Thread: Radar Upgrades
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Old 03-26-2016, 11:45 AM   #16
twistedtree's Avatar
City: Gloucester, MA
Country: USA
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 4,980
As Ranger says, the alternative to an MFD (multi function device that displays charts along with proprietary radar and fish finder), is to use dedicated devices that are integrated using industry standard interfaces.

MFDs are a great way to put together an electronics suite quickly. And they tend to take up less console space than dedicated devices, so on smaller boats they are often the only viable option. The down side, as you are discovering, is that they are all-or-nothing, lock you into a single vendor for chart plotter, radar, and fish finder, and typically force you to compromise one some functions to get others. Vendor's love this approach because they can sell you more stuff, and you are more likely to keep buying form them in the future.

Dedicated devices allow you to pick best-of-breed for each device, upgrade each device independent of others, avoid single vendor lock-in, and typically get much higher quality devices with more features. And they can all still be integrated together using industry-standard interfaces. They are also more resilient to failures since breakage of one device doesn't take out others. If your MFD fails, you lose everything. The down side is that they typically take up more console space because there are multiple displays and controls required, and you give up some integration features like radar overlay on charts.

I recently went through this transition from an MFD system to dedicated devices integrated with industry-standard interfaces, and have written a number of blog articles on the process at Assuming you have the space, I vastly prefer using dedicated devices. In the end the cost is about the same, but you get a MUCH better system and are not locked into anything. But I also just installed electronics in a 28' open boat and used and MFD because there wasn't space for dedicated devices.
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