Navman 8120, test impressions #1

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 23, 2006

Navman 8120 Camden Harbor Panbo

I like putting chart screens in Course or Track Up mode,  except that sometimes they jump around too much. Illustrated above is a nicety I hadn’t seen before, control over how much your track can vary before the screen turns. In a similar vein, the 8120 also has a neat “Static Navigation” control that let’s you set a SOG number under which the speed always reads 0 and COG doesn’t change. {The picture—by the way, and bigger here—is in a style I’m working to perfect: sharply focused gizmo in foreground, soft marine scene as background. That’s a Fleming 55 and a Midnight Lace back there, both lovelies.}
More 8120 notes:

* A negative 8120 surprise was learning that a NMEA 0183 data-in cable is not included in the box (though it is available, and I’m getting one to see how well this MFD will handle wind and other data out of the Airmar WeatherStation). In fact, 0183 seems to be slighted in favor of Navman’s own NavBus. Thus the 8120 will only plot DSC targets coming from a Navman VHF, which is odd as that’s usually a standard 0183 function.
* Build quality of the these early-off-the-line machines is a tad dicey. The first one I got wouldn’t do video and I had to use a blade to open the map cartridge door.
* While I’m normally a soft key sort of guy (which may be a tester’s bias: I use so many different machines that I like to get led through the command structure), I find the 8120 key set and nested menu structure, with its nice big fonts, quite easy to navigate.
* Shown below is a unique (I think) and very desirable display feature; you can vary what Navman calls the Split Ratios so that windows can be sized individually. 
* So far, then, a few pluses and minuses; but there’s no doubt that the 8120 is a lot MFD for the money. I won’t be able to try the SmartCraft interfacing, but it sure looks good. I will eventually test the built-in sonar (the window below is simulated) and fuel flow support. By the way, there’s a nifty promotion going on, but not much longer: if you buy an 8120, or a TrackFish 6600, before 9/1, you can get a free C-Map Mega card.

Navman 8120 multisize windows Panbo


Hi Ben,

Do You know if the Navman 8120 has support for displaying AIS targets? How is that?

Posted by: Pascal at August 23, 2006 4:25 PM | Reply

No, it doesn't, but I have heard Navman/Northstar express real interest in AIS.

Posted by: Ben at August 23, 2006 4:34 PM | Reply

The lack of AIS support is very short sighted. With the availability of inexpensive AIS receivers, the whole AIS thing is a significant improvement in boat safety for anyone in the vicinity of commercial traffic.

I suppose they must strike a balance (as do all manufacturers) between feature inclusion and time to market.

Posted by: William Henry at August 24, 2006 10:05 AM | Reply

While the Navman 8120, when first released, did not have support for AIS the new, rebadged units Northstar M84 and M121 do support AIS. The instructions in the manuals are very well laid out to the use of AIS but there is no information on the hookup to an AIS receiver. The manual does mention which AIS receivers have been tested to work with the M84 and M121.

Posted by: Damon S. at July 13, 2007 12:25 AM | Reply

I have just ordered a M84 and have been searching the internet for system setup, the basics of the system are clear about the Nothstar Diplays that can be added to the unit, but are vague regarding input of autohelm steering modules or data from other nmea for input. I am not sure from the inputs on the back of the panel "Sonar" "Video" "Comms" "GPS" "Fuel/Nav" "Radar" or "Power" where to add other NMEA data.
Mike G

Posted by: Mike Gibson at April 7, 2008 10:25 PM | Reply

Mike, These units do not come with a direct NMEA 0183 input, which is a little odd. However, all you have to do is buy a short cable from Northstar which goes into that "Fuel/Nav" connector and splits into both a fuel sensor plug and 0183 input wires.

Posted by: Ben at April 7, 2008 11:33 PM | Reply

Can the 8120 output a video signal? I'd like to be able to send its screen output to an existing monitor with VGA/Video In connections.

Posted by: paul at May 14, 2008 2:41 AM | Reply

Sorry, Paul, no video-out on the 8120, now sold as the Northstar M121, and also--with new case and screen--as the Simrad NX45.

Posted by: Ben at May 14, 2008 6:53 AM | Reply

Thanks Ben. Is there a multi/combi display that DOES output video, or am I looking for the impossible?!

Posted by: paul at May 18, 2008 12:03 AM | Reply

Paul, the feature is fairly common among network level MFDs. Raymarine E-Series, Garmin 4- and 5000 series, and Furuno NavNet 3D all have video out ports.

Posted by: Ben at May 18, 2008 2:09 AM | Reply


If an MFD has video output, as well as keyboard, mouse, etc. input, can a poor man's second station be configured using an inexpensive monitor and input device?


Posted by: Norton Rider at May 18, 2008 2:29 PM | Reply

Raul, the only system that completely fills that bill is NavNet 3D, which is pretty expensive to start with. You can use whatever monitor you want with a Ray E, but you'll have get their keyboard for input. Same with the Garmins, only you need their wireless remote.

Posted by: Ben at May 18, 2008 10:19 PM | Reply

I have a Navman 8084 (Northstar M84) and Navman's 7200 DSC VHF, connected via Navbus.

Other equipment (AIS receiver, Raymarine instruments and autopilot) are all integrated using a Brookhouse multiplexer, sending NMEA0183 back to the plotter at 38,400 bps, via the fuel/data port.

I spent weeks trying to get the wind data displayed on the plotter. Turns out that the plotter will ignore the wind data on the NMEA0183 input if you have Navbus enabled. Disable Navbus, and the NMEA0183 wind data appears, but, off course, you lose the Navbus data (in this case the DSC messages, baro and temp data from the VHF).

Navman (Australia) said they might try to fix this in the next firmware update...

Posted by: Gerhard at June 13, 2008 9:00 PM | Reply

I have a navman 8120 installed in my boat. Can you tell me what I will have to have for the radar to work. Thanks

Posted by: Scott Copla at August 24, 2009 5:00 PM | Reply

Scot, The 8120 became the Northstar M121, and therefore I think it can work with a number of Northstar radars, including the new Broadband 18" domes.

Posted by: Ben at August 24, 2009 9:23 PM | Reply


I would like to know if this plotter can accept a laptops output and also show a radar image as in a split screen?

I am looking to go for a full package of Radar,chart plotter/repeater station from a laptop, instruments, and receive weather fax.

How much would you be guessing the plotter and radar cost?

Posted by: Bo at August 28, 2009 7:31 PM | Reply

I have a Navman 8084. I am trying to connect the NASA engine 2 (NASA 2 AIS engine is in the manual as been compatible) to it and having difficulty. I know the AIS and VHF as a system works as when I plug it into my notebook (port set to 38400), it displays AIS. The Navman does not. I have configured the AIS menu and have ticked the AIS box. I am at a loss as to what next. Interesting that you mention about the Navbus inhibits the wind input and I will check to see if this is ticked in case it also inhibits the AIS input. Is the white input of the fuel/nav lead 38400? My manual that came with the unit says it has AIS capability. Is there a firmware version that AIS started at and perhaps I need to upgrade? On the serenty-yacht site, he mentions that the white should be connected to pin 2 of the serial plug. My data shows pin 2 as the recieve data pin - pin 3 been the transmit pin? Any help please? Ian

Posted by: Ian at April 2, 2012 11:46 PM | Reply

Any ideas if you can get any software updates for the 8120? I m hoping that might cure the problem of my card reader not reading a cmap card.. Is card reader failure a common problem?

Can you update a navman 8120 with northstar 812 software updates? Any help appreciated

Posted by: david at June 2, 2012 7:22 AM | Reply

Download M121 software from northstar website. It will work on 8120.
8120 will even run Navico 3G radar. Get the version for Simrad NX and it will plug right in. 8120 will need latest software for M121 though. You even get the sub 1/8 NM ranges.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 2, 2012 2:45 PM | Reply

Hi there

I have a Navman 8120 Chart Plotter and am struggling to get assistance from Navman/Navico. I would like to make contact with anybody who has one. I need a small switch but am unable to identify the correct value. All I need is a photo of the part marked Q5. If someone can take a photo I will be able to identify the value and purchase one from the local electronics shop. Any help would be appreciated.

Posted by: Mike Godfrey at November 13, 2015 9:45 AM | Reply

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