with a laptop
would top anything you can buy. The middle of the road software will do more than any two chart plotters. If you want to spend money
then integrated flat panel screens with radar
overlay are the top end, but even they use a lot of software too. Clearly way more than $1000. You could get a decent laptop, good software and buy charts
outside the US for less than a chart plotter. You can use an assortment of formats as no one format covers the whle planet! You are stuck with paper chart backups no matter what.
For the helm
I like a basic GPS
that can take an uploaded route
from my computer. I like to plan my routes before the trip and not route
on the fly. It means I've thought about it for a while too. I may have several alternates in mind as well and can preload those or upload them as required. I don't navigate by the seat of the pants. You can't steer a boat
by a chart plotter. You tend to hit the bouyage and day marks given you are aiming at them. Looking at a plotter will get you in more trouble than looking where you are going. I have seen many times when the real time GPS signal said I was going on the wrong side of the mark but I could see it and was going around the right side. GPS is great for 1/10 of a NM but pretty poor at piloting a tricky anchorage or approach.
I do have a small chart plotter and I use it but not as much as I use my GPS with an uploaded route.