, the Automatic Identification System and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System become more integrated into our electronic systems.

It's truly getting to be a one- or two-screen world, regardless of your economics, as most manufacturers continue to expand utility while shrinking the number of different offerings. Still, if you want to spend a lot, you can. If you can't spend a fortune, you can still do well with electronic acquisitions.

So here's a look at what came out over the recent boat-show season, broken down by category: