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I’m going to be a person who rains on this parade. sorry! The major problem with iPads, tablets, smart phones is it’s really hard to see the screen in the bright sunlight and they tend to overheat when used this way. It will need constant charging too. I have Navionics loade iPhone which I use as backup and it is wonderful! As others say it will need to be in a case which may decrease its functionality.

It’s better to know before you buy...

Tod
I don't know about iPads, but my cheap Samsung Galaxy TabA is easy to read un bright sunlight. I did have it overheat once after it was left out in the hot sun while at the dock, and it came back once it cooled off in the shade. I also had the same thing happen to my Garmin mounted gps on my last boat. I have never heard of rugged cases affecting the functionality of a tablet or phone in any way.


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I would vote for the more rugged and waterproof small plotter. These are designed for outdoor use in rain and spray, in direct sunlight.
Looking around the web a bit it looks like one can find a Lowrance 5" or 7" for $500. or less sometimes. Good company with solid products.
 

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I would vote for the more rugged and waterproof small plotter. These are designed for outdoor use in rain and spray, in direct sunlight.
Looking around the web a bit it looks like one can find a Lowrance 5" or 7" for $500. or less sometimes. Good company with solid products.
Don't forget, on top of the purchase price of a lot of chart plotters you also have to purchase the charts for your region.

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I like my Garmin Echomap 94SV mounted on a swing out mount. It's got charts for the entire US included. Originally was going to get a 7" screen Garmin but got a deal I couldn't refuse on the 9" for less than $600. Previously had the 5" version but wanted more space for split screening. It worked fine for a 500 mile delivery, though. My other boat has a Garmin 3206 on a swing out mount. This is a really old unit but still works fine and got me to Hawaii. These units are old style with button controls for navigation around the screen and functions. Tried the touch screen models bet they left me swearing at them. With the motion of the boat and/or water on the screen couldn't reliably input commands.

The swing out mount lets me read the display from inside the boat as well as outside. In bright sunlight can slide the companionway hatch closed and get a really clear view of the screen. Something I really appreciated on a long passage where the sun was directly on the screen for hours every day.
 

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Hello,

Personally I prefer a fix mounted, large screen plotter. I have an IPhone that I use, as well as a small Garmin hand held. I have an IPad but I almost never use that for navigation. I do use the IPad and phone for planning, but rarely for navigation.

IMHO, the cost of a good plotter is way less than the cost a modern phone. You never have to worry about the plotter running out of battery power, you can read it in sunlight, or darkness (without being too bright), or water damage, etc.

Some things for you to consider:
1. Do you want to have an integrated fish finder / depth sounder? Many units come with the ability to receive SONAR data from a transducer. At a minimum this provides water depth. Most units allow you to determine the bottom type which can help with anchoring.
2. Do you want to integrate other electronics, like wind data, speed through water, autopilot, AIS, DSC, etc.? This is easy with most modern plotters. It can be done with tablets and phones but it's not as easy.
3. Do you have any other electronics where keeping the same brand would be helpful?
4. Do you race or any other specific needs or wants?
5. Do you have a preference over touch screen, real keys, or both?

Personally I have owned or used plotter from Garmin, Lowrance, Raymarine, and B&G. In reality they are all good and mostly have the same functions. My personal favorite is B&G. B&G plotters have sailing specific functions that I find helpful. It's true that Garmin and Raymarine have similar functions but B&G had it first and IMHO works better.

For under your $1000 price you can have a B&G Vulcan 7 with Navionics charts. This is a fully featured plotter with built in WIFI, free SW that allows you to control the plotter from your phone or tablet. It includes integration with SONAR transducers (and you get one that works well for about $100).

There are 5" units that are less expensive, as well as 7" and 9" units that cost more.

Again, IMHO I would only buy a plotter that used the NMEA2000 interface.

Can you go to a west marine and play around with the display units? That's a nice way to check them out.
 

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Home water is the Chesapeake and it is well marked. Still have paper charts for our cruising area and others there but had to download a navigation app onto my phone when we purchased Interlude and were getting ready to slip lines departing for her new home port a couple days away. We realized all the charts aboard were for the Northern Bay and we were heading south. It worked like a charm. Got an iPad eventually to allow for two sources and a larger screen. It also can serve as my internet connection when available unlike a dedicated plotter. The minuses are heavy rain WILL change your touch screen for ya if not careful and bright sunlight while wearing polarized sunglasses make for a less than spectacular view! It also is necessary to have charging available in use as the apps and daytime needing a bright screen will take the charge down fast. Still like them though. Guess both a fixed and tablet combination would give you the best of both worlds but if only one I'd go with the phone and tablet with paper chart backup. Less stuff left on board, and both phone and tablet are clearly useful other places than a boat.
 

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The two don’t really compare for us, though we have a MFD , I pad and I phone

Our MFD runs off of the boats electricity so no down time to charge or worry. Sun doesn’t ever affect its visibility nor do we worry about moisture. It’s certainly more robust. Lastly though you may not use it, it also displays depth from depth finder, wind data and most importantly you can lay the boats radar over the plotter.

You may not use radar, but we do on occasion, and we also are in the Chessie. It’s great for night use and fog as well as areas there are lots of ships with no channels ( not marked ) which means below the Bay Bridge to Norfolk.

I like the portability of the iPad, that’s why we have both and also like that it’s blue tooth connectable to the plotter.

Have the internet isn’t necessary with the plotter.

For someone just getting used to electronics a pad is sufficient. The prices are somewhat similar now.
 

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Yeah, I do sorta like the sounds of this better. The Garmin ECHOMAP, which Tempest mentioned, looks pretty good.

Good to know I could also get this Navionics app on my MacBook for easy use at the chart table.
You could also get the open source free openCPN and charts if you’re using it at the chart table on a MacBook.

For the cockpit, personally I have used an iPad with iSailor, also on an iPhone, for several years. I use a cover for it t hat mounts to the pedestal. The only issue I’ve had is with it being in the sun and getting overheated. I Use a battery to keep it powered on long days. That not only gives me position and charted information, it also provides tides, speed, weather and AIS.

Thinking of putting together the openplotter/Raspberry PI/Daisy set up in the boat this year with a multiplexer to send the info to other devices I have the Pi, working on bettering openpolotter up and running and then will get the Daisy (AIS/GPS). The most expensive part of this process would be a display but I already have that in the boat and I can use the iPad as a display in the cockpit.
 

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My answer is driven by how and where I sit when sailing.

My first in cockpit chartplotter was a small garmin iQue3600. It lived on the coachroof, under the dodger to port of the companionway. My fixed mount was below decks.. so I couldn't see the screen nor the radar. It is a MFD. It sends data to 4x4 cockpit dash displays.

The only time I am at the helm is when I and going very slow... to and off a dock or a mooring or anchoring.

My AP control is to port in the front of the cockpit.... and that's my "driving" location.
When it gets nasty I sit in the companionway completely under the dodger.

I picked up a B&G Zeus T7 fixed mount and used the bulkhead bracket bolted to z 5x8x5/8 alum bar which fits into a almost never used coach roof winch port of the companionway. Zeus has an on board antenna.

I rarely use a way point and when I do it's only to know the course to it at any given time... and things like arrival time or TTG. What I do use is the HEADING line which is telling me where the boat is pointing and the COURSE line where the boat is actually heading. I adjust the AP accordingly. This and the wind data informed me when and where to tack or gybe. No radar in the cockpit or AIS.

I will upgrade to an N2K and then radar and AIS will be on the "portable" winch mounted plotter.

I find this plotter location works for how I sail and the design of the boat. A helm/pod mounted instrument will never be looked at. ( I know some rotate). But I like to face the direction the boat is going while viewing the plotter.
 

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If you have an ipad add the software and give it a try. If you are looking to buy a GPS get a handheld Garmin 76 or a Garmin 541 or something newer. An Ipad is a multi use tool but a marine specific GPS will be more reliable and work better in terms of durability waterproofness and visibility.
 

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If you have an ipad add the software and give it a try. If you are looking to buy a GPS get a handheld Garmin 76 or a Garmin 541 or something newer. An Ipad is a multi use tool but a marine specific GPS will be more reliable and work better in terms of durability waterproofness and visibility.
If your need is basic... see your boat on a chart, plus a few more features... a hand held device works. Fixed mount plotters are MFDs and display, juggle/compute way more data... and the user interface is often better on fixed mount MFDs.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
Thanks for all your inputs, guys. Lots to think about. I'll prob get Navionics for my MacBook for work at the chart table, and perhaps a mounted unit, though I'm still unsure.
 

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Biggest issue with ipad/iphone/... is display readability in bright sunlight for detail. I have 4 forms of nav.. paper, iphone/pad, garmin 9007, Garmin SV93 in the cockpit. I have used the B&G and I have to agree that there are many sailor friendly features that are not present on the Garmin. It has a pretty high learning curve, where the Garmin is very easy to learn. You almost say "am I missing something?"

Think about futures, some will not support radar, some will not support sonar. Not sure if that is a factor.

Don't buy, until you try.
-Luci
 

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Earlier, somebody said they had no problems using a relatively inexpensive Tab A in sunlight.
Thats also been my experience
Very easy to use..moves with me
And i have 2 plotters
 

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Navionics was updated last year. You now need a subscription to download maps. Without a downloaded map, the resolution is terrible. It's usable if all you need to do is to get to/from a port. But the bathymetry lines have like 0.2 nautical mile resolution, and the coastlines are so low res I usually can't recognize them anymore. Fortunately I downloaded an installer for the previous version when I was trying to install it on an Amazon Kindle HD (Navionics Boating HD wasn't available in the Amazon app store). So far it and downloading maps has continued to work without a subscription. It auto-updates every couple months to the crippled subscription version, and I have to revert it to the old version. But obviously that's not a problem when I'm out on the water.

If you're thinking of using an iPad with Navionics (or other navigation software), be forewarned. The WiFi-only iPads do not have GPS. You have to get a cellular-capable iPad to get GPS. It's also possible to link up a WiFi-only iPad with an external GPS receiver. And there are certain apps which let you link your phone's GPS with your iPad over Bluetooth. But if you're hoping for a standalone device for navigation and it has to be an iPad, then you must get a cellular-capable iPad. Most of the mid-grade and high-end Android tablets have GPS (the Amazon Kindles do not - which I discovered after I installed Navionics on mine).

I agree all the chartplotters and MFD models are needlessly confusing. But the pattern I eventually figured out was that the higher-end models simply add (1) a larger display, and (2) support for additional features like radar and networking. So if all you want is a chartplotter, the lowest-end models will probably serve you just fine. (I do a lot of fishing so I bought one of the higher end models, so I can't give you any suggestions for low-end models.)

  • B&G, Lowrance, and Simrad are the same company - Navico. B&G is their line for sailing, Lowrance for freshwater fishing, Simrad for saltwater fishing (more ruggedly built). As best as I can tell, they all run the same software under the hood. The different brands just have some minor tweaks to the hardware and UI.
  • Garmin is considered the Apple of chartplotters/fishfinders, with arguably the easiest to use interface. Garmin bought Navionics in 2018. They've said they'll keep the Navionics maps available for other brand chartplotters, but just be aware that they now control the primary aftermarket maps added to most chartplotters. One notable drawback is that (as of a year ago) their screen mirroring app was iPad-only. The other brands can mirror the display (for the models which support the feature) to Apple or Android devices. OTOH, their navigation plotting integration app for iPad is supposed to be the best in the business - plot your planned route in your house on your iPad, and when you get to your boat it auto-uploads it to your Garmin chartplotter (may not be available with all models).
  • Raymarine in my experience had the best online support. They were able to answer some of my very technical questions while I was shopping. On top of it, they don't make it a secret that their plotters run on SoCs running Linux. In fact they'll even give you instructions on hacking the unit to do things like pulling out recorded course routes if the built-in UI feature fails. Also, looking around my marina, the vast majority of radar units I see are Raymarine.
  • Furuno is the other major brand. It's very popular with commercial fishermen, but tends to be higher-end and more expensive. So I doubt you'll be considering any of their units.
  • Humminbird is a freshwater fishing plotter company. They have a very small market share, and I don't think anyone other than freshwater fishermen consider them.
The other advantage of a standalone chartplotter is that they usually come with a rudimentary sonar unit. While you won't be making extensive use of the sonar if you're not fishing, it's still nice for getting real-time depth readings so you can always be sure there's enough water under the keel. (It'll also tell you water temp.)
 

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Earlier, somebody said they had no problems using a relatively inexpensive Tab A in sunlight.

Thats also been my experience

Very easy to use..moves with me

And i have 2 plotters
Yes, I think Samsung tablets in general have excellent screens. I guess that's why even Apple buys screens from Samsung.

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If your need is basic... see your boat on a chart, plus a few more features... a hand held device works. Fixed mount plotters are MFDs and display, juggle/compute way more data... and the user interface is often better on fixed mount MFDs.
No question an MFD is preferred. I would guess an MFD with all the fixings would cost upwards of $10k? I purchased a used Garmin 76 for about $100, maybe $200 after maps were purchased.
 

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Hey,

You're about $9000 too high.

You can get top a quality plotter for under $1000. You can get a nice one for $500.

The B&G Vulcan 7 is $700, Garmin Echomap 6" is under $500. Add charts and maybe you're at $600

Barry



No question an MFD is preferred. I would guess an MFD with all the fixings would cost upwards of $10k? I purchased a used Garmin 76 for about $100, maybe $200 after maps were purchased.
 

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I have been reading about the current ais units and navionics / Boat HD app. I like the boat HD app because I can put it on several devices as a backup. You can download the area so you have your maps on your device. If you buy a AIS later, you can get one with wifi and it will put the AIS data on your tablet or phone via the AIS internal wifi. I am new to sailing but have been around electronics my whole life. It seems a dedicated chart plotter would be nice, but it seems you need to buy maps for it also. I like how the navionics allows the users to automatically upload sonar data as they travel and then share the more updated maps with all the users. Basically everyone is helping make the maps more accurate as they travel. I have it on my tablet and my phone currently to get use to the app. I still don't have a boat yet but am hoping this year. If you get a tablet for using navionics / Boat HD, make sure it has internal GPS and a plus if it has GLONASS. Some tablets now are being sold to only use the wifi location for your location, which is useless when you are out of range of wifi. A water proof tablet would be nice too. I don't know about the wireless charging, but it would be nice to not have to plug it in all the time and just buy a wireless charger where it will be used. I think Boating HD costs around $15 per year, very affordable for what it does.
 

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Just know that if you are going the iPad route that the wifi only iPad doesn't have GPS... you need the cellular version (although activated cell plan is not needed) to get GPS.

Alternately, you can buy a bluetooth GPS puck... but it is just one more thing to lose or have the batteries die at the wrong time.

Personally a fan of chartplotters. Their integration with other electronics you have makes a lot of information available at the helm in a very easily readable format, they don't go flying during a surprise gybe, and the touchscreens will work while it is raining (at least on the Raymarine). Raymarine Axiom gets my vote; Raymarine added in the advanced sailing features back a few software versions again.
 
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