Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 14 Old 04-20-2015 Thread Starter
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Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

I'm going to be sailing a Merit 25 solo on Lake Michigan this summer. I am looking for a handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400. Would be nice if it was waterproof (not sure if that is the norm now). Im also thinking about getting a AquaLink™ View PLB Model Number: PLB-350C / Part Number 2884 (maybe it would be more appropriate to start an additional thread about the PLB)
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post #2 of 14 Old 04-21-2015
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Ahoy,
While underway we consult our Galaxy phone which has Navionics charts for the Great Lakes and Canada. It was chosen because we like the display, it runs the course line to your destination and thereby shows how far you are off course. It also has NautiCharts lite loaded as that displays Active Captain info. We also have a copy of MXmariner which has a specific download for you in Lake Michigan, (Region_13). It also interfaces to Active Captain. MX also displays actual NOAA charts which may be more familiar looking to you.The phone also has a copy of BoatLogger which is useful to track fuel consumption (or Beer if reqd). MobilGrib which displays the weather parameters. The phone has a copy of mAIS which when in a WiFi area reports your position to Marine Traffic, this does not track you across the lake but when you dock in say Goderich it will report your position so Mom knows you got there. Then there is Marine Traffic itself which we study before we leave the dock so we kinda know the name of the freighter that is about to run us down once we are underway. We round out the set with Marine Weather by AcuWeather which for us is marginal since it doesn't have any Canadian stations displayed. The WeatherBug does however so it gets more use on Lake Ontario

Down below we run a Lenova Thinkpad (aka IBM) purchased war surplus on Ebay, actually we have two, one on a Landfall 38 out of Annapolis and one out of Niagara. Price of these babies on EBay is less than $400 and they are very powerful as opposed to a chart plotter. Used for route planning they have large displays and battery operation (although we run them off the ships house bank). They are loaded with Navigatrix (linux based) operating systems and have OpenCPN as the base chart system. They also duplicate all the software on the Galaxy and many more applications as well. Google Navigatrix and read it over.

Try duplicating the above features on a chartplotter. Actually of starting over I would replace the Galaxy phone with a Nexus 9 and that would probably cover all your requirements. Slightly more than $400 new but could be found cheaper used on Amazon......

Oh and first determine the applications you want to run, and THEN pick the hardware to match. Not the other way around as so often is the case with the user community.... (Computer bigot lecturing).

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Last edited by FDR14127; 04-21-2015 at 01:34 PM. Reason: Additional comment
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post #3 of 14 Old 04-21-2015 Thread Starter
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Thanks for all the info

I was thinking some type of handheld garmin or something for the ability to be sailing solo and quickly be able to look at something and not have to worry about making sure the screen was dry so the touch screen works properly or worrying about the gps capabilities of a tablet or durability/waterproofing (i know there any probably many options for tablet cases)

I am interested in the nexus idea though. Are tablets gps capabilities comparable to other more dedicated systems? You get good gps signal anywhere you think a dedicated system would?

Navionics charts you use the 14.99$ us and canada app?

How about battery life? My boat doesnt have a generator or any batteries for electronics other than running lights/speedo. would it be a good idea to get some kind of portable usb charger battery as a back up power source?

#smallplanet

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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Yes we are using the $15 Navionics app, and we also have another that we used between Guadeloupe and Dominica. On that trip the Galaxy was brighter and easier to use than the Raymarine plotter which was installed on only one steering station on the boat. It proved to be harder to see in the bright sunshine and if you were sailing from the port side, you had to move over to the starboard wheel to see the plotter. No big deal but.....
The GPS capabilities of the phone and tablet far exceed the builtin Garmin on the C&C29, as there are several GPS utilities to track satellites and performance. (Yes they can also be run for the Garmin via the Thinkpad and are also installed on Navigatrix). But without the added software programs you really don't know the validity of what the Tacktik Micronet is showing you on the bulkhead display. (not that I ever found it to be wrong). Our Garmin is sourced from the trucking industry.
As for battery life, the Galaxy is installed in a mophie supplemental battery extender. This gives us 24 hour usage, but it's primary benefit is that it serves as a phone protector. We have dropped the phone several times and the mophie has cracks and chips but the phone survives unscathed. Cockpit decks are unforgiving. I could make the case for an Otterbox for the tablet for the same reason, more important than the waterproof capabilities.

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post #5 of 14 Old 04-21-2015
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

I happen to like the dedicated GPS units - less complexity but more dependable IMHO.
There are some Garmin models that are closer to $200 which would probably be more than adequate for your purposes.
https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/cOnT...dhelds-p1.html

These often can be found on eBay as well.

My experience with using Navionics software on a tablet tells me it is much more complex than a dedicated GPS unit. The android needs a wifi signal to work, which means that you need a cell phone with a large data plan & you need to be within range of a cell tower.
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Last edited by CalebD; 04-21-2015 at 05:34 PM.
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post #6 of 14 Old 04-21-2015 Thread Starter
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FDR14127 View Post
Yes we are using the $15 Navionics app, and we also have another that we used between Guadeloupe and Dominica. On that trip the Galaxy was brighter and easier to use than the Raymarine plotter which was installed on only one steering station on the boat. It proved to be harder to see in the bright sunshine and if you were sailing from the port side, you had to move over to the starboard wheel to see the plotter. No big deal but.....
The GPS capabilities of the phone and tablet far exceed the builtin Garmin on the C&C29, as there are several GPS utilities to track satellites and performance. (Yes they can also be run for the Garmin via the Thinkpad and are also installed on Navigatrix). But without the added software programs you really don't know the validity of what the Tacktik Micronet is showing you on the bulkhead display. (not that I ever found it to be wrong). Our Garmin is sourced from the trucking industry.
As for battery life, the Galaxy is installed in a mophie supplemental battery extender. This gives us 24 hour usage, but it's primary benefit is that it serves as a phone protector. We have dropped the phone several times and the mophie has cracks and chips but the phone survives unscathed. Cockpit decks are unforgiving. I could make the case for an Otterbox for the tablet for the same reason, more important than the waterproof capabilities.
This is all very interesting because I like the idea of using a tablet and if it can be better than a small handheld and as usable and reliable as a very expensive large screen chartplotter that sounds great to me.

So I have an iphone, maybe I will get the app on there and then purchase a nexus 9 and get the app on there too.

#smallplanet

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post #7 of 14 Old 04-21-2015 Thread Starter
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Quote:
Originally Posted by CalebD View Post
I happen to like the dedicated GPS units - less complexity but more dependable IMHO.
There are some Garmin models that are closer to $200 which would probably be more than adequate for your purposes.
https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/cOnT...dhelds-p1.html

These often can be found on eBay as well.

My experience with using Navionics software on a tablet tells me it is much more complex than a dedicated GPS unit. The android needs a wifi signal to work, which means that you need a cell phone with a large data plan & you need to be within range of a cell tower.
The android phone and/or the android tablet needs wifi/data streaming to work? What makes the Navionics software on a tablet complex (i have never used it)? It seems like it would be fairly simple with pinch zoom and drag to reposition the view.

#smallplanet

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"Two little mice fell into a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned, but the second mouse, he struggled so hard that he eventually churned that cream into butter and he walked out. Amen." --- Frank Abagnale Jr. after he was asked to say grace
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Well a good Tablet or cell phone should work fine. They do get a quicker fix on your location if they have a wifi/cell phone connection but will get a fix without as well. It sometimes takes a few cycles through the GPS cycle to get a good location though. I do think they really should be secondary to a dedicated GPS though as they do tend to be bit more flaky, and batteries can run out at the worst time. The handheld GPS often uses AA and if they do run out you swap in another set.

One other thing the handhelds can do is connect to a laptop and you can run open CPN on that to get more functionality for free if you have an old laptop laying around. Open CPN will run on quite antiquated hardware and will run on Windows or Linux. I think there is an Mac version as well but I have no experience. I have played with the Linux version as well as the Windows. I use a GPS puck on mine.

If you want to use an iPad though you need the one that can get cell phone service, or else you will need a Bluetooth (or other compatible) GPS unit. You don't need the data service it is just that the GPS chip is bundled with the cell phone chip-set, and either not there, or deactivated on the WiFi models. (I have not taken one apart to see if the chip-set is there or not)
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post #9 of 14 Old 04-21-2015
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

Hey,

I like a real GPS for use in the cockpit. I have had a few garmin units, the last one was a GPSMAP 78. It worked great until the boat I was on suffered a knock down during a bad spinnaker gybe. When we got the boat straightened out the GPS was gone.

Anyway, IMHO the GPS has a number of benefits over a phone / tablet:
-Waterproof (without a case)
-Better battery life (12+ hours on rechargeable AA batteries)
-Faster screen update
-Customizable screens

This is compared to the Navimatics Chart and Tides app on an iPhone. Comparing the Garmin unit to my phone running Navimatics, the garmin unit allows me to create and then navigate a route, display various data fields, and is otherwise easy to use.

The GPSmap 78 is pretty cheap, under $200.

I will prob buy another one this year.

Barry
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post #10 of 14 Old 04-22-2015
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Re: Best handheld GPS/Chartplotter under $400?

I'm with Barry. Get a handheld marine GPS. A phone or tablet is fine as a backup, but not as a primary IMO.
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