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Old 01-11-2016, 07:14   #1
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When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Howdy Folks,

We've been in the middle of updating out boat for a targeted departure date of April 2017. Still have tons to do and will likely be adding as we go but would like to have a solid baseline before departure (not looking for perfection).

Anyway, we've been holding off on upgrading our electronics until the last possible second to get the most recent options. We're techies and know that whatever we buy will be out of date 6 months later but would like to get the newest we can before departure. Don't want to debate who makes the best gear or anything along those lines here. For the purposes of this discussion let's assume it will be B&G with new wind, depth and speed sensors. 4G radar (these are already purchased).

We've been holding off on the instrumentation which will consist of a couple tritons and at least one MFD. We like the current Zeus 2 option but being that it's already 2 years old, would like to hold off for the next gen (Zeus 3?). I have it on completely unconfirmed authority, from a conversation we had in Annapolis that this is likely to happen this winter. I would assume that would be during the Miami show, which tends to be when all the electronics announcements come out. I believe that show is in Feb, which could be tight but would still likely meet our April target for departure.

For those of you who've been watching this kind of stuff over the years, does that sound like a reasonable assumption? Is Feb when you'd expect to see the latest and greatest announcements from the various marine electronics companies?

I'd like to get all the sensors replaced this winter when we haul out for a bottom job and just hold off for what I hope will be an MFD update, but am not sure how reliable my info is.
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:08   #2
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

I would wait until the new products are announced incl. availability dates then decide. My cutoff will be 6 weeks before departure.

One gripe I have with the latest touch displays is that they are very slow to scroll and zoom around. I think ultimately this is an issue with the slow CPUs in these devices and I do not expect it to change soon. Just a suggestion, since you have time and the 4G radar is quote compatible with the OpenCPN plugin, why don't you experiment with building a navigational computer with a touch display over the winter? You will still need an MFD for the helm but you may be positively surprised with the touch computer.
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Old 01-11-2016, 09:29   #3
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

There are often bugs to iron out in any newly installed electronics system, especially with newly introduced electronics. For this reason I think it extremely foolish to wait until the last moment before departure.
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Old 01-11-2016, 10:41   #4
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

That's part of my reason for the post. Personally, a couple months doesn't sound like an unreasonable amount of time to work out the kinks. That of course assumes any new options announced at the show are available fairly close to the announcement date...

Not having followed the schedule for marine electronics release dates, I'm not sure if that's realistic or not. Which of course is why I'm asking here.
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Old 01-11-2016, 10:53   #5
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Hopefully Navico has improved the bug fixe program. They now seem to be like the old Raymarine... sell stuff and let the users test and find bugs. They then update later when they get the chance/ feel like it.

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Old 01-11-2016, 10:54   #6
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Check Panbo.com archives for new Navico products. That'll show when they typically are available.

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Old 01-11-2016, 11:16   #7
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

I am with Terra Nova, 6 weeks is barely enough to ensure all is working perfect. There is another element. As an owner of a new set of electronics there is a lot to learn how things work. Six weeks is not enough, unless you spend nearly fulltime on the boat (my opinion).

Another question. Is the gear currently on the boat not working? If not, by all means replace, and give yourself up to 6 months to get it perfect and be comfortable with it.
If the current gear is working, maybe upgrading is not really needed. Old plotters still show the same charts, old radios keep on working for many years.

I have little knowledge of Zeus gear, and no knowledge when they bring new gear to the market.

Lastly, certainly the latest greatest gear just released on the market is not necessarily the best. Just thinking of the old Furuno GP32 GPS, has been around for more than 15 years and still one of the best (my opinion), if one needs a simple readout of position or or for backup.
On edit: of course as previous posters said, new released products may have faults not yet discovered.

Disclaimer: most of my (electronic) gear is 5-8 years old, and I have no plans to replace anything yet. On the other hand I fitted out a rescue boat with the latest gear, still took months to iron out all the problems/quirks, and many more months to train all the volunteers.
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Old 01-11-2016, 12:06   #8
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Most marine electronics gear is sold before it is tested. When you say departure, are you planning to be around your electronics dealer for the next 12 months to get the bugs out and warranty work done?

If you are heading out to sea, don't buy anything unless it has been on the market for two years and the firmware is at least release version 4.
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Old 01-11-2016, 14:22   #9
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

We went through the same iterations in mid 2014 when our current boat was new to us...

We bought it knowing it needed a new RADAR, and I wasn't enamored of the Win XP dependent navigation system, so... we ended up choosing B&G also.

Before I respond with my strategy, let me share our thinking and decisions at that time, which will bring us to today:

The 4G RADAR was a no-brainer [and we are still very happy with that choice...]

When we were buying, the Zeus2 was announced ['imminent'] but not yet available... and didn't hit the shelves for another 6 months after that... We waited as long as we could, and ended up with the Zeus Touch using Navionics charts.

We are very pleased with the Zeus Touch system, but are still considering adding a Zeus2 to the mix. Why? No black box needed for their forward looking SONAR and autopilot computers, and the GoFree WiFi functionality is built-in. [Which is good and bad considering we are on our 3rd GoFree and counting- all replaced under warranty...]

We also intend to upgrade the instruments with the Triton2 line replacing our aging [but still fully functional] Autohelm instruments.

Later we replaced a back-up, non-DSC VHF radio with the B&G V50 with wireless mike. Another good choice, and it is now our primary VHF.

So with that background, and my mention of being on our 3rd GoFree, we have experienced a few upgrade/support iterations with B&G [Navico...]

I also come from a technical background, and need to set your expectations to cruising speed with regard to support, response times, and updates with consumer marine electronics... It ain't the same as what you may be used to dealing with the likes of Cisco, etc.

Sometimes their well intentioned support staff just don't know themselves, or worse, give out the wrong information. But most of the time they are great and get it done.

The ability to upgrade the firmware is a great feature. I have been through several of those cycles too. One pattern I've noticed is once a line is replaced by the newer generation, they seem to stop firmware updates for the prior generation(s). e.g., I haven't seen a firmware upgrade for the Zeus Touch in over 2 years, but there have been several for the Zeus2, and even VHF radio and wireless remote mike....

And here is another odd rub; not all the devices can be upgraded on site. e.g., there was a bug in the VHF radio that took them several months to squash... [It liked to randomly 'play' the Wx channel while on 16; not switch, just play...] The downloaded firmware update worked great for the radio, but I had to send the wireless mike to B&G to have it upgraded to make it work with the upgraded radio... I don't know if there is other hardware with this requirement, but thought I would mention it from personal experience...

Given this specific experience, and how long it can take to resolve issues [e.g. an average 30 day turnaround time before a new GoFree wifi unit was replaced...] I would go with what is available now and get it/keep it all working if I wasn't planing to cruise at the dock in large city with support infrastructure...

I say this being very happy with the choices I have made, but with a touch of caution. [And no, I'm not one of those IT curmudgeons who conservatively waits a year or two before applying an update...]

Best wishes executing the ideal strategy for your needs.

Cheers! Bill
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Old 01-11-2016, 15:17   #10
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

wr--good post.
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Old 01-11-2016, 18:22   #11
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Quote:
Originally Posted by ErBrown View Post
Howdy Folks,

We've been in the middle of updating out boat for a targeted departure date of April 2017. Still have tons to do and will likely be adding as we go but would like to have a solid baseline before departure (not looking for perfection).

Anyway, we've been holding off on upgrading our electronics until the last possible second to get the most recent options. We're techies and know that whatever we buy will be out of date 6 months later but would like to get the newest we can before departure. Don't want to debate who makes the best gear or anything along those lines here. For the purposes of this discussion let's assume it will be B&G with new wind, depth and speed sensors. 4G radar (these are already purchased).

We've been holding off on the instrumentation which will consist of a couple tritons and at least one MFD. We like the current Zeus 2 option but being that it's already 2 years old, would like to hold off for the next gen (Zeus 3?). I have it on completely unconfirmed authority, from a conversation we had in Annapolis that this is likely to happen this winter. I would assume that would be during the Miami show, which tends to be when all the electronics announcements come out. I believe that show is in Feb, which could be tight but would still likely meet our April target for departure.

For those of you who've been watching this kind of stuff over the years, does that sound like a reasonable assumption? Is Feb when you'd expect to see the latest and greatest announcements from the various marine electronics companies?

I'd like to get all the sensors replaced this winter when we haul out for a bottom job and just hold off for what I hope will be an MFD update, but am not sure how reliable my info is.
We've recently completed a full B&G upgrade. We held off while we were in the bay area doing lots of boat work. Now we've moved to the PNW we are cruising more.

It's been 3 months since purchase and were still waiting for an NAIS-400 power cable missing from the box. There is no part number. Add in completing other projects to complete and we have a 6 month purchase to completion of commisioning schedule.

We avoided the tritons due to them being very chatty on the network. We built a new helm with all instrumentation and controls at the helm. I'm always amazed at the woeful ergonomics on most boats with controls all over the cockpit.

We use an ipad at the chart table and project the zeus on a flat screen tv in the salon. We have a fully enclosed hard dodger so the helm is the master zeus2. These compone ts are not mission critical but nice to have.

Can't see the need to have a second zeus2 at the chart table. We have an opencpn and dedicated laptop for passage planning, software, chart and firmware configuration management.

We bought the zeus 2 now as it and its integration with 4g radar. MARPA, forwardscan sonar and autopilot is mature and stable.

As for the next zeus iteration it took B&G 18 months for the forwardscan sonar to become generally available after announcing the release date. I'd add 2 years to any announcement and another 18 months before they iron out the bugs.

It's taken the last 3 years for the major vendors to abandon their restrictive and proprietary business models.

Certainly B&G is moving to a product and subscription service model. The subscription services, like published charts, cloudshared nav data and subscription upgrades give them recurring revenue. Id expect to see the prices of their products to either stabilize or drop over time.

The NMEA2000 protocol is just a bespoke connector variant of the 20 year old 8 bit CANbus protocol. It's bandwidth constrained. The sonar and radar use ethernet and the radar does the MARPA calcs. Probably because the bus would be a bottleneck.

Beware building a network that is too complex. Lots of forum examples of frustrated owners. We refused the tritons which are also redundant when you have a well layed out helm.

We've found the forwardscan sonar and 4g radar, with MARPA to be great. It was only a few years ago when these capabilities were restricted to the defence industry or a few unintegratable commercial systems.

The zeus2 is a decent touch screen but there are times when it lags. I havent had a chance to deep inspect network traffic but suspect this average quality commercial kit to be poorly optimized. It aint state of the art but is probably good enough.

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Old 01-11-2016, 19:58   #12
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

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wr--good post.

I second that and from leftbrainstuff. Very good.

I pulled the trigger on a Zeus2, the Triton2 w/d/s/t package and a wifi-1. Getting excited to install over the winter and test in spring.

I though about holding my breath for the next Zeus as I know the 2 is getting "old," but I think I'd end up passing out. These guys aren't on time and I want to escape ASAP.
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Old 02-11-2016, 09:54   #13
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Six months, maybe.

I prefer discrete instruments, particularly stand-alone RADAR units. I would prefer to do overlays on a PC screen (either a secured laptop or a second screen I can move) than on an MFD. For the same reason, I choose not to integration instruments, such as the AP and the GPS. I think sailing to a waypoint you can't see is potentially an issue; sailing to a compass heading, on the other hand, that leads you to the waypoint gives you tide and current information and an active role in correcting course based on observations YOU, not the AP, wish to correct.

We are looking at PROVEN tech, not the latest and greatest. That means something other people have already beta-tested in the ocean. If that passes muster, we have fewer worries.
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Old 02-11-2016, 11:23   #14
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

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Most marine electronics gear is sold before it is tested. When you say departure, are you planning to be around your electronics dealer for the next 12 months to get the bugs out and warranty work done?

If you are heading out to sea, don't buy anything unless it has been on the market for two years and the firmware is at least release version 4.
^^^^^ What He said IN SPADES! ^^^^^
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Old 02-11-2016, 14:26   #15
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Re: When to pull the trigger on an electronics update

Surely it comes down to how many other things you have to do. In my opinion it would be more important to spend time sailing around getting used to the boat and finding out the other bugs.
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