If you have an iPhone, you have the touch screen every other one wants to be. Simrad Yachting’s new NSS Sport Series touchscreen GPS is as close to one as I’ve seen, making navigation easier than ever. But Simrad Yachting dressed it up with a few tactile keys and a knob after research showed some things are just better done the old way.
At boat expos, engineers asked boaters to blind-test touch-screen electronics to see how easily they could manipulate zoom, waypoint positioning, sonar and radar activation, and custom screen setups — functions used most frequently by boaters.
The process was brilliant, and the results led engineers to a package of hardware and software that I — and dozens of other boating writers — felt was as easy to understand and manage as the iPhone. It works like this:
Touch the GPS chart to set a route with as many waypoints as necessary. Adjust them by touching and dragging. We found that this feature worked beautifully on the NSS12 and NSS8 but was a little harder when moving on the 7-inch NSS7 screen.
Go There Now
If you have Simrad Yachting's optional autopilot, setting a waypoint prompts the pilot to ask if you'd like to navigate back to that waypoint. Touch "yes" and go there immediately — likewise if you set the waypoint in sonar or StructureScan — Simrad Yachting's side-scanning sonar.
GPS to Radar
To navigate between GPS and sonar, radar, StructureScan or Sonic Hub (its iPod- and Sirius-based music player), touch pages on the screen, and then just touch the easy-to-recognize icon of the function that you want.
Come Back to Me
Sonar and StructureScan data are stored to a flash drive. By dragging your finger from one side of the screen to the other, you can pull back or advance screens. See a spot you want to fish? Touch it to establish a waypoint. GPS coordinates are stored with the bottom image. StructureScan even calculates distance to port or starboard from the centerline and adjusts the waypoint. These touch functions were easy to manipulate in motion.
Have It Your Way
Most boaters lean toward having two or three screens up at a time. On the NSS8 (8-inch diagonal screen), you can have two screens. On the NSS12, you can have four. Build a custom panel by touching function icons, and drag them into the main screen.
Captain Crabby Pattie
We tested beta software on the product rollout. Since then, Simrad's engineers have addressed even the minor interface problem we saw in moving waypoints on the 7-inch screen, making the NSS Sport Series systems about the easiest touch units we've handled.