It should be no surprise that, with the ubiquity of touch-screen controls on smartphones and tablets, touch technology has migrated to marine navigation displays. It simplifies operation by minimizing the need for multiple key presses or menu selections. And pointing to the activity you want is more intuitive in practice. While touch screens aren’t new to boating — they’ve been on some high-end gadgets for years — there’s buzz about new, more affordable ones for smaller boats. These three breakthrough models offer a glimpse of the future.
Garmin GPSMap 740
Garmin blazed the way with the GPSMap 700 Series 7-inch Touch. It features an extra-wide panoramic screen — housed in a compact 8.8-inch-wide by 5.6-inch-high by 3.1-inch-deep case — that hosts a remarkable selection of graphic displays, all instantly summoned with the touch of a fingertip. Bundled in are pre-loaded navigation charts, an internal GPS sensor and an ample supply of rear-panel-mounted ports to plug in an optional radar antenna, an AIS transponder, an XM radio module and an ever-growing list of NMEA 2000 or 0183 onboard devices. Plus, there’s the 740s model ($1,700) with a built-in 1,000-watt, dual-frequency fish finder.
Simrad NSS7 Sport
The NSS7 Sport multifunction display adds a choice of keypad and rotary knob controls to its 7-inch touch screen, which may prove useful in rough conditions. The compact NSS inherits much from Simrad’s NSE premium and NSO displays, and adds new tricks, at a lower price point. It features a built-in GPS, a 1,000-watt broadband depth sounder/fish finder and a U.S. coastal and inland waters navigation chart library. Optional add-ons include broadband radar, Sonic Hub and Sirius satellite weather and radio, as well as AIS and input for video monitoring cameras. It can also control the AP24 and AP28 autopilots. There are 8-inch and 10-inch NSS displays available too.
Not to be outdone, Raymarine now offers the e7 display. It features an update of the hybrid touch-and-button interface introduced on the E-Series Widescreens, packing most multifunction capabilities into a 7-inch space-saving display. Tap on the application icons to select the functions you want, and organize them by dragging and dropping as you do on an iPad. Most interesting is the addition of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. You can stream the e7’s display to an iPad, control the audio on a player tucked below and/or control the e7 itself with Raymarine’s new RCU-3 remote, to name a few possibilities. There’s also an e7D model ($1,949) with digital sonar.