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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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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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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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