May 29, 2014
Let your fingers do the walking on new network multifunction systems.
Entering a waypoint name or comment has long been a sore spot for owners of keypad operated chartplotters.
You'd frequently be forced to scroll through long lists of numbers, letters and symbols to choose each character. Now you'll find a full keyboard displayed on most touch screen multifunction displays. Touch screen MFDs are also adaptable, and that adds greatly to their service life. Because each touch screen field shown onscreen is generated by software, individual fields can be modified, added or deleted.
As a maker incorporates increased functionality or adds compatibility with an additional piece of gear, you'll need nothing more than a simple software update. Not long ago, these types of changes required a hardware update or even a total system replacement. The only things that might restrict a touch screen going forward are processor power limitations and memory capacity.
Let's take a look at four moderately priced touch screen capable units with chartplotter and sounder functionality.
The Garmin 740s features a 7-inch display, internal GPS receiver and 1,000-watt digital sounder packed into a single unit that comes preloaded with U.S. Coastal cartography that includes Bahamas coverage. The 740s can communicate with certain other devices like AIS or a satellite weather receiver via NMEA2000 network and or a VHF radio using NEMA0183 interface. It will also display radar data when connected
to an optional radar antenna. The display has a front panel footprint that measures approximately 9 inches wide and 5.5 inches high. Overall depth is 3.2 inches. The single front panel push button on the 740s turns the unit on or off. Everything else is accessed using touch screen controls. The 740s display screen uses a landscape layout which measures 6 inches wide by 3.7 inches high with a very high pixel count of 800 by 480. This makes onscreen details extremely sharp.
The smallest of the Simrad NSS “Sport” series combines touchscreen, keypad and rotary knob control. The NSS7 features a built-in GPS and sounder as well as the ability to interface with radar, StructureScan sonar and a Sirius weather receiver. Preloaded with U.S. inland and coastal cartography, the unit can also use a wide range of Navionics microSD card options. Display measures 6.4 inches on the diagonal and packs 640 by 480 pixels of resolution. The NSS7 will connect to a NMEA2000 network, SimNet, and can display a composite video input. Front panel footprint is approximately 9 inches wide and 6.3 inches high. Overall depth is approximately 3.2 inches.
Raymarine is rolling out its HybridTouch technology in new MFDs such as the e7 series. This allows boaters to choose between touch-screen or keypad control. The e7 is a 7-inch MFD that provides networking with up to six displays, as well as remote control and music over Bluetooth. Wi-Fi connectivity lets you access whatever is on the display from a mobile iOS device (your iPhone becomes a repeater, for instance). Customizing the MFD layout is a drag-and-drop affair, without scrolling through menus. An HD Digital Sonar version looks especially appealing to fishermen.
Standard Horizon CPN700i
The CPN700i is one of a pair of new release chartplotters that feature hybrid controls using a mixture of touch screen, ShuttlePoint and Rotary Knob with a push to enter. The CPN700i has a built-in GPS and an external GPS antenna connection. It comes preloaded with cartography covering the U.S. coast, as well as The Bahamas, Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Central America. The CPN700i will interface with AIS, a black box sounder, radar, video and a VHF radio. It also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and built-in speakers. The display measures 7 inches and has 800 by 480 pixels of resolution. Front panel footprint is approximately 9.3 inches by 5.9. Adding a FF525 black box fishfinder and transducer will still keep the price well under $2,000. FS