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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:

  • 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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