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Ben E

Furuno radar: NXT solid state or magnetron?

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Furuno is now offering both solid state and magnetron radars in the same sizes, which leads to interesting questions like this one:

"I am considering an upgrade to my present Furuno radar (VX2, 6 KW, 4' antenna, purchased new in 2006) Primary reason for upgrade, the VX2 uses a 10 inch display, newer radars allow industry standard (larger, higher resolution) computer displays. I have upgraded my bridge console to house two 19 inch SXGA displays, one for the electronic nav system and have purchased an identical second display for the radar. A more modern looking installation. And, of course, 10+ years of improvement in processing of information.

My puzzle: Furuno last year, introduced the 'new' DRS6AX magnetron based radar. This year, Furuno introduced the new solid state DRS6ANXT radar. Discussions with Furuno at the Ft Lauderdale boat show left me puzzled: what is the difference between these two radars? Why is Furuno sell two apparently similar radars? The rep said that Furuno does not plan to discontinue the magnetron radar, it will be around "a long time".

The rep at the boat show said that the magnetron radar is better able to see birds. While I am not into big game fishing, this comment tells me that the magnetron radar is putting more energy on the target, thus better able to see targets with low radar cross section, low reflectivity. Like a small fiberglass boat one mile from me, or some object floating in the water.

For navigation, the rep said that the solid state radar was the best, but could not answer why.

Other comments from the Furuno rep, sounded like they consider the solid state radar kind of their 'toy radar', if you wanted a 'real radar', the magnetron will be the better. Solid state radar was for the person who is afraid of the high power (6 KW pulse), and wants to be able to 'hug' the antenna.

I have not been able to locate any 'independent' review of the new DRS6ANXT radar." -- Chester

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  • Hi Chester,

    I have not seen the solid state DRS6A-NXT in action yet, but I know why it would be great for navigation from using the NXT radome for two years. The Doppler assisted Target Analyzer function that instantly highlights targets moving toward you is quite valuable, especially in crowded areas. And the Doppler assisted ARPA is simply fantastic.

    I enthusiastically reviewed the DRS4D-NXT here...

    https://www.panbo.com/archives/2016/08/testing_furuno_drs4d-nxt_solid-state_doppler_radome_radar_redefined_most_definitely.html

    ... and I'm even more bullish on the radome today. The ARPA speed and accuracy is phenomenal and the TZT2 now offers true echo trails which add even more moving vessel awareness.

    An open array NXT should do all this even better, and, incidentally, the NXT radome sees small fiberglass boats a mile away no problem, at least in fairly calm sea conditions.

    (No manufacturer is yet using Doppler to improve sea clutter filtering, to my knowledge, but it won't be surprising if Furuno is first.)

    But Furuno and the others are smart to keep offering both solid state and magnetron, largely because many boaters are still skeptical about solid state. For instance, I regularly hear that ss radars can't see through rain as well, even though all four ss radomes I'm testing can filter rain fine (and can also display it when you want).

    Remember too that for many years only Navico offered solid state radar, during which the sales people for other brands invented the "toy radar" nonsense they now have to live with ;-)

  • My conversations with Furuno have been somewhat different. The physical construction of the open arrays is the same quality. The dome arrays have been in use on USCG boats. I don't believe there is a quality difference between the solid state and open array radars.

    It is a shame that the USCG did not select Furuno for their most recent solicitation. I believe in the products and their support.

    What I have been told is that solid state radar is less expensive to manufacture. I believe Furuno is unique that it has applied some advanced processing to its magnetron radars (Fast Target Tracking). The solid state radars have the addition of Doppler.

    Furuno does have commercial (big ship) solid state radar. http://www.furuno.com/en/merchant/chartradar/

    I think we are in the middle of the transition to solid state radar and the end of magentron.

    None of the manufacturers have done a good job demonstrating side by side performance pros/cons.

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