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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!