Join Date: Jun 2003
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Just got back from a week shakedown cruise. Replaced my Garmin 162 with a Raymarine 530. The 162 is wonderful for its price--monochrome and about 3" screen and only about $400. Good built-in chart and you can download Bluecharts to it, but not much memory in the box, so only a small geographic area can be downloaded at one time.
The 530 is excellent--color, 7", with twice the resolution (in each axis--for a 4x improvement in pixel count) than many comparable units. So the clarity on the screen is wonderful. Couple quirks--no GPS built in, so you need the Raystar 120 or Garmin 17N external GPS (I used the Garmin 17N for about $170 and it does a wonderful job--NMEA interface to the 530 couldn''t be easier).
Another neat feature is that a similar Raymarine radar can also be hooked to the system, which I did. The radar display sits at the nav station. One wire goes from the radar to the 530 at the helm. On the 530, I can switch from chartplotter to radar (a mirror of the nav station), or even display both at once on a split-screen. Dynamite to see both the chart and the radar display at the same time. OTOH the chartplotter has all the radar controls as well, so it can get complex. I have the 530 interfaced to the autopilot, also by NMEA interface, and that works very well also.
Comparing the Garmin to the Raymarine, some things are easier on one, some on the other. Pays your money and takes your choice. Both are good. Much easier, IMHO, if you get off course in a route to hit one button to reset the XTE on the 530 than to try to reset the Garmin. The Garmin is better at positioning the "boat" symbol at the bottom of the display, rather than at the middle. The 530 has a quirk that power off means than it reverts to "north up" rather than "course up"--luckily I really prefer north-up from years of looking at paper charts. Both are excellent units, and I don''t think you could go wrong with either. Garmin''s higher end units should be wonderful also.
The C-Map are excellent. No replacement for having paper charts, but I do like them. Neatest thing in the world is that 2 chips for about $400-500 (at discount) and you have all charts from SW Florida to Keys to Bahamas through the entire Caribbean. No downloading--just put the 2 chips in the chartplotter and you are good to go. I also have 2 slots in the Radar and I suspect they are usable also, though I haven''t tried.
Good luck in your selection. Its lots of fun.