Panbo

B&G Zeus, Simrad NSE for sailors

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 22, 2010
B_G_Zeus_GRIB_display.JPG

Though it's not mentioned anywhere, there's no question that B&G's new Zeus multifunction displays are re-branded Simrad NSE MFDs, with some special software sauce on top.  But that's a good idea.  NSE has a lot going for it, and the more ways Navico finds to expand its scope -- like the Simrad NSO system, also "soft launched" in Newport last week -- the better for everyone, I think.  Besides, has there ever been an MFD that can do jobs sailors usually use PCs for -- like animating GRIB weather files, displaying data strip charts, and calculating laylines?

I got a little hand's on time with Zeus and was particularly struck by the slick GRIB controls, somewhat shown in the screen shot above (a video would be better).  Just by turning and clicking the rotary knob, you can set the hour-by-hour animation speed or manually spin through the hours -- at warp speed, if desired -- and those functions work together.  For instance, you might watch 72 hours of wind data to get the big picture, then spin/zip back to hour 18 to focus on a particular forecast change, letting the animation automatically resume or manually ticking back and forth through the hours with the knob.  I don't use GRIB viewers a lot, but I recall either/or animation/manual and lots of mouse or arrow clicking to see what I wanted.  Plus with Zeus a sailor can be checking GRIBs on deck with a bright, waterproof display, and that rotary knob will be just as handy for zooming charts, tweaking Broadband Radar settings, flying through menu trees, etc.
   I'm quite unfamiliar with layline calculations, but maybe some of you racer readers will comment on the menu below.  And maybe B&G will soon add a manual to the existing online feature descriptions.  In fact, the B&G guy in Newport was just learning Zeus himself, though he was clear that this system is not meant to replace the dedicated Wave Technology Processors -- actually, there's a new WTP3 -- and the Deckman (or Expedition) software used by grand prix racers.  Zeus will integrate with B&G instruments, of course, but it will also work with most any N2K sensors, and thus may appeal to racer cruisers who haven't ventured into B&G gear before.  Heck, wouldn't easy layline calculations overlaid on a cockpit plotter benefit a cruiser, say, beating up a Maine bay full of islands?

B_G_Zeus_layline_menu.JPG

Comments

Cool, i'd asked it in june on Lowrance facebook wall, for Europe it's great, we don't have WX... Navico doesn't extend this feature on their others MFD ?

Posted by: Benoit at September 22, 2010 9:29 AM | Reply

This is so great. I’ve been asking for a sail chart plotter for several years. When Navico took over this was a natural merging of knowledge from Lowrance-simrad-B&G. Great work! The one and only chart plotter for sailors.

Note the POLAR in the pull down menu.

/Marcus

Posted by: Marcus at September 22, 2010 12:22 PM | Reply

Impressive.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at September 22, 2010 5:16 PM | Reply

I wonder if Navico can/will offer this as a software upgrade/option to us sailors who have purchased Simrad NSE's already?

Posted by: peter coupland at September 22, 2010 7:59 PM | Reply

Nice but, Where do the GRIB files come from? Don't you need a PC or does the NSO Plotter Connect to the Internet? Do you also need to purchase Deckman or Expedition or some other software package to make it work?

Anon

Posted by: Anon at September 23, 2010 1:59 PM | Reply

You download the GRIBs from the internet, and then transfer them via USB stick to the Zeus.

No need for Deckman or Expedition, the plotter contains all the software, all you need is to hook up your instruments by NMEA0183 or NMEA2000 and your away. For the more advance features like the instrument calibrations, and uploading and downloading polars, you need a B&G Processor with the B&G H-Link coms. However, the sailing features like the boat laylines, mark laylines, time on each tack and time plots of data will still work with NMEA0183 and NMEA2000.

Posted by: Miles in reply to Anon at September 24, 2010 4:25 AM | Reply

You need a PC to download GRIB files which can then be transferred to the Zeus via a USB stick. There are a number of GRIB providers out there including OCENS http://www.ocens.com/wxnet.htm or UGRIB (which is a free service) http://www.grib.us/Downloads.aspx

Posted by: Roberto at September 24, 2010 5:24 AM | Reply

Wow...I've been saying for years that plotters are toys compared to a PC, and that you had to have a laptop. Looks like you still need one to do the downloads but probably won't be long before these gizmos are connected directly to your satphone....

Posted by: Oceanplanet at September 25, 2010 8:42 AM | Reply

I don't know why B&G just gets close to doing the right thing and then falls short. The notion that you have to separately download GRIP and install them is nuts. I think the put an Ethernet port in this which is good, but is should come standard with WiFi so that when you are in the harbor you can get the Gribs (and chart updates for that matter) automatically. At lease they should create PC based software that shuttles updates etc via a USB drive - keeping track of update/config status.

Expedition is great if you have a 40+ foot boat, chart table, and time to be below. A lot of bouy racing is Windward leeward with 2km to windward mark. If you ping (hit a button when you pass the boat, not use a laser) the boat/pin and enter range/bearing to windward mark, you can calc lay lines etc. But B&G has still failed to make that data entry easy. In one design racing (J122, J105, etc) you don't have time to go below for this kind of crap.

So, added to the wifi port, they could offer android/iphone software that lets you easily key in course meta data from topside.

Better yet, simrad should look at some app store like concept or at least a web service api to allow third-party development on other platforms.

Posted by: jcarterwil at September 25, 2010 12:47 PM | Reply

I think it is pretty clear that B&G are targeting this at the cruising or maybe cruiser/racer market rather than one-design racing

Personally I think this is great, now I can download a GRIB when I check weather the night before I sail and just take it to the boat on a USB stick. For longer trips I always have my netbook with me so can download from marina wifi or my cell using the saildocs free mail service.

Posted by: Peter at September 27, 2010 8:47 AM | Reply

I can download files to my Android phone (Verizon Incredible) and mount the phone's internal memory and micro SD card as drives on Windows computers. I'll see if it mounts to the NSE, as that would be a slick way to get GRIB files.

Posted by: Ben at September 27, 2010 9:18 AM | Reply

By one design I mean J105, J122, Farr 40, TP52 - serious hard core racers that are driving on the edge of performance analysis. The B&G Hercules system is a $10-$25K package. If Zeus is on some other sensor platform (ray marine etc), I thing people will ultimately be disappointed because you need a high update rates, leeway, upwash, etc included in the calcs to have meaningful data.

Alternately, if they are after the cruiser/racer market, it seems Garmin could add Grib, wind routing, etc in a busy afternoon, at a fraction of what Zeus will cost.

Posted by: jcarterwil at September 27, 2010 10:37 AM | Reply

i am a cruiser and i am seriously looking into buying this unit. while i could go with just a simrad NSE system, the grib and weather routing functions integrated into the cockpit. is a big deal for me. the potential for laylines is also a huge deal for me. however the lack of nmea2000 instrumentation in favor to its h3000 instruments very much irritate me and has me waiting a little while to see if GEONAV can add polars, laylines and grib functions. i dont race much, outside of blue moon beer can races, but the polars would be very handy cruising, but i can not justify the more than $8K that it would cost to add this feature, especially when it will only take $2k to set up a computer with expedition. a little disapointing. why cant B&G support Nmea 2000 sensors?

Posted by: robert at March 19, 2011 5:58 AM | Reply

I guess I wasn't clear, Robert. There's no reason that a Zeus won't work fine with any NMEA 2000 instrument & sensor system. The NSE line has some of the best N2K support I've seen, aside from the fact that the connectors are SimNet instead of the DeviceNet type preferred by NMEA. There are patch cables available, or -- if you went with Simrad's own IS20 line -- you might just stay with SimNet. You'd also get some extra integration, like unified screen dimming and data sourcing, as discussed here: http://goo.gl/bIOwO

After all, the Zeus really is a Simrad NSE with extra software apps for sailors and a B&G label. If you check out the installation manual, you'll see that they did figure out some ways to interface Zeus with B&G processors via USB or NMEA0183, but the N2K (and Ethernet) abilities are untouched. In fact, there's a long list supported PGNs in the back. Manual downloads here: http://goo.gl/8OziH

PS The manual also suggests that you could even use a Zeus to calibrate Simrad sensors like wind vane and depth/speed transducer so you wouldn't need IS20 displays if you didn't want them. That concept should be double-checked with Simrad/B&G, though, which I may get to do next week during a big Navico demo event.

Posted by: Ben in reply to robert at March 19, 2011 6:46 AM | Reply

Ben,
I appologise, as i didnt explain it well. the NSE part of the system and the integration works very well, including the NMEA 2000, those are the features that are attracting me. i was more referring more about the zeus software on top of the NSE. the sailing specific software out of the box is the grib and weather routing functions, which in itself may be the very reason i spring for the Z12 vice the NSE. my disappointment is in the more advanced features that B&G is marketing, the polars and chart laylines. these features are only available if you use the h3000 Hercules performance computer system which is an additional $8k not including the sensors. the sensors look lie regular airmar analog sensors. the NMEA 2000 sensors can not be used for these functions, which are two of the major abilities of the zeus system. i contacted the company directly and thier sales associate told me laylines definitely require the h3000 system, however in the manual, it looks like that may not be the case, and that they work out of the box. still a little frustrating, as expedition is around $1000 and does the same thing, but is not easy for me to get out into the cockpit like a chartplotter is

Posted by: robert at March 19, 2011 2:14 PM | Reply

Hi Robert,

The Zeus plotter will connect to any NMEA0183 or NMEA2000 instrument systems. It will also provide laylines for any instrument system. This is done by selecting either manual laylines (you enter your upwind and downwind VMG angles), or actual laylines (derived from your current sailing TWA).

As for the polar information, yes you need to have a B&G Hercules Performance or Motion processor to use the polar upload and download features. But I do not beleive there is a NMEA 2000 PGN that will allow Polar transfer from other instrument system to the Zues processor.

Posted by: Miles in reply to robert at March 19, 2011 3:32 PM | Reply

Miles,

I was told by Simrad tech that Zeus will not provide laylines without the Hercules Processor. It would be nice if that were not true.

Cheers,

Noel

Posted by: Noel in reply to Miles at March 21, 2011 7:34 AM | Reply

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