November 27th 2012. By Lenny Rudow.

Hot Electronics: Iridium, Intellian, Lowrance , FLIR, Simrad, Garmin, and More

Marine electronics just keep getting better, and now that the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and the Marine Equipment Trade Show (METS) have come and gone, there is a lot to talk about.

Manufacturers including Intellian, Lowrance, B&G, and Triton are heading into the new model year with a slew of hot new goodies. Whether you’re on the lookout for global communications gear, navigational assistance, or just more modern entertainment, last year’s news may as well have been from a decade ago. Things evolve fast in the marine electronics world—really fast—and you’ll need to work hard to keep up. We can help, if you keep reading…

COMMUNICATIONS

The biggest news in communications gear comes from Iridium, which has several new devices. The Extreme handheld sat phone ($1,395 plus air-time charges), which is water-, shock-, and dust-resistant, probably has the widest overall appeal. But yacht owners and crews who travel the globe are going to get a real charge from the Pilot system.

Iridium Pilot antenna

The Iridium Pilot system antenna -- no moving parts.

Though most of its users will probably be commercial, this global satellite communications system is also suitable for the big boys—at least, the ones who enjoy the budgets that usually go with crewed vessels. The Pilot system covers both voice and data needs with three phone lines plus data (up to 134 kbps), so owners and crew can all stay in touch with the rest of the world at the same time. Pay-go service packages and integrated firewalls that can restrict data traffic will help keep usage under control.

The Pilot (which is serviced by Iridium OpenPort) has an antenna with no moving parts and a brain that gets mounted belowdecks, so service worries should be minimal. In fact, it comes with a five-year warranty. Hardware costs start around $5000. For more information, visit Iridium.

Simrad also has a new way to get talking, but this one’s for the VHF world. Their RS35 ($399) is a 25-watt fixed-mount radio with DSC capability and a dual-channel AIS receiver. It works with their also-new ($169) HS35 wireless handset, which has a 100-meter range. That means that unless your yacht is really, really mega in nature, you’ll be able to walk and talk at the same time from bow to stern.

Simrad RS35

Simrad's RS35 fixed-mount VHF with AIS and a separate handset.

Since the AIS receiver is built-in, you can get all of the usual AIS info right on the radio screen: vessel name, type, call sign, MMSI number, IMO number, draft, size, position, speed over ground, course over ground, rate of turn, heading, status, destination, and ETA. Better yet, the VHF and AIS play nice when it comes to antenna-sharing, so there will be one less quill to worry about on that porcupine-like mast. Added bonus: the handset is equipped with a push-to-talk key that allows you to use it as an intercom. For more information, visit Simrad.

 Intellian s80HD Worldview

The Intellian s80HD Worldview antennae and control box.

ENTERTAINMENT

Intercontinental cruising is fun, but changing LNB modules in your satellite TV antenna is not. Intellian has solved this problem with their newest version of the s80HD Worldview. This is a 34” three-axis dual-band (Ka and Ku) dish, with the automatically-switching Trio LNB. It also has Intellian’s Multi-Switch module, so you can watch the ball game in the saloon while the kids enjoy Spongebob in their stateroom. The downside? It costs as much as a small center console, with an MSRP of $24,995.

For more information, watch the Boats.com video of the s80HD, which shows how it works with the dome removed.

INSTRUMENTS

Sneak Peek alert: KEP is known for monster displays, like the 21-incher they introduced last year, for curvaceous glass bridge screens, and for maritime computers that pack a punch—but in the coming months they’ll be bringing us a completely different type of display. Their new intro is a diminutive critter with a seven-inch touch screen, which is waterproofed from the front. It’s intended to act as an instrument display or an extra screen that will fit into an already jam-packed helm. We don’t have a picture and we don’t know the MSRP just yet, so stay tuned or check in at KEP.

The B&G Triton HV instrument display

Another new instrument display – this one for the sailors among us –is the B&G Triton HV, which is designed to work with Triton T41 instruments. These are for use on the mast, and display such data as true wind angle, course over ground, and speed over ground. Go to B&G and download the Triton software update for your existing instruments, and the display will show upgrades including a wind trend histogram, engine data support, heel angle data support, and air temperature data, plus rudder, heel, and alarm functions.

The Triton HV comes in two screen sizes, 2.6” by 4.5” and 4.5” by 7”. Both models are LED back-lighted (read: low power draw) and feature the same unique LCD-bonding technology as Triton Instruments use, to maximize contrast and viewing angles while getting rid of condensation problems. Cost is $699; for more info, visit B&G.

NAVIGATION

B&G also has a new multifunction display for those who eschew motors, the Zeus Touch. These 6.4” ($1,599), 8” ($2,745), and 12.1” ($3,999) touch-screen displays have a slew of sailing-specific services: SailTime Calculations, which bring more accuracy to the chartplotter’s ETA calculation; optimized laylines that allow tracking of angles on-screen, and user-configured “SailSteer” features that combine essential sailing data into one clear and informative composite screen, including heading and COG, current layline, calculated tide, true wind angle, rudder angle, and opposite-tack layline.

All of the Zeus Touch models are waterproofed to IPX7 standards, and they have a rotary control and keypad that provide tactile control when the weather’s too rough for using the touch-screen. For more information, check out B&G.

If you liked the Lowrance HDS system and you liked Gen 2 even more, you’ll love the next-gen Gen 2. This one’s a touch-screen, available in in 7”, 9”, and 12” versions. And unlike some touch-screen units these have back-up buttons on the chassis, so you can rest your hand and feel where to press when the seas kick up and using the touch-screen becomes difficult.

The 7-inch Lowrance HDS Gen-2 touch-screen system display.

The new Gen 2 comes with a feature we haven’t seen before on any consumer marine electronics, which Lowrance calls Insight Genesis. Essentially, it allows you to create your own highly detailed digital bathymetric cartography. After your unit logs its recordings, you use this web-based application to upload the data and Insight Genesis crunches it to create a custom high-definition bathy chart. This is a pay-go service, but if you don’t like a chart it creates, you don’t have to buy it.

Lowrance has a well-deserved reputation for designing electronics that are easy to use, and the Gen 2 touch units are as simple to figure out as ever – you’ll never have to look at an instruction manual. You also won’t need to add as many black-box units as in the past, because Structure Scan comes built into the brains of these units. Now here’s the real surprise: Despite all of the nifty new features built into the Gen 2 touch system, Lowrance has kept the price of these units surprisingly low. The range starts at an MSRP of $1,299 for the seven-incher, and goes up to $3,249 for the 12. Get the scoop at Lowrance.

If you want to see this stuff in action, check out our HDS Gen2 Touch Short Take Video, which we shot at the Lauderdale boat show.

BITS ‘N PIECES

There are also some capability-boosting additions to existing systems you’ll want to know about. The first comes from FLIR, which added the “InstAlert” feature to their handheld First Mate II night-vision scope. It highlights heat signatures in red, so they really jump out at you on-screen.

Sister company Raymarine also jazzed up their night-vision capabilities, by adding the “Slew-to-Cue” feature to the HybridTouch MFDs. Click on a target, hit Slew-to-Cue, and the camera will point at that target and stay pointed on it no matter which way you turn the boat. We shot a Raymarine Short Take Video you can watch too.

And Garmin has some new units that will be hitting the shelves soon. The EchoMap 50s and 70s are inexpensive ($499 to $1,099) combination fishfinder/chartplotters with WVGA touch-screens. And the GPSMAP 500 and 700 series touch-screens are also combo units, but they have Spread-Spectrum fishfinders built-in.

Still not enough for you? Then simply stay tuned, folks. With the rapidly evolving marine electronics in this day and age, when you wake up tomorrow there’s bound to be more.



Lenny Rudow
Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including boats.com and YachtWorld. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.