Today's chartplotters offer robust functionality and ease of use that makes them far better than tablets or mobiles, says Rupert Holmes


A few years ago I felt there was a risk that marine electronics manufacturers would find it impossible to compete in a changing marketplace. Apps for smartphones and tablets had become extremely good, to the extent that they were better than many of the dedicated chartplotters produced only a few years earlier.

However, the marine industry responded with a commitment to development that has seen an accelerating trend towards top-notch products. These offer robust functionality and ease of use that goes far beyond what can be easily achieved with a tablet or phone. The downside is the cost. There’s no denying it has become more expensive, but those with sufficiently deep pockets can get a level of performance that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago.

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Even better, many of these improvements are often cascaded down to lower-priced models after a few years. Raymarine’s newly released Axiom+ multi-function displays (MFDs) have a new quad-core processor, plus double the memory of the previous models, which eliminates lag when scrolling and redrawing charts. There’s also an improved built-in GPS unit, with four times the sensitivity of those of the previous range.


For the first time the screens incorporate IPS (In-plane Switching Technology), which increases contrast and viewing angles, while doubling the resolution. At 1,800 nits (one nit is equivalent to one candela/m2 ) they are also 25% brighter than previously. A hydrophobic and oleophobic coating gives more accurate touch screen operation in wet and salty conditions. It’s available in 7in, 9in and 12in sizes.

Raymarine has also launched a major update of its LightHouse 3 operating system (v3.12, dubbed Dartmouth), plus for the first time its own range of LightHouse charts based on official hydrographic sources. Four brightness modes are intended to cover all lighting conditions, from bright sun, through normal daylight and dusk to night time viewing. LightHouse Dartmouth is also available for existing Axiom MFDs.

B&G has also launched a new top-end range of MFDs, the Zeus 3S, which is aimed solely at the sailing sector. It also has quad-core processors, plus a full touch IPS screen, and adds keypad control for use in the toughest conditions. It’s available in 9in, 12in and 16in sizes.

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This feature appeared in Practical Boat Owner magazine. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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