Friday, March 1, 2024
Boating Bits

Touchy feely sounder/GPS

You’d have to be living under a rock not to realise that touch-screen technology is the big new thing. Heaven only knows how many iPhones Apple has sold over the past few years – heaps, I would suggest, as just about everyone I know has one – and there’s little doubt that this sort of technology will move across to other areas of modern living, such as our computers, TVs and so on. It’s already part of the marine electronics scene, with various companies introducing touch-screen displays to their top-end units.

Raymarine, which is one of the biggest and most influential marine electronic companies in the world, released its innovative E Series Widescreen range to the local market today. Most gamefishermen will know Raymarine’s C and E series units as being one of the more popular displays seen on big flybridge cruisers and keen trailer boaties will likely be aware of the A series of sounders. Raymarine is at the cutting edge of high-end marine electronics – it was, for example, the first company to introduce digital sonar, which is now pretty much standard across all platforms.

The E Series Widescreen is unique in that it offers “hybrid” control – it has top-of-the-line touch-screen technology but also hard key operation. Other companies have touch-screen only models, which are very cool to use, but Raymarine says its “HybridTouch” offers the best of both worlds.

Interestingly, Raymarine says it went for “hybrid” because its research revealed that heavy rain and spray can affect or change the screen of touch-screen only models. This obviously not a good thing when you’re battling big seas or bad weather. If, say, you were in such conditions, navigating home via your GPS screen, when rain or a wave suddenly changed the GPS screen to the radar mode – it would be disconcerting at the least, and possibly very dangerous in a worst case scenario. A lot of smallish, open fishing boats now use serious sounder/plotters where this sort of situation can arise. The E Series Widescreen easily allows the touch-screen to be disabled and controlled only by the hard keys, thus negating the problems caused by water or rain affecting the display.

The new E Series Widescreen comes in three configurations – 9″, 12″ and 14″ – with the 9 and 12″ models being of the most interest to fishos. The units, like most modern marine electronics, are multi function with GPS/plotting, radar, NMEA 2000 engine interfacing, video and sonar (the sonar is supplied by an add-on module) functions. The units come pre-loaded with Navionics Silver cartography and accept cards with the Platinum version for state-of-the-art mapping. Virtually limitless screen configurations can be designed to suit your preferences. For example, you can set split your screen with sonar, radar, GPS and even a DVD or TV show!

Fishing World took part in an on-water demo of the E Series Widescreen this morning aboard a 38-foot Steber fitted with twin 14″ displays. The ability to tap on the screen to mark fish, plot a course, change displays and so on was pretty impressive. We tested the unit in calm water, where is where touch-screen technology shines, but it wasn’t hard to see that mistakes could happen when things got a bit sloppy. That’s where Raymarine’s HybridTouch comes into its own – as soon as the seas rise up, you disable the touch-screen and rely on buttons as per a conventional unit. It’s much harder to stuff things up by pressing a button than it is by tapping on a screen – try using your iPhone while jogging to get an idea of what I mean.

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Raymarine’s Alistair Hall demonstrating the new HybridTouch screen system.

The short video we filmed today shows the unique applicability offered by this unique and innovative marine electronics technology. Even if you’re not in the market for a new sonar/GPS, check it out for a sneak peek of what’s around the corner.

The E Series Widescreen units are high end examples of modern marine electronics and come with fairly hefty price tags – the flagship 14″ model will retail for more than $8000 and that doesn’t include the sounder module, which sells separately for more than a grand. But the interesting thing about this sort of technology is that it will most likely gradually filter down to more affordable units, such as Raymarine’s excellent but under-rated A series, which are more than price competitive with other popular brands.

Check out the vid for a quick display of what Raymarine’s “HybridTouch” can do; we’ll endeavour to get our hands on a 9″ unit to test so stay tuned!

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