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Old 10-11-2016, 09:06   #1
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Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Hello,

I know there are lots of threads like this one but most of the reviews dwell on fish-finding and the information is a bit overwhelming to say the least. I'm hoping I can some advice based on where my thought process stands now...

I'm looking for a new plotter/radar combo for the fundamentals: a plotter for primary navigation (with ipad backup) and the radar for collision avoidance in the fog. I want something reliable and easy to use.

I played with all the units at West Marine and I was very displeased with the Raymarine units. Too slow to refresh and I the touch screen was hard to use. I don't know if my fingers are defective, but honestly it's hard to use any touch screen unit without lots of "missed clicks". I would be just as happy with a push-button model if not more so, although they are harder to find now it seems. I will be looking from a distance at the plotter from cockpit to pilothouse so screen size is important, but I don't think I can get much bigger than 9-10" in my budget.

So I've now got it tentatively narrowed down to two choices:
1) Simrad NSS9 Evo2 with a 18" 3G Radar dome.
2) Garmin 1040xs with an 18" HD Radar dome.

Very simply put, I have a feeling I will like the Garmin plotter better (again, I put no premium on the touch screen) but the Simrad will have better radar and maybe more features in general. The Simrad broadband radar will use less power, which is a factor. The Garmin 1040sx has a bigger screen but is a little older so it might be slower or become obsolete faster. To keep it in my budget, I would need to get a refurbished Simrad plotter, while the Garmin I could buy brand new. Then again, it sounds like Simrad may have better tech support.

Any opinions or experiences with these models? Any other factors or options I'm not considering? I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts...
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Old 10-11-2016, 10:16   #2
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

I use the Simrad radar and plotter with overlay . I have found the system to be close to perfect for my needs . I located the display at my wheel in cockpit . For the money it's great .
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Old 10-11-2016, 11:00   #3
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

You really narrowed it down to the available options. (Some might toss in Furuno, but the radar, while arguably the best, is more expensive and the chartplotter not as nice.)

A few things, in no particular order...

- Garmin just came out with a new radar, the Fantoms. The 18'' domes are not on sale yet as they need regulatory approval, but the wait shouldn't be too long. These radars are solid states like the Navico (Simrad and B&G). They actually seem to improve on 3G/4G Navicos by including a Doppler function. I'd also expect (or hope) the next B&Gs will also include this Doppler do-dad. You can read about this on Panbo's blog/website and Garmin's website.

Panbo: The Marine Electronics Hub: New Garmin: Fantom radomes & Panoptix thru-hull FLS, plus radios & "budget" MFDs

- Unless you're a radar nerd, I'd pick based on chartplotter and take whatever radar comes with it. Both the Garmin HD and the Navico 3G will spot boats, in the dark and fog, 10+ miles out. Maybe the 3G/4Gs are better at close targets, but you should be using your eyes for those!

- Do you have (or will you want) an autopilot? You'll want to keep the brand the same between the chartplotter and autopilot computer (not necessary, but it is nice).

- In the grand scheme of things, the power usages isn't really all that different between the radars when compared to all the other electrical draws on a boat. At least that is what folks here have said.

- Go with B&G's Zeus2 9'', not Simrad, for the chartplotter. Same gear and same price, but the B&G comes with specific sailing software that would be silly to pass up.

- To get the MARPA to work with any degree of reliability, you need a really good heading sensor. See Airmar's H2183 or B&G's Precision 9 (not sure where Garmin stands, but these two are NMEA 2000, so a Garmin chartplotter/radar can use the data to stabilize MARPA/chart overlay). These will play double duty with your autopilot.

- Where in Brooklyn do you sail out of? I sail out of Brooklyn (For what it is worth, I was between Garmin and B&G. I went B&G for the better (at least what I perceived as better) sailing functions. Both will no doubt get your from point A to point B.)
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Old 10-11-2016, 13:29   #4
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Quote:
Originally Posted by fallingeggs View Post
You really narrowed it down to the available options. (Some might toss in Furuno, but the radar, while arguably the best, is more expensive and the chartplotter not as nice.)

Glad I'm heading in the right direction... I should have asked you earlier!

- Do you have (or will you want) an autopilot? You'll want to keep the brand the same between the chartplotter and autopilot computer (not necessary, but it is nice).

Yes I have a Simrad AP22. It's a bit older but I was told by the West Marine salesman that these are pretty good at integrating across brands even with older models.Do you think this is not the case? Honestly I don't have too strong a desire to integrate these so it's not really a huge factor.

- Go with B&G's Zeus2 9'', not Simrad, for the chartplotter. Same gear and same price, but the B&G comes with specific sailing software that would be silly to pass up.

Interesting. I'd never heard of this brand before. It does look like an identical unit but I'm not seeing it for quite the same price. Is it made by the same manufacturer or are they a division of Simrad or something?

- To get the MARPA to work with any degree of reliability, you need a really good heading sensor. See Airmar's H2183 or B&G's Precision 9 (not sure where Garmin stands, but these two are NMEA 2000, so a Garmin chartplotter/radar can use the data to stabilize MARPA/chart overlay). These will play double duty with your autopilot.

Hmm now we're getting beyond the scope of my knowledge again. I have a NMEA 2000 network on the boat but to be quite honest I'm not sure how to take advantage of it. I presume this sensor coordinates the radar with heading even when SOG is minimal or not aligned with the heading of the boat?

- Where in Brooklyn do you sail out of? I sail out of Brooklyn (For what it is worth, I was between Garmin and B&G. I went B&G for the better (at least what I perceived as better) sailing functions. Both will no doubt get your from point A to point B.)

I sail out of Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club (as of September) but my boat is in Mill Basin for the winter. I'll be sailing around NYC in the Spring then heading to Maine and Nova Scotia for the summer (hence the fog). My last boat was a bright orange Pearson 26 you may have seen around. I had a Garmin 3206 plotter and 18HD radar on it which I was very happy with. I'm leaning toward the Simrad as well right now (or at least until you mentioned B&G anyway). Did you get a B&G radar or Simrad radar? Can you briefly explain the advantages of the sailing software? Before deciding, were you considering the Garmin 1040xs or another model?



Thanks!
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Old 10-11-2016, 14:00   #5
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

I really think it comes down to usability. I absolutely detest Raymarine chart plotters for the simple fact that the UI to do basic things can be confounding. If you have other people on the boat, multiply that by number of them, because they won't be able to figure it out either.

I have Garmin right now and am satisfied, although it's an older unit and slow. Still, I can figure out anything I want to do without resorting to the manual.

I replaced the instruments on my boat with B&G this spring, and figure at some point I'll upgrade the chart plotter and radar to Simrad, their partner. I played with their stuff and it seems usable enough.

I would not get hung up on power usage unless you sail in an area where extended use of radar is mandatory. Offshore, when I use radar I have mine set to spin up for a minute every 10-20 minutes, depending, and I can't see incrementally greater efficiency being a valuable enough offset to the overall usability of the system.

FYI, B&G and Simrad (and Lawrence) are all (fairly recently acquired) subsidiaries of Navico. B&G stuff is more sailing oriented as they come out of a racing background. The current generation of Simrad and B&G chart plotters are different hardware but use the same software.

As far as the sailing software is concerned, you would need their instrument wind/speed package to take full advantage of it. Google "Sailsteer" and watch a demo. It's pretty cool stuff.

And regarding a heading sensor, it's essentially an electronic compass, and yes, it tells everything where your boat is actually pointed, which GPS cannot reliably determine. They can be expensive. They're not critical, but they make everything more accurate, from true wind direction to the MARPA radar function.
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Old 10-11-2016, 14:57   #6
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Sorry I made a mess of the quotes in my last post trying to copy and paste after I got logged out. To answer the Brooklyn question, I sail out of Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club but I'm hauled out in Mill Basin for the winter. My last boat was a bright orange Pearson 26 you might have seen around. I usually sail around the city in the Spring and fall and head up to Maine and the Canadian maritimes in the summer. Looking forward to getting out there in my new boat!


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Old 10-11-2016, 15:20   #7
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Too funny. I am with SBYC! Will ping you with contact details so we can discuss in person, but I'll reply here anyway.

1) Depends on what it meant by "integrate." With any autopilot set up, you have three separate components: control head/computer, compass/rudder sensor and drive. You can generally mix and match brands among these three categories (assuming the control head/computer can speak the same language as the compass/rudder sensor), so yes, the WestMarine guy is right. (Note that the drive really don't care what it is connected to as long as it has power.)

When I was referring chartplotter integration I was referring to actually controlling and monitoring the autopilot from the chartplotter. This is done through the chartplotter interacting with the autopilots control head/compter and can generally only be done when the chartplotter brand matches the control head/computer brand and they are of the same technological generation.

In your case, I have to assume the AP22 is too old for the newer Simard/B&G chartplotter to control even though they are the same brand, but I could be wrong. A new Simard/B&G autopilot can be controlled from a new Simrad/B&G chartplotter, just as a new Garmin autopilot can be controlled by a Garmin chartplotter, but the brands won't fully control the other, except for limited navigation by waypoint.

Again, not necessary by any means, just a nice to have. Really something to consider if you are going to up grade your autopilot controller/computer (you're a full two generations behind now ).

2) As mentioned above, Simrad and B&G (and Lawrence) are owned by the same company, Navico. I think Suijin had a small mistake and meant to say that the hardware is the same between the companies and only the software changes (and only by a little). Go to bandg.com and youtube and look at SailStreer. The listed retail prices really should be the same.

Zeus≤

3) A heading sensor provides more accurate data than a compass alone and allows the radar to be oriented correctly with the boat's heading and to calculate the heading of other boats. You should have an older compass with your autopilot and it likely speaks NMEA 0183. I bet this can be integrated with the NMEA 2000 radar from either Garmin or Simrad/B&G with a little bit of effort and money. The new compasses, which use a different technology are more accurate, but probably not worth switching out unless you were also changing the autopilot controller/computer.

4) I haven't purchased the radar yet and not sure if I will. It's on the list, but rather far down. I try to avoid fog and my eyes work well enough at night.

I did consider the Garmin 740xs before getting my Zeus2 7''. The B&G system (chartplotter software and the autopilot) is more expensive than Garmin, but I think I'll enjoy the race pedigree that has filtered down. (B&G makes a system, the H5000, that is used on many top racing sailboats, including, I think, some of the Vendee Globe boats racing around the world right now. Garmin isn't into racing and, I suspect, really only cares about powerboaters as it is a bigger market.)

If this doesn't interest you, buy which ever you find more intuitive to use, which I bet will be the Garmin.
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Old 10-11-2016, 15:45   #8
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Garmin has always been very easy to use without having to pull out a manual.

When night sailing or in bad weather you will find out how important using a chart-plotter and radar without a manual is.

Touch screen makes it feel just like using a large cell phone.
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Old 11-11-2016, 07:45   #9
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Interesting thread to me because I'm going through a similar process of choosing my next radar/chartplotter.

After reading through what's been written so far, I'd like to share a few thoughts:
As primarily a Maine sailor who has done quite a lot of boating in thick fog, I've noticed that when I most need radar in fog, there's usually little or no wind, so I am motoring, which means power consumption isn't an issue at all. For offshore sailing where radar will be used all night while under sail, I can see where power consumption would be a bigger issue, but not for coastal cruising where radar will mostly be used in foggy conditions.

Don't underestimate the importance of a radar to have the ability to see small, close in targets. On my previous boat (Furuno radar), I was motoring slowly in thick fog and happened to notice 3 or 4 sweeps that showed a speck (looked just like "noise" on the screen) but it seemed to be moving down the (1/8 mile) screen towards me. I still wasn't sure it wasn't just noise but as it got very close it was enough so I was looking in it's direction in time to luckily see 2 kayakers digging like crazy to get out of my way, no more than 100' off my bow. If I hadn't been straining my eyes in their direction when they first became visible, I might have seen them too late to avoid hitting them. I had a similar experience with a wooden lobster boat that had no radar reflector.

One thing that's been brought up is the ability to couple the autopilot to a course on your plotter and I can understand why some think it's sort of a neat gadget but I think it's a very bad idea to even have the ability to do that because it permits the helmsman to be "out of the loop" and will inevitably lead to a frightening moment or worse when you or another helmsman you have aboard gets momentarily distracted by something and doesn't notice the boat turning or not noticing it not turning when you thought it was coupled up. An autopilot in heading mode is the perfect balance of keeping the helmsman involved and demanding that he/she stay in the loop, but also allowing his hands to be freed up enough to operate the radar/chartplotter or trimming the sails, so I wouldn't go to the trouble of buying or wiring up my chartplotter to my autopilot. In my civilian job I'm a commercial airline pilot and we spend about 95% of our time with the autopilot coupled to the navigation system so I have a LOT of experience with doing that, but in our case we have 2 trained operators who are strapped into a seat facing the navigations display all the time, and are constantly closely monitoring that the airplane is doing what we expect it to with no other crew members or sail trim issues, etc. distracting us, but even so, it still occasionally happens that a crew will see what they expect to see and not immediately notice that they are not coupled up when they are assuming that they are, or vice versa.

I don't have the knowledge about current products to make a recommendation about which current radar is best, so will be watching this thread with interest as those with more current knowledge provide that info and hope to use what's written here as a guide for choosing our new radar/plotter. Thanks to those who have already posted pro's/con's about what's currently out there.
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Old 11-11-2016, 09:19   #10
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cotemar View Post
Garmin has always been very easy to use without having to pull out a manual.

When night sailing or in bad weather you will find out how important using a chart-plotter and radar without a manual is.

Touch screen makes it feel just like using a large cell phone.
I know it's the latest trend in plotters, but for one located in the cockpit, how do they handle being "touched" by fingers also exposed to wet, salty items or in conditions where the wind is blowing salt spray around? I'm asking, not saying, because I've never used any touchscreen in our cockpit other than our iPad in it's lifeproof case. Maybe just keep a rag nearby to give it a quick wipe before touching it when the weather turns nasty?
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Old 11-11-2016, 09:27   #11
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jtsailjt View Post
I know it's the latest trend in plotters, but for one located in the cockpit, how do they handle being "touched" by fingers also exposed to wet, salty items or in conditions where the wind is blowing salt spray around? I'm asking, not saying, because I've never used any touchscreen in our cockpit other than our iPad in it's lifeproof case. Maybe just keep a rag nearby to give it a quick wipe before touching it when the weather turns nasty?
Chartplotters are waterproof.
They do not care about being wet.
They only sense fingers wet or dry.
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Old 11-11-2016, 11:05   #12
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Always a dilemma when choosing electronics. I'm a power boater and not a sail guy yet. I just upgraded my boat with Garmin 7610 touch screen and a XHD radar dome. My skiff also runs a new Garmin 74dv. Both are easy to use and for the most part are manual free ( although its in the software ). The touch screen can sometimes be hard to use in bumpy conditions. So I am going to back it up with the 1040xs for those times when its just to rough. ( I also like buttons ) The bigger screens are easier to see for sure and I see Garmin does have some sailing speciality software they are running in both the 7610 and 1040xs. Happy Hunting.
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Old 11-11-2016, 13:27   #13
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

We are also trying to decide between the Garmin and Simrad radar for our 35' motorboat. We will be boating between the Great Lakes and Floriduh. Does anyone use radar for looking for approaching storms, i.e. the 40-mile range radars?
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Old 11-11-2016, 15:22   #14
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

B&G seems to be doing a great job making chartplotters and radars.
I just purchased (2-3 months ago) a 3g radar and 9" plotter combo and I think it was $2200.
You can save a ton by sticking with 3g over the newer 4g radars.

If you need the link to the combo let me know. if you want to click around and check out the UI/UX I'm fairly certain worst marine has them on display.

It's tough to shop for chartplotters as bass pro and their competition focus more on the fishing crowd than the sailing crowd (which makes sound business sense).

Good luck
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Old 11-11-2016, 15:42   #15
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Re: Best basic plotter/radar combo for under $3k? (Simrad v. Garmin)

Quote:
Originally Posted by fallingeggs View Post
2) As mentioned above, Simrad and B&G (and Lawrence) are owned by the same company, Navico. I think Suijin had a small mistake and meant to say that the hardware is the same between the companies and only the software changes (and only by a little). Go to bandg.com and youtube and look at SailStreer. The listed retail prices really should be the same.
Actually some of the hardware is the same and some of it is different, and some of the software is the same and some of it is different. For example, they have different hardware for some of their chart plotters/MFDs, while the software is substantially the same, at least for basic chart plotter functions. That's from poking around demo units at the boatshow and a few stores, and it's possible I was looking at two different generations of products. I was looking for a plotter/mfd that would fit in my helm navpod and noticed that the offerings at that size were different, with different dimensions.

The instrument display hardware is the same, and from what I can tell the software is the same as well, in so far as the readouts look identical, so the only thing different is the name on the front.

The big differentiator is Sailsteer being available on B&G. I'm not familiar with any features in the Simrad software that are different from what B&G offers.
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