You read the ads. You see the equipment demonstrated at boat shows. You are smothered under a barrage of technical specifications and promised performance claims. So how do you go about picking what may be considered the best in electronics?
Here is a tip that can help narrow the selection. Check out the NMEA annual marine electronics awards.
The NMEA, or National Marine Electronics Association, is an organization made up of certified marine-electronics technical professionals, marine electronics dealerships, trade and boatbuilder members and equipment manufacturers.
Each year the NMEA membership (not including manufacturers) is asked to vote on which product should receive NMEA’s highest award in each of several categories. among the criteria used to judge and select each product are its quality, innovation, reliability, ease of operation, customer satisfaction, warranty and manufacturer product support.
Here are the products the industry’s most knowledgeable professionals have chosen for 2010:
Autopilot: Simram AP24/28
Simrad’s AP24 and AP28 autopilots bring a list of desirable automatic capabilities to enhance and direct their ability to hold and steer a rock-steady course. Coolest, though, is what Simrad calls “contour steering,” which, when connected to a sounder, lets you track and follow depth contours automatically. It also has preprogrammed automatic turn patterns that can keep a fisherman manning his rods and reels and not the helm.
Fish Finding: Furuno FCV295
Designed for both the serious sport fisherman and the commercial fisherman, the FCV295 has earned a reputation for detecting and revealing fish that are often masked and hidden from view. An advanced digital signal processing function helps to distinguish between false echoes created by noise interference and individual fish. The FCV295 may be the first fish finder with the “free synthesizer” feature, which lets you choose from a wide range of transducer frequencies.
Radar: Furuno NavNet 3D DRS
With a respectable number of excellent competing radar models all vying for this award, Furuno maintains a 35-year tradition in receiving this year’s best-in-radar commendation. With a high-resolution display and ultra high-definition radar antenna, this set produces a highly defined presentation of large and small, close-in and long-range targets.
Navigation: Furuno NavNet 3D MFD12
Remarkably detailed 3-D cartography is the most prominent of the many features that the MFD12 delivers. Its high-resolution multifunction display and TimeZero mapping technology produce amazing zoom, pan and scrolling ability that responds instantly to keyboard commands. This 12-inch display serves as the centerpiece for the addition of radar, GPS, fish finder, satellite weather, automatic Identification System (AIS) and an ever-increasing list of key navigation options.
Communications: KVH TracPhone V7
The V7 is a total communications terminal that provides the luxury of bringing along not only telephone, fax and e-mail but also broadband Internet access with speeds similar to high-speed cable modem connections. The V7 is a practical answer (though expensive at more than $30,000 for the equipment and around $1,000 a month for the service) when you want to spend more time on your boat and still enjoy the communications and online access you are used to at home and the office.
Entertainment: KVH TracVision M1
Featuring one of the smallest antenna domes (13.5 inches by 13 inches), the M1 duplicates a home-television entertainment experience by delivering standard definition (only) satellite programming while on your boat. A special marine DirecTV 12-volt satellite receiver with a wireless radio-frequency hand remote is included in the package. And it’s affordable at about $3,000.
The Technology Award: Standard Horizon Matrix GX2100
This special award, judged by marine writers instead of NMEA members, honors products introduced during the previous year based on a combination of innovative design, benefit to boaters, practicality and value.
Standard Horizon won for creating in its Matrix GX2100 combination VHF/AIS transmitter a full-featured, performance VHF radio with an integrated AIS receiver. For more information on this AIS system, visit boatingmag.com/eyesofais.
FLIR First Mate handheld thermal imaging camera
Navico Simrad NSE multifunction display with 2.0 software
Manufacturer of the Year, Support: Furuno
This award is given to the manufacturer that has demonstrated exceptional product support. This does not take into account product pricing, equipment features, the warranty policy or the number of models a company may have or how many units it sold. The award is strictly limited to how well the company provides technical support and backup of its products.
First Place: FLIR First Mate Pro
Just like the night vision used by the military and police, the First Mate Pro is a self-contained portable thermal-imaging camera that gives the mariner eyes in darkness, turning night into day. The handheld’s features include a 2X zoom magnification, and the camera can even capture and store a picture by means of an SD card slot.
Second Place: Furuno SC30
The SC30 satellite compass is not affected by roll, pitch and yaw G-force or velocity movements, which can cause heading errors with normal compasses. This satellite compass’s antenna unit has two built-in GPS antennas, a three-axis-rate gyro and acceleration sensors that result in rock-stable heading accuracy.
There you have it. The 2010 lineup of the “Oscar” winners of the marine electronics industry, chosen by the professionals who are best suited to make these selections.