By Lenny Rudow
Latest Gadgets: Best New Electronics for 2010
Navigation, performance, safety and communications gear...improved marine electronics are ready when you launch your boat this season.
You want the latest and greatest in marine electronics? Of course you do! But electronics change and evolve in the blink of an eye, and what was hot in 2009 is already ancient history. Don’t worry, though, we know what’ll be hitting the stores this spring—read on, and you will too.
BriarTek ORCAdsc – BriarTek has supplied the US Navy with man-overboard alarms for years, and now they’ve designed a new type of MOB alarm for recreational boaters. The water-activated ORCAdsc sends its alarm right to your VHF radio, on channel 70. After a three to five second immersion of the pager-sized unit, you’ll hear an alarm from the radio’s speaker and the ORCAdsc will transmit a 121.5-MHz locating signal. The best part? This nifty little life-saver only costs $275—a paltry sum, for this kind of protection.
Cobra MR HH475 FLT BT – Davy Jones’ locker isn’t just the final resting place for pirates, it’s also where countless cell phones lose their lives. If you’ve ever dropped your cell overboard or watched it smash to bits on the deck, you’ll be interested in this solution from Cobra, a floating handheld VHF with Bluetooth. You can synch your cell with the radio, then stow the phone safely away and answer your calls on the VHF, instead. The radio is waterproof (it even floats,) puts out six watts, monitors up to three channels at once, and runs on a 1500 mAh NiMH rechargeable battery. Cost is $199.
FLIR First Mate – Don’t you just love it when insanely-expensive technology trickles down to the masses? FLIR thermal imaging is this year’s best example, because now you can get into night vision for under three grand (MSRP is $2,999, but we found it as low as $2,600 on the web). We tested one of these from the helm as we cruised through Biscayne Bay, and were able to see piers and pilings, channel markers, and the shoreline—all clear as day in complete darkness. It’s waterproof, has a 24-degree field of view, and has a 2X digital zoom. The judges of the 2010 National Marine Manufacturers Innovation Awards were so impressed with the First Mate, it won first place in the safety category. Check out Tom Tripp’s BoaterMouth post “More Night Navigation Models from FLIR2″ to get a bit deeper into this cool technology.
Fusion MS-RA200 – Today’s teens don’t even know what cassette tapes are, CD’s are disappearing fast, and radio seems downright annoying these days – MP3’s now rule the world of music. And it’s not news that iPods are the king of this world. What is news, however, is Fusion’s newest offering, the iPod docking-capable MS-RA200. This stereo head is so compact that it’ll fit into the palm of your hand. It puts out 200 watts through four channels, and if docking an iPod isn’t your style (Troglodyte!) never fear; it also has a USB connector to play MP3’s from a jump drive. Price is $170, and you can take a closer look on the Fusion site, or start with a BoaterMouth blog by Ben Ellison on the Fusion MS-RA200.
Simrad NSE – First introduced late last fall, Simrad’s NSE systems aren’t as new as these others—but the news about them is just as big. NSE screen sizes include a 12.1-inch (1024 x 768 pixels, $4595,) and an 8-inch (800 x 600 pixels, $3,295,) SunView display. They’re waterproof to IPX7 specs, come with Nautic Insight HD high-resolution vector cartography embedded in the brain, and integrate with Broadband radar and sonar, Sirius satellite weather, and video and DVI inputs. But the newest and least expected detail is the system’s ability to communicate with the BEP CZone control and monitoring system. (I called it Give Your Boat a Brain in a blog I wrote last month.) This gives you the ability to run an autopilot, cabin and cockpit lights, pumps, and a zillion other electrically-actuated items on your boat, directly from your chartplotter screen.
Just one possible problem: Simrad gear has a reputation for brain-scrambling complexity. Good thing this system is completely intuitive to use, and easy to understand… or so we’re told. But we’re not going to take someone’s word for it. We’ll find out for ourselves, and report back to you—Boats.com has a test unit on the way. Stay tuned.
Standard Horizon Matrix AIS – This was another 2010 Innovation Award winner, taking first place in the electronics category. The radio has a built-in AIS receiver, and an LCD screen which displays AIS targets. Not only does this get you AIS without having to purchase a separate system, it also allows you to highlight a target on the radio and call it via DSC. Even better is the price-point. The least-expensive dedicated AIS systems run between $400 and $500 yet the Matrix AIS MSRP’s at $399, so it’s like you’re getting two systems for the price of one. Go to the Standard Horizon site for more info.
Raymarine HybridTouch – Another late fall intro, HybridTouch still gets a mention for 2010 because it’s different from any system Raymarine has ever brought us before (see top photo). With screens ranging from 9” ($3,995) to 14.1” ($6,495), HybridTouch is just what it sounds like: a touch-screen display, which also has a full-function keypad. These are E-series units which can be ordered with chartography already installed, have 3-D charting and satellite photo overlay capabilities, and are waterproof to IPX6 standards. Visit the Hybrid Touch site to read the party line, or read the BoaterMouth blog by Ben Ellison.
- Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
- Connect with Lenny Rudow on Google+
Tags: AIS receiver, BriarTek ORCAdsc, Cobra MR HH475 FLT BT, communications equipment, FLIR First Mate, Fusion MS-RA200, navigation, Raymarine HybridTouch, safety gear, Simrad NSE, Standard Horizon Matrix AIS