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Author Topic:   RAYMARINE A-series
jimh posted 08-12-2009 09:14 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I am just beginning a bench test of the new RAYMARINE A-series GPS, chart plotter, and SONAR combination devices. The first function I wanted to verify was the ability to obtain a screen capture of the display. The documentation for these devices does not explicitly mention the screen capture function. I am glad to report that the A-series units continue to have the screen capture function available. The screen can be captured and written as a BMP format file to the Compact Flash memory card in the device. Here are a couple of screen grabs that show the display as captured and stored to a CF memory card:

Graphic: Screen grab from Raymarine A57D GPS, chart plotter, and SONAR

Graphic: Screen grab from Raymarine A57D GPS, chart plotter, and SONAR.

The nice feature of the screen capture is that it writes a standard file (BMP format) to the CF memory card. The memory card can be removed and mounted as a volume on other file systems. I was able to mount the CF card on the MacOS X file system, read the BMP files, convert them to JPEG and show them to you. This means the Raymarine A-series can obtain screen grabs that are useful with any computer operating system that can mount the CF memory card and read a BMP file.

PeteB88 posted 08-13-2009 10:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Thanks for the field test - can't wait for your report. I am getting used to mine. It's great. Lots of features. Please give my best to Dave and be sure that your review covers the differences between inland lake and coastal models including the transducers.

jimh posted 08-13-2009 11:54 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pete--There is only one difference. The models with the inland lake cartography come with an ultra wide beam 200 kHz transducer. The others come with a dual-frequency 50-kHz and 200kHz transducer.
PeteB88 posted 08-13-2009 12:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Plus the inland lakes transducers are physically adjustable.

From Raymarine lit:

"• (The) 200 kHz Ultra Wide FanBeam transducer delevers three times beam width of conventional 200 kHz transducer
• Unique beam rotation control built into the transducer housing. Rotate beam fore & aft or port & starboard."

This was extremely desirable to me however, I was "over amped" by friends and fishing pals over here and made the (hasty) decision to go w/ coastal set up.

That said, I am very interested how well the inland lake transducer works for deep water, specifically off shore Great Lakes.

David Pendleton posted 08-13-2009 01:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I think [Pete is] going to have problems in deep water without 50kHz.
jimh posted 08-14-2009 12:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am not going to have a problem since I am just testing on my bench.

With digital SONAR one of the claims is improved performance with 200-kHz transducers in deeper water. Also deep water is relative. In the Great Lakes deep water is 100-feet or more. In the ocean, deep water might be 500-feet or more.

jimh posted 08-23-2009 04:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
On my boat I have a small and very simple NMEA-2000 network which consists of only two devices: my E-TEC motor and an I-Command Digital Gauge. The Raymarine A57D has an interface which Raymarine calls SeaTalkng (for next generation). SeaTalkng appears to be the equivalent of NMEA-2000 but uses some different wiring standards. With an appropriate adaptor cable, I was able to connect the A57D to my vessel network.

The purpose of connecting the A57D to the network is twofold: first, I would like to see if the A57D can display data from my engine. Second, I would like to see if the I-Command gauge can read boat speed from the A57D's GPS receiver and use it to calculate fuel economy.

The first objective was simple to obtain. I configured a page on the A57D to display various engine parameters. Then I turned the key on the E-TEC to the ON position. Immediately the display began to show the various engine parameters. I hooked up a hose adaptor so I could start the engine (as I was testing on the trailer, not in the water.) I cranked the engine over. The results were interesting.

The Raymarine A57D immediately rebooted. Apparently the voltage drop on my starting battery was so great that the input voltage to the Raymarine A57D fell below the minimum required. The A57D was not at all happy. It seemed stuck at the splash screen for quite a while. Holding down the power button did not produce any change. The device seemed to be stuck. To get out of this situation, I disconnected the power feed to the A57D, and let it sit in a power-off situation for 20-seconds. Then I reconnected it to the power, which was now a nice steady 13.2-volts. The A57D responded to the power-on button, and came back to life.

The blame for this cannot be laid on the A57D, as my boat electrical system needs some updating. The engine cranking current draw for starting my 225-HP E-TEC is substantial, and when cranking on a single battery, the battery voltage sag is noticeable. I will have to investigate more into this problem. In any case, it was important to learn that the A57D is somewhat sensitive to the input voltage. My other devices, a SONAR and an older GPS receiver and chart plotter, have not shown a tendency to reboot as a result of engine cranking. The A57D definitely did react to the voltage sag. It would be a good idea to consider using an isolated battery to power the A57D in situations where a large outboard motor is being started.

When the A57D rebooted after the clean power-on, it returned to its normal operation, and produced the follow screen display:

Graphic: Screen capture from Raymarine A57D showing engine data from E-TEC outboard sent via NMEA-2000 network.

This screen is a custom page that I quickly created to show as many engine data elements as I could. This settled the question: the A57D can definitely connect to a NMEA-2000 network and read data from an E-TEC engine.

jimh posted 08-23-2009 05:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
As for the second test, I am sorry to say that rain interrupted my Sunday afternoon of boat electronic testing, so I do not have a definitive report on the availability of GPS speed data from the A57D to the I-Command Digital gauge via a NMEA-2000 network.
Peter posted 08-24-2009 07:04 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Given that the Raymarine unit can read E-TEC data, why wouldn't the I-Command gauge be able to read GPS data available on the NMEA 2000 network?

Couldn't you put the Raymarine device in simulator mode, input a boat speed and see whether that simulated speed transmits to the I-Command gauge? You could run your engine on the adaptor at idle and produce some phenomonal simulated MPG numbers. ;)

jimh posted 08-24-2009 08:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am certain the I-Command gauge can read data on the network about vessel speed. That wasn't my concern. I was more curious to verify that the A57D was putting its GPS receiver data on the network.

I expect the A57D does provide data on its SeaTalkNG output from its GPS receiver, but I just like to verify that sort of thing. It is a question in my mind only because the GPS receiver is internal to the A57D. If the GPS receiver were external and connected via a drop cable from the network backbone, there would be no question that its data must be on the network interface.

jimh posted 08-24-2009 08:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
More on the screen capture function of the A-Series:

To capture the screen to the Compact Flash (CF) memory card in the Raymarine A-series, the user must access the SETUP menu by holding down the PAGE/MENU key for several seconds. The SETUP menu then appears overlaid on the current screen. One of the choices of the SETUP menu is SAVE SCREEN TO CF CARD. By selecting that menu choice, the underlying screen is written to the memory card. The consequence of this arrangement is that you cannot get a screen grab of any of the screens in the SETUP menu itself or its sub-menus. For example, I tried to make a screen grab of the GPS STATUS page. This page is accessed via the SETUP menu, so you have to leave it to reach the record screen.

Robert V posted 08-25-2009 08:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
Jim,

Thanks for the info and report on the A series, please keep the info coming. I am getting an A-50D installed on my new 205 Conquest. Hopefully, I will be in the water by the weekend and will report back. I chose this unit over the Garmin 545s b/c of better sounder performance, we'll see if this is the case.

Robert

Slippery Eel posted 08-25-2009 09:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for Slippery Eel  Send Email to Slippery Eel     
I have the Garmin 545S on my Montauk and the Raymarine A57D on my Revenge. The sounder on the Raymarine blows away the Garmin. You will be very happy with the performance of the Raymarine unit. Although not as intuitive as the Garmin I really like the Raymarine unit. I will be installing the Raymarine SR50 Weather unit next week on my Revenge as well.

Hutch

Peter posted 08-25-2009 11:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
How does one assess the sounder performance?
Robert V posted 08-25-2009 03:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
Hutch,

Thanks for confirming my decision, it's good to hear from someone who has experience with both units. I am looking forward to seeing the A50 in action. I have a question for you that may seem elementary for more experienced boaters, when in the char tplotter screen can you still read depth without going to a split screen? If yes, does the unit come with this as a default setting or do you need to set it up to perform this function? Thanks. Robert

jimh posted 08-25-2009 10:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The Raymarine A-Series units can be configured to show various data as overlays on the screen. I am certain you can set up a page that will show a chart with an overlay of depth
David Pendleton posted 08-25-2009 11:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
A chart with an overlay of depth?

Isn't that what charts are (ultimately) for?

Of course, they're not going to be real-time accurate, but what would be the point of such a thing?

SJUAE posted 08-26-2009 01:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for SJUAE    
Dave,

I think you have misunderstood Jim’s reference to overlay in this instance.

Yes all charts paper or electronic have depth marks/contours, usually set to the chart datum (eg LAT).

As these combo charts plotter/sounder/etc units can show a vast amount of data (eg navigational/engine/sonar) usually on preset dedicated views.

You have many options to show 1/2/3 or sometimes 4 views simultaneously on your screen.

Of course depending on your screen size the view(s) can be hard to read if you have more than one displayed.

In this case I think Jim was referring to if you were just displaying the one chart view.

It is then possible to add/display data from the other views as an overlay, to save flipping back to another view to momentarily see some data, then back to your chart view.

These additions of course may have little or nothing to do with the view you have selected eg you could have engine rpm’s displayed on your chart view.

However, In this case having your real time depth reading from your transducer displayed on your chart view has obvious benefits.

Regards
Steve

David Pendleton posted 08-26-2009 01:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
I understand, I think. Having the current depth displayed on a chartplotter image (currently possible on my plotter via SeaTalk or NMEA) isn't something I'd be interested in either.

I already have an instrument for that. I don't need that capability.

This is not to say it wouldn't be useful, though.

Robert V posted 08-26-2009 06:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
Jim,

Thanks for the info, as you are bench testing the unit, are you able to set-up to perform the depth as a "window" along the top of the screen in the full page chartplotter mode?

The reason I ask this question is, mine is a combo unit (read, sonar and GPS) and I would like to have the full-page chart view while still being able to read depth. I don't want to run too shallow and I like the full-page chart view (easier to see when navigating). Thanks,

Robert

jimh posted 08-26-2009 08:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The A-series refers to the separate functions provided in the device as applications. The applications are:

--2D chart
--3D chart
--course deviation indicator
--fishfinder
--Sirius weather
--Sirius audio receiver control
--Navtex receiver control
--AIS receiver data
--data (from engine, for example)

The applications display their information in various pages. Within the applications you can configure the display pages to suit your preferences. There are many options regarding what information will be shown on an application's display. You can customize the presentation of an application by adding or deleting information to be shown on that application's display.

The A-series units come set up with four default page sets, which are groups of five pre-configured page combinations of various application displays that can be selected quickly using the soft keys. There are four choices of page sets which can be arranged, and you can easily configure which one of the four page sets is currently active on the soft keys. If you don't like the standard page sets you can make a custom configuration of page sets. Pages can also be customized to be split screens or full screens of particular applications.

The display has an option to add a data bar. The position of the data bar and the information shown on it can be customized.

With the potential for so much configuration, I am sure most any combination of application displays can be arranged to suit the operator's preference.

jimh posted 08-26-2009 08:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The data bar is shown above in the screen captures. It is running across the top of the display and shows the cursor position in latitude and longitude. You can customize the data bar to show other information.
Slippery Eel posted 08-26-2009 08:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for Slippery Eel  Send Email to Slippery Eel     
Yes you can see the depth as a numeric overlay on when you are only viewing the chart screen.

I assess sounder perfromance by the ability to see thermocline, bait, fish, structure in a clear concise display. Also the ability to tailor the display to what you want to view is also key. Zoom, waypoint marking, A-Scope, etc.

Certainly personal prefernce comes into play but when you have the opportunity to use it in real situations in areas that you are familiar with and can see a noticable difference from what you are use to seeing is the final factor.

I do a lot of wreck and strutcure fishing and the ability to locate specific areas of structure are the keys to a sucessful fishing day.

The A series uses the same set up as the top of the line Raymarine sounders.

Peter posted 08-26-2009 09:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
The Raymarine A series sounds like it has all of the standard bells and whistles you would find in any multifunction display. One should be able to configure any display to have a data overlay with the user's choice of data to be displayed including depth, speed, position and engine data, like fuel flow or mpg.

I still remain curious as to how one assesses the sonar (sounder) performance. Is it resolution on the display or the ability to differentiate structure? Signal processing?

Peter posted 08-26-2009 09:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Thanks SE, was typing while you posted. I gather it is your experience that you can see structure in better detail with the Raymarine device than with the Garmin.
Robert V posted 08-26-2009 11:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
Thanks to Jim and others that responded to my question. It looks like the unit has alot more features than I have knowledge. Jim, thanks for your detailed report on the A-series, very helpful. Now I just need some on-the-water-training.

Robert

TheWhalerStore posted 08-26-2009 07:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for TheWhalerStore  Send Email to TheWhalerStore     
[Joined this discussion in order to change the TOPIC to begin a discussion about the policies of the website. Please note that CONTINUOUSWAVE no longer has any interest in polluting its boating discussions with self-examinations of the website or critiques of the website.--jimh]
TheWhalerStore posted 08-27-2009 01:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for TheWhalerStore  Send Email to TheWhalerStore     
Thank you Jim. [Changed TOPIC to his impressions of me gained from reading the website.]
Robert V posted 08-27-2009 06:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for Robert V  Send Email to Robert V     
UPDATE:

Picked up my boat yesterday and go some in-store training on the A50D. Just as Jim had stated, I found I can customize the top information bar to include depth and other functions on the full-page view of the chartplotter. The unit seems user friendly and the functions seem fairly intuitive. I am looking forward to using it out on the water.

Robert

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