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April 02, 2007

Plugged Into 2007: Chart Plotters

An Electronics Compendium

Garmin has released a large 5 by 5 inch series of GPSMAP instruments featuring a 5-inch Video Graphics Array display. The 545 ($1,071) comes with detailed coastal charts; the 525 ($964) does not. The units are also available as "s" models that have built-in Garmin digital sonar receivers with dual-beam transducers. The 5x0 series ($749 for the 520 and $857 for the 540) offers a 5-inch Quarter Video Graphics Array screen and is available with analog sonar. Lastly, the 4x0 series ($535 for the 420 and $642 for the 440) is the same as the 5x0 ? only smaller. Any model with an "x" suffix is XM Weather-ready. Garmin, 913-397-8200,
VEI's latest chart-plotter innovation, its 8.4-inch screen, comes in two versions: a Pilothouse and a Sunlight model. The Pilothouse gets anti-glare glass, while the Sunlight version gets the glass plus anti-glare film over it. Both are active-matrix TFT screens and come with keypads and a variety of mount configurations, take VGA (for TV, audio, cameras, video, etc.) and DIVI (for computer and radar) inputs and weigh 6 pounds. With a two-year warranty, the 8.4 has an MSRP of $1,995. Valhalla Enterprises, Inc., 866-834-5237,
Humminbird's 797c2 SI gives anglers everything that was in the company's 900 series combo in a 5-inch-screen in-dash or gimbal package. The 797c2 SI comes with dual-beam sonar (83 and 200 kHz) as well as the 455 kHz, 160-degree side-imaging beam. Other features include a high-resolution (640v by 480h) color screen with excellent wide-angle viewing. It has a 16-channel WAAS GPS, comes with UniMap, will handle Navionics Gold charts, has a temperature sensor in the transducer, measures speed via the GPS and can network with a variety of Humminbird add-ons. The memory-card-expansion slot can also be used to take a screen snapshot, which can later be viewed or moved to a PC. MSRP is $999. Humminbird, 800-633-1468,
Maptech continues to refine and upgrade its top-of-the-line i3 Touch Screen Display. The new engine-control module integrates all necessary data onto the screen. This includes engine temp, fuel levels, battery charge, speed, mileage and burn rate; a trip computer displays a bar graph of fuel-to-distance info. Module price for the engine controls is to-be-determined. Though Automatic Identification System-ready, Maptech plans to release the unit's newest feature - the Navigator communicator module - at the Miami Boat Show. The feature consists of a basic Internet connection via a Wi-Fi port for communications at the marina. Eventually, it will become a means to download updated software, remote troubleshoot the i3 and more. Maptech, 978-792-1058,
Late 2006 marked the arrival of the Raymarine G-Series displays, the G170 (a 17-incher) and the G190 (a 19-inch model), designed as supplemental displays to the E-Series. They carry prices of $8,995 and $11,995, respectively. If that's too steep, take a look at the A65 system. It's a GPS/chart plotter/sounder package with a 6.5-inch sunlight-viewable screen that's submersible and costs less than $2,100 for chart plotter, black-box sounder, transducer and Navionics charts. Raymarine, 603-881-5200,
Maretron's DSM250 high-resolution, sunlight-viewable, color display allows easy interpretation of NMEA 2000 instrument and navigation data. You can run the unit in numeric gauge-look or graph formats and in single or multiple displays that can cycle through various data. It also sports various programmable audio and visual alarms. The screen is 5.7 inches (diagonal), with overall size being roughly 7 by 6 by 1.25 inches. It's waterproof and can be surface- or flush-mounted. Figure it to retail around $900. Maretron, 602-861-1707,
Northstar calls its new M series "non-networked," which is a bit confusing, since these units handle input from other instruments. But the term  differentiates the M series from the top-end 8000i and 6000i. Designed for serious anglers, both the M121 (with 12-inch Super Video Graphics Array screen) and the M84 (8.4-inch SVGA screen) include a chart plotter and sonar and video capabilities, support AIS and have built-in SmartCraft capabilities, as well as a digital fuel computer that interfaces to most J1939 gasoline engines. Both also work with Northstar's high-def radar (see New Electronics - Sport Fishing February 2007) and the Explorer 721 VHF (for DSC reporting). They go to a four-way split screen, come with a DGPS and sounder as standard equipment (with 50/200 transducer), will accept NMEA 0183 input and utilize C-Map NT MAX cartography. The two units carry MSRPs of $2,199 and $1,699, respectively. Northstar, 800-628-4487,

Standard Horizon
Standard Horizon offers the CP 300, 500 and 550 chart plotter/GPS units. The CP 300 series comes in internal- and external- antenna models (CP300i and CP300); offers Wide Area Augmentation System GPS and a 7-inch, 800 by 480 pixel, sunlight-viewable wide-screen display; and can connect to compatible Standard Horizon VHFs for DSC functions. Other attributes include  picture-in-picture capability, black-box fish-finder networking (F250 50/200 kHz model), hot keys, three NMEA 0183 inputs and three outputs, and waterproof front and keys. You also enjoy C-Map MAX or NT+ compatibility and a three-year warranty. Suggested MAP is $899.

The CP 500 WAAS GPS chart plotter has an external antenna and all the same functions and capabilities of the 300 series, but in a 12-inch, 800 by 600 pixel, sunlight-viewable, TFT-screen package. It has three NMEA 0183 inputs and two outputs and two video inputs. MAP is $1,999. Standard Horizon, 714-827-7600,