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We Test Marine Multifunction Displays

MFDs from Garmin, Furuno, Lowrance, Simrad, Humminbird and Raymarine.

August 17, 2021
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Furuno MFD that frees up helm space
Free up helm space by installing a multifunction display with integrated sonar. Courtesy Furuno

Helm space is the most valuable real estate on board, and to get the most navigation gear for the space, choosing from these multifunction displays with integrated sonar is key.

These touchscreen displays eliminate the black box for most forms of sonar systems, offering a built-in conventional sounder, chirp sonar and side-scan technology using a compatible transducer. Many also can be networked with radar, autopilot and other peripherals such as audio systems.

We’ve Analyzed

Nine-inch displays (measured diagonally) offer the optimal balance of screen size and cost. But each model is available in smaller 7-inch sizes and larger screens up to 16 inches.

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All of the units here require optional transducers that connect directly to the back of the device. Basic conventional 50/200 kHz transducers work well with these models for finding the depth, structure and fish, and are affordable. For more advanced side–scanning and chirp -sonar used in locating fish and structure, a more expensive -transducer is required.

Key Features Offered by All

  • Wi-Fi for firmware updates and some network capabilities
  • NMEA 2000 (N2K) network interface
  • High-definition screen resolution (1280×720)
Furuno TZtouch3-9 TZT9F MFD
Furuno’s TZtouch3-9 TZT9F is packed full of features. Courtesy Furuno

Furuno TZtouch3-9 TZT9F

furuno.com $2,495; hodgesmarine.com

Furuno is a gold-standard navigation-device brand among commercial fishermen. Its track record of durability is unparalleled, and I’ve been on two US Coast Guard Cutters and one small patrol boat using this equipment. Operating menus are easily accessible by swiping in from the screen sides, and the architecture of the TZtouch3 firmware is extremely intuitive. Until the introduction of the TZT3-9 in 2021, everything Furuno offered was a la carte in individual black boxes. The TZT3-9 is expected to be particularly popular among yacht owners who use smaller launches as tenders.

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Top Features: Furuno’s worldwide weather forecasting is free, Wi-Fi-downloadable, and includes atmospheric conditions all boaters want, plus sea conditions that include wave height, surface temperatures, altimetry, currents and plankton—key info for anglers.

Analysis: Screen brightness is a weakness of the Furuno display, but is mitigated partially by outstanding color arrays. Furuno also offers a more powerful Total Sonar, which doesn’t have as broad an array as side scan, but marks fish and structure down to 1,000 feet—about 800 feet deeper than most side-scan systems. The free weather service could save hundreds of dollars a year if at-sea downloads aren’t important to you.

Cartography: NOAA raster and vector charts for the entire coastal US, MapMedia fishing charts, and satellite photos loaded for the coastal US come standard; supports C-Map, Navionics, CMOR and official hydrographic office charts for other countries.

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Screen Size (diagonal): 9 in.
Available Screen Sizes: 9, 12, 16, 19 in.
Resolution: 1280×720
Footprint: 11-by-6.8-by-4.3 in.
Weight: 7.3 lb.
Waterproof Rating: IP56
Brightness (NITS): 1,000
Viewing-Angle Degrees: 80 from above, right, left
Micrprocessor: Quad core
Cold Start to First Fix: 100 sec.
No. of Possible Panes: 4
Embedded Operator Manual: Yes
Controls: Multifunction touch with edge swipe to bring up menus from sides, top and bottom; hybrid keypad and a rotary dial with customizable two-finger tap plus remote key options.
Bluetooth: No
Supports Sonar, Radar, Etc.: DFF3D Multi-Beam Sonar (side scan) with personal bathymetric generator (PBG), radar, AIS, DSC, Fusion, remote controllers, NavPilot autopilot, NMEA 2000, CZone, FLIR IP camera, Omnisense Ulysses, Seakeeper, Lumishore lighting, OSCAR, HP watermaker, QNN, Victron Energy, Shadow Caster, Furuno apps, iBoats, Time-Zero Eco system, DFF1, DFF3, BBDS1, DRS radars, SiriusXM fish mapping, Axis cameras
IPS Screen: Yes
Integrated Sonar: 1 kW true chirp
Integrated Sonar: 50/200 kHz
Integrated Sonar: 1 kW chirp
Garmin 943xsv MFD for boaters
Garmin’s 943xsv is easy to operate. Courtesy Garmin

Garmin 943xsv

garmin.com $1,399; bassproshops.com

Garmin is a brand often factory-installed by boatbuilders. The operating system carries a reputation for simplicity, making its user interface easy to learn and dominate. Garmin units look graceful in the dash, and offer clear visuals to boaters at the broadest angles, and even through the polarized sunglasses they favor. Garmin was first to come to the water with LiveVu forward-looking sonar that allows anglers to spot and target fish in real time, giving skippers added safety by doing the same for underwater obstructions that could damage vessels.

Top Features: Garmin has a graphic user interface so logical and intuitive, most users can master the majority of it without the manual. In-plane switching (IPS), now the norm for most high-end MFDs, allows wide-angle viewing even with polarized lenses.

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Analysis: This unit lacks the tactile buttons of other units, which might account for its comfortable price. A button pad can be added as an accessory. Reliability is equaled by a logical graphic interface. Drag-and-drop panes can be added to multipane screens and saved for easy access.

Cartography: BlueChart G3 coastal and LakeVu G3 charts come standard; supports C-Map, Navionics and more.

Screen Size (diagonal): 9 in.
Available Screen Sizes: 7, 9, 12 in.
Resolution: 1280×720
Footprint: 9.2-by-6.4-by-3 in.
Weight: 3.6 lb.
Waterproof Rating: IP67
Brightness (NITS): 1,200
Viewing-Angle Degrees: 88 top, bottom, right, left
Micrprocessor: Dual core plus digital signal processing (DSP)
Cold Start to First Fix: Not specified
No. of Possible Panes: 3
Embedded Operator Manual: Yes
Controls: Multitouch function
Bluetooth: Yes
Supports Sonar, Radar, Etc.: Garmin radar, sonar, smart mode, AIS, DSC, Fusion Link, GSD, GCV, Active Captain, wireless remote
IPS Screen: Yes
Integrated Sonar: 1 kW chirp
Integrated Sonar: 50/77/200 kHz, high, mid, low chirp
Integrated Sonar: SideVu, ClearVu 260/455/800/1,000/1,200 kHz
Humminbird Solix 10 Chirp Mega SI+ g3 CHO
The Humminbird Solix 10 Chirp Mega SI+ g3 CHO offers outstanding resolution. Courtesy Humminbird

Humminbird Solix 10 Chirp Mega SI+ g3 CHO

humminbird.com $2,199; humminbird.com

Humminbird was the first to come out with side-scanning sonar, and it’s taken a decade for others to catch up. It was also among the first to offer sonar recording for creating custom sonar contour charts, and was definitely the first to design units and firmware to do it directly in the box without having to transmit private fishing data to third parties for incorporation.

Top Features: A 10-inch display with 16-bit color offers outstanding resolution. If you use a Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor, then steering, autopilot and SpotLock are available via the MFD. You can even program a route or tell the trolling motor to follow a depth contour. Embedded Mega Imaging offers live forward scanning to see fish movement in cover, ideal for competitive anglers. This requires the right transducer.

Analysis: The Solix looks beautiful on a bracket-mount system. Step up to the Apex model to achieve the flush-mount aesthetics of the competition. Still, the 10-inch diagonal display is the largest in its class. We found the graphic user interface to be a little awkward, requiring us to toggle down through each menu item instead of scrolling past them. Tide tables are not integrated into the system.

Cartography: Humminbird Basemap with Autochart Live; supports LakeMaster, CoastMaster and Navionics

Screen Size (diagonal): 10.1 in.
Available Screen Sizes: 10, 12, 15 in.
Resolution: 1280×800
Footprint: 11.81-by-7.89-by-4.78 in.
Weight: NA
Waterproof Rating: IPX7
Brightness (NITS): 1,500
Viewing-Angle Degrees: Not specified
Micrprocessor: Dual core
Cold Start to First Fix: Not specified
No. of Possible Panes: 4
Embedded Operator Manual: Not specified
Controls: Multitouch with button and dial interface
Bluetooth: Yes
Supports Sonar, Radar, Etc.: AIS, autopilot, Minn Kota i-Pilot Link, Minn Kota Talon/Raptor, NMEA 2000, radar, MEGA 360, One-Boat Network, Minn Kota built-in Mega DI, Minn Kota built-in Mega SI, Minn Kota US2
IPS Screen: Not specified
Integrated Sonar: 1 kW dual-spectrum chirp
Integrated Sonar: Supported
Integrated Sonar: Dual-spectrum chirp, Mega Side Imaging+, Mega Down Imaging+
Simrad NSS9 Evo3S MFD
The NSS9 Evo3S is Simrad’s top-shelf system. Courtesy Simrad

Simrad NSS9 Evo3S

simrad-yachting.com $2,499; thegpsstore.com

Simrad stepped out first with its GO series, integrating the most demanded sonar and radar functions into compact displays. Initial models were not networkable, but there is a growing list of networkable functions supported by the Evo3S. Simrad’s business M.O. is similar to Apple’s, providing timely application enhancements via firmware updates and keeping the unit new for years.

Top Features: Simrad’s displays are the backbone of Mercury’s VesselView systems, and so VesselView has all of Simrad’s chart-plotting, networking and sonar capabilities, while all Simrad displays have all of Mercury’s VesselView functions embedded.

Analysis: This is Simrad’s top-shelf system incorporating chirp, SideScan and DownScan sonar, plus a conventional 50/200 kHz sounder. It flush-mounts beautifully, and if you run Motorguide’s iPilot or Lowrance’s Ghost trolling motor, it will interface with them to set a course or route, follow a contour, or lock on a specific spot.

Cartography: C-Map Enhanced is standard; Insight, Navionics (Gold, Nav+, Platinum+), C-Map (Max N, Max N+), NV Digital (raster US charts).

Screen Size (diagonal): 9 in.
Available Screen Sizes: 7, 9, 12, 16 in.
Resolution: 1280×720
Footprint: 11.3-by-6.55-by-3.5 in.
Weight: 3.11 lb.
Waterproof Rating: IP67
Brightness (NITS): 1,200
Viewing-Angle Degrees: 80 top, bottom, right, left
Micrprocessor: Not specified
Cold Start to First Fix: 50 sec.
No. of Possible Panes: 4
Embedded Operator Manual: Yes
Controls: Multifunction touch with keypad and rotary knob
Bluetooth: Yes
Supports Sonar, Radar, Etc.: Autopilot control, engine integration (many outboard manufacturers), digital switching, Active Target, LiveSight, Simrad S5100, audio control, N2K, Halo radar, Simrad app
integration
IPS Screen: Yes
Integrated Sonar: Dual 1 kW chirp channels
Integrated Sonar: 40 to 240 kHz operation
Integrated Sonar: DownScan, ForwardScan, Active Imaging (side scanning)
Raymarine Axiom+ MFD
Raymarine’s Axiom+ is responsive even during the toughest tasks. Courtesy Raymarine

Raymarine Axiom+

raymarine.com $1,399; thegpsstore.com

Raymarine’s 3D sonar is probably the best on the market. It requires a black box, but is the one I would make space for as an angler. The displays are crisp, the color spectrum is vivid, and the daytime display in full sunlight is unparalleled thanks to a 1,500-nit backlit LCD screen. Raymarine is also a popular factory-installed product for many boat brands, including Boston Whaler and Sea Ray. Network capabilities include FLIR, VGA cameras, engine functions and audio controls.

Top Features: The 1,500-nit screens are bright for daylight reading in full sun. The LightHouse II user interface is logical, versatile and easy to master.

Analysis: Quad-core processing makes the Ray Axiom+ quick when redrawing, zooming or panning on the chart, or scrolling back on sonar displays. Ample memory assists in operations and stores large tracks. The 1,500-nit color screens are the brightest on the market. It lacks a button and the dial interface of the Axiom Pro, but at a savings of over $1,000.

Cartography: Raymarine LightHouse Charts come standard, plus Navionics and C-Map.

Screen Size (diagonal): 9 in.
Available Screen Sizes: 9 in.
Resolution: 1280×720
Footprint: 9.65-by-6.22-by-3 in.
Weight: 5 lb.
Waterproof Rating: IP67
Brightness (NITS): 1,500
Viewing-Angle Degrees: 85 top, bottom, left, right
Micrprocessor: Quad core
Cold Start to First Fix: Not specified
No. of Possible Panes: Not specified
Embedded Operator Manual: Yes
Controls: Multitouch
Bluetooth: Yes
Supports Sonar, Radar, Etc.: CP100, CP200, CP370, CP470, CP570, RVX1000 via RayNet, Evolution AutoPilot, radar night vision, video via Wi-Fi
IPS Screen: Yes
Integrated Sonar: Chirp
Integrated Sonar: Supported
Integrated Sonar: Down-Vision, SideVision, RealVision 3D

Read Next: Electronics Mounts for Boats

Lowrance HDS-9 Live MFD
Lowrance’s HDS-9 Live is equipped with ample cartography. Courtesy Lowrance

Lowrance HDS-9 Live

lowrance.com $1,899 with transducer; bassproshops.com

Lowrance is the oldest name in recreational fish-finding technology and one of the first to embrace GPS chart plotting for boaters. Its touchscreen controls are augmented with tactile buttons, and side-scanning, down-scanning, chirp and conventional sonar are built in. Connectivity with Motorguide and Lowrance Ghost trolling motors allows autopilot control of them while fishing.

Top Features: Live sonar with active imaging is embedded and only requires the appropriate optional transducer. With it, the screen can display cover and fish in motion and watch responses to lures.

Analysis: The HDS is most often found on inshore and freshwater fishing boats, and its design leans toward bracket mounts on a dashtop. Live imaging is becoming essential for competitive anglers but holds little value for average boating needs. Ample standard cartography makes it a great buy.

Cartography: Standard C-Map US Enhanced Basemap (AMER models), C-Map World Background (ROW models), Navionics basemap (AMER and ROW models); optional C-Map (Max N, Max N+), C-Map Genesis, C-Map Precision Contour HD (AMER only), Navionics (Gold, Nav+, Platinum+), Insight (Pro and HD), Lowrance regional mapping partners.

Screen Size (diagonal): 9 in.
Available Screen Sizes: 7, 9, 12, 16 in.
Resolution: 1280×720
Footprint: 11.02-by-6.56-by-3.05 in.
Weight: 4.14 lb.
Waterproof Rating: IPX7
Brightness (NITS): 1,200
Viewing-Angle Degrees: 80 top, bottom, left, right
Micrprocessor: Not specified
Cold Start to First Fix: 30 sec.
No. of Possible Panes: 4
Embedded Operator Manual: Yes
Controls: Multitouch screen with keypad support
Bluetooth: Yes
Supports Sonar, Radar, Etc.: Autopilot control, trolling-motor integration (Lowrance Ghost, Motorguide), power-pole control, engine integration (many outboard manufacturers), digital switching, Active Target, LiveSight, Simrad S5100, audio control, N2K, Halo radar, Lowrance app integration
IPS Screen: Yes
Integrated Sonar: Dual 1 kW chirp channels
Integrated Sonar: 40 to 240 kHz operation
Integrated Sonar: Built-in SideScan, DownScan and LiveSight support
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