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  Combination GPSr, Chart Plotter, and SONAR

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Author Topic:   Combination GPSr, Chart Plotter, and SONAR
bill4tuna posted 10-28-2008 12:48 AM ET (US)   Profile for bill4tuna   Send Email to bill4tuna  
Boston Whaler is offering its new CONQUEST models with the electronics package of Northstar M84 GPS receiver, chart plotter, and fishfinder combo. Some argue that it is unwise to purchase the combo for fear of losing three items instead of one. I am looking at the Lowrance LCX 28c HD combo. What are your thoughts and experience with combo electronics?
lakeman posted 10-28-2008 06:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for lakeman  Send Email to lakeman     
I'm sure you will get many opinions. If you read the forums, Lowrance has had many problems in recent years. Garmin seems to have most problems under control. Ironically there are some things I like about the Lowrance better than the Garmin. I bought my Garmin a year or so ago, the salesmen, notice plural, at different stores did not want me to buy a Lowrance, so I ended up with a Garmin and it has some quirks, but manageable, if I got to use it more I would get use to it.
Brian7son posted 10-28-2008 07:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Brian7son  Send Email to Brian7son     
Some of them are a little complicated to use, other than that I don't see a real problem. I have the Furuno 7000F (gps/chart plotter/fishfinder)combo. It has lots of features and it's not the most user friendly unit. I probably use 50% of the actual features on it. However, the fish finder and nav. screens are awesome. I have been driving in rain storms with the wipers on in the middle of Lake Okeechobee, following that screen like playing a video game.

I too was concerned about losing everything if the unit went down. For me the most essential item when out in the middle of the ocean (aside from my EPIRB) is the GPS with navigation screen, so I can find my way back home or to the nearest port. Solution: buy a "nice" hand held GPS as a back up. That's what I keep onboard when crossing to the Bahamas, etc.

jimh posted 10-28-2008 08:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
This discussion was moved to SMALL BOAT ELECTRONICS.
jimh posted 10-28-2008 08:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The most expensive component of modern marine electronics is the large, high-resolution color display. It makes sense to utilize the color display to show the output of more than one device, if those devices need a color display.

Separating the GPS receiver and the chart plotter display is not particularly difficult. Most chart plotters are offered with external GPS receivers. If you install a NMEA-2000 network on your vessel, the GPS receiver will become autonomous and its data can be used by any device on the network that needs it. The chart plotter will not affect the GPS operation, as long as the network is powered independently.

Using a separate SONAR device is a reasonable approach to avoiding not having all your electronics in one device. A decent black-and-white SONAR with its own display usually costs less than the black-box SONAR device that is used with the shared chart plotter display. If you do not need a color SONAR device, using a separate black-and-white SONAR display will give you more screen space at less cost.

Make your choice wisely, however, as the helm console of these modern boats (like a Boston Whaler CONQUEST) seems to require flush mounting of the electronics. After you cut a big hole in that brand new console laminate, you probably won't be changing devices for a long time.

jimh posted 10-28-2008 10:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I also think that the importance of a SONAR for fish finding may vary among boaters. From the user-id bill4tuna one could make the inference that the fish finder function is important. In that case, a large, high-resolution color display of the SONAR is probably necessary. Sharing this expensive component with the chart plotter function is a way to say money and space on the helm. But if you have the money and the space on the helm, having separate color displays dedicated to fewer functions will be nice.
pglein posted 10-28-2008 12:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for pglein  Send Email to pglein     
A failure of your integrated electronics display is unlikely, though it does happen.

If you want redundency and are willing to pay for multiple displays, I recommend an integrated system like Raymarine's in which you can have multiple displays that can all display all the information, and the individual functional units (sonar, gps, radar, etc...) are actually seperate from the displays. If one display fails, you can always display the information on a different display.

If you don't want to pay for multiple displays, I think the convenience and functionality of having all the information integrated into one unit far outweighs the risk of losing the information if the display unit fails. You should never be putting yourself into a situation where you are reliant on the electronics anyway. Carry charts, a compass, dividers, parallel bars, and a leadline, and the skills necessary to use them. If you don't have those skills; GET THEM. You don't belong on the water without them. Period.

handn posted 10-30-2008 09:00 AM ET (US)     Profile for handn  Send Email to handn     
Except for specialized units like forward seeking sonars, integrated systems are almost universally used in better electronics.
They offer a number of advantages such as the ability to superimpose a radar image over a chart or a sonar image over a chart showing location (depending on available cartography).
If your budget and room on your console allows it a dual screen system offers some redundancy, i.e., if one gps or radar goes down there is a backup. Otherwise a handheld gps will get you home.
I have one Furuno Navnet unit. It is high quality and has been bulletproof for five years. The instruction manual is very basic and makes it difficult to use the advanced features. After having the unit four years, I was amazed at the difference and the increase in useful data when an expert reprogramed my sonar fishfinder. Most of the advanced features of the radar on my unit are unused because I need them only occasionally and lack the patience to play with my radar.

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