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Marine Electronics Buyer's Guide at Cabela's

Marine Electronics Buyer's Guide

Author: Frank Ross

It was only a matter of time until manufacturers managed to integrate the myriad of marine electronics wizardry into one display. Once one manufacturer did it, others quickly followed suit.

Pro walleye angler Kim Chief Papineau, uses his Raymarine C80 as a tournament fishing tool.
This is good news for a number of reasons, not the least of which is eliminating onboard clutter. In the past, you had to have several displays mounted on your console and watching them all risked a whiplash injury. A day on the water meant constantly checking each to note information being fed back from the depths. It also meant lots more wires and clutter to deal with. While you still need to connect all of the sending units, now you can have your radar, sonar, GPS and underwater camera on the same display.

Raymarine was the industry leader in this area, coming out first, with their C80 multifunction display (MFD) and associated accessories. The driving force was their new radar unit, designed and priced for smaller deep-water boats as well as inshore use. The Raymarine system is anchored around the high-resolution, 8.4", 256-color C80 display. With 640 x 480 pixels, the display can easily be changed to a variety of configurations showing the chartplotter, radar and sounder functions all at once, or individually. Sounder, radar and GPS modules are sold separately.

The Raymarine C80 and be set to display radar, charts and sonar at the same time.
The Raymarine C80 and be set to display radar, charts and sonar at the same time.
Now, Garmin has introduced a new line of large color displays with their 3006, 3010 series. The 3006 has a sunlight readable, 256-color, 640 x 480-pixel VGA, 6.4" diagonal display and the 3010 jumps you up to a 10" diagonal screen with the same pixel count. With these units you buy the monitor and GPS module as a package, and add additional components based on your own particular needs. Options include satellite weather, sonar and radar modules. Fully tricked out, these Garmin MFD units, with a 10.4" diagonal screen, high speed processor and graphics controllers have the ability to rapidly redraw navigation charts and weather graphics to guide you through a challenging situation or put you on the fish under any conditions.

Garmin uses a proprietary 100-megabite, Ethernet-based network for communications with the Garmin Marine Network using a portable ground station (PGS) antenna and one remote sensor connected directly to the MFD, and each networked MFD can be configured independently.

Sonar and satellite weather capabilities require a separate purchase for each technology. Sonar signals require the purchase of a GSD 20, a proprietary black box sounder that produces 4,000 watts of peak-to-peak power (500 watts RMS). RMS is an acronym for "root mean square," or a DC voltage that will produce the same heating effect (power output in Watts) as the AC voltage. Dual frequency 14°/45° transducer are also sold separately.

Garmin's new 3010 jumps you up to a 10• diagonal screen with 256-color VGA, 640 x 480-pixel.
Garmin's new 3010 jumps you up to a 10" diagonal screen with 256-color VGA, 640 x 480-pixel.
Real-time graphical weather data, such as wind direction, wave height and direction is available without the need for a separate PC interface, with the optional GDL™ 30 weather data receiver.

Now that you have the entire spectrum of above waterline data at your fingertips, you will want to add the optional Aqua-Vu Perch Underwater Camera. This additional capacity, viewable on your MFD, will give you a view of what's going on underneath your hull. Both units include a GPS 17N external remote antenna, power cable, ball mount, template for flush mount and protective front cover. And to close out all of the electronic tools to improve upon productivity, Fishing Hot Spots and LakeMaster data cards also are available.

If you're a devotee of Lowrance Electronics, most Lowrance color and monochrome models manufactured in 2005 are multi-function display units and NMEA-2000 compatible, whether dedicated sonar, GPS, or combo sonar/GPS. The exceptions would be compacts with a 3.5" and 4" diagonal display units are not. Basically, any Lowrance unit with a 5" diagonal screen (except the X125 monochrome sonar) or larger is NMEA 2000® compatible. When connected to the NMEA-2000 certified data buss line backbone, Lowrance's '05 units will display the data from any compatible sensor. In addition to sonar, GPS and charts you can access data on fuel flow, fuel level, speed, and temp. In the near future, engine data will be added to glut of information that is available through the multi-function display and can be displayed as digital alpha/numerics, or in round analog-looking gauges, in a variety of sizes, and placed anywhere on the screen according to user preference.

More Mapping Capacity
Increased mapping and charting capabilities were introduced with various units that accommodated the new Navionics technology. While this is a fairly affordable option for someone who only fishes in one state or limited region, buying multiple chips for several states add up quickly.

Lowrance LCX-111c HD innovative big-screen color hard drive sonar/GPS.
Lowrance LCX-111c HD innovative big-screen color hard drive sonar/GPS.
The recent innovation of onboard hard drives in Lowrance LCX-26 and LCX-111 units is an ideal choice for anglers who fish a wider area. Lowrance's introduction of High-definition TFT (thin-film transistor) color sonar/GPS+WAAS with precision chartplotter features and a built-in 20GB internal hard drive preloaded with high-detailed mapping and charts, including over 2 million Points-Of-Interest made it more affordable to own it every chart in one package. All maps and charts are displayed on a huge 10.4" diagonal display that outputs 256 colors with SVGA technology on a liquid crystal TFT display at an incredible 600V x 800H resolution. Lowrance has a proprietary screen enhancement technology called SolarMAX, found on big-screen units, especially the LCX-111C HD that makes the color display more readable in bright sunlight. Since most fishing is done in the daytime, this is a feature that could make it a lot easier on your eyes. This unit is also NMEA 2000® compatible for networking.

NMEA 2000® is the interface standard developed by the National Marine Electronics Association. This standard contains the requirements of a serial data communications network to inter-connect marine electronic equipment on vessels. It is multi-master and self-configuring without requiring a central network controller. Equipment designed to this standard will have the ability to share data, including commands and status with other compatible equipment over a single channel.

What this and other electronics' innovations have done is make it a lot simpler to know everything that is going on around you, as well as in the future. For offshore anglers, as well as inshore boaters and fishermen, having the ability to peek over at the radar to watch incoming weather, eyeball the bottom with your sonar or underwater camera and chart productive areas with GPS puts the data required to have a safe and productive day at your fingertips. With all of this gear at our disposal, I can foresee the need to develop more creative excuses for not catching fish.

For additional information on the basics of sonar, please read our Sonar Buyer's Guide or the Lowrance Tutorial, how sonar works.

Author Frank Ross
Frank Ross grew up on a lake in Florida, where fishing and hunting were second nature. He has pursued his passion from the jungles of South America to the northern reaches of the Arctic Circle and most points in between. With a background in newspapers, the wire services and magazines that began in 1970, Frank brings a unique perspective to his work with Cabela's. He is an award-winning photographer with a flair for getting to the bottom line of every story.

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