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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
Touch Screen: Real-World User Experiences
|Author||Topic: Touch Screen: Real-World User Experiences|
posted 10-07-2013 02:21 PM ET (US)
Hi Folks. I may be in the market for a new chart plotter. I can understand how a touch screen device could make some types of operations easier, but I can see drawbacks as well. For those of you who have one or have tried one, what are your impressions? What works well, and what doesn't? I understand that Butch has one. Anyone else? Thanks!--Dennis
posted 10-07-2013 06:14 PM ET (US)
I have two touch screen devices on my boat - Garmin 5208 & 740s. If there are drawbacks to them they aren't apparent to me. I previously has a Garmin 4208. I won't go back to something like that after having the touch screen.
posted 10-07-2013 08:16 PM ET (US)
I have a Simrad NSS8, which has both a touch screen and buttons and knobs for controls - the best of both worlds. I like the touch screen a lot, and will generally use the touch screen to make a selection even when I have the option of using a knob or a button to make the same selection. The one big exception is zooming in or out - I will almost always use the rotary knob to zoom in or out.
A touch screen can sometimes be tricky to operate on a small boat bouncing around in the waves, so the bigger the screen the better. (Pushing small buttons on a chart plotter can also be difficult while bouncing around in waves on a small boat.)
I love my touch screen, and highly recommend it.
posted 10-07-2013 08:54 PM ET (US)
Same comment here as K Albus.
I have a Garmin 740s after having a 172C, but the newer 740s only have the touchscreen, no buttons at all. Panning on the map is 10x faster than moving the cursor and zooming in/out is the same, except while running at speed on snotty conditions, where it became tricky to use the touchscreen and I wish, in that kind of conditions, that I also had buttons.
posted 10-07-2013 10:26 PM ET (US)
I agree with above comments. Touchscreen is easier and faster when in calm conditions or at anchor. In my 18-footer, on plane in a chop, the touch screen is quite difficult to use even on something as large an iPad. I like the ability to use the buttons on my Garmin 547 in this instance.
I use my Garmin Bluechart application on my iPad to plan routes and review waypoints or areas I want to visit. I have the applicaiton on my phone, as well, but have never used it. The iPad is faster and has better resolution than ANY chart plotter that is even halfway reasonably priced. If I'm not the driver, I can do this while running but it's almost impossible while underway. I can easily upload a route or waypoint via Bluetooth from iPad. It's the best of both worlds and gives incredible versatility.
posted 10-08-2013 08:03 AM ET (US)
I have only used a touch screen interface to a chart plotter for a very short time, but even in a few minutes of use I could see that the touch screen would make some operations of the chart plotter much faster and easier. One operation that immediately came to mind which was much faster and easier with a touch screen was the naming of files being saved. For example, if a way point is created on a chart plotter, the present convention is for the operating system of the chart plotter to generate a name for the way point in a numerical sequence. In this way a new way point might be named "009". To edit the name of a way point without a touch screen interface is a tedious and cumbrous process on a chart plotter. You have to use cursor keys to move the cursor over a typewriter keyboard representation on the screen, and when the cursor is over the desired letter, the ENTER key is pressed. In contrast, with a touch screen interface, you can just type in the name of a way point in a few seconds. The result is that way points or other saved files on the chart plotter have meaningful names instead of random numerical names that convey no meaning.
My initial worry about a touch screen interface was the screen would soon accumulate a lot of finger prints and smudges. However, the touch screen I was using was on display at a boat show. I assumed that many people had played with it. The screen was still very clean and the presentation was not marred with smudges or finger prints on the screen.
The development of touch screen technology and its use in a computer interface is very well established and in extremely wide use in the modern smart-phone device or tablet device, so there is no doubt that everyone is, by now, quite comfortable in using a touch screen, and its application to recreational marine chart plotters is just a logical extension of this mature technology, which, by virtue of the enormous volumes of production, is now not very expensive.
posted 10-08-2013 08:23 AM ET (US)
I have no more difficulties operating my devices using only the touch screens in rough water than I did using only the buttons on a device with a very similar operating interface. Panning, route planning, and text input are far easier with the touch screen. If your system includes a radar with or without radar overlay, then the touch screen is far easier to identify the distance and bearing of a target on a radar screen -- you just touch it on the screen. With a cursor control "joy stick" button system you'd have to hold down the various buttons to scroll the cursor onto the target. Try doing that in rough water.
With the touch screen systems I have the virtual buttons are large, far bigger than the physical buttons on the similar device.
I spent considerable time playing with all of the touch screen chartplotter/fishfinder devices over last Winter before I selected my devices and it became quite evident to me early on that the user interface is quite important in making the user experience good or great and different user interfaces appeal to different people. I found that the virtual buttons on some touch screen systems were relatively small and not well segregated from other virtual buttons and I could see how that might be a problem in rough water. Those systems also had a knob as a back up for scrolling through the menu options so this alleviated the problem to some extent.
I further found that the systems that had both touch and buttons or knobs took up more real estate on the dash than those that did not. If you flush mount your electronics, conservation of real estate can become a factor in the decision.
Fingerprints have never been a problem on my devices. You only see any fingerprints when the devices are off.
You really need to play with them for a while to see for yourself the advantages/disadvantages of each unit and then decide what will best work for your situation.
posted 10-08-2013 08:35 AM ET (US)
Hi Dennis. I had a smaller Garmin touchscreen 640 for this past season. I found that this model wasn't very easy to use when underway. When running in areas where there are lots of hazards, I wanted to be able to zoom-in and zoom-out easily, and, with the motion of the boat, it was very frustrating as my touches were not precise enough to get the function I wanted. It would not be so bad if it did nothing, but my mis-touch would select panning mode and then I'd have to step back out of that before I could try zooming again. I will not have another touch-only device in my 18. The 640 has already been sold!
For your Montauk, or future 18, my suggestion would be to try several units in the store to find one that works well for you. For me it would be one with button control, perhaps slower at times, but simply easier to use when underway.
posted 10-08-2013 09:12 AM ET (US)
On the Garmin units, the problem is with the buttons location. With the older style push buttons, they were on the side so it was easy, when underway at speed, to "grab" the unit by its side and activate the zoom-in and zoom-out buttons with the thumb. On the touchscreen devices, the zoom-in and zoom-out touch areas were centered on the lower part of the screen, so you have to touch them with a finger, which is a bit harder on a bumpy ride.
posted 10-09-2013 07:35 PM ET (US)
Dennis--why would you even need a chart plotter with your uncanny ability to find the quickest way around the many obstacles in Puget Sound?
I have stayed away from touch screens because I am known as Messy Martin. It seems like my hands are always wet and dirty when I want to use the sonar and chart for setting pots or fishing. My screen would be a mess in no time.
posted 10-09-2013 07:44 PM ET (US)
John--I'm only able to maneuver around those obstacles when I'm in constant radio contact with you. I'd like to get a touch screen chartplotter so I can quickly pan my way out of danger. Just a swipe of the finger and the boat is many meters away.
I did look at a video from Navico on the Lowrance units. The lighting was such that all of the fingerprint swipes were clearly visible. They probbly should have had the lighting at a different angle as a sales technique.
posted 10-10-2013 07:52 AM ET (US)
I had all the same reservations (fingerprints, dirty screens, bouncy boat making hard to control device) about going with touch screen controlled devices before I went with the touch screen devices. Having used my touch screen devices for a full season now, I have none of the prior reservations. As previously mentioned, I would not go back to the button only controlled versions.
posted 10-10-2013 09:21 AM ET (US)
I find that the fingerprint issue is similar to using an iPad. The fingerprints are very apparent when the device is shut down, but are mostly unnoticeable when the device is in operation.
posted 10-10-2013 09:40 PM ET (US)
With touchscreen, I think the bigger the boat, and screen, the better.
My disappointments were with 5" screen Garmin 640, in an 18 Outrage, fishing or running in sloppy west coast water, and wasn't so much the screen itself, as it was the operating system making the touch buttons too small. I'm sure the newer, larger units are better. The 640 does not represent Garmin's best work.
posted 10-10-2013 09:55 PM ET (US)
Touch screens should be at minimum 7" or larger. I also have a Simrad NSS-8 and give it high marks. Another problem with small to medium sized displays is that the multi screen modes become less than useful compared to a 12" or 15" display. I am saving my bottle caps for a second unit so I can do GPS on one and bottom finder on the other. And maybe a radar one of these days. NMEA2000 appears to make networking childs play out of installing electronics these days.
posted 10-11-2013 11:57 AM ET (US)
All the touch screen chart plotters I have played with, did not work with gloves on. If you boat during the winter in colder climates, this is a major draw back.
posted 10-11-2013 02:25 PM ET (US)
You can purchase gloves that are designed for use with touch screens in cold weather .... I know my wife each have a pair.
posted 10-11-2013 03:37 PM ET (US)
Not gloves that will keep my hands warm in Alaska during the winter. Again for many boaters this is not an issue, but it is a consideration for folks boating in an open skiff in cold weather.
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