Northstar 8000i, the touch screen
Touch screen does seem like “the natural interface” (as I just read at some promotional site), but there are two gripes about using it on the water: one, the technology can reduce precious screen brightness 10–20%, and, two, it’s hard to use when a boat starts bouncing around. Northstar has addressed both issues:
* The 8000i uses an unusual infrared touch screen technology; LEDs and photo cells hidden in the bezel create a invisible light grid which your fingertip interrupts. It seemed to work quite nicely during my demo and it doesn’t reduce screen brightness at all. Supposedly even gloved fingers and sticky fish scales won’t phase it. By the way, in the picture above (bigger here), the 8000i is zooming out by tapping a desired new center spot (red target) and dragging a box from lower right to upper left to define the zoom level. Left to right zooms in, the shaded borders let you pan, and all those touch keys can be hidden with the upper right ‘min’ button.
* But there are also zoom ‘in’ and ‘out’ buttons built right into the 12” 8000i, or you can plug in the dedicated key board seen in the system diagram with the 15” model, or you can use any other USB keyboard or pointing device. Interface flexibility!
This 12” unit, incidently, contains a 1.2 GHz processor and a 35 gig hard drive in addition to what seemed like a very bright screen, and it’s completely sealed. Yet, after a couple of hours of use, its relatively shallow aluminum back casing was barely warm, which I thought impressive, and a sign of durability.