What was tested and sort of Paraphrased and condensed.
Biggest unit that would comfortably fit in a hand. (depends on who's hand I guess
) 3.5" high res screen
XL3 cartography. Display is attractively layed out with a large print bar across the bottom offering essential course, speed and bearing info. X hear cursor makews position fixing straightforward. Scrolls smoothly and easy to place waypoints. The chart is moved around the curser.Lower level menues are rather clunky and less intuitive although easily readable. Some functions were difficult to to find or seemed to be missing. Seems to be power hungry, with a set of 4 AA's giving up in two hours.Changing batteries was involved and infuriatedly awkward. A power cable and mounting bracket are available, but it does not say if that is opptional extra or not. It was judged the best on test.
This seems to use identical hardware
underneath to the Geonav. Slightly different more curvaciuose style. Same infuriating battery
pack design and have the power consumption
. Also XL3 cartography on a compact flash card located under the batteries. Software
is different, sporting a modified version of the interface used in their bigger plotters. Has an intuitive menu and has much of what is found on the larger plotters. Fast redraw times. The cursor is moved around the chart. A little cumbersome to enter a route
. Screen largely unclutterd and a narrow info bar is at the top, displaying range, bearing to the cursor and it's long and lat. But the text size is small and difficult to view from a distance.
Magellan Meridian color.
This was PBO's best budget
It was first released in 2003. It has a lower resolution screen. It is housed in a rubber case. It uses the Navionics
data in Magellans Mapsend BlueNav chart system. It has a 2 3/4" display. the defualt contrast setting is impossible to see in daylight and requires the display to be adjusted to 75%. Anymore causes a flicker that becomes obtrusive. Scrolling is smooth. Easy and the most intuitive to use and entering waypoints is also simple. a bar at the bottom of the display shows COG and SOG and can be changed to show range and bearing. Battery
life is 6hrs with backlight running. It has external power, but will not recharge batteries.
Garmins approachn is different, using a pictorial interface, rather than lengthy text menu's. Once again a 2 /34" screen and Garmins blue chart cartography seems to view very well on this smaller size, with an uncluttered chart, but you have to zoom out often to view any possible hazards. Buoyage and nav info is superb and an arrow points north to maintain sense of direction in head
It is non-intuitive and difficult to master and requires a lot of research
to locate waypointing and routing. Waypointing was also tediouse. However, it has a powerful bunch oof functions that cover just about everything you could need. A bit sluggish in the redraw and scrolling as it loads a larger area of the chart into fast access memory, allowing smooth panning. It's small physical size makes it easy to hold and slip into a pocket. The power drain is better and the batteries reached half charge in 2hrs. A power cord and bracket are also supplied.
Lowrence iFinder H2O.
This is a budget
monochrome and ruffly half price
of the other clor units. Poor sunlight viewability, but it has a high resolution screen and the backlight enables good viewing in most light bar bright sunlight. Getting started is tricky. There is no automatic chart selection function. So as you reach the edge of the chart, you have to maually load up the next one, even if it is stored on the same MMC card. Once going, it is easy to use. A clear crosshair cursor makes waypointing straightforward and menues are easy to navigate. Scrolling is hampered by a slow proccessor and takes 3 seconds to update. Power consumption
is excellent. But the body seems light and cheap
and the battery cover flimsy. Rubber edging around it helps with knocks around the cockpit
Hope that helps.