Choosing the Best Marine Display

Four factors to consider when buying a new multifunction display for your boat.

Choosing the Best Marine Display
Choosing the Best Marine DisplayJim Hendricks

What company makes the best marine display? It’s a common question among boaters shopping for multifunction displays. As with TVs, the choice is largely a matter of brand preference, features needed, screen size desired, and money you can spend. Here are four factors to consider.

1. How Many?
Many boats today boast two or more MFDs. Redundancy helps ensure access to integrated systems such as sonar, engine monitoring and digital switching should one MFD blink out. Or you can dedicate one screen to a function, like radar, while using the second MFD in split-screen mode for other systems. Consider an integrated MFD for a secondary control station, such as up in a tuna tower.

2. Big Screen
Bigger is better when it comes to MFDs, giving you a keener view of details within functions, such as the chart plotter, radar or fish finder. While microprocessors continually shrink, screens grow. Sixteen-inch diagonal displays are common, with some MFDs stretching out as much as 24 inches or more. Strive to install the biggest screen(s) you can fit on your boat, whether flush- or bracket-mounting your units.

3. Brand Preference
MFDs from major brands such as Furuno, Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance, Raymarine, Simrad and Si-Tex are all top quality. Nearly all now feature NMEA 2000 plug-and-play networking capability. Yet one brand might have a user interface that you prefer over another. Play around with the systems at a dealer showroom or boat show to see which proves most intuitive for you.

4. Network News
If you have existing radar or autopilot, selecting an MFD of the same brand might help ensure connectivity. In any case, make sure the new MFD(s) can be networked with the existing equipment before you buy; otherwise, you might need new peripherals, which can run costs up substantially.