There are some significant feature differences between the two systems. The Yamaha joystick has two power settings, with the “high mode” available for better control in challenging wind or current — I observed about 1,600 max rpm in standard mode and about 2,500 rpm in high mode on one demo boat, although available power is specific to the boat model as determined by the builder. Mercury Joystick Piloting allows full use of power without having to switch modes. The Yamaha helm — wheel steering — is speed-sensitive (driver effort increases with speed and is user-adjustable); the Mercury system’s wheel pressure is a fixed range and is not adjustable. Yamaha has the trim feature, which is set up by the builder but can be adjusted by the owner or turned off. Mercury VesselView incorporates an autopilot and the Skyhook station-keeping application that uses GPS to hold the boat in a selected position. Yamaha does not offer or recommend a specific autopilot for use with the Helm Master.
I’ve had short demo opportunities with the Yamaha and Mercury joysticks, each in some wind and current and on unfamiliar boats. Both were intuitive to use and worked as advertised — each will spin a boat in place and can crab the boat sideways to snug right up to a dock. I’ve also talked to some key boatbuilder contacts who will debut these systems, and they made similar observations — that the main applications for the joystick systems will be on boats longer than 30 feet because of cost and the space required for the pumps and computers; that the cost of the joystick will be mitigated somewhat by eliminating a bow thruster that’s often installed on these boats; and that going forward builders will optimize boat design to accommodate joystick controls by adjusting the center of gravity and even details like an ergonomic mounting pad for the joystick itself. As I write this, no builder has announced a retail price for the Yamaha or Merc joystick as optional equipment.