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Choosing a chart plotter & radar
As some of you may know, I converted from the sailing world to the motor yacht world (for some reason saying motor yacht doesn't make me die inside like power boat does) and of course, I will be adding tons of electronics and network stuff to the boat.
One of my biggest choices is what to use for a chart plotter and radar. I am still a big proponent that you need a marine-designed, purpose built piece of hardware to run both the radar and auto pilot. iPads, PCs and other devices are great for planning, route management, and the like, but having a chart plotter that won't shut down in the sun, and can handle the radar and auto pilot duties is essential.
I've narrowed my choices down to Raymarine's Axiom + Quantum 2 radar, or Garmin's 8xxx or 7xxx series with an xHD radar. I would love to hear other folks impressions of using both.
I have a complete Furuno system right now, but it is a bit older NavNet vx2 series stuff. I also have a NavPilot 700 series auto pilot I am hoping to retain and use with whatever I add, although testing so far is not leading to happy results. This may influence which vendor I choose above.
I have done extensive testing with Raymarine in the last 2 years, and know their interface well. The UI and usability is excellent, and integration with things like AIS, radar, and charts are very well done. Their original Quantum radar was good, but I wasn't "over the moon" about it in general. I had a Simrad radar I was testing as well, and it seemed slightly better. Perhaps the Quantum 2 is a bit better with its tracking features? Not sure...
I tested a Garmin 7xxx series unit for about a year in 2016 and it was great as well. I did not have the Garmin radar, so I am operating in the dark on that front. The usability was good, although I think Raymarine's was better. Charts were usual Garmin detailed, and while I appreciate not having to source it from multiple vendors, depending on the day I either like or do not like that particular feature. The newer software updates including more detailed ActiveCaptain integration are nice as well.
I only intend on having one primary chart plotter at the flybridge, and using an iPad remotely at the salon if I want to use the system from there. I've used both the Garmin and Raymarine apps on my iPad, and Garmin clearly has an advantage here because of the ability to do planning and interact with the chart plotter. Raymarine partnered with Navionics, and it works similarly, but that requires another subscription, etc.
So, should I choose Garmin or Raymarine, and why?
Which radar do you prefer? Garmin xHD or Raymarine Q2?
Has anyone used Raymarine or Garmin recent software versions with a Furuno NavPilot 700 series?
I'm inclined to give you the same advice I give everyone, even though I know you have a lot more foundation in this than most people who ask this question. My usual advice is to touch each of the systems you're considering and go with what you find intuitive. I believe the most important attribute of any system is your comfort using it and your ability to get the information from it when you most need it (and that's usually when there's some stress involved).
With your level of technical proficiency you might not find a lot dividing the products from each of the manufacturers. I think all four major MFD manufacturers are making really good products right now that are pretty intuitive and extremely powerful. So, maybe it comes down to features. I haven't had a chance to test it on my own boat, that's coming soon, but I think Raymarine's ClearCruise AR is very cool and that might sway my purchasing decision were I making it right now.
Ben E. is getting ready to do a comparison of the solid state radar domes out there right now. Quantum 2 and Halo 24 have hit the market recently and we haven't had a chance to do a comparison of them. Similar to what I said above I think the current radar units from all of the manufacturers are very good and the differentiators come from things like doppler tracking, the way MARPA is handled other features (not from the core radar performance which is consistently excellent across all manufacturers).
No matter what you buy I don't think you will be disappointed.
I've personally used all 4 major manufacturers very recently, and I prefer the UI and usability of Raymarine and/or Garmin. The others not so much, and that is definitely personal preference. I also look at what each of them has been doing in terms of innovation, design, and roadmaps, and have been consistently happy with Raymarine in the last 2+ years. Hopefully that will continue, as in the past many manufacturers have had spurts of this sort of thing, and then go silent for a number of months/years.
I'm hoping there are others out there who may have had experiences they are willing to share!
I think you are on the right track with Garmin and Raymarine. I would like to point out that the Garmin Fantom 24 should be in the mix. Raymarine has also done a great job with the Lighthouse 3 software. If it was me I would lean in the direction of Raymarine.
Thanks for the suggestion Steve - the Fantom would definitely be the radar I would go with if I were choosing Garmin, not the xHD, that was my mistake.
After doing a bunch of investigation both online, with the vendors on the phone, and on other boats, I am leaning towards Raymarine for a few reasons.
First, their autopilot can be dropped in and re-use the existing pump I have. Garmin is still trying to figure out whether their system will work, among other things. This in particular has been frustrating as Raymarine was able to work with my existing pump specs, and say within a day that their system should work fine with the pump. Garmin has repeatedly pushed me towards purchasing and installing a new pump which makes their system more than double Raymarine's cost-wise.
Second is Raymarine's UI - I'm still a big fan of it, and have written about it a lot. I pulled an older Raymarine es78 unit I had in storage out and upgraded it, and while slow, it still is a nice UI both in the charts, and elsewhere. I got to play around with one of the new 8xxx series Garmin units, and it was pretty nice too, but their overall UI hasn't changed in a long while.
I do like the Garmin radar more than the Raymarine, even with the Quantum 2 features. I think the trail stuff in the Q2 is pretty cool, and I suspect there are some more software things in the mix for both vendors, but Ben should be able to provide more info since he has every radar in the world on his boat right now 😀
I'm hoping to make the final decision in January so I can get started on the install!
Hi Steve,Sorry I'm so late to the party, but while I do actually have a test boat with all four brands of Doppler radomes installed, good days for getting underway in Maine at this time of year are scarce 😉
At any rate, in my so-far-limited testing, the Raymarine Quantum 2 is looking quite good. I think it's quite comparable to Garmin Fantom 24 and Simrad Halo 24 in terms of range, detail, and Doppler-assisted moving target highlighting, though it does lack their simultaneous dual range feature (which Halo does particularly well). On the other hand, Q2 has automatic target tracking, the first I've seen in recreational radar except for Furuno. It only applies to guard zones and it does not seem to be using Doppler to differentiate fixed and moving targets, but it could still be quite useful.
However, Furuno NXT still seems to be the king of solid-state radars, with amazing automatic tracking that sees everywhere (even beyond the range you're using) and almost invariably picks only moving targets and estimates their speed and heading precisely. You'd need a TZT MFD, and they've advanced a great deal since your NavNet vx2 (try TimeZero iBoat app to see what the charting looks like), but the limited TZT sizes may be end-of-story for you. Also, I know that Raymarine and Simrad are working hard to get Furuno NXT like performance out of their Doppler radars, probably Garmin too.
Thanks for the quick update, Ben. Definitely looking forward to more data when you have good weather! We have lots of windstorms this time of the year, so I haven't been off the dock in over a month, which is unusual for me. Hopefully things will calm down in January....
The automatic target tracking is definitely a feature I would be interested in, and wondered how that was looking. I do like the features Raymarine has radar-wise. I also prefer their auto pilot as it is a drop in replacement for the pump and wiring I have in place. Garmin is a bit more difficult to retrofit.
I use TimeZero iBoat and Navionics on the iPad quite a bit - this last year TimeZero iBoat was my go-to app for my longer trips all summer and I have been very pleased with it. I also have two friends that have the Furuno DRS4W wireless radar connected to TimeZero and seem to love it. I played with it a bunch this year as well, and while I like the fact you can have radar on an iPad, the controls and features were extremely limited. I personally would prefer to have a marine-grade MFD + autopilot + radar as my core, and then use the iPad and PC for planning and navigation.
My goal for MFD size is around 12", and I had considered the TZT 14 from Furuno. Unfortunately, I can't justify paying 2x the price for the TZT while getting a similar, if not slightly behind, feature set and capabilities. For sure their radar game is better than anyone else's, but that comes also at a cost, driving the entire cost of the system up far beyond what I would like to spend.
I have the full TimeZero PC suite on a Surface Pro and love it for planning. In fact, if I were to have to choose my favorite tool for planning trips, it would be TZ on the PC, even over Coastal Explorer, Navionics on the iPad, and TimeZero iBoat on the iPad. Underway is a different situation - I find the icons and zooms of TZ on the PC to be inferior to Navionics, whether those charts are displayed by an iPad or MFD. To each their own, though! How things look/feel and can be used is a very personal choice.
Right now my choice is leaning heavily towards Raymarine because of their radar features combined with the ease of installing their autopilot. I'd love to see more from Garmin, but interacting with them has proven to be very slow and time consuming, which is a shame because I think BlueChart g3 is going to be a great new solution for charts.
Steve, I think that Raymarine Axiom/Quantum etc is great gear getting rapidly better, but will note that a 12-inch Furuno TZT2 has stood up to lots of abuse on Gizmo's flying bridge in recent years while being substantially less expensive than a TZT 14.
I recently purchased it and the test DRS4D-NXT from Furuno because I want to keep the NXT as Gizmo's reference radome as I transition from trying to test all four major brands at once to something a bit saner, and also because I want to try TimeZero PC integration in the pilothouse. I agree that the DRS4W wireless radar is quite limited, and nothing like NXT.
PS I have an odd excuse for this late reply. I've been having trouble with getting the "Save" button to work, until I just realized the fix is to scroll this page down until the Save button is almost off screen. Weird! Anyone else?
The TZT2 12" is a good option. I had looked at it originally, but wasn't happy with the autopilot offering. I need to go back to Furuno and find out if the newer NavPilot 300 would work for my size boat as that is a far better option than the older NavPilot 700 series. That is what was on my boat when I purchased it, but had been upgraded over the years with various components and didn't work correctly at all. It also requires direct cabling between all components instead of leveraging NMEA 2000 which I would much prefer.
I definitely like their radar offerings (who wouldn't!) and the TimeZero interface, and their instrument display pages are fantastic. Being able to customize those pages to the level they provide is something I wish all vendors had. I have spent a lot of time on other boats trying to explain to Simrad owners in particular why those pages are so limited, which is a shame, as it doesn't seem like it would be hard to implement.
My original plan had my nice shiny Surface Pro PC running Coastal Explorer or TimeZero either at the main driving station, or just as a planning tool. Perhaps if I went full Furuno, using that as a secondary display at the driving station running TimeZero would be a great way to get more screen space, and making planning a lot easier.
I don't seem to be having any issues with the Add Reply button myself. I'm using my Mac and Chrome on a big screen though...