Panbo

Category: Communications

Simrad RS35 VHF & HS35 wireless handset, testing pretty well

Jul 22, 2014

Simrad_RS35_testing_GPS_source_cPanb_o.jpgIt's taken a while but I am becoming quite fond of the Simrad RS35 VHF radio and HS35 wireless handset accessory. Panbo first covered the RS35's nice combination of full Class D VHF DSC capabilities, NMEA 2000 interface and built-in AIS receiver in late 2012. But when I received a test unit last summer, it was quickly apparent that the radio had trouble interfacing with many N2K GPS sources (as you can read about in the comments to that 2012 entry). I was slow to return the radio for the software fix, but now it's installed at Gizmo's lower helm and has no problem with the three GPS sources shown above and a lot more I threw at it. I've also seen it output AIS info over NMEA 2000 to every MFD currently on Gizmo (though there is a glitch if you also have a transponder, explained below). And while some interesting radios have come to market in the last year, the RS35 at about $300 to $350 seems the VHF/AIS/N2K value leader (except for its sibling Lowrance Link-8 if you don't care about the wireless handset option)...

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Inmarsat iSatPhone 2, a solid satphone but here come Globalstar Sat-Fi & Iridium GO

Jul 14, 2014

Inmarsat_iSatPhone_2_aPanbo.jpgA brief test of the new Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 showed it to be quite a good satellite phone. Compared to the original IsatPhone Pro I tested in 2010, the new phone locks onto both GPS and Inmarsat satellites noticably faster and the voice calls seem to sound better. I also found the screen quite readable in most conditions including direct sun, and the user interface struck me as fast and easy to get the hang of. However, if you sense some "buts" coming, you are correct. At nearly $1,000 street price, this phone is not the "game changer" promised in 2010. Also, long gone are the $200 prepaid SIM cards good for 250 minutes and two years mentioned in my 2010 review; Inmarsat phone service is pretty costly these days. Perhaps more important, we are just entering an era when we can supposedly have all the services of a satphone without actually having to own another darn phone and possibly at a lower overall cost...

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Inmarsat Fleet One, affordable FleetBroadband for real?

Jun 2, 2014

Sailor_Inmarsat_Fleet_One_system_aPanbo.jpgBoaters looking for a reliable, moderately fast satellite Internet connection for light and/or occasional use have learned to be leery of Inmarsat. When FleetBroadband came out in 2009 -- particularly the FB150 model with its easily installed 13.5-inch stabilized antenna -- it seemed like a reasonably affordable option for bluewater cruising. This promise was confirmed in a terriffic Panbo review series conducted by Gram Schweikert as his family sailed from Maine to New Zealand with both KVH FB150 and Iridium OpenPort antennas mounted on the spreaders. Note the fairly friendly FB rate sheet published in Gram's installation entry and how (with very careful data use) he found the FB150 quite useful out in the Pacific at only about $100 to $150 a month in service charges. Unfortunately, the deal changed...

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Two way testing DeLorme inReachSE, plus new Explorer model & OCENS SpotCast Weather

May 13, 2014

DeLorme_inReachSE_message_screen_cPanbo.jpg"Two way" doesn't just refer to the fact that a DeLorme inReach handheld satellite messenger/tracker will let you text back and forth with people pretty much like a cell phone. I also tested the shore side of the system by loaning the sample inReachSE model to friends Doug and Dale Bruce when they went on an adventure cruise to some remote islands south of New Zealand. So that's me messaging from Maine when I saw where they were headed (via their MapShare track), and then Doug texting me back a few minutes later. Yes, he had a little trouble with SE's little cursor keyboard, but heck, he was in rough seas on the other side of the planet!

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Miami 2014 comms #2: VHF, AIS & the app connection

Feb 25, 2014

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There is still an amazing number of boats that can't use the excellent DSC distress feature that's been built into every fixed VHF marine radio sold in the U.S.A since 1999. Their radio either hasn't been interfaced with a GPS or hasn't been programmed with the owner's MMSI number, or both. I've heard Coast Guard rescue center personnel report that a DSC alert can work beautifully to quickly identify and locate a boat in trouble, but that they rarely see valid DSC alerts. So before discussing advances in VHF (and AIS), let's note how companies like Standard Horizon and Icom are helping to make working DSC a pervasive reality (finally)...

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Miami 2014 comms #1: WiFi, Cellular, and V-SAT advances

Feb 21, 2014

Humminbird_ION_10_web_browser_cPanbo.jpg

That's the Web browser built into the Humminbird ION10 MFD that I first saw demoed in Lauderdale (pre browser), and the test was pretty realistic for a boat show. It was easy to log the ION onto my phone's WiFi hotspot and if you click the image bigger, you'll see how well it rendered a complex site like www.powerandmotoryacht.com. It even supports tabs for multiple sites, so if I were out fishing on, say, a sunny center console, I could have had a weather site open while still checking my gmail or moderating Panbo comments, all on a bright waterproof screen. This is a MFD first, I think -- the Standard Horizon CPN1010i can access the Web, but not while in navigation mode -- though the lack of ION detail on Humminbird's site suggests that they are taking their time getting it out the door.

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Iridium's GO! satellite WiFi and Globalstar's mysterious SatFi

Feb 12, 2014

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Wow! With a bounty of significant cruising electronics news on my desk, the new Iridium GO! may rank #1. Think of it as the Iridium Extreme -- arguably the most versatile, rugged, and expensive sat phone available -- with the phone interface replaced by a WiFi radio able to handle five smartphones or tablets. The GO can install semi-permanently with an external antenna, or sit on deck while you make a quiet call below, or go in your pack when you hike in Tierra del Fuego. You'll still be able to make and take phone calls anywhere, but they will be easier, less expensive, and purportedly better sounding. Plus there's global email, tracking, and so much more...

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Icom M506, five models of goodness

Feb 6, 2014

Icom_IC-M506_aPanbo.jpgWhen Standard Horizon introduced its Matrix AIS/GPS radio in December, we learned from a European reader that Icom UK was showing off a VHF with just about every feature a boater might desire (with the possible exception of a built-in GPS).  As hoped for, Icom America has now revealed its version of the IC-M506 and will be showing it in Miami next week. It turns out that at least here in the states the M506 will be available in five models so you can get the features you want without paying for ones you don't...

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Standard Horizon Matrix AIS/GPS and Raymarine Ray260 AIS/N2K VHF radios

Dec 3, 2013

Standard_Horizon_Matrix_AIS_GPS_GX2200_VHF.jpgWhile it looks and works very much like the Matrix AIS GX2100 that caused quite a splash here in 2009, Standard Horizon's just announced Matrix AIS/GPS GX2200 very usefully includes a built-in 66 channel GPS. And it still has the same $400 MAP (minimum advertised price) as the evolved Matrix AIS+ GX2150, which will now get a $350 MAP. Two years ago Standard introduced the Explorer GX1700 -- the first fixed VHF with GPS built in, and still the only one (I think) -- and while I haven't tried one myself, I think that front panel satellite antenna bump works pretty well even when installed under a fiberglass deck or top...

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GOST, FLIR, and KVH: working together

Oct 30, 2013

GOST_FLIR_KVH_joint_advertisement.jpgIt's quite unusual to illustrate a Panbo entry with an advertisement, but I think this one has editorial content. Isn't it great to see three separate companies state in print that their electronics will work together to accomplish a complex task? Won't that make it harder for any one of the three customer service departments to point the blame for operational problems elsewhere? Plus, the task in this case -- to put the control and output of yacht cameras onto the Internet so owners or crew can access it anywhere -- is pretty impressive. 

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