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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Discussion Starter · #22 ·
The other problem is that installers & DIY's generally don't break out radar & plotter & N2K separately, on separate breakers, and instead lump them all on the same breaker. This, IMHO, is a disservice.
Great tip MS. I may not have considered this until after installing. I tend to learn everything the hard way ;). Any other common mistakes people make when buying or installing?
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
One often overlooked component is the usability and intuativeness of the controls. Do you like knobs or buttons? Track pointers or other ways to interface. Do you like a lot of menu options up front, or prefer sub-menus?

I didn't use my radar all the time on my last boat.
Good point, and good question Med. We are both reasonable tech-savvy, but I still want something easy to use and intuitive. I would love to get some real functional time on various systems, and if I'd been smarter I would have found a way before now. Unfortunately there's no chandleries up where I live, so I have to rely on visuals and reviews.

I can swing both ways with touch screen or nobs. I am concerned about the functionality of touchscreen in wet and cold conditions, but I plan to mount the display at my chart table anyway, so that shouldn't be an issue. Good to hear RM and Garmin are intuitive. Any other reviews?

Why go fast, when you can go slow
 
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