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The Next New Things - Times may be tough, but the lights are on at marine-electronics R&D centers around the globe.

Times may be tough, but the lights are on at marine-electronics R&D centers around the globe. An electronics review from our February 2010 issue

Feb 25, 2010
By Ben Ellison (More articles by this author)

The recession seems to have put less hurt on marine-electronics manufacturers than on their boatbuilding brethren, and the obvious reason is that their products have improved so much in recent times that sailors still feel a need to upgrade what they already own with the latest technology. Picture anxious R&D departments burning the midnight oil to incorporate the latest features—plus the better processors, sensors, and display technologies becoming available from the wider world of electronics—lest their brand gets left behind. Thus it is that sailors will find many interesting new products to contemplate.

If you're considering the big enchilada—a new multifunction display system—don't skip over the all-new NSE 8- and 12-inch MFDs from Simrad (, which retail for $3,300 and $4,600 respectively. They're related, in fact, to the HDS series that Lowrance ( introduced last year, which is a good thing in terms of excellent support for NMEA 2000 (a.k.a. SimNet) data networking and Navico Ethernet products like Broadband Radar and Sonar. But the NSE series is built to a sturdier standard and features a smart interface that includes both dedicated mode keys and a versatile rotary knob. These MFDs also have extraordinarily bright, legible, and power-efficient LED backlit screens, and a 1.6-gigahertz processor that speedily handles either the built-in Insight charts or any of the card formats from Navionics (—including the new, and useful, TurboView 3D mode. I've been testing a prototype NSE12 in Maine, and I'm quite impressed.

I've also had some on-water time with a prototype E-140 Widescreen from Raymarine (, which notably combines Raymarine's long-evolving soft-key and keypad controls with a touch screen. That means you can perform many tasks, like selecting MARPA targets or laying out routes, more easily than ever, but with hard keys to fall back on if conditions make the touching tough. The new E Series will also.....

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