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TOO MANY OPTIONS - LET US HELP
Most people end up here because they are confused. There are so many options, so many accessories, so many ways to interface devices, and the technology moves so fast. It is nearly impossible to wade through all the options and make sensible conclusions. The online forums and public opinion even confuse things further. We are here to help. Since 2003 we have been helping people match the right technology with their needs, and ultimately providing a package that includes all the required cables, connectors, mounts, etc. All protected by our FREE lifetime tech support. On this page you'll find helpful articles and tips conveniently placed to assist you with each section. We'll try to assist on each section by showing you the latest technology and the most popular devices. Of course you can always call us for some personal one-on-one advice.
GPS, Chartplotters, and Multifunction Displays
A main display is the foundation for all marine electronics. You will certainly want to have a good display on your boat. Nowadays, your main display can show just about anything regarding navigation. There are lots of confusing terms when describing this main display. These include Chartplotter, GPS, Combo Unit, Networking Display, Graph, and more. In general, these are all referring to the same type of display. There are three real classes we can drop displays into.
The first is a "Chartplotter". These units generally will act as a chartplotter out of the box. A chartplotter is a display that has a scrolling map that follows your boat as it moves. Sometimes that is all they will do, but sometimes they have networking capabilities and can do much more via attachments. Attachments include Fishfinder Modules, Radars and more. So really we have "standalone chartplotters" which are rare. And we have "Networkable chartplotters" which are what we commonly see offered by manufacturers.
Next is a "Combo Unit". A GPS/FF Combo. These vary tremendously in price and can include the least expensive tiny units as well as the most expensive 16" units. These units always have a chartplotter built in, as well as a sonar so they can act as a Fishfinder too. So a combo unit will always be a chartplotter and fishfinder. But some of them are networkable too, meaning you can add from a variety of attachments to make them do so much more.
Last is a "Networkable Unit" or "Multifunction Display". These are generally the more expensive displays and are meant to be used to connect to a variety of attachments. From the paragraphs above you have already seen that both chartplotters and combos can be networkable. Manufacturers generally lump these displays into their own class as the higher end display. So networkable displays may come preloaded with charts and have an internal antenna which essentially makes them a chartplotter. Or a networkable display may have a sonar built in making it a combo. But they are networkable displays and meant to accept any attachments the manufacturer may offer.
NOTE: Here is where it gets tricky, some manufacturers consider a unit a GPS/FF or Chartplotter even if it has networking capabilities. So be sure to check in each area for the unit you are wanting.
Garmin / Lowrance / Raymarine / Simrad / more...
Garmin, Simrad, Lowrance, Humminbird, Furuno, Raymarine
Garmin, Simrad, Lowrance, Raymarine, Furuno, Humminbird, and more...
Which display is for me?
Picking the right chartplotter or combo for your boat is no easy task. There are far too many options, and even options within those options! Do you need radar capability, does it need side imaging, will it fit, do you need CHIRP, and on and on. Let's try to help you through some of that. Here is a logical approach to finding the right display. First, what fits? Whether it is flush mounted or bracket mounted you need to figure out what is the biggest display that can fit. You might not end up with the biggest, but you will need to know what can fit. Next is budget. How much do you want to spend. $500? $1,000? $25,000? Figure out a window of cost you want to stay within and use that to narrow down your options. On our site for example, there is a slider on the left column to narrow down search results to your budget.
Once you know the size, and your budget you can really start to pinpoint actual features you might want. Some notable features include CHIRP capability, side imaging, NMEA2000, radar capability, XM or Sirius Weather, internal GPS, internal sonar, networkability, preloaded charts, touchscreen, buttons, video inputs, and more. In reality, most high end units $1,500 or more include most of this stuff out of the box. Lesser expensive units will have a handful of these features, and you'll need to choose what you want.
Some of the most decision affecting features we have found are CHIRP, Side Imaging, and Networkabilty. These are the features that may steer you one way or another in most cases. CHIRP is a new kind of sonar that sends a blast of frequencies down instead of a single frequency. This allows the unit to get a much clearer picture of what is under the boat and reduce clutter. It is a major breakthrough in technology and many people demand it on new equipment. Side Imaging is a new technology that draws an actual 3D image of what is under the boat. Not great for finding fish, but priceless for finding structure. Networkability is the technology that allows a unit to fully communicate with a similar unit to share all accessories like radar or sonar across all screens. Once a unit becomes networkable, it generally includes being compatible with all technologies like radar, weather, NMEA2000 and sonar.
So what should you pick? Below we will put together common groups of "wants" for units and like you to the most popular option among our customers.
Features: GPS, CHIRP Fishfinder, Buttons - Lowrance Hook2, Garmin 1042 / 1242, Raymarine Dragonfly
Features: GPS, CHIRP Fishfinder, Touchscreen - Lowrance Live, Simrad GO Series, Garmin 742xs / 942xs
Features: GPS, CHIRP Fishfinder, Side Imaging, Buttons - Garmin 1042 / 1242, Lowrance Hook2 w/Tripleshot, Raymarine Axiom Pro
Features: GPS, CHIRP Fishfinder, Side Imaging, Touchscreen - Garmin 8600 Series, Lowrance HDS Live, Simrad NSS Evo3, Garmin 742xs / 942xs, Raymarine Axiom, Simrad GO Series
Features: GPS, CHIRP Fishfinder, Side Imaging, Radar, Networkability - Garmin 8600 Series, Simrad NSS Evo3, Lowrance HDS Live, Raymarine Axiom Pro
Our most popular sellers
Sonar and Fishfinders
There is simply far too much to cover regarding Sonar here so we have written some guides to help you along. You can find those just below. Briefly, just about all sonar technology has moved to CHIRP recently. CHIRP is anew technologyu that sends down a blast of frequencies instead of a single frequency. We recommend CHIRP regardless of your usage. In fact, this is the only option with most brands. There is also some new technology which allows the sonar to show a 3d image under the boat, and off to the sides. Most brands now offer this. It can be very usefull in water under 100' if you are searching for structure. Because choosing the right sonar and transducer can be so confusiong we recommend you read our articles or simply call us for help.
- Navico Active Imaging 3-in-1 Transom Mount TransducerSpecial Price $234.99 Regular Price $249.99
- Garmin GT52HW-TM Plastic, TM or Trolling Motor Transducer, High Wide CHIRP/DownV/SideV - 455/800kHz, 500WSpecial Price $250.97 Regular Price $266.99
We field questions about radar daily. Do I need it? Open array or dome? How does it get mounted, etc. Here is a very brief overview. Do I need it? If you boat at night, in fog, or want to find distant birds for fishing then you need radar. Your chartplotter shows you what should be there, radar shows you what is actually there around your boat including other vessels. It is a vital layer of safety if visibility is impaired. Open array or dome? There are two factors that come into play here; performance and aesthetics. As for performance, any radar will do fine for basic navigation with impaired visibility, on any size boat. In fact, you'll often see dome radars mounted on the bow of huge ships to help them with basic navigation through channels or in busy harbors. So a dome will be just fine for anything navigation-related. An open array comes into play specifically if you want to see birds. Fishermen love to find birds that are otherwise too distant to see, and these birds lead them to fish. An open array is also useful on larger ocean-going vessels for detecting distant traffic. So why do we care about aesthetics? Some larger yachts would simply look goofy with a small dome. Outfitting a recreational boat or yacht properly is 2 parts performance and 2 parts style, so choose a radar that "looks" right on your boat. If you have a large cruiser, big sport fisherman or yacht then an open array looks best, and the added performance is a bonus!
Radars nowadays are almost universally compatible with the same brand networkable chartplotters/MFD's. So if you get a Simrad Evo3 display for example, any of Simrad's radars will work with it.
Expert Article: Do you need radar!
Most Popular Radars
Want to get really confused? Just go shopping for autopilot! The good news is we have been helping customers for 15 years to find the right pilot. Here are some basics. Virtual Feedback - This is a new technology that allows a pilot to work without the use of a rudder (or outboard) position sensor. So if you have an outboard boat you'll want a pilot with Virtual Feedback. If you have an inboard boat you'll still want to use a rudder position sensor. Some other good rules of thumb - buy the same brand pilot as your chartplotter. Why? Because you will often get enhanced functionality such as being able to control your pilot from your chartplotter, or following a track seamlessly. In general it's best to keep things to the same brand. The major brands of pilots include Garmin, Simrad, Raymarine, Furuno, Lowrance and Si-Tex. Each have some unique features, but something similar to them all is the sizes they are offered in. Most brands have a small size (Type 1), medium (Type 2), and large (type 3). You will choose the size you need based on your steering ram capacity. Get the part number off your inboard or outboard ram, visit HERE to get the capacity, then reference the charts on the manufacturer's sites to see what size pump, and consequently what size pilot you'll need.
Don't forget, unless you are replacing a pilot you'll need to get some hoses made. Usually 3. We offer custom length hoses made to order. If you have Mercury Verado engines you will also need special Verado hoses. Most brands make a kit. Find them HERE.