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Author Topic:   Best GPS/SONAR Combo 2009
PeteB88 posted 05-08-2009 07:15 PM ET (US)   Profile for PeteB88   Send Email to PeteB88  
The time has come, this is the year: must get a GPS/SONAR for the [17-foot] 1995 boat we just got. Very old Furuno came with it, not even sure if it's a fish finder actually. It's got a sounder.

I spent considerable time at the displays at Cabela, Bass Pro, West Marine screwing around with Lowrance, Humminbird, Garmin the last couple of years. Never really could justify the need for my smaller boat or where we used them. Now everything has changed and we need a bad ass unit.

Last couple years there has been good feedback on Huminbird since Johnson Outdoors picked them up. I hear better things about Lowrance and Garmin. My guess is Garmin has the advantage with GPS but I don't really know.

I want a decent finder and sonar but have the impression GPS function will wind up being real important. The reason I got a smaller Outrage and not a 22 or bigger was we want to be somewhat mobile with a capable boat. I can see trailering to Charlevoix area, various Michigan port cities and maybe even an interstate trip. Who knows where we might wind up with the boat. Therefore, charts might be a bigger deal.

I am also planning to get into seamanship classes and maybe more, depending on availability. I want to get this stuff down and have good equipment. Certainly budget is an issue but I will stretch if justified.

Hope you don't mind this somewhat rhetorical question - seems to pop up annually.

Thanks in advance. I would consider a new used unit someone might be replacing.

SJUAE posted 05-08-2009 08:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
PeteB88

I can’t say I have done exhaustive research on this simply because I want to kill two birds with one stone as my OEM Navman 4350 sounder is erratic and I have an E-TEC and wish to display my engine data on a GPS-Plotter-Sounder opposed to buying a full set of gauges.

As Lowrance has already been demonstrated to display engine data and they have just released a new Broad Band series, it’s made my choice simple.

In your case I would buy the largest display in your budget, followed by map coverage, software flashable for updates.

I don’t think for most users the GPS accuracy and time to fix, differences is a big issue on current new models.

I would take a look at the Lowrance HDS 7 as they also have some base maps built in the USA insight models that may be a good starting point before you buy more detailed charts. You could use this as a start point to compare others up or down the range.

This may be of interest

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2008/01/ lowrance_broadband_sonar_a_disruptive_technology.html

http://www.lowrance.com/en/Products/Marine/ Broadband-Sounder-and-Ethernetworking/Lowrance-Broadband-Sounder-1/ Making-the-Best-Sonar-Even-Better/

Regards
Steve

jimh posted 05-08-2009 09:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For 2009 there is a new generation of devices from RAYMARINE and LOWRANCE that deserve consideration. Budget is the overriding consideration for most. What is yours?
PeteB88 posted 05-09-2009 10:51 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Budget but will stretch for best value, reliability. I think owner/user testimonials are very important regarding these decisions and appreciate the time. Raymarine is probably a bit high but I just saw some good pricing online.

I want this to last a few years

glen e posted 05-09-2009 12:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
http://lmgtfy.com/?q=Lowrance+customer+service

I sell them all and there is a marked difference in Navico customer service and the rest. Take that into account when purchasing.

jimh posted 05-09-2009 01:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Glen has raised another topic, which I would characterize under the general title of "Jihad Against Lowrance." I have seen many articles posted lately on one or two websites which provide narratives of boaters and their experience with Lowrance products in which they need to reach customer service or need Lowrance to provide a remedy to problem. In the main all of these complaints are related to situations in which the boater is also the installer of the device and the operator of the device.

As long as personal narratives of customer experience with Lowrance have been included into this discussion, I will offer my own: I am 100-percent satisfied with the customer service provided to me by Lowrance and in my opinion they went far beyond my expectations. That is my actual first hand experience with Lowrance, and I offer it to you. You are welcome to ask me further about it if you wish, which is something you cannot do when you are directed to read accounts posted elsewhere by people not participating in this discussion.

Based solely on the number of very negative reports recently posted regarding Lowrance that have appeared on one or two other websites, I have developed a theory which explains the apparent increase in customer dissatisfaction with Lowrance and its products.

The reason there has been an apparent rise in the number of problems reported with Lowrance devices by boaters who are attempting to self-install them and use them is likely due to the increasing level of sophistication of the devices and the increasing complexity of the installations. At one time installing a "fish finder" was rather simple, and it could be anticipated that the knowledge and skill to perform such an installation was within the skill set of the average boater. Unfortunately, the current products of Lowrance (and others) are extremely sophisticated devices which often utilize advanced digital networking, allow integration of the device into a network of other digital data communication devices, and often require interconnection and interoperation with devices from other vendors using incompatible hardware or wiring which must be modified or adapted to suit the needs of each vessel.

As evidence of this one needs only to read the seemingly endless threads seeking advice, clarification, help, or education on the rather simple interconnection of two serial data lines between a NMEA-0183 sender and an NMEA-0183 talker. Not a day goes by on some popular boating forums that some boater somewhere is asking for help on this. This is evidence of a general lack of skill in the general boating population with interconnection of serial data devices.

To this population of boaters with little skill in electronics, LOWRANCE and others bring increasingly more advanced and sophisticated devices. These products are provided with abundant technical documentation, but most of it goes unread or misunderstood. I can only imagine the volume of calls to LOWRANCE which are generated by boaters attempting to self-install and configure complex electronic devices with which they have little familiarity.

Among these calls there are a few celebrated examples where reasonably skilled and experienced boaters have had unsatisfactory experiences and have solicited a remedy from Lowrance. In general one can characterize the nature of the complaint about the customer service as being slow or lengthy in reaching resolution, however in most cases I recall a remedy has been provided.

glen e posted 05-09-2009 01:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
I knew you would do this. Google all of them and tell me what you find.What is with this Jihad thing? It just a simple search.But if the Lowrance if you want, buy it. I like their HDS stuff.

Better yet, do a test yourself. Get all the ph #'s for tech support for Garmin, Raymarine, Lowrance and Furuno...and any one else you want,and report back here how it goes. I do it every day in my profession.

Seems like any thing that is posted here that goes against the accepted brands proceeds to personal slamming that is not necessary.

If you feel inclined to buy Lowrance, I find the buys at Bass Pro to be about the best.

glen e posted 05-09-2009 02:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
And it's pretty simple why it's this way. It's not becasue the customers are different, installing over their head(s) or whatever. Their customer relations bottleneck at this point is due to Navico buying 5 companies (Lowrance, Northstar, B&G, Eagle and Simrad) and moving all their contact staff to one place in Oklahoma. Currently their customer handling staff is green and sparse. Just this week they added a dealer hotline, before this dealers were forced to stand in the same line as the customer, further choking the system.

I have personally spoken to the field reps and corporate Navico staff and I believe it will change. They know it's a problem. How much time, I don't know.

SJUAE posted 05-09-2009 02:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
PeteB88

I did a bit more searching around today just to reassure my quick decision.

Although all high end Garmin, Raymarine and Lowrance chart plotter, combo units are NMEA2000 compliant and glen e customer service note should be heeded if this is of high importance to you.

In the 7-8 screen size range Raymarine are very competitive and Garmin the least.

Lowrance and Raymarine units were truly integrated and not needing extra add-ons or separate boxes to be mounted, other than transducer.

Raymarine units could not be networked unless you go to the E series, Garmin wants you to use an interface (LAN) box as far as I could tell.

Garmin current spec is slightly older than Raymarine and Lowrance, although not necessarily better or worse as they all have flashable updates, other than Garmin digital sounder add-on GM300 is 2-3 years old.

They all seem to have US weather and AIS capability and technical spec’s for the average user all seem similar. Raymarine also had a video input.

I did not look at charts type or coverage as this is not important to me having already got a Navman 5750 chart.

Other than glen e advice I would see which interface you are most comfortable/intuitive to you, then see if this scales down for their small units, to fit you budget and optimal value in terms of functionality against their higher end units (ie see what you lose as you go down the range vs price)

Regards
Steve

SJUAE posted 05-09-2009 04:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
Chap’s you have been busy :)

I always feel negative comments a far more biased than positive feedback and need careful weighting in any decision making.

I’m sure if we Googled long enough we find plenty of negative comments on anything eg Iphone, if I was interested in this device would this dissuade me, yet millions have bought it.

As for technology I hoped NMEA 2000 should of made plug and play easier. Having said that. I helped my dealer technicians resolve a conflict on someone else’s boat when they tried to wire both analogue and digital fuel sender on the same network.

Considering 65% of most owners of old VCR’s could not programme the time recorder than I can see some truth in Jim’s theory and Glen’s note on support staff equally sounds reasonable.

Regards
Steve

WT posted 05-09-2009 04:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
For what it's worth...

http://www.nmea.org/Assets/nmea3.pdf

Warren

jimh posted 05-09-2009 05:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am not sure what Glen means when he writes, "I knew you would do this." Perhaps what he means is that I have given my personal first hand experience with the question he raised. Apparently Glen feels I should not be allowed to offer my own first hand experience if it differs from the collection of other people's experiences, thus a second hand recitation of those experiences, that Glen offers. I don't quite understand why my first hand experience has to be considered as subordinate to Glen's collection of second hand experience. However, if my experience collaborated Glen's, I wonder if it would be excluded as well. Can you comment on that, Glen?

I will acknowledge that my report of Lowrance's customer service dates from two years ago, approximately, and I can't tell you how responsive their customer service telephone line is today, or will be next month.

The "Jihad thing" is my name for what I see as a somewhat organized effort to defame certain products or brands in repeated negative postings about them. It escalates to an organized attack when people go around the web, collect other people's remarks, organize them, and then repeatedly post new articles pointing to the collection of negative articles. When I see this happening I wonder what the real motivation is.

glen e posted 05-09-2009 06:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
If a person champions a product , he/she is called a "cheerleader". If he shows fault with a product, he must have some ulterior motive. I have neither. I just have seen a major problem with support of Lowrance products vs the others. Pure and simple. I point that out with personal experience. Others that visit my showroom every day are having the same. Waits on the phone, for anything, exceed and hour. Like I said, do you own test. Pretend you've lost your sun cover to any model you desire and call and see what experience you have trying to get another.

Pure and simple. No ulterior motive. I think people should know that before they buy as many of my customers wish they would have known that before they did. And I think a google or yahoo search is a great way to judge what people are saying, positve or negative.

WT posted 05-09-2009 06:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for WT  Send Email to WT     
WOW! Check out the demo videos. I want one!

http://fishbuzz.tv/furuno/

Warren

Jefecinco posted 05-09-2009 07:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jefecinco  Send Email to Jefecinco     
Warren,

Furuno are very nice stuff. You'll need a wheel barrow to carry all the money they cost... or just a good piece of plastic.

Sort of like a new Outrage, if only the budget would handle it.

Butch

jimh posted 05-09-2009 07:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The initial inquiry here was to seek recommendations for particular devices. The notion that LOWRANCE has poor customer service was not really in the realm of the original inquiry. This topic was added to the discussion.

I consider it something of an organized effort when people go around inserting their agenda into other discussions. If someone asked for advice on what company has the best customer service, this Jihad Against Lowrance would be fair game. It seems awfully forced into the original discussion.

glen e posted 05-09-2009 07:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
I did not mean to "force" it into the conversation, and actually don't think I did. The OP asked what devices he should consider buying. A buying decision should include value, features needed and after sales support. I just pointed out one mfr was lacking in support area in comparison to other products. As far as the features are concerned, they are all getting very close with their feature set. I personally would choose Garmin due to their update frequency and support but the A series from Raymarine is a great buy too. Lowrance's side scanning ability is hands down a leap forward and leads the industry in that respect.
jimh posted 05-09-2009 08:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Fair enough.

To get back to the initial topic, we need a figure for budget. Budget is the overriding influence in any purchase. Without guidance for a price range, you can't really make a suggestion about what to buy. Power consumption and size are not limiting factors in a 17-footer, and you could, if you wished, put $5,000 of electronics on the dashboard.

PeteB88 posted 05-09-2009 10:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
IF you spend any time at all at any reputable seller including Cabella and Bass Pro the conversation always, in my experience, gets to Lowrance marginal to poor customer service. If you are persistent and ask the questions. I have not ruled out any manufacturer. Seems to be $600 to a grand is the range for decent units. I am a thrifty person not rolling in loot or on a trust fund so I am looking for a good price and would consider something used (pro guide take-off or someone upgrading) as long as is a couple years old.


Thanks - keep the info coming.

jimh posted 05-09-2009 11:07 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Some retailers are closing out the end-of-life Raymarine A60 and A65 at very steep discounts. Or you can stay current and get their new A-series boxes.

My own preferences are based on a rather unusual requirement: I want the SONAR device to provide screen capture of the SONAR echogram to a removable memory chip. The only devices that provide this are from Lowrance, Raymarine, and (I believe) Humminbird.

highanddry posted 05-10-2009 12:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for highanddry  Send Email to highanddry     
Yes, Humminbird will save screen shots to the SD cards. Current top end Humminbirds can also save "movie" clips.

Lil Whaler Lover posted 05-10-2009 11:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for Lil Whaler Lover  Send Email to Lil Whaler Lover     
First off I sell this stuff. There, an open up front admission of guilt or a disclaimer, however you want to interpret it. I see my role as assisting my customer in making an informed decision.

The first question I ask is; How will you be using the unit? Primarily as a navigation device? Primarily a fishfinder? Deep water? Shallow water? How important is it that the unit can be updated or expanded? What additional capabilities do you want?

In rhe last year I have sold Raymarine, Furuno, Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance and Northstar.

Lessons I have learned from my customers.

Raymarine: The large units C & E series are very good units. The small units are barely competitive.

Furuno: Did a 3D Nav Net system. Both hardware and software problems from the get go, but it was very early in the products life. Furuno, after getting their attention, finally helped work out the problems. Happy customer finally.

Garmin: once a Garmin user, always a Garmin user. In my customer base, a Garmin owner does not have an open mind to look at other products.

Humminbird: For shallow water fisherman this is the preferred unit. The 2009 version has more pixels (detail) than the competitors and gives a large field of view to each side if traveling below 6 MPH. The high speed side of the transducer works well too. An easy choice for a person who is looking for shallow water detail.

Lowrance: The HDS series is the hottest product out there. It is a true multi-function unit even in the 5" size. The built in Navionics software is very good and the standard broad band sounder is an extra cost option on other makes at prices between $600 and $1,500. These prices may be declining now. Lowrance is due to introduce a side imaging option in September+/-.

Any HDS unit can accept video input, Sirius weather, radar, engine data,AIS, etc. with the proper optional equipment.

I am finding this to be the preferred unit this year.

Northstar: Sold many over the last three years. Navico has repositioned them in the market. The small units are all gone (exept on 2009 Whalers????). They have quite old technology by industry standards.

My only comment on the service side is: please consider if you will want (need) support from the seller prior to purchasing from a "big box store" or over the internet. Three times now I have had customers bring in units purchased over the internet to have us install them and the units were RE-MANS. This was not disclosed to the purchaser by the seller. I got to inform them by showing them the tag on the unit. Two of the re-mans could not be made to work properly.

Buyer beware! Of the soap box with apologies if anyone is offended. Dave

Waccamaw Whaler posted 05-10-2009 02:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for Waccamaw Whaler  Send Email to Waccamaw Whaler     
I asked this question several months ago and received good feedback but in the end had to make my own decision. I too have a 17 ft. boat.

I purchased a Garmin 545s and love it. I bought a refurbished unit off of ebay for $700. The unit looks perfect and I have had no problems with it. It was easy to install.

It takes some studying and experimenting to use the PC MAPSOURCE software which is included. I called Garmin for some help and they spent an exceptional anount of time walking me through some of the features.

The chartplotter itself records tracks indicating readings at selected intervals including: date & time, elevation, leg length (distance from point to point), leg time, leg speed, leg course, depth, position, temperature, area, elapsed time, ave. speed. The tracks can then saved to the SD card which must be purchased seperately(< $5). On the PC it can be named, saved, color coded and edited. Once you figure out how to do it, it's a piece of cake.

Waypoints can also be added and named then modified via the PC.

I found out that it's important to edit and rename bad tracks. I took a wrong turn on an uncharted river and editd the track when I got back home. Although I renamed the track, I didn't erase the bad track. The new name was so similiar to the original that I forgot and followed the bad track on my next trip. Obviously I ended up at the wrong place the second time. I suspect all chartplotters function in a similiar manner. [GIGO]

The sonar, tide prediction charts and split screen functions are all easy to use. As easy as the screen is to read in sunlight it isn't perfect. When the sun shines directly on it I had to either adjust the angle or shade it. My eye sight isn't the best so that too needs some consideration.

I'm still in the learning phase but am very satisfied with my selection. I believe the 540S is identical with a smaller pixel readout on the screen. If someone didn't see the 545S I'm sure they would be happy with the 540s screen.

SJUAE posted 05-10-2009 04:22 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
Something I just noticed on Lowrance is for the price of a Lowrance HDS-8 Multifunction Fishfinder/Chartplotter w/ 83/200 kHz Transducer 140-09 (~$1700)

You can get with rebates:

Lowrance HDS-5X Fishfinder w/ 83/200 kHz Transducer 140-27 (~$550)
&
Lowrance HDS-5X Fishfinder w/o Transducer 140-29 (~$500)
&
Lowrance HDS-5 Multifunction Fishfinder/Chartplotter w/o Transducer 140-32 (~$650)

ie 3 5" screens 1 for engine or radar 1 for sonar and 1 for chart

or for $200 less with rebates you can get

Lowrance HDS-5X Fishfinder w/ 83/200 kHz Transducer 140-27 (~$550)
&
Lowrance HDS-7 Multifunction Fishfinder/Chartplotter w/o Transducer 140-34 (~$950)

ie 1 7" screen 1 for engine/radar/chart split and 1 5" for sonar

So ok the 8 and 10" screens are SVGA and slighly better and can take top charts, but it seems not to add up to me for the extra inches.

Regards
Steve

jimh posted 05-10-2009 05:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
ASIDE to Whaler Lover: In HTML there is no such thing as a "tab" character. If your browser interprets the TAB character in a way that causes your browser to terminate the input to an HTML form, it is probably best not to hit TAB when filling in the text field of the REPLY form.
Lil Whaler Lover posted 05-10-2009 07:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Lil Whaler Lover  Send Email to Lil Whaler Lover     
Thanks Jim. You were gentle.
jimh posted 05-10-2009 07:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It is in my nature. :-)
PeteB88 posted 05-19-2009 09:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
I really appreciate you guys taking time to help me out with this purchase. I still haven't made final decision but would like to get a unit mounted up on the Outrage by this weekend. I think I am leaning toward Garmin but still undecided. There are great prices on Raymarine A60 not WAAS capable - seems like that's an issue. Garmin screens seem small to me.

I will be grinding on this the next few days and trying to find a unit. Procrastination again- several of the Whaler guys are heading this way this weekend and I would like to get our new Outrage out for the first time.

Thanks again!! and have a nice holiday weekend.

Ablewis posted 05-19-2009 09:58 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ablewis  Send Email to Ablewis     
I have had good experiences in talking with Lawrance customer service but have not had the need for help in the last two years. I thought Glen raised a valid point related to Navico. I had no idea. That can't be good for the consumer. Jim, maybe we have the new Walmart of GPS/Sonar units?

Andy

jimh posted 05-19-2009 10:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pete--There is absolutely no issue with the A60 and WAAS. I explained it all in my review. See

http://continuouswave.com/whaler/reference/A60.html

There is no WAAS, it's not possible with the A60 in the box as it is now. No issue about it at all.

If you want WAAS, read the article and the explanation of how to get it.

PeteB88 posted 05-20-2009 07:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Thanks Jim, I'll read it more carefully. Sounds like you like the A60, that means a lot to me. Need to make a good decision on this purchase. When are you coming to W Mich?
SJUAE posted 05-21-2009 06:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
PeteB88

I've just gone full circle on this myself

I almost went Garmin just as there is a local supplier
but it worked out nearly 1000 USD dearer on an 8" screen system. A lot of dosh for support IMO.

I finally went with Lowrance HDS 5 Multifunction Fishfinder/Chartplotter 83/200 Transducer to replace my Navman/Northstar 4350 sounder that is flush mounted.

If I decide to get radar, Lowrance new broard band one is suitable for mounting anywhere due to low radiation and I can buy a dedecated 7" HDS to go with that and mount it in my electronics box under my T-Top, for the same price as a Garmin system.

Lowrance also supply all the interface cables for my ETEC and NMEA2000 to make things easier and giving me more options.

It will take over 10 days to get here but will let you know how it goes

regards
Steve

jimh posted 05-21-2009 09:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pete--The prices on the A60 and even the A65 at this point are very attractive. Some retailers are discounting them to very low prices.

To fit the A60 or A65 with a GPS receiver with precision augmented fixes using WAAS is going to cost quite a bit to upgrade. At least you have the potential for it if you want. A few years ago everyone was happy with non-precision GPS accuracy. Remember, the goal of WAAS precision was to allow a plane to land at 140-knots in reduced visibility conditions. Do you really need that kind of precision to get back to the dock?

PeteB88 posted 05-22-2009 10:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Well, wallet heating up in my hip pocket - I was real close to purchasing Humminbird 787ci w/ Navstar Gold and Hotspots off Ebay for just under $600 until I saw the new Lowrance HD5 yesterday at West Marine - seems awesome cool. It is pre-loaded and I ran the guts out of it checking Ellen's favorite bluegill lake S of Jackson MI and one West of Lansing and then I cursored out to Oregon and a few of the high mountain lakes, Columbia and coastal areas - a couple of warm water lakes and Tillamook Bay. It seems real nice. Sales rep said the fishfinder function blows all others away.

I have to give myself a deadline or I'll be doing this all summer. It's mostly about the hunt for me.

Appreciate any thing else you can share.

Have a great holiday weekend!!!!

SJUAE posted 05-23-2009 01:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
PeteB88

The Lowrance HDS US ones also do 3D shading on the built in Navico maps as standard us international users have to get the Navionics platinum cards.

Another good point for you is there are no other boxes to mount for the sounder/aerial.

It has built in storage and SD/MMC card for storing routes/screen shots/sonar recordings etc.

WAAS is already there and the unit is latest. The claims on the sounder are good and should better or equal most in the price range other than higher end Humminbird IMO.

I liked the built in sonar options for different fishing styles (fast/slow trolling, shallow water etc)

You can't dynamically alter way points on the screen like the Garmin units other than this I did not see any other notable exclusions.

The screen is a cropped VGA on the 5" only the 8/10" are SVGA. The split screen is scalable and some functions have an additional horizontal split

All the dials/gauges overlays were fully customisable and the NMEA2000 connectivity in and out seems comprehensive, should you wish to expand or add on interfaces to VHF etc.

If you can buy in a local store at least you have an immediate point of contact on any issues and the warranty is 2 years.

Regards
Steve

jimh posted 05-23-2009 12:47 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
More regarding this Jihad AGAINST LOWRANCE:

It is my understanding that the few very high profile threads about problems with certain LOWRANCE units could be characterized as unusual installations in which the equipment was being used with special features such as high-speed ethernet connection of multiple units, and in which there were some problems created where the units caused interference to other devices. In general I do not think you can characterize these situations as completely run-of-the-mill installations. They were rather elaborate installations. Further, it is my understanding that LOWRANCE worked with these owners to resolve these problems. You can read about this from a reasonable perspective on PANBO.COM, where this has been discussed. See

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2009/05/ lowrance_hds-10_hands-on_1_hello_nos.html

and the follow-on comments.

I would not anticipate that everyone who buys a LOWRANCE product and installs it in a small boat is going to get into the sort of elaborate interconnection of multiple devices, displays, high-speed ethernet connections, and other elaborations which created much of the discussion about LOWRANCE's support. If these few high-end customers have had their problems resolved, it seems in the end to be a testament to the support of LOWRANCE for its customers.

These days everyone seems to think that they should get immediate satisfaction and remedy to every problem, and be able to purchase devices of incredible complexity--really things no one had even dreamed about a decade ago--at very modest prices, hook them together themselves in a random hodgepodge of other equipment and devices, and make them work exactly like a salesman at a boat show promised they would.

Let's get real. When you buy the latest in cutting edge electronics, you should expect that there might be a few things to be worked out in the process of getting to the ultimate performance level possible.


glen e posted 05-23-2009 03:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Jim - it's simple - call them and see how long you sit on the phone -It's not any different for dealers. You can twist this any way you wantn but their support , in comparison with other mfrs, is terrible.
jimh posted 05-23-2009 04:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Glen--Free Support is like Free Beer. You should not complain about it.

I run a Blackberry Enterprise Server. We pay RIM Blackberry $7,500 a year for the privilege of being able to call them or email them to answer questions for us. Now if I had to sit on hold for an hour, I would be upset. For $7,500 pre-paid annually, they answer the calls promptly.

We are one of Dell's larger corporate customers. Dell gives us a special telephone number to call for support. Our corporation bought 20,000 computers from Dell in the past two years. In recognition of that, we get to bypass one tier of support-monkey and get right to a specialist.

But if I buy a $500 combination GPS receiver, plotter, and SONAR--that a few years ago would have cost $5,000--mail order from the lowest-priced internet store which is really some college kid working out of his dorm room, I don't expect that I am going to get instantaneous telephone support from a high-level service technician or development engineer the first time I have a problem which is mainly due to not reading or understanding the documentation the manufacturer sent with the unit. And when I read complaints on the internet about things like that, I scratch my head and wonder whatever got into people to think they were so damn important they ought to be able to call the President on the telephone whenever they have something to say, and if they don't get satisfaction they're off to the internet to spread the news.

glen e posted 05-23-2009 05:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Ridiculous. I am not talking about free support. I am talking about parts ordering, parts supply and distribution information. It stinks at Navico. Yesterday I had person that wanted a Simrad (same company and help line as Lowrance)VHF handset as his cord was frayed. After waiting 45 minutes on the phone, they could not tell me the price, the availability or the future supply. "We don't have the proper parts book as many of them have changed", was the response. When I asked what I should do, they replied "don't know" but "it costs 35.50".

Like I said, quit making excuses for them because you like them, and try and order a Suncover or transducer for a unit. Great help.

Further, call them and tell them you own a Northstar 956/962, or a Simrad C44 and see what they say. That will blow your mind.

SJUAE posted 05-23-2009 07:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
Jim

I’m not sure what the average user expects these days.

Be it a car/PC/Laptop/Mac/Phone almost a day does not go by without having to download some update or other maintenance.

Maybe most are just oblivious or don’t care or simple take it to their IT department or service centre, who knows.

My wife certainly just expects things to switch on and work and has no idea how it’s operating as long as it functions within her expectations of taking her to work, loading a web page or boiling water.

Even if the performance was to degrade she would have a high tolerance level and would be unlikely to notice if only 5 of the 6 gears on her car are working, let alone high end functions or performance.

An engineer at work drove his little 1.6L Toyota permanently with the overdrive switched on and loved it around town once I switched it off for him, it was then nippy.

For sure the net is a simple place for those who have higher expectations to complain be it based on ignorance or otherwise.

Maybe Garmin has chosen to support these users or gets more complaints and has staffed up to tackle this. One thing for sure is it costs money to offer support.

Having good telephone support is no indication of the quality of the product.

Does having good telephone support for end users make Garmin better? Depends how much it is reflected in their pricing and what value you place on it IMO.

Glen’s perspective is different to an end user as it appears he’s in the business and is trying to pass on customer support that is not available in terms of spare parts etc and would reflect on him as the customer would simply try and source elsewhere, if possible.

I would say it’s unusual for consumers to consider manufactures stocking policy and maybe we should thank Glen for this insight although as he see’s far more cases of unusual bit’s a pieces being required I would guess it is not a typical requirement for any one user under warranty issues.

Regards
Steve

glen e posted 05-23-2009 09:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
I have no dog in this hunt. I like Lowrance stuff and will report back here immedialey when I see that they offer the same support for the product as the other major players in the market.

Why does everyone suspect I am embellishing things? Just call and test it for yourself.

Ranjr13 posted 05-26-2009 11:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ranjr13  Send Email to Ranjr13     
"Once a Garmin lover, always a Garmin lover..."

Have had a 545s on our 18' Outrage for 2 years - fantastic, and the customer service very good - we had a software pbm with the new unit and they actually sent us one because the original would not download updates, but they didn't want us w/o one.

Have a 478 in my car/various backup boats - works great on land and water - all stored charts/streets - awesome unit - you can run a depth sounder off it too, and have a great unit for both the car and boat.

Put a 440s on our small Fire rescue boat - used it on an emergency this past weekend - excellent.

Put a 4212 with 4kw HD radar and intelliducer w/NMEA 2000 network on my big boat - awesome. Extremely easy to install and set up network - all plug'n play.

Go Garmin if your primary use is chartplotting.

Best of luck - be safe out there.

Bob

SJUAE posted 05-27-2009 03:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
Just some feedback on my first attempt with Lowrance support

I had contacted their support via the US web page. This was not simple as there was no obvious area to place my request that was slightly unusual in so far as I wanted the nearest dealer to me in the UAE as the Kuwait dealer information was years out of date and he could not be traced via the web or telephone directory.

It took a couple of weeks but a email arrived today from a new dealer in the UAE who currently had no stock but would rush an order for me.

Unfortunately for him I had ordered from the US, but will try him later for more accessories etc.

So it does work (eventually) and now I have a local supplier in Dubai

Regards
Steve

PeteB88 posted 05-27-2009 12:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
I'm still shopping. Finally found a store with a reasonable display of various manufacturer's units. Screen size is definitely important. New Lowrance stuff is extremely interesting - I am planning to go to Cabella or Bass Pro on east side of the state and take a few hours to punch buttons and ask questions.

any info is appreciated

SJUAE posted 05-27-2009 03:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
PeteB88

Size and resolution is important but so is the cost.

As I noted before the difference between 5/7/8 is significant.

I think the Lowrance HDS 5"VGA is at an optimum price and then doubles for 7"VGA and triples for 8"SVGA to the point you can have double/triple redundancy with similar screen area.

So you are paying a premium for the screen size not the electronics behind, as they are all the same with Lowrance. The others may add features as the cost/size increases. So it’s not so easy to compare but similar increases or more.

I don't think there is anything significant between latest spec ie WAAS/DSC/AIS/NMEA200/183/Radar should be available to all models.

I would expect the Garmin interface to be slightly better for chart work. The Humminbird may have better options on sounder.

The lowrance best of both worlds and Raymarine somewhere between all 3, depending on your preference, IMO.

On paper it would appear only the higher end of Humminbird would rival Lowrance HDS sounder.

I would see how easy it is to record a route then save it as waypoints then edit or insert an addition point.

Garmin should be the best for this on ease of use.

Compare screen and setting options on the Lowrance and Humminbird for the sounder.

See how easy it is to add custom overlays and dial/font sizes on the chart screen and save them,

As you have seen the Lowrance base maps and insight preloaded maps maybe enough for you leaving your SD slot free

Think about where you would mount a separate aerial or sounder box if you go with this configuration as you will have 2 wires to hide/route if you gimbal mount the display.

Remember in a shop pushing buttons in not the same as doing it at 25mph or more.

Regards
Steve

Mr T posted 05-28-2009 11:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for Mr T  Send Email to Mr T     
I put a Ray A65 in my Nauset with the sounder module out the door for less than 800 dollars. Simply love it.
PeteB88 posted 05-29-2009 11:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
T - where'd you get that Raymarine?

THX
88

Mr T posted 05-29-2009 11:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for Mr T  Send Email to Mr T     
A local contact from one of my fishing boards here in NoCal

I can put you in touch with him if you'd like, but I thnk price has gone up since then. Looks like the DSM25 sounder module is getting hard to find and price went up accordingly. Right now I don't think you can even find one, my buddy who has an A65, went to get the module and is having a real tough time finding one.

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