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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #1
I've never used radar before, but am planning to install one before we head down the St. Lawrence River next So I ask you:

  • What features are important to those of you who use radar?
  • What technical specs should I key into?
  • What features should I ignore?
  • Are there some brands that are more (or less) reliable?
At this point my main priorities are:
  • Quality/reliability.
  • Good short and medium range effectiveness.
  • Low(ish) power consumption.
  • Ease of use.
  • Cost.
Some of the features which I think are important (but I might be wrong):
  • Chart overlay
  • Multi-speed RPM.
  • Colour.
  • Auto-tracking.
Obviously I'll be doing a lot of research on the various systems. There seems to be a lot of brand-specific verbiage (Broadband, HD, 3G, 4G xHD, digital...). Would appreciate the real-life experience from those of you who use radar.
 

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Old enough to know better
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4,344 Posts
This is a thread I will watch, but are you familiar with Panbo.com? I only fairly recently found it. He has some excellent reviews of different electronics. One thing is do you already have a chart plotter that you want to overlay on? That could be a major consideration.
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #4
This is a thread I will watch, but are you familiar with Panbo.com? I only fairly recently found it. He has some excellent reviews of different electronics. One thing is do you already have a chart plotter that you want to overlay on? That could be a major consideration.
Thanks. I've been reading through the reviews on Panbo.com. Some are more informative than others. I also hate the blog approach ... terrible way to organize information. But I'm reading.

Good question about the plotter. We have a handheld, along with an iPad backup, so will be getting a new one with the radar system. I need a small display that I can house down at the chart table, but am also wondering if I can use a wifi connection to mirror the display on my iPad for cockpit use. There is a nice Garmin package that seems enticing.

SVAuspicious, do you have any specific recommendations for online courses? I'll probably need something like that to get going.
 

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547 Posts
I've never used radar before, but am planning to install one before we head down the St. Lawrence River next So I ask you:

  • What features are important to those of you who use radar?
  • What technical specs should I key into?
  • What features should I ignore?
  • Are there some brands that are more (or less) reliable?
At this point my main priorities are:
  • Quality/reliability.
  • Good short and medium range effectiveness.
  • Low(ish) power consumption.
  • Ease of use.
  • Cost.
Some of the features which I think are important (but I might be wrong):
  • Chart overlay
  • Multi-speed RPM.
  • Colour.
  • Auto-tracking.
Obviously I'll be doing a lot of research on the various systems. There seems to be a lot of brand-specific verbiage (Broadband, HD, 3G, 4G xHD, digital...). Would appreciate the real-life experience from those of you who use radar.
I agree with your main priorities but I don't worry too much about power consumption because I use radar mostly under conditions where I also happen to be motoring. YMMV. That said, the Furuno solid state radar meshes well with your priorities and also has low power consumption. However, I wouldn't get it unless you have/will get a Furuno/Simrad/B&G MFD.

My boat came with an older Raymarine radar and a Garmin MFD. I can tell you that it's far easier to have an integrated system where you can at least view the radar and chart images side by side and, ideally, overlaid. Changing zoom and cursor settings on each, with similar but not identical scales is a PITA. This argues strongly for using the same brand radar as your MFD. I find that auto tracking is also very desireable but have never felt the need to change RPM. The value of color really comes down to how good the system's signal processing is. If the information being coded into color is unreliable or irrelevant, then color is of no use.

I would also suggest that you get either an AIS transponder or at least a receiver if you don't already have one. It's a great complement to radar and the incremental cost is pretty low these days.
 

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Thanks. I've been reading through the reviews on Panbo.com. Some are more informative than others. I also hate the blog approach ... terrible way to organize information. But I'm reading.

Good question about the plotter. We have a handheld, along with an iPad backup, so will be getting a new one with the radar system. I need a small display that I can house down at the chart table, but am also wondering if I can use a wifi connection to mirror the display on my iPad for cockpit use. There is a nice Garmin package that seems enticing.
I believe most if not all the Raymarine MFDs come with the ability to mirror on an iPad via WiFi without any extra equipment. It's not just a display mirror, it lets you use the iPad as a full-fledged MFD. Also, I'd flip your use case and put the daylight-readable & waterproof MFD up in the cockpit and use the iPad down below.
 

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Old enough to know better
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4,344 Posts
Thanks. I've been reading through the reviews on Panbo.com. Some are more informative than others. I also hate the blog approach ... terrible way to organize information. But I'm reading.

Good question about the plotter. We have a handheld, along with an iPad backup, so will be getting a new one with the radar system. I need a small display that I can house down at the chart table, but am also wondering if I can use a wifi connection to mirror the display on my iPad for cockpit use. There is a nice Garmin package that seems enticing.

SVAuspicious, do you have any specific recommendations for online courses? I'll probably need something like that to get going.
Yea, the blog layout works well once you are caught up and want to read what is "latest" but it is not that helpful for research. I have not tried his site for searches, but most blogs search function is basically useless. Seems to make a nice "landing page" but further in it should be better organized.

I also agree that a true MFD is better suited to helm as it is sun light viewable, and water proof. iPad is great down below or as a second display that you can take under the dodger to get away from sun/rain.
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys (gals?). I'm definitely considering the Raymarine options. I've read some negative things about Ray's quality. Garmin seems to get good scores, as does Furuno. What about Sitex?

BTW, I'm not planning to mount a large display in the cockpit. No binnacle in our cockpit (tiller), and no obvious location on the cabin/bulkhead. I may do it in the future, but it's not a critical factor. The handheld does just fine. iPad is a backup, not a primary tool. I fully agree about the difficulty in seeing the damn thing in the sun.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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Mike, if you are going to have AIS as well, it would be very nice to have a permanent, decent-sized display in the cockpit (under the dodger somewhere? remember you will not be steering most of the time). I am a bit of a Luddite but it is best to think of a system approach. We have an older Raymarine display and I was able to interface the AIS to that but could not get a radome to work with it since it everything is digital now. Also, the power consumption of the new digital units is much less than the older CRT ones.
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks Bruce. I have a Standard Horizon VHF/AIS receiver so could tie it into the radar display. I'll be purchasing an antenna and display from the same manufacturer to keep things simple. Agreed, the new systems are way more power efficient than the old. That's the main reason we haven't rushed into getting one before this.
 

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I've never used radar before, but am planning to install one before we head down the St. Lawrence River next So I ask you:
>>snip<<
Obviously I'll be doing a lot of research on the various systems. There seems to be a lot of brand-specific verbiage (Broadband, HD, 3G, 4G xHD, digital...). Would appreciate the real-life experience from those of you who use radar.

Hey Mike. Others will have more to say about Radar I am sure, but I wanted to make a point in regard to your statement about "brand specific verbiage". You can split the "RADAR" systems into two worlds -- Broadband and Traditional Radar (including the new HD radars). Broadband (which to my knowledge is still only sold by the Navico group of companies including Lowrance) is based on entirely different technology. It provides different mounting options (because it doesn't have the same emissions) and it will perform some of the traditional functions (i.e., weather) differently than traditional radars.

I bought a Garmin HD18 to go along with a Garmin 4208 at the helm and a Garmin 441 at the nav station (only partly integrated -- no radar). I have been very happy with that combination. I like Garmin's support (they even explain the other manufacturers stuff and how to integrate it). And, the price point was the best. For me the choice was between Garmins HD system and Lowrance. BBR was pretty much brand new when I made my choice so I went with the Garmin HD system instead. Personally, I ruled out RayMarine because I feel they are overpriced and they don't integrate well with other brands. Others love the RM interface and are very loyal . . . guess it is a personal thing.

Try to get on a friend's boat and play with different systems. I think you have your questions and priorities in order.

Matt
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #13
Hey Mike. Others will have more to say about Radar I am sure, but I wanted to make a point in regard to your statement about "brand specific verbiage". You can split the "RADAR" systems into two worlds -- Broadband and Traditional Radar (including the new HD radars). Broadband (which to my knowledge is still only sold by the Navico group of companies including Lowrance) is based on entirely different technology. It provides different mounting options (because it doesn't have the same emissions) and it will perform some of the traditional functions (i.e., weather) differently than traditional radars....Try to get on a friend's boat and play with different systems. I think you have your questions and priorities in order.
Thanks Matt, that helps a lot. I wish I could play with other set ups. Unfortunately all the boats are put away now (winter is coming up here).

The advertising rhetoric is that broadband (4G) gives better resolution at short ranges, and in fact is able to see things far closer than the pulse HD radars. Conversely, HD systems can supposedly see further and penetrate fog/cloud better. Is this your experience?
 

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Mike -
I don't know enough about BBR to compare / contrast for you. BBR does seem to have impressive close range clarity. However, the HD also works well at close range. For instance, I can make out the boats and fairways at my marina. I was uncertain how BBR would work for weather purposes (identifying precipitation) that was important to me and I never got a satisfactory answer. That is something I would try to get specific info about if I were you. I like my HD18 and use the chart overlay feature you asked about. It works best when the boat is moving since that relative motion allows the system to orient itself. It would be better with a fluxgate compass but that ain't happening ($$$). It sound like Lowrance's product is good (they seem to serve the powerboat market more than sail so maybe check stinkpot boards). However, I really like all of the associated features with Garmin (tides, services, etc). I would check to see that you get similar functionality from whatever system you buy. Luck. . . and have fun spending them boat bucks! Matt
 

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Anyone recently purchase a new radar system? Would love to hear your lessons-learned.
Yes..just had a Garmin package installed..RADAR, AIS, Chart plotter , and console instruments..has every thing that your criteria is looking for and more...

Bottom line it's the installer that will be the limiting factor as there are allot of BS out there..that say they will promise allot and will not deliver or will not get back to you with a question or concern... Go to a reputable marina that installs allot of electronics and will stand behind their installations..not some fly-by-night independent (supposed) electronics expert that hangs his 'shingle' out that hang out on forums all day taunting his expertise...
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #16
Mike -
I don't know enough about BBR to compare / contrast for you. BBR does seem to have impressive close range clarity. However, the HD also works well at close range. For instance, I can make out the boats and fairways at my marina. I was uncertain how BBR would work for weather purposes (identifying precipitation) that was important to me and I never got a satisfactory answer. That is something I would try to get specific info about if I were you. I like my HD18 and use the chart overlay feature you asked about. It works best when the boat is moving since that relative motion allows the system to orient itself. It would be better with a fluxgate compass but that ain't happening ($$$). It sound like Lowrance's product is good (they seem to serve the powerboat market more than sail so maybe check stinkpot boards). However, I really like all of the associated features with Garmin (tides, services, etc). I would check to see that you get similar functionality from whatever system you buy. Luck. . . and have fun spending them boat bucks!
Really good info Matt. I too am trying to sort out the claims from the reality, hence my coming to those of you who are actually using the current set of broadband and HD systems. Your description of seeing boats and fairways in your marina suggests to me that this is more than I need for short-range detail. But I would like to know how these systems work with reading local weather.

Yes..just had a Garmin package installed..RADAR, AIS, Chart plotter , and console instruments..has every thing that your criteria is looking for and more...

Bottom line it's the installer that will be the limiting factor as there are allot of BS out there..that say they will promise allot and will not deliver or will not get back to you with a question or concern... Go to a reputable marina that installs allot of electronics and will stand behind their installations..not some fly-by-night independent (supposed) electronics expert that hangs his 'shingle' out...
Thanks. I've looked at a few Garmin packages and am impressed. I've never been let down with Garmin products -- at least not yet. Unfortunately, I am the installer :eek:. I'll try and avoid giving myself a lot of BS promises ;).
 

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I would like to know how these systems work with reading local weather.

Unfortunately, I am the installer :eek:. I'll try and avoid giving myself a lot of BS promises ;).
I find weather radar to be really useful. It is not a one glance type of thing though. You need to see the targets develop and move. Once you are in the middle of heavy precipitation, it is difficult (maybe impossible but I have not played with all of the sensitivity controls) to see what is happening beyond that weather cell . . . so it is best to watch the system over time in a macro sense. Still, being able to dodge a squall by figuring out its true course or to know that a t-storm which looks scary close and closing on you at night is really 15 miles off . . . are very useful tools.

I did the install myself as well . . . I still have a glitch or two but it was pretty straight forward and Garmin tech support was stellar.
 

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I think the power savings of the broadband radars is a bit of a red herring. I have installed lots of systems and I don't find the Navico packages really draw that much less power "as installed" than other comparable systems. Yes in stand-by there is a good savings but when I run radar, I run radar. Mine takes 60 seconds to warm up and I have never seen the fog move in faster than that...;)

For example I was working on a boat a few weeks ago with a new Simrad NSS system with 4G radar and with the plotter & radar running they were burning up about 3.8A as a pair. Everything else was turned off and this was measured with a high quality extremely accurate DC clamp meter. This boat with broadband radar burned approx 1.2A more than I do with a Garmin system mostly due to the choice in plotter.

On my own boat I am driving a Garmin network expander, a 3200 series plotter and a GMR-18HD radar (I also have one at the nav-desk that is networked if I desire to run it). This package consumes about 2.6A with plotter, network expander and radar running.

When I flip off the radome I drop to 0.9A (network expander and plotter) which means the GMR-18HD dome draws approx 1.7A. The Simrad 4G boat I was working on also drew approx 1.7A for the dome.. Power savings????? Yep, if you run the radar in standby you will save but when I need radar it is spinning. Heck at 1.7A I spin it nearly all the time even in good weather..

The biggest savings in power consumption often comes from which plotter you choose not necessarily the spinning radome..

While walking around the marina I was working in today I did an impromptu radar survey and saved it in the notes app on my phone.. I counted every dome I could see including commercial boats. In Maine this is what this sample survey is choosing, and we nearly invented FOG...;)

Raymarine = 23
Garmin = 27
Furuno = 14
Simrad = 1 (4G Broadband)
JRC = 1

What does this mean? No clue but it took just a few minutes to collect it...
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #19
Thanks MS, that's great info, and I love data ... even when I have no clue what it all means :D.

Those amp measures are great though. I love the idea of lower power usage, but I too think that I'll either be using radar, or I won't. In use, both technologies appear pretty much the same. Waiting a few minutes (in the extreme case) to have the pulse radars warm up doesn't seem like that big a deal to me.

I must admit that I'm leaning to Garmin's xHD packages. I've had good service from my few Garmin products, and I've yet to hear anything negative from others. My plan is to have a modest display at the chart table (I know... it should be in the cockpit... it won't be), and perhaps to mirror the data via wifi to my iThing.
 

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Old soul
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Discussion Starter #20
I find weather radar to be really useful. ... Still, being able to dodge a squall by figuring out its true course or to know that a t-storm which looks scary close and closing on you at night is really 15 miles off . . . are very useful tools.

I did the install myself as well . . . I still have a glitch or two but it was pretty straight forward and Garmin tech support was stellar.
This is all great to hear. There are some Garmin packages that fit the budget, and meet my limited layout needs (I have a small space to install the display). I'm reasonably savvy when it comes to electrical stuff. With a little hand-holding I expect I'll be OK.
 
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