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Author Topic:   Which Low End GPS/Fish Finder To Buy?
derf posted 11-06-2005 12:05 AM ET (US)   Profile for derf   Send Email to derf  
I wanna get a cheap GPS/FF combo. Any recommendations?
Chuck Tribolet posted 11-06-2005 08:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Define cheap. I suspect you are going to be into $400-500
which isn't cheap.


Revenge 25 posted 11-06-2005 08:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Revenge 25  Send Email to Revenge 25     
I like the Standard Horizon 175C and/or the Raymarine C-70. They both have really good resolution and pretty much run themeselves.

Rather than buy a real cheap model, I would search Ebay for a deal. I have purchased all my electronics, brand new, on Ebay at 30-40% off. Be patient, it may take 3-4 months to get exactly what you want. Good Luck.

derf posted 11-06-2005 09:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for derf  Send Email to derf     
I though the cheapest combos started at around $300. I don't need much, mostly depth and a general idea of where I am.
jimh posted 11-06-2005 09:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Do you require that your SONAR and GPS RECEIVER combination also be a CHART PLOTTER?
Tom W Clark posted 11-06-2005 12:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

I have a like-new Lowrance LMS-350A which a superb unit, but a few years old. It is a dual frequency depthsounder which will sound to over 1000 feet (I've seen it do it) and track plotting GPS with 12 channel antenna. A truly excellent unit that has now been superseded by newer fancier models.

I would sell it to you for $300 if you promised to use it for good and not evil ;-)

jimh posted 11-06-2005 02:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In general I don't think there is a great deal of value in collecting anecdotal reports about owner satisfaction of various models of small boat electronics as they tend to fall into only two categories. The owner is either pleased with his purchase and therefore tends to believe that his choice was a good choice or possibly the best choice, or the owner tends to not be pleased with his purchase and therefore tends to be quite critical of the device. You cannot be assured that in either of these cases you are getting valid opinions. Typically there has been no operational comparison made, nor are comparative units installed side-by-side and tested in any methodical method.

In addition, the installation process itself often determines to a great extend how well the unit will function, and this is particularly so in the case of a SONAR. The mounting of the transducer will have perhaps the greatest impact on how the unit performs, and this is often left to the owner.

As a case in point, I can cite my own boat. When I bought the boat it had a well-known SONAR which is in the high-end range of black and white displays. Its performance was miserable! However, all it took was moving the location of the transducer and now the performance is very good. It does all that I expect and hoped it would. The difference was all in a few inches in the choice of mounting location.

In general the anecdotal comments you get do not contain specifics about performance in any measurable way. For test data, I find it better to rely on magazine tests like those performed in some periodicals which do not contain advertising.

Also, the most important influence for me in determining which unit to buy is the ease of use and readability of the display. If the device is hopelessly awkward to operate and cannot be easily seen in sunlight, it is of little value.

derf posted 11-07-2005 10:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for derf  Send Email to derf     
jimh, I understand your point. I was hoping for some "I have a Widget 2500 and it works great" comments. Plus, I think this is the best place for finding unbiased information about stuff that is used on a boat similar to mine. Chartplotting would be nice. But, after the recent hurricanes in LA, I don't think any chart will be accurate for a while. How often are such chartplotting data systems upgraded?

Tom, let me do a little research on that unit.

Chuck Tribolet posted 11-07-2005 12:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The data for chartplotters is updated regularly. For example,
Garmin's BlueCharts have been out about four or five years,
and are on version 7.5.


derf posted 11-07-2005 03:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for derf  Send Email to derf     
OK. I guess what I meant was: How long before the changes made by Katrina and Rita will incorporated into the chartplotting data?
Chuck Tribolet posted 11-07-2005 04:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
Well, first NOAA has to update the paper charts. I suspect
that will be a priority for them. Then the chart vendor has
to incorporate those changes into their electronic charts.


Chuck Tribolet posted 11-07-2005 04:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
The cheapest combo I could find on Dave's website was the
Garmin 178 with internal GPS antenna and single freq
transducer for $374.09. They go up from there.


ratherwhalering posted 11-11-2005 09:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for ratherwhalering  Send Email to ratherwhalering     
$374.00, that is a good price, but don't forget that you have to buy the Bluechart Maps, at aroung $125.00.
bw12 posted 11-11-2005 06:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for bw12    
I've had the Garmin 178C with internal antenna on my Montauk for a season. It has been 100% reliable. I like the compact size. The tradeoff is a smaller screen, but it’s easier to carry when I remove it. The operator interface is easy to use and intuitive. I have owned several Garmins, so the “intuitive” comment may also be due to familiarity, but others have said the same. I have mine interfaced to a DSC VHF and an autopilot.

The fish finder never loses bottom, although I really can't say whether it "sees" fish. I have the dual frequency transducer, but have not been in deep water yet, so can’t verify any benefit from this option. Some claim that the Garmin’s fish finder accuracy is not very good. The only comparison I can make is to an Eagle (Lowrance) Ultra III, which seemed to work about the same.

There are a few negatives. The display is a CSTN type LCD, which is not as clear as the more expensive TFT type, and is slower. When the screen is zoomed in and I am underway, numbers on the chart blur (like double vision) as the display refreshes. The anti-reflective coating, which is effective, is also very fragile. This means no one should touch the screen, it needs to be cleaned with extraordinary care, and always use the supplied cover when not in use. If you damage the coating, Garmin will replace the screen one time while the unit is under warranty, but otherwise replacement is very expensive. I tried using a screen protector (called Purple Moo), but it made the display too hard to read in sunlight, so I removed it.

Unlike the handheld Garmins, the 178C does not come with a built in Marine Data base (showing buoys, etc.). This means if you want to see any navigational aids, you really need to buy the charts, which, as others have noted, are expensive.

If you need to unlock charts for more than two regions, it might pay to upgrade to the 198C, which includes all the U.S. coastal charts (pre-loaded), and a larger, better TFT screen. If you ever decide to sell the 198C, having all the charts will make it more desirable to purchasers in other areas. The 198C is only available with an external antenna, so it is more work to install it.

Finally, once you install a non-handheld Garmin in your boat, you will need to purchase additional hardware to upgrade the unit software, install charts, or transfer data (the handheld Garmins come with a data cable). There are different ways to do this, but if you own a PC, I feel the Data Management kit works best.

jimh posted 11-11-2005 09:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
A discussion of the accuracy of digital chart cartography is beyond the scope of this article.

If there is a serious interest in digital chart cartography, I believe there are other resources on the internet which can better handle that discussion. No chart, paper or digital, reflects changes which occur after it is published. To the best of my knowledge, there has not even been a survey taken of any of the areas affected by recent hurricanes. Before any revised cartography can be published, extensive surveys will need to be performed, then revised NOAA cartography will have to be published. This may not occur for many years. It does not seem prudent to hold in abeyance a decision to purchase cartography while awaiting new surveys and new chart editions. This process could forestall purchase of navigation charts for years.

I recommend visiting a marine store and looking carefully at the various combination SONAR, GPS RECEIVER and CHART PLOTTER models available in a particular price range. After a casual look at choices, it appears to me that the LOWRANCE units offer the best value in terms of a combination of SONAR, GPS, and CHARTPLOTTER, and included DIGITAL CARTOGRAPHY.

My personal preference is to purchase digital cartography on the C-MAP NT format using hardware chips. This allows one to move their investment in cartography to a new device, to loan out or borrow cartography as needed, and to enjoy access to world wide coverage.

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