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Sonar/Chartplotter advice. Is this the right place?


MajBach
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Technology is great but sometimes overwhelming. I used to pride myself on thoroughly researching something before buying and always feeling like I made an informed choice.

I don't know if it's because I am getting too old or if these gadgets are just becoming too complicated, but I just don't have the time or patience to read up on the latest and greatest anymore.

 

A colleague of mine just purchased a boat and asked me to pick out a sonar unit for him. He doesn't realize the depth of that request! I too am thinking about upgrading my 10 year old Lowrance. So, might be a good time to start researching what is out there.

 

So, what do we want? Well, I am going to assume that my friend would want the same thing as I would want (he makes more money than I so he can afford it), and, it will almost certainly be me that programs it so I may as well shop as if shopping for one.

 

I have always liked Lowrance - for both marine and on the road. If it wasn't for the lack of chart compatibility and versatility when I last shopped for a hand held, I would have bought the H20. Right now I own GPS76 CSx. I use it in conjunction with my Lowrance X-25 sonar; a unit I am also happy with - or was at the time. Price was an issue back then, so I want to upgrade to something better. At the time too, I decided that a handheld GPS would be the best all-around choice because I can use it for driving, boating, Geocaching etc. and I would only have to program one unit. But, I now appreciate the value of a larger screen in a chart plotter and even those dedicated driving/mapping unit seem to function better than a portable handheld. I've always liked the handhelds though for their versatility - being able to add waypoints and custom POIs from my PC etc. I haven't found (maybe haven't looked hard enough?) a chart plotter or other device that does that.

But, I think my friend wants a dual unit [chartplotter, not sonar only] and I do too, despite the fact that we both have good handhelds. So, that is my first question: Do chartplotters allow you to connect to a computer to upload waypoints from other devices? Do chartplotters also have memory cards (like my 76 CSx) so that I can program the maps rather than buy cards for them? This is important to me because I have almost ALL of the Garmin maps on DVD (yes, purchased and licenced). Are there units that take both pre-programmed SD cards as well as flash memory cards?

We recently acquired a new patrol boat for our detachment which came equipped with a Garmin 4208. Since I am the tech junkie of the bunch, the task of learning how to use this thing fell to me. Well, the manual is the size of the Criminal Code! I glanced under the dash to quickly ascertain if I can connect my laptop to this behemoth and upload maps/tracks/waypoints. What I saw looked more like a computer server room rather than a boat!

 

I decided I will learn how to use it over the slow season but my point is, I would like to have a unit(s) that is compatible with everything else around here since our work and play times often overlap.

If it's not possible to obtain this compatibility/versatility between the fixed boat units, our handhelds and laptops, then all bets are off and I'll look outside of Garmin. Humminbird was a four letter word when I bought my Lowrance, but they look like they have improved by leaps and bounds.

 

As another point of interest, I would like to learn a little about the difference in transducer frequencies, i.e. advantages and disadvantages. I am quite disappointed with how easily my Lowrance loses bottom signal at higher speeds on my personal boat. I thought it might have something to do with peak-to-power or the frequency of the transducer but I have had a few sources assure me it's the hull of my boat that impacts this the most. Still, I live in deep/murky waters now (I was in shallower, cleaner waters when I bought the unit) and I would like something that is more capable.

 

Price range? Under $1000

 

I know I have been long winded. Just my way of being thorough. Thanks a heap for reading to the end. All advice is greatly appreciated.

 

MajBach

 

Maybe ignorance is bliss?

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I don't know if it's because I am getting too old or if these gadgets are just becoming too complicated, but I just don't have the time or patience to read up on the latest and greatest anymore.

 

That's why when I want something new, I look at "last year's model". An older, but still very good unit. And, I usually snap them up at a GREAT price brand new. Plus most, if not all, of the bugs have been worked out and people know how to really tweak them by then. Nothing worse than having a new unit with a TON of problems/questions...and no one else knows, either, and you all get to suffer through "trial and error" together. ;)

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Don't know if this is the "best" place, but a good one for the tech junkies. ;) Just took a quick look at Chart platters on Garmin, and just a few quick observations. All that I looked at accepted SD cards (the big ones, not the micros). None that I saw mentioned "POIs", but all had the ability to keep a large number of Waypoints (up to 3000, I'm jealous! :rolleyes: ). Mapsource and good file mangement would probably solve that problem for ya though. You also get weather radio (maybe I oughta trade in my 76 CSx). There's also the NMEA inputs, so you should be able to hookup to a laptop.

 

The problems, you won't be able to transfer your existing maps (on DVD) to the chartplotter without buying another license. The pre-programmed cards should work with an adapter. Its also a dedicated boat unit needing a constant power supply, so would be useless on dry land (Keep the 76 CSX!).

 

Yeah, its a bit daunting with all the specs, but the Garmin site is pretty good for comparing models. Will try to help you more, after our Avatar gets dinner. :) You might want to check to see if there are any Yahoo groups or similar more specific tha this. Cheers!

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Yeah, its a bit daunting with all the specs, but the Garmin site is pretty good for comparing models. Will try to help you more, after our Avatar gets dinner. ;) You might want to check to see if there are any Yahoo groups or similar more specific tha this. Cheers!

 

I am still deep into it. I hate when you think you are getting close to narrowing it down, something new pops up and throws everything to wack!

 

So far, I cannot find anything that states if the Garmin chartplotters will interface with a PC. Maybe they're not designed to but how does one transfer waypoints from the hand held to the marine unit? I thought the 60/76 series stored waypoint info withi the unit, not on an SD card?

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MajBach,

 

Had a chance to wade through Garmin's lineup of chartplotters and got a little closer to your questions. I just looked randomly at several models, including the 4208, and they all seem to use the same approach...YMMV. Maps, waypoints, and tracks are transferred to/from the GPS via an SD card (unless you or someone can figure out NMEA). That is, copy data from the GPS to a card, move the card to a computer, copy from the card; and vice-versa. I didn't see any that use a direct computer connection such as USB. So, yes, given a large enough SD card, you could transfer your map, track, and waypoint data from a computer to the plotter...up to the memory limit of the plotter.

 

Unless someone can clarify NMEA for you, a whopping big SD card should do the trick.

 

Can't help you with the transducer stuff, our water is shallow enough that it never gets to be an issue. B)

 

Cheers!

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MajBach,

 

Had a chance to wade through Garmin's lineup of chartplotters and got a little closer to your questions. I just looked randomly at several models, including the 4208, and they all seem to use the same approach...YMMV. Maps, waypoints, and tracks are transferred to/from the GPS via an SD card (unless you or someone can figure out NMEA). That is, copy data from the GPS to a card, move the card to a computer, copy from the card; and vice-versa. I didn't see any that use a direct computer connection such as USB. So, yes, given a large enough SD card, you could transfer your map, track, and waypoint data from a computer to the plotter...up to the memory limit of the plotter.

 

Unless someone can clarify NMEA for you, a whopping big SD card should do the trick.

 

Can't help you with the transducer stuff, our water is shallow enough that it never gets to be an issue. B)

 

Cheers!

Thanks for that input.

I actually went the old fashioned route and called Garmin (after hours on-line searching). Spoke to someone right away and learned that NONE of my maps on CD will work in ANY Garmin marine unit. They must be Bluechart V2. Not even navionics works.

Hello Lowrance!

Just when they were about to take over the market (I was a die-hard Lowrance user - handheld and marine until Garmin made mapping so versatile and I bought a 76 CDx), they go and do something selfish and arrogant to put their competitors back on the map. If I am going to have to buy new maps, I am going with Lowrance.

They did say I could use my waypoints etc from the 76 onto the marine unit though.

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