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I've been using my old 3GS iPhone with navionics for navigation also my old Garmin gps map76 as a back up. I'm now considering a larger screen option because I now need glasses to view both. People I talk to have mixed opinions some say Ipad because you can do more than just chart plotting which I totally agree with. Others say chart plotter because everything can network on one unit, radar, sonar, AIS, autopilot and Dsc which I agree with also. After looking at the new Garmin 741 touch screen and pinch to zoom it's obvious that they feeling the pressure to make these more like tablets. Is it possible to network the ipad with all other electronics or is it still in the works, someone has to be working on an app for that?
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I actually use both. Have a dedicated chartplotter at the helm, plus utilise an ipad with Plan2nav app running the nav software. Biggest limitation with the ipad is that it is not waterproof. I have a waterproof bag that I keep it in, however then you cannot connect charges and cables, which means it will only run for 6-8 hours. The ipad is great for zooming in and not needing glasses. However, due to the waterproof issue I only use it as a backup and the chartplotter is the item driving the boat.

Ilenart
 

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I am seeing fewer and fewer reasons to buy a chartplotter with every year that goes by. NMEA capable instruments and AIS can be networked to a tablet with relatively inexpensive wifi multiplexer. I have not had issues with sunlight visibility. Water resistance is not that difficult to accomplish. I just use a ziplock and if I want to plug in just make sure the cord is routed out the bottom with a drip loop. The big advantages to a tablet are free or inexpensive chart updates, non-US chart add-ons are much cheaper, the screen size, and the multitude of other uses the device can have when not sailing. Also the price is a big advantage considering a chartplotter with a 10" screen costs as much as 3 or 4 4G enabled iPad airs. The main shortcoming of a tablet at this point is radar. I believe the only options for getting radar on a tablet are to either buy a wifi enabled chartplotter and link it to the tablet (which defeats the purpose) or to use a windows tablet running OpenCPN with a radar display plugin (which is not officially supported by the radar manufacturers). This can also be gotten around by just using a standalone radar system.
 

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OUPV 25 Ton
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I am seeing fewer and fewer reasons to buy a chartplotter with every year that goes by. NMEA capable instruments and AIS can be networked to a tablet with relatively inexpensive wifi multiplexer. I have not had issues with sunlight visibility. Water resistance is not that difficult to accomplish. I just use a ziplock and if I want to plug in just make sure the cord is routed out the bottom with a drip loop. The big advantages to a tablet are free or inexpensive chart updates, non-US chart add-ons are much cheaper, the screen size, and the multitude of other uses the device can have when not sailing. Also the price is a big advantage considering a chartplotter with a 10" screen costs as much as 3 or 4 4G enabled iPad airs. The main shortcoming of a tablet at this point is radar. I believe the only options for getting radar on a tablet are to either buy a wifi enabled chartplotter and link it to the tablet (which defeats the purpose) or to use a windows tablet running OpenCPN with a radar display plugin (which is not officially supported by the radar manufacturers). This can also be gotten around by just using a standalone radar system.
Ok so how do you get an ipad to recieve NMEA data from an autopilot or AIS and what's a wifi multiplexer?
 

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Love the iPad's overall capabilities aboard. However, a hard wired chartplotter is the most appropriate primary nav tool. That said, I have needed to pull the ipad out when my plotter went belly up.
 

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I started using the iPad (3rd gen, GPS) last season. It's not networked, but was running as a full chart plotter (iNavX running Navionics charts) I bought a fully waterproof protective case, which worked flawlessly. I also have RAM mount bracket that worked with the case.

Our main chart plotter is a Garmin handheld (76CSx).

The iPad worked well. The big screen was definitely nice, and the charts are good. However, the screen is hard to view in bright sun -- direct sun makes it virtually impossible. The other major drawback was battery draw. Running the iPad with a full bright screen (to make it more viable in bright sunlight) while running the GPS sucked the battery down quite fast.

We could work around this most of these issues but what we found over the season was that we used the iPad less and less, and went back to the Garmin. The Garmin is just a better tool as a cockpit GPS chart plotter -- at least for us.

The iPad made a great backup for us. And I can see mounting it at the chart table instead of in the cockpit. This would allow you to plug it into the house battery (via a DC plug), and solve all viewing problems. I am very interested in setting up a wifi network to share NMEA data (AIS, GPS, etc). This is looking increasingly easy. But for us, I found the old handheld to be better for cockpit use.
 

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I use the iPad too. I use iNavx, iSailor, Navionics, WindAlert, BayBuoy, etc. The point is that the convenience of having everything in one place can't be matched with a chart plotter. I'm ambivalent about having the chart plotter in my face at the wheel because I believe that instruments belong where the crew can see them. So I keep the iPad at the chart table and don't worry about water. I too have a bag that I may use outside. What I do find most useful is having an iPhone with the same software in my pocket for navigating harbor entrances.

Since our family uses the iPad on land and on the boat, it's highly versatile and meets the need, even during endurance sailing (30+ hours sailing & racing). I prefer to save the money that I'd spend on a chart plotter and use it on better rigging and sails.
 

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I've been using my old 3GS iPhone with navionics for navigation also my old Garmin gps map76 as a back up. I'm now considering a larger screen option because I now need glasses to view both...
I think that you should keep your gpsmap76 for rainy day use, and for dry conditions consider an iPad, though I'd also encourage you to consider other tablets (Win8, Android) unless you are 100% invested in iOS with your phone. Part of the benefit of using a tablet is the ease with which you can move route, track, and waypoint data between a computer at home (where I do the vast majority of my planning on the nice, big screen) and the tablet that you will use on the boat. IMO, iOS is too closed a system to move the data effectively. Win8 and Android offer you much easier options for sharing data via gpx files, for instance.
And daylight visibility is poor...
I agree that one needs to be careful to select a tablet that his strong backlighting and good gamut. But the brightest ones out there (iPad, Lenovo Miix2 8", Nexus 7) are equal to many turnkey chartplotters that I have seen. You can also purchase matte finish screen protectors, if reflections are a problem for you.

You should also install a 12v socket in your cockpit, so you can run the tablets at full brightness without losing battery life. I wired a 12v pigtail through my steering pedestal, back to my battery.
...the industry generally does a poor job supporting waypoint/route sync between different brands / applications.
I have had no problem transferring things between Android, Windows, and my Garmin handheld via gpx file format. I've also succeeded at transferring NMEA data via RS232, USB, Bluetooth, and WiFi.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to transfer any data in/out of my iPad. What I do in iPad, stays in iPad. Maybe other software would do better, but I moved on to more flexible options.
I am seeing fewer and fewer reasons to buy a chartplotter with every year that goes by...
I agree. Phones and tablets could make chartplotters obsolete just like they have done for dedicated car GPSs.
...AIS can be networked to a tablet with relatively inexpensive wifi multiplexer...
I would be interested in what mux you use. All of the ones that I have seen are pricey. I'd like to consider one if it's at the right price. Brookhouse's website has no price list, and my emailed request for quote has gone unanswered for over 6 weeks.

Up to now, I have avoided this issue by sending each instrument signal to my computer separately via multiple COM ports. USB/Serial converters are dirt cheap, so you can do a lot of them for very little money. Bluetooth/Serial converters (which I use) are a little more expensive.

These inexpensive options are vastly greater working with a Windows laptop, netbook, or tablet, because all the chartplotter software supports data inputs via emulated COM port. Most also support WiFi. iOS (iPad) severely restricts your options for this.
...The big advantages to a tablet are free or inexpensive chart updates, non-US chart add-ons are much cheaper, the screen size, and the multitude of other uses the device can have when not sailing. Also the price is a big advantage considering a chartplotter with a 10" screen costs as much as 3 or 4 4G enabled iPad airs...
SO TRUE. For US sailors, I also like the ability to use real NOAA charts, downloaded directly from NOAA's website, and updated for free as often as you want. This eliminates the delays and costs in updating proprietary chartplotters, and also the transcription errors when the chartplotter company copies over NOAA's information.
...I believe the only options for getting radar on a tablet are to either buy a wifi enabled chartplotter and link it to the tablet (which defeats the purpose) or to use a windows tablet running OpenCPN with a radar display plugin (which is not officially supported by the radar manufacturers)...
More and more I am hearing "that can only be done by using OpenCPN." That software just gets better and better, and has totally displaced Garmin HomePort and iPad Bluecharts for planning trips. And it's totally free! It is so nice to fire up OpenCPN on my big-screen home computer for planning, and transfer the routes to my tablet running OpenCPN in the cockpit. I also transfer them to the Garmin handheld, so I have the exact same routes on everything. And it's nice to know that my routes on the handheld were actually plotted using NOAA's charts - that eliminates most of the concerns that I have over Garmin's inaccuracies in their charts.
Ok so how do you get an ipad to recieve NMEA data from an autopilot or AIS and what's a wifi multiplexer?
Actually, you want to send data from the chartplotter to the autopilot, not from AP to tablet. The AP can use incoming route, location, and speed information to steer the boat.

The WiFi mux is about the only way to get the data into the iPad. For Windows or Android, you can get data in/out via Bluetooth. For Windows, you could do it by USB, as I described above (maybe Android too, not sure about driver support). The older NMEA 0183 standard is very easy to do on Windows, because it aligns very well with the old RS232 COM ports that Windows/DOC have supported for 30 years. Windows has adapted to USB and Bluetooth by emulating COM in the OS, which takes a lot of the headaches out of it.
 
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I also wanted to share some pics of the RAM mount setup that I have in my cockpit. First, this pic shows the 10" netbook that I have used for the past 3 years. You can see the Garmin handheld also there, always running and recording my tracks. But because the netbook shows AIS output, and I always have a lot of large ships around, I pretty much use the computer display exclusively:



One of the benefits of a Windowing environment is that you can run the chartplotter program twice, with different areas showing, or the same area at different zoom levels. iPads, Androids, and most turnkey chartplotters cannot do this:



Here is my brand new tablet, on my still-covered boat. It's brighter than my netbook (which was already plenty bright for outdoor use), longer battery life, higher resolution, more compact, and easier to waterproof if I need to. You'll note in the pictures that I can also orient it in portrait or landscape mode, depending whether I want longer range to the sides or to the front/back. Also, the RAM mount will pivot 360 degrees around the base, so I can aim the tablet at me no matter where I am sitting in the cockpit. It interfaces with the navigation equipment via Bluetooth, just like my netbook did:





 

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One of the benefits of a Windowing environment is that you can run the chartplotter program twice, with different areas showing, or the same area at different zoom levels. No turnkey chartplotter, or even an iPad or Android, can do this
Raymarine Lighthouse does it on my e7d. You can run two "apps" side by side, or the same "app" twice, or run any of them full screen.

Here is an example (from the helpful panbo blog) showing ENC and RNC charts next to each other, but you don't have to mix and match:


With the larger than 7" plotters you can run up to 4 apps. This is also from panbo, showing 3 apps:


I normally run my plotter with charts on the left and data on the right, but sometimes do full screen charts or charts on the left and sonar on the right.

Raymarine also (finally) uses GPX files for waypoints, tracks, and routes, so you can use your favorite planning software at home. Previously you had to convert to their proprietary format.

I have yet to see an iPad (or PC) based solution that works as well in the sunlight, is waterproof when plugged in, and with NMEA 2000 integration for less money than a nice plotter. My plotter gets a lot brighter than the iPad Air, Nexus 7 (either version) or Dell Venue 8 Pro, all of which I have. NMEA 0183 has lower data rates than NMEA 2000 which is annoying in more complex networks, especially if you want to capture speed changes during wind shifts. I like having two displays in the cockpit, a data display near the companionway that can be seen from anywhere and which shows wind and speed, and a plotter by the helm for navigation.
 

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Good points, thanks for correcting me. I overstated my claim when I said "no turnkey plotter..." Clearly the companies are feeling the competition and adding features.

I'm not interested in misleading people with incorrect facts, so I apologize for the sloppiness of that statement.

I've done my system very inexpensively, but it has taken some (a lot) of configuring. However, after the initial effort it has been reliable. However, a "turnkey" system will probably be easier to configure for many users. I do believe that it comes at a greater cost, though, especially with tablets getting so much better and so much cheaper at a very fast rate.

I considered the Venue 8 Pro for my system, but the Miix2 8" had a 40% brighter screen (534 vs 377 lux, laptopmag.com and confirmed in person at my local Microsoft Store). The Miix2 also has an internal GPS, which the Venue 8 Pro lacks. On my boat, the Miix gets GPS (and AIS) from Bluetooth, but on other boats I can activate the internal GPS for the chartplotter app.
 

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Yes, I wouldn't recommend the Dell Venue 8 Pro as a plotter tablet either. I use it at work, not on the boat. At $200 (a frequent sale price) it is much cheaper than the other Windows 8.1 tablets, and so far the Dell, Lenovo, and ASUS have all used similar hardware.

For a cheap boat tablet with basic GPS/plotting features and nothing else I'd recommend the Nexus 7. It has a built in GPS, a used 2012 version can be had for under $150, and Navionics "phone" version is $15 for full charts for the US and Canada and runs well on them (you don't need the $50 tablet version). It has a built in GPS. When you upgrade to a full plotter you can use this as a remote display (a feature found on all major plotters these days).

I believe that most 7" and larger plotters will allow you to run multiple "apps" side by side.

Edit: From a quick scan it looks like the screen brightness on the e7 is 1000 cd/m^2, which is the same as 1000 lux measured at 1 meter. That's a big jump from 534 on your Miix, 411 on the iPad Air, or 531 on the Nexus 7.
 

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Yes, I wouldn't recommend the Dell Venue 8 Pro as a plotter tablet either. I use it at work, not on the boat.

For a cheap boat tablet with basic GPS/plotting features and nothing else I'd recommend the Nexus 7. It has a built in GPS, a used 2012 version can be had for under $150, and Navionics "phone" version is $15 for full charts for the US and Canada and runs well on them (you don't need the $50 tablet version). It has a built in GPS. When you upgrade to a full plotter you can use this as a remote display (a feature found on all major plotters these days)...
Yes, I've been tempted to buy the Navionics app for my Android phone, and have read the comments that the phone version works great on the 7" tablets. The Nexus 7/Navionics is a great combination that gives everything a handheld GPS does with a much bigger screen for less money. I'm not sure, but I do think that the 2013 version of Nexus 7 may have a brighter screen than the 2012 version.

I am very partial toward OpenCPN (Windows/Linux/Mac), but I agree that N7/Navionics is a great low-cost option.
 

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Edit: From a quick scan it looks like the screen brightness on the e7 is 1000 cd/m^2, which is the same as 1000 lux measured at 1 meter. That's a big jump from 534 on your Miix, 411 on the iPad Air, or 531 on the Nexus 7.
Yes, for at least $1000 more than the Miix or N7.

When comparing lux measurements, I try to only use numbers from one source, since measurement methodology can affect the results so much. Too bad laptopmag.com doesn't measure chartplotters.
 

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Laptop Mag doesn't seem to have a page describing how they are measuring, which makes it harder for me to trust them too. It would be nice to have a good comparison, but I don't see one online.

How do you plan on making your Miix waterproof and providing power to it? There are few waterproof cases for tablets that allow you to power the tablet while keeping it waterproof.

The e7 is a bit spendy (I bought mine for $1200), but the a75 has the same basic feature set (minus hard buttons) for under $1000. This makes it pretty comparable to the iPad once you add mounting hardware, GPS, and waterproofing. It is probably cheaper than the iPad once you add NMEA to all of those features. The Raymarine a65 is even cheaper ($620 at West Marine), but drops to a smaller 6" screen.

Personally I like having the hard buttons on the e7, they work a lot better than any touch screen when wearing the thick lined fishing gloves that I use while sailing in the winter.
 

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How We Test Laptops for Review- LaptopMag.com

I sail in a flatwater river, so the cockpit always stays dry. The ~one day a year that I get caught in the rain, I move the computer down below (I have a RAM mount down there) and either steer from the companionway with remote (where I can see the computer mounted down below), or use the the waterproof handheld GPS from the helm. But for this new tablet, I have an e-reader pouch made by Travelon that I might use too.

Power is simple. I have a 12v supply coming out of my pedestal. My netbook battery was dying last season, so I used it all the time. Most of my daysails are ~4 hours, so I expect the new tablet battery to last without charging. For longer cruises, I would plug a USB adapter into that, and power the tablet with a micro-USB cable.

We all sail in different conditions, and for different durations, so I realize that something that's good enough for a trifty fair weather daysailor may not be good enough for others.
 

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Ah, I sail in Puget Sound and need to have electronics that can handle getting doused by salt water. In high winds it isn't uncommon to have salt spray coming across the cockpit, and the touchscreen on my plotter often gets salt marks on it. This is a photo that a friend took when sailing here a couple of weeks ago in ~30 knot winds (when wind waves will be 3-4 feet):


That isn't our normal sailing, but it's what I expect my cockpit instruments to handle.

USB cables and power adapters are also not built for this type of exposure, and it doesn't look like your e-reader pouch can pass battery power through while staying waterproof.

Thanks for the link to laptopmag's blog post, I hadn't found it. It doesn't state why they switched from measuring nits to lux though.
 

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The "Frogsuit" wetsuit for Ipads will soon be available. Consider this to be a shameless plug for my new product. We have made them for both the ipad and Ipad mini. Only flaw we found was we had the lens opening too small. AT this time, we have not yet made the electrical feedthrus for connections but that is coming soon. I'll post some pics from my office computer tomorrow.
 

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I have a Comar NMEA-2-WiFi multiplexer. I believe I paid a little over $200. It's similar to the Brookhouse unit but was cheaper. I went to the website of Comar's US distributor (Milltech Marine) and didn't find it so it may have been discontinued. For better or worse, it seems a lot of NMEA 0183 based gear is quickly disappearing. I might be willing to sell my Comar unit if anyone is interested as I'm actually considering going to NMEA 2000.

As for OpenCPN, I agree that it's a great program and has some amazing capabilities for the price. My only issue with it is that it's not completely straightforward as to how to get up-to-date charts for non-US waters. I see that as a general downside to PC-based solutions as the landscape for non-US charting seems to be fairly confusing unless you're willing to spend a lot of money.

I keep harping on charting because I feel it's an area where tablet based solutions have a ridiculously large but often unacknowledged advantage, especially for those who would want non-US charts. App prices for chart regions range from $20 to usually not more than $50. Compare that to chartplotter chips where the same regions can be $150-200 per. Most apps allow access to the chart for the life of the device and beyond, and provide chart updates at no additional cost. A chart chip for a chartplotter must be repurchased to receive any updates. For people sailing in only US waters, this is not a huge issue if they buy a preloaded plotter, but if you're going to cruise out of the country the costs of all the chips can become astronomical. Tablet charts can theoretically receive updates whenever they get an internet connection while I'd bet that most boaters never update their chartplotters after the initial purchase. Tablets also at this point are much better for taking advantaged of crowdsourced knowledge, which can be hugely helpful and I believe will be a large part of the future of navigation.
 
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