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Old 11-06-2013, 06:04 PM   #1
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Question Laptop or Garmin?

OK I am on my bridge looking at the 80s vintage navigation equipment from the Radar (which still works) to the big CRT used for depth and fish finder and a separate hailing radio.

I want to update with something that is reliable. On my trip from S.F to the Columbia I liked the idea of two GPS map units. In today’s world products from Garmin, Lowrance Ray marine etc. offer integration of charts, radar, sonar and weather.

There is a big price difference from hard units versus laptops.

Can I get these same capabilities from a dedicated laptop?

So what would you recommend and why?
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:16 PM   #2
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I have both a Raymarine multifunction (used primarily for radar) and a marinized cpu driving a Big Bay daylight display. (but I''m a belt and suspenders guy with paper chart backup for navigation).

My experience with laptops is they have performed well, even on the flybridge, but had issues with daylight read ability, and brightness issues for night navigation. Others may have a different perspective.
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:20 PM   #3
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Lots of folks use laptops for navigation. Lots of choices for software and it's cheaper. However cheaper is not always better. A dedicated chartplotter is not affected by viruses and a chartplotter's single purpose is for navigation. Plus most laptops aren't bright enough when used on a fly bridge.

For a planning hull boat most laptops just aren't practical. However that being said many folks navigate with solely a tablet or laptop.
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Old 11-06-2013, 06:22 PM   #4
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Used laptops for navigation for 10 years. Very reliable if it is a dedicated laptop with no other programs loaded or running. Daylight viewing is a problem so I used a separate monitor.

Benefit of the laptop is we carried two additional laptops on board and thus had very quick backups. Also when the unit failed (none ever did) we could just replace with a quick trip to a computer store. Now use a dedicated desk unit which was even cheaper and easier to use than a laptop.

Bay Pelican as a pilot house so the daylight viewing is not as big of an issue but we still went ahead and bought a daylight viewable monitor.

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Old 11-06-2013, 07:00 PM   #5
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You need to decide what is best for YOUR situation. Laptops work well for some and won't work for others. I, personally, want a dedicated marine device as a chartplotter. It's not about the softwar. They have proven solid platforms. I don't trust the hardware. By my measure, laptops are flimsy by compare with hardware and software that can fail and drag down the whole thing. I couldn't make the leap. I pilot exclusively from the flying bridge and no laptop will last very long up there. I don,t have the space to set it all up and the last time I looked, daylight monitors were pretty pricy and would require AC power (though am not sure about that last bit). There is no right answer any of us can give you. You need to decide yourself what you need. Go check our sister site. They have a great sub-forum on nav software and OpenCPN.
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Old 11-06-2013, 07:17 PM   #6
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I have been using an iPad for the past year with Garmin's Bluechart app, as well as the EarthNC app. . No problems or complains , iPad brightness control works well. You must however avoid leaving the iPad in direct sunlight . Heat will shut it down. We have a second iPad as a backup, as well as a Garmin chartplotter that I rarely use.
Cost on the two chart apps about $20.00 each.
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Old 11-06-2013, 08:13 PM   #7
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We have been using an iPad also but with the iSailor software and a DUAL XGPS150 Bluetooth sensor. We have a Ram ball mount with the proper holder for the pad and have also hard wired USB cords for each at both helms. Simple and very reliable.
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Old 11-06-2013, 08:33 PM   #8
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I have used Coastal Explorer for about 7 years now on the same laptop, first in a C-Dory on a ram mount and now on a trawler. At the helm I also have a Lowrance HDS-8 (lower helm) and HDS-7 at the upper helm. The Lowrance units are generally run as sonars and as redundant GPS sensors for Coastal Explorer through a NMEA 2000 network. They are also doing engine monitoring through the NMEA 2000 network using the Noland RS-11. This year I ran Coastal Explorer with the laptop at the lower helm with a remote wireless display on either an Android tablet or IPad since I had both on the boat. The Android actually worked better but setting up the remote session was a little clunky especially on the IPad. Next summer I plan to use a 14 in Lenovo USB monitor on the upper helm in a Ram mount with a sun shade to provide a remote display of the laptop. Since the upper and lower helm are only about 7 feet apart, I control the laptop from a wireless trackball. With the USB cable coming up from below I could also use a USB mouse and keyboard if I wanted to.

I think both the laptop and a dedicated chart plotter have a place. I prefer navigating and planning on the laptop, but like the dedicated chart plotter as the backup and night time system for anchor watch. Since space is not an issue and I was dragging the computer with me anyway on long trips, my thought was why not use it.

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Old 11-06-2013, 08:45 PM   #9
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I have the maxsea ap on my ipad and love it.

I also have a Furuno multi display fully redundant system and would not think about boating without it.
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Old 11-06-2013, 09:31 PM   #10
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I have the maxsea ap on my ipad and love it.

I also have a Furuno multi display fully redundant system and would not think about boating without it.
Similar setup here. Navionics on the iPad, and redundant Raymarine MFDs hard mounted at 2 nav stations.

Love the flexibility of the iPad, but would not want to be without the hard mounted marine units.
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Old 11-07-2013, 07:28 AM   #11
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I have the maxsea ap on my ipad and love it.

I also have a Furuno multi display fully redundant system and would not think about boating without it.


I have a dedicated NN3D system, and also have MaxSea on our laptop. One for piloting, one for planning. We're also using Plan2Nav (for now) on an Android tablet -- not connected to the autopilot -- for back-up piloting. Neither laptop nor tablet displays are bright enough for all daylight conditions.

I don't have a way to network a laptop or tablet with our autopilot...

-Chris
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Old 11-07-2013, 08:53 AM   #12
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Why not both? I have Garmin 7250's at each station and iPads using Garmin blue chart mobile. Redundancy is important to me as is the portability of the iPad. Price of iPad is extremely reasonable. Screen brightness on the 7250 in sunlight is hard to beat where iPad is much harder to read in direct sunlight or bright conditions. The Garmin Bluetooth capability is also a luxury being able to develop a route at night on iPad and use it on the main Garmin systems during the day.
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Old 11-07-2013, 09:13 AM   #13
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I echo why not both? I have a carputer and touch screen with OpenCPN and NOAH charts at the downstairs helm as back-up. I also have 2 Garmin 4210's on the flybridge and a 4008 at the downstairs helm all networked with sonar, radar, cameras AIS, DCS, bla bla bla. All figured out by me installed by me and perfect for me.
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Old 11-07-2013, 10:38 AM   #14
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Tom, I just got a new Raymarine mfd installed along with a new radar. I've been in AZ since the day after it was installed so I haven't had a chance to take it out and play with it yet, but will this weekend.

The install was done by Rodgers Marine in Portland. They did a great job. They provided me with a detailed price list prior to the work and did the job on time and for the price they quoted.

The mfd has blue tooth capability so uploading charts from a pad device to the mfd should be doable.

If I were in your shoes I'd take a drive down to Portland (they're on the river near the airport) and talk to Marty Belansky. He's a great guy to work with and will take whatever time necessary to show you the different models and what they're capable of.

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Old 11-07-2013, 10:43 AM   #15
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I use both a GPS map plotter and my i-pad.

I plug in the i-pad so it's charging while I'm using it. I use it to see where I'm going a bit or far ahead. Zoom in and out is much better than my GPS. I look for anchorages for the night or next week. Or just look around. The image is good and bright. My big complaint for Navamatics is that the names of channels and inlets are very hard to find. Very awkward.

Using the i-pad I'm looking at what's out in front of me w the GPS. Before the i-pad I'd surf around on the GPS looking for anchorages ect and not keeping the best watch on rocks and shallow water just ahead.

My only complaint is names on Navamatics.

Dim laptops don't interest me at all but I've seen others use them and get all kinds of information I can't access. As far as I know most all the time that extra information like tidal currents is just not needed.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:28 AM   #16
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I, personally, want a dedicated marine device as a chartplotter.
Me too! I don't even have or want an iPad.
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:44 AM   #17
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This is always an interesting topic to see what other people are doing. And like Tom said, everyone has their own style and technique. In the end, this is another topic we overanalyze and over scrutinize. Yes these things are important. But if all were to die, are you going to die? Probably not!!! And as everyone, the need to use the backup generally never happens. I know, it is nice to know it is there. I also think we, as men, like the gadgetry to be able to set up a "navigation network" that can do damn near anything and every thing. It is pretty damn cool!!!!

I have been using my boat since July. I have not had a reliable "chartplotter" on until last week. I am VERY familiar with the waters I boat in. I used iSailor on my iPhone when I thought I needed some clarification. I just install a Garmin 740s and am pretty damn excited about that. I will be porting the sounder over to it as well as IAS. I am thinking about that "analog-to-digital NMEA2000" module thingy to get some engine instruments on there as well. Needles are good on the analog gauges but it would be nice to see a more accurate figure for engine parameters!!!
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Old 11-07-2013, 11:46 AM   #18
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Me too! I don't even have or want an iPad.
You don't know what you are missing, Walt!!!!....
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Old 11-07-2013, 12:08 PM   #19
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Assuming you will be trawler speed traveling in the PNW and on the Pacific Coast as opposed to bar hopping in FL or river cruising in the Eastern US, I offer the following:
  1. A rugged newer plotter/radar unit is a must. We have Furuno NN3 at both helms. Get a unit that has passed the drop test.
  2. The main plotting duties are most easily done with a laptop. We have Nobeltec VNS and will be upgrading to Trident when the bugs are worked out. On our laptop we can work on new course changes on the fly without changing the helmsman's current data display for course and heading.
  3. We have two monitors hooked into the laptop at the lower helm which is the adverse weather place of choice, so sunlight is not an issue. We have a serial port at the upper helm for the laptop as well as the previous Raymarine plotter.
  4. NN3 is expandable to a laptop system so any data on the Furuno can be shared or overlain to say Trident.
  5. We have AIS data on both Nobeltec and NN3, very nice especially in snotty foggy weather.
  6. Our Ipad with Navionics is a distracting toy when the going is tough. For us, its best use is to show people at cocktail hour where we have been and tying the great Ipad pictures into coordinates.
  7. We never ever use the charting laptop for movies or surfing. This is a common theme as voiced by others on this thread
Your travel plans, boat layout, cruising style and budget will dictate what is best for you.
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Old 11-07-2013, 12:10 PM   #20
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As backup we have paper charts, compass, parallel rules, dividers, the ability to use them, stand alone gps and when inland a radar plot. Feels safe to us.
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