Panbo

Furuno FI-50 instruments, finally here

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 14, 2008

Furuno_FI-50_Digital_and_Multi_cPanbo

As of yesterday, Furuno’s FI-50 (aka FI50) instrument family is officially available in the U.S. and Canada, and thoroughly documented at FurunoUSA. I’m a bit chagrined as I thought they’d be out much sooner, in fact chose them for a Pittman Innovation award that was partially predicated on them being out sooner. Oh well, ship dates slip…and I understand that part of the delay was perfecting FI-50 compatibility with Simrad’s somewhat quirky AT10 NMEA 0183/2000 converter. Which is good for anyone wanting to, say, use FI-50s with 0183 wind and depth data already available on their vessel (and especially good, Furuno-wise, for NavNet 1 and 2 owners who want to add the instruments). Plus the premises of my award choice have withstood actually testing some FI-50s for a while…

For instance, the FI-50’s power efficient (“less than 0.1 amps” 12v) and auto-backlit OLED screens are exceptionally readable in most all light conditions. And the use of standard NMEA 2000 connectors with SimNet- and SeaTalkNG-style daisy chaining possible—first seen last Oct., below, and discussed here—seems to work nicely (even if NMEA doesn’t like it). Later I learned about Furuno’s unusual approach to N2K sensor calibration and like that too. But amongst all the N2K instruments I’ve tried, and tried to differentiate in PMY, the FI50s are in a graphic sense old school. You won’t find bottom or wind speed graphs, or helpful text and icons to guide you through set ups. If you’re considering them, it’s good idea (always a good idea) to download the manuals from FurunoUSA and see what you’re getting in to, especially at $595 per FI50 gauge. Also note in the FI-50 brochure that the multi-line Digital does not understand all the PGN data messages that the single-line Multi does, and neither can do fuel management calculations, yet.
 
By the way, rumor has it that Furuno is working on its own 0183–2000 converter, with standard connectors I’m sure, and maybe also a color/N2K update to the versatile RD30 data display. It took Furuno longer than many to get on the NMEA 2000 bus, but, boy, did they. 

Furuno_FI-50_daisy_chain_crop_cPanbo

Comments

I've had the FI50's installed for about six weeks on my boat and I can confirm both the low power consumption and the excellent visibility. They do have some issues with polarized sun glasses when viewed off angle, as do most LED displays. I would also like to see a lot more versatility in the Digital display. However, they have calibrated the input from a generic Airmar DST2000 without any problem.

Posted by: Russ at August 14, 2008 10:51 PM | Reply

Ben;

Have you verified if the masthead wind unit is 100% NMEA compatible? I think you were questioning this at some point.

We have a Garmin GMI-10 instrument installed, and I don't feel want to install another instrument to get wind spped and direction.

Posted by: Chris Witzgall at August 15, 2008 5:55 PM | Reply

Furuno make solid, reliable kit. I only wish that it looked better. I think displays like this would be more at home on a gas station pump. This kind of 7 segment display is a throwback. It's especially poor in the smaller type, look at WSPD where the letter 'D' looks like an 'O' with two wings.
Garmin, Raymarine and Maretron can give us clear normal looking figures and text, why not Furuno.
How about soft keys, instead of printing additional functions on a 90's style bezel.
Furuno, get some new designers and give us solid, reliable, good looking kit.

Posted by: caribelectronics at August 20, 2008 2:25 PM | Reply

Furuno give us very low power consumption displays check the rating of the maretron, raycrap ones etc.

Posted by: Anonymous at August 22, 2008 6:37 PM | Reply

I'm going to be buying between 5 and 8 FI50 displays for my boat. Out of the box, the FI50 is the cat's meow as far as I'm concerned.

But ... I have a few feature requests. Does anyone have a contact for the Furuno technical marketing rep?

Posted by: Olsonist at February 24, 2009 8:07 PM | Reply

Olsonist: Cat's meow ? Why not the Raymarine ST70 or Garmin GMI 10 ?

What type of boat ?

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at February 24, 2009 10:18 PM | Reply

Express 37 sailboat for racing.

The daylight visibility on the Garmin isn't very good; it's not a transflective display. Really I want less information which is extremely readable, and the FI504 is simple, flexible and readable. I think the ST70 and the GMI10 want to be MFDs.

So for this application, it's the cat's meow. Also, it's way better than Ockam or BandG or NKE or Nexus.

Posted by: Olsonist at February 25, 2009 1:03 AM | Reply

Olsonist: Ah ... a real performance racing boat and a beauty too. No doubt your going to put a few displays on the mast, and these Furuno's are perrrrfect.

Check out this race analysis software link below. As your designing your new system you might want to consider finding a handy way to capture the GPS, wind, and other data so you can run it thru this analysis software. They even mention the earlier version of the Airmar weather station (you asked me questions about) among the tested configuations they have for their product.

I bought a copy of this software under a promotion where they created an image of my sailboat for the software to use with the on the water play back feature. I look forward to using it this spring when I splash my boat.

http://www.Weathergage-Software.com

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at February 25, 2009 5:19 PM | Reply

Yeah, I'm all over the Weathergage folks, and I already have the Maretron USB100 Gateway to get the data into a laptop.

The Express is getting a thorough refit, new deck, new winches, .... The new electronics is completely NMEA 2000 and and the transducers are completely ultrasonic. Most of the finishing touches I learned here from you, Ben and the other Panbots.

I look forward to using it this spring when I splash my boat.

Tell me about it. Hopefully I'll make the Vallejo race in May.

Posted by: Olsonist at February 25, 2009 5:46 PM | Reply

I've had 7 of the FI-50's installed on my boat since last spring. You are correct that the 504's are simple and don't consume much power. I've found the off angle viewing to be somewhat problematic, particularly with polaroid sunglasses. At night I found the off angle viewing to be more restricted, and the dimmest setting to be too bright on ocean passages.

The 501 is particularly bad at night with a fairly large outline around the digital display that obscures the needle in the down wind running angles. You'll never use it to see if you're by-the-lee at night.

I suggest getting one and checking the readability during the day at the angles you expect to view them, and then also at night. You may want to adjust he contrast levels and see if it helps the night viewing.

I had some very early units which had bugs in the firmware, but were later updated and solved the problems. My firmware is now at A0113 and B0101.

Good luck in the Vallejo race!

Posted by: Russ at February 26, 2009 3:39 PM | Reply

Russ,
Great comments. This is the feedback that really helps when choosing equipment such as this (read: expensive and permanent). So my question is what would you choose instead of the FI-50 gear? I hate brightness at night, and the other shortcomings you mention seem annoying as well. I do like the old-school look though.
Thanks,
Ian

Posted by: Ian at March 18, 2009 8:49 AM | Reply

Looks like Furuno is updating their "old school" look with an RD33 Remote Display multi purpose display, at least in Japan. It can connect via "N2K" (aka CAN bus ha). LEN is 6 though, I guess that is to be expected.

Web link http://www.furuno.co.jp/en/product/marine/details/s-rd_33.html

Posted by: Ted Arisaka at March 27, 2010 6:33 PM | Reply

Good find! Looks like there's a matching GP33 GPS unit as well:

http://www.yachte.com.au/news/story.asp?story=28472

Posted by: Ben at March 27, 2010 11:08 PM | Reply

There's a little RD33 info on the Furunousa website, including an operators manual. http://www.furunousa.com/ProductDocuments/RD33%20Operator's%20Manual%20A%20%201-2010.pdf. To me, the most interesting part is the 9.5 Input/Output section, where the "CAN" to 0183 translation is discussed. On the surface, it looks more through than either the Simrad or Actisense bridge units. I wish they'd publish the transmit frequencies; it dosen't look as though they could transmit all the NMEA 0183 sentences at one per second. They must slow some transmissions down like the Simrad AT-10 does.

Posted by: Recovering Racer at March 27, 2010 11:26 PM | Reply

Ben / RR:
Thanks for the additional links. Here are a few images on a UK online store, where it states Jul / Aug 2010 availability.

http://www.prscomms.com/gps-receivers-&-sensors/furuno/nav-gp33

Best Regards,
Ted

Posted by: Ted Arisaka at March 28, 2010 9:14 AM | Reply

Thanks, gents! These new products interested me so much, I just finished a long entry about them:

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2010/03/furuno_rd-33_gp-33_looking_very_good.html

Posted by: Ben at March 28, 2010 3:55 PM | Reply

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