PLOTTER REPORTS

 

Garmin 180 GPS Plotter and Fish finder

Report from Sean

Specification:
The unit is a grey scale combined GPS Plotter and Fishfinder.
50 and 200khz operation
The 220 version is NMEA compatible
Price from £650
Home web page www.garmin.com

This unit also came with the boat and I had a 220 version fitted to my last boat.

After a radio a GPS and fish finder are almost a must have these days. Allowing you to get out to marks much further away with good accuracy and being able to assist in returning in darkness or bad visibility. Something I would recommend if at all possible is to practice returning to home using instruments only. That way if you do end up in thick fog it does not come as such a shock. Please do ensure however that you have at least one person to act as look out for obstructions.

The first thing I would say about combined GPS and fish finder's are if you can afford it and have the room then buy separates. It drives me mad continually switching between screens to get the information that you want at the time, especially when you are trying to anchor or drift a wreck or small mark. I know that you can use the split screen but it takes away a lot of what you can see.

The units use G-Chart cartography for the chart plotter coupled with the 12-channel satellite receiver. This allows you to zoom down to ½ mile range and gives reasonable zoom level. Anything less than ½ a mile range goes into over zoom mode and the display then looks terrible.

I have found that the accuracy is as good as the more expensive standard GPS units available. If you want a greater level of accuracy then an optional DGPS unit can be added. I have never found the need for that level of accuracy, but I dare say that some might need or want it.

Navigation through the pages and menus is reasonably simple and with a couple of hours use under your belt, it should become second nature.

The unit can be used in either GPS, plotter, fish finder mode or using the split screen it can be combined to show both pages. This proves a bit too much especially on the smaller 180 units.

Compared to some models I have used the fishfinder gives an average picture of the seabed. I find the definition a little on the poor side, however some of the newer units are much better with higher resolutions. There is a fish indicator symbol that can be switched on or off that some find usefully. Gain and depth can either be manually or automatically controlled. I normally leave it in auto mode.

My opinion: Not a bad unit if you are looking to buy a unit with a set budget in mind. It is not the best on the market neither the worst.

Other units that I have tried: Lowrance LCX-16 (see full report), Humminbird NS24 and the Eagle range.

I found the Eagle range to be the least of my favourite units. Basically I hated the blocky picture and detail was almost non-existent. In its defence it is the cheapest of the units available. For a very similar price I have owned the Humminbird NS24 combined unit. I thought it was a great unit, especially the fish finder. The detail that could be seen on the display was very good and the fish indicator is the only one that I have seen to be very accurate at predicting actual fish and there size. I would certainly recommend the Humminbird over the Garmin. The Humminbird Legend range of fish finders are brilliant with incredible detail. www.humminbird.com


 

Lowrance LCX-16ci GPS plotter and Sonar / Sounder

Report from Sean

Specification:
The unit is a colour combined GPS Plotter and Sounder
50 and 200khz operation
NMEA Compatible
Price from £1500
Home web page www.lowrance.com

I bought this unit last year when it was a lot more expensive. I do not believe that I wasted my money. It is one of the most expensive non-professional units available but you defiantly get what you pay for.

The unit uses Navionics chart cartography. Unfortunately the Lowrance does not yet support the Gold version. The unit also comes with Map Create software but this is not compatible with the Navionics charts.

The big clear screen makes looking at the charts a pleasure. The charts are very detailed and can be zoomed in to great detail. Tidal flow and direction indicators are positioned approximately every 2 miles. A good example of this can be seen from the charts around Portland that show about 10 different tidal flow directions and speeds with in a couple of miles. Fantastic if you want to plan a trip to get the most from the tides. You can use the features to let you see different tide states at any given time or day for years in advance.

Software updates for various applications including bug fixes are very easy to carry out. Everything is supplied.

The sounder gives fantastic definition and bottom detail. You can literally see bait fish around underwater objects. The one part that I don't think works that well is the fish ID. I find it over sensitive and can often give false indications.

Because of the size of the screen it can be used in split screen operation and still give a good display. I would still prefer to have separates.

One of my favourite features is the ability to record your sounder display. The unit has the ability to take 2 MMC cards. One is normally used for the chart but the other can be used to store large amounts of data. A typical 5-minute recording uses about 2Mb. The GPS co-ordinates are also stored for any point on the recording. This can be played back on your PC and details recorded. I found this very useful once when I found a mark that I was travelling over at 25 knots. I recorded it and played it back at home. Put the numbers into the GPS and came back another day and caught loads of Black Bream.

I could go an all day about how good this unit is and how many features that it has, but you can go on line and they have a really good demo of it on there.

My opinion: One of the best units on the market. I love it and if I thought I could get away with it, I would buy the LCX-19c and use them both as separate units. The downside is the cost.

Other units I have looked at: The new Raymarine L770D High definition GPS plotter and sounder. This was not available when I purchased my unit, but I did see a working demo at the Southampton Boat Show. I was impressed the definition was very good. However I did not think the chart cartography was as good as the Navionics. The salesman told me that they use their own proprietary charts. However another one told me they use C-Map, so I am a little confused there. The price was very similar for both the Lowrance and Raymarine.


 

Navman 5100 chartplotter

Report from Ian

Specification:
The unit is a Greyscale combined GPS Plotter (colour is available)
5" screen
NMEA Compatible
Price from £450
Home web page www.navman.com/marine

I use a Navman 5100 chartplotter employing C-Map cartography, and find it to be an impressive unit for the price (under 400 pounds). It seems to be accurate to within about 15 feet from what I can gather, and has made relocating small reefs and wrecks a relatively simple process, which it wasn't in the past using a handheld GPS! It's also EGNOS enabled, which means it should get even more accurate when this under-development European correction system gets online.

The unit proved its accuracy, not to mention how indispensable a plotter is, by guiding us seven miles past a potentially hazardous stretch of coastline in dense fog, too, and it's for this reason that I'd suggest a GPS unit is an essential piece of kit.

The plotter has all the usual refinements: it can tell you the tide state, it can tell you your speed, whether you're following your course accurately, and it gives information on wrecks (minimum depths) and ports (facilities), plus key information like the angle of leading lights when entering a 'strange' harbour. It can also work out fuel consumption, economy etc if you get a fuel flow unit, which I'd love to, but I can't find one! That would be great, as it'd tell me how to drive/trim the Raider for peak efficiency, and would probably pay for itself.

This unit is black and white, though a friend of mine has the colour version, and I have to say that - other than being prettier - I don't see the point of paying twice as much for colour.

On the downside, the plotter developed a screen fault not long after I bought it (six trips!), though to be fair to Navman it was repaired free, though it might've been a bit quicker in returning (6 weeks). No problems since that, and the unit now has about 30 trips under its belt.


 

Navman 5100 chartplotter Report 2

By Dave

Like Ian I too have a Navman 5100 chart plotter, in fact it was from Ian's recommendation that I bought the same, even down to the same shop. I should point out that I have not had any problems that Ian experianced.

I will say it has been great to see exactly where you are on a moving map. Fortunately I have not had need to use it in bad weather but I am sure it would not let me down.

When I purchased the unit, from the USA, I also bought two map cartridges as well which I feel is an must to see any features around the UK.

I would suggest to anyone looking to buy a plotter to get a screen as big as possible or you can afford, the 5 inch screen on the Navman is ok but I have a 6.5 inch GPS as well which has a super screen to see and I would have loved to have been able to afford to purchase a colour version at the time but the Greyscale works fine even in sunlight, when we get some!

I recently purchased a 'User Card', which is basically a floppy disk, so I can download/upload waypoints, routes, tracks etc from the home PC to plotter or visa versa. I have added a short report on this unit in "Other Bits".

The question I always ask is would I buy another Navman, the answer is Yes, but I would go for colour now and the 6.5 inch screen that is now available looks really good but costs a small fortune.

Just a small update
I have had a small problem in that from time to time the unit locked up. I informed Navman UK who suggested I reset the the unit back to factory settings. Bit like a re-boot on the PC.
Did this a couple of times but did not cure problem so contacted Navman again who asked for the unit back to check out. This was done and had the unit returned quickly with new software installed.
Had to reset personal settings again but that is not a problem but the important thing is it seems to have cured the problem. All work done FOC. Well imppressed with after sales service.


 

Garmin 182c chartplotter


Home web page www.garminn.com

The GPSMAP 182/182C feature crisp, high-resolution displays and high-speed processors, which allow for an extremely fast redraw rate. These chartplotters have a built-in WAAS receiver, which means they can pinpoint your location and other map features within three meters, on average.

The Garmin 182c plotter is a very, very nice piece of kit and the accuracy of the unit is astounding.


 

LMS-320 FEATURES

By Geoff


Home web page www.lowrance.com

View Points
5.0" (12.7cm) diagonal high-contrast Film SuperTwist LCD display with 10-level gray scale
High-detail 320 x 320 (w x h) resolution — 102,400 total pixels
Enhanced cold-cathode screen and keypad backlighting
Full-screen and split-screen sonar-data-chart viewing combinations

Sonar/Sounder
Depth penetration to 1,000 feet (305 m)
3,000 W peak-to-peak power (375 W RMS)
High-performance transom-mount 200 kHz 60º Skimmer® transducer with built-in temp sensor
FasTrack™ full-screen LCD flasher mode with GRAYLINE® displays instantaneous sonar returns
FishReveal™ feature exposes fish targets hidden in cover with 10 levels of gray scale
HyperScroll™ displays fish targets at higher boat speeds
Special standard features — programmable "Windows,"
Advanced Signal Processing (ASP™), Advanced Fish Symbol
I.D.™, and FishTrack™

GPS/WAAS/Mapping
Precision 12-parallel channel GPS and selectable WAAS reception
Built-in, exclusive Lowrance background map
Optional MapCreate™ custom mapping software
1,000 waypoints/1,000 event markers/100 routes
10 savable plot trails/10,000 points per trail
42 different graphic icons to mark your favorite spots
37 map zoom ranges, 0.05–4,000 miles

NB this unit is now discontinued.

Lowrance plotter/sonar is easy to use, reliable, good sized buttons.
I tend to switch screens - full sonar when looking for marks or in shallow areas - Full GPS when travelling to/from marks in poor visibility or to get the most direct route.
Split screen I only use when pinpoint anchoring over a known mark/waypoint.
I have had no problems with the Navionics maps, they have been accurate with plenty of detail, I would like to have the ability of having a backup as these come on an MMC card, salt water & these do not mix!
The zoom functions are quick, route plotting again easy.
The screen has a good clear display & is easy to see even in bright sunlight.

The sonar function has a myriad of settings, giving you plenty to fiddle with whilst at anchor & the fishing is slow.

All in all a businesslike package that delivers the goods.


Navman 5500 chartplotter

Report from Ian

Specification:
The unit is a Colour combined GPS and Plotter
Normal, paper night and day settings for optimal viewing
TFT daylight view LCD TRACKER 5500 / 5500i has a 5" [127mm] diagonal screen
Crisp 1/4 VGA resolution (320 x 234 pixels WAAS / EGNOS enabled GPS solution)
C-MAP™ NT & C-MAP™ NT+ Worldwide cartography with Tide and Port Services data
Digital Petrol/gasoline Computer Option - requires optional fuel kit
Portrait screen format with ergonomic key layout ideal for installation into small dash areas
TRACKER 5500 bulkhead mountable [kit included] download flush mounting template
Variable backlighting with laser etched backlit keys
Latest SiRFstarII GPS chipset for fast Time To First Fix and fast redraw
500 Alphanumeric waypoints with a choice of 48 icons
25 Routes with up to 50 waypoints each route
Dedicated Waypoint key and Man Over Board Key
Four speed cursor settings for fast panning and accurate control
5 Tracklogs: 1 with 2000 points, 4 with 500 points
Rugged waterproof housing rated IP67
NavBus to interface with 3100 Sailing Instruments
Price from £429
Home web page www.navman.com/marine

I chose to upgrade from my Lowrance 75W mono sounder to a colour unit with more power for my occasional sea loch sorties to Scotland's west coast, and the ideal package seemed to be the Navman 5500 and Fish 4500 colour units twin pack, which of course came at a sharp price compared to buying the two separately, with a fuel flow transducer flung in for free! I hadn't really planned to change chartplotter, but with exchange rates very good, I purchased the twin pack for little more than what the sounder alone would have cost me in the UK...

Navman 5500 colour chartplotter:

After two seasons of use, my main observation would be that a colour plotter (I had a mono version of the same unit before) doesn't add an awful lot...

Having a chart the same colour of a real one is novel, but since much of the time is spent with the screen magnified up in 'plotter mode', you don't even see it! For precision mark finding/steering, there is no way you will work with the chart visible, as being within 500 yards of a small reef is no good at all!

The 5500 has a 5.5 inch screen and is a very competent unit with tide tables, which is a boon: you can look at the graph and work out when you will be able to get back into a tidal harbour, for instance, which when you think about it is a lot more use than what a tide table gives...

It has a rolling road display, v good for staying on a straight course, but be aware it WILL happily suggest you drive overland to reach your destination! Another useful tool is the projected course indicator, like having a pool cue stuck to the front of your 'virtual' boat - this has the effect of letting you work out where you will end up if you continue on your present course...handy for going from A to B in a straight line, while keeping the chart in full view to avoid hazards...

The unit also measures fuel flow through a separate transducer in the fuel line, which is handy for telling you what trim/tilt angles and RPM give optimum fuel efficiency for given conditions...

Downsides?
My biggest bugbear is the fact that with all my waypoints switched on I can hardly see the chart, as the waypoint icons don't shrink as the scale changes...


Garmin 550S chartplotter/Fishfinder

Features

Ultra-bright 5” diagonal QVGA display, 320 x 240 pixels – 800 nits of brightness
New streamlined user interface offers easy selection of modes and features
Preloaded with marine map detail of the UK & Ireland plus a worldwide satellite imagery internal map
Single SD memory card slot for optional BlueChart G2 VISION cards
AIS compatible
BlueChart G2 VISION cards provide:
- High-resolution satellite imagery which can be overlaid on the basemap
- 3D charting information for a true “mariner’s eye view” perspective
- 3D perspective below the water line for displaying bathymetry in a “fish eye view”
- Auto guidance technology suggests the best course to a destination
- Navigationally significant aerial photographs
- Coastal roads and points of interest detail
Built-in receiving antenna with remote antenna capability – BNC connector for optional GA29 antenna
Backlit keypad for easier operation at night
Two NMEA0183 I/O ports

Unit dimensions: 6.4" W x 5.9" H x 2.9" D
New sounder design featuring excellent shallow water performance
Power output: 500 watts (RMS) 4000 watts (peak to peak), dual frequency
400 watts (RMS) 3200 watts (peak to peak), dual beam
Depth: 1,500 feet (dual frequency), 900 feet (dual beam)
Choose dual frequency transducer 50kHz (45°), 200kHz (10°) for maximum saltwater performance or dual beam transducer 80kHz (45°), 200kHz (14°) for maximum freshwater performance
Patented transom/trolling mount transducer
Ultrascroll™ high rep rate sonar provides lightning-fast screen updates
New AutoGain technology enhances target visibility
CANet™ proprietary bus allows display and control of full feature sounder data on 2nd Garmin chartplotter
See-Thru® technology: shows weak and strong returns simultaneously
Water temperature log graphically records water temp data
Round flasher display mode (in dual beam mode) and A-scope (in dual frequency mode)
Whiteline
Adjustable depth line helps gauge desired fishing levels and bottom clearance
Split zoom display offers a closer look at fish targets and bottom structure
2X, 4X and bottomlock zoom
Adjustable keel offset
Alarms for fish size, shallow water, deep water and low battery

Report from Mike

I bought this unit in late Spring 2007, selected as a compact combined plotter and sounder, which was needed for the restricted space on my cockpit binnacle.

This unit has a 5” diagonal, daylight viewable screen, twin frequency sonar with integral maps for the whole of the UK and English Channel. This is more than we actually need as a cruising range, but does avoid the need to buy extra charts close to overlapping areas and edges.

The menu system is simple, easy to use, and can change from full plotter display to single or dual frequency sonar, or a combined split screen with chart and bottom profile very quickly. Waypoints are simple to put in, either via Lat/Long insertion, or point and click. I’ve added around 100 so far in about 6 months, and will try harder next year! There’s also a global base map, that can be used should I stray too far from our regular cruising grounds, and satellite imagery if you zoom out too far!

The cost of around £700 including the twin-frequency transducer was a major factor for me. The separate units available from Garmin and others would have cost around £500 without charts, so this gave me the price/performance yardstick. The 550s was cheaper than the Raymarine equivalent units, which were several hundred pounds more, and each chart would have cost a further £100 or so each. The saving compared to Raymarine was probably £400-500 for the sort of boating we do.

The smaller Garmin 450S unit with transducer had the same functionality for about £120 less. The smaller 4” screen seemed more cluttered, and was harder to see, and I rejected this on grounds of clarity, and difficulty of interpretation – especially if the instruments were really needed, such as in thick fog.

It’s wired directly to the battery (shows voltage as a bonus) to avoid engine starting interference, and the transducer is moulded onto a block of plasticine in the single-thickness hull of my boat. I’ve used this before on previous boats, and as a temporary installation, it can last for years!

In practice, it’s been great. It proved it’s value in the first two weeks when the fog descended, and we re-traced our track precisely. We’ve used it to wind our way through shallow channels, avoiding rocky edges. We’ve found wrecks and isolated charted rocks, plotted their contours, and drifted and anchored precisely using the 550s. We’ve checked rocks and reefs for fish holding areas, and have fished mid-channel marks with superb resolution and with fish spotting capability in almost 200’ of water.

Would I recommend it? Yes – for those with similar needs!


Lowrance X-110c

Features
Good things are being talked about the Lowrance x-110c Enhanced Recording Sonar unit.
This is a high performance sonar packed with features that will appeal to anglers running bigger craft looking for maximum feature reading and navigation performance.

This powerful set features a massive super-high-resolution 10.4-inch diagonal 256-colour screen sporting SVGA technology, plus Thin Film Technology liquid crystal display with sunlight viewing capability.
The pixel count equates to 600V x 800 H resolution.

It carries a programmable colour palette, 6 sonar display colour choices, offers multiple full and split-screen sonar/GPS viewing, plus has advanced cold cathode screen and key pad backlighting for ease of night and low light condition key selection and screen reading.

The power output is a massive 8,000 watts peak-to-peak (1,000 W RMS).
It has a depth reading ability down to 3,000-feet plus, and can read water temperature, speed and distance log too.

The FlashGraf facility combines a scrolling sonar target graph with a digital LCD flasher with GRAYLINE or COLOURLINE for better fish finding.
Adjustable ping speed automatically engages HyperScroll to better locate fish targets at high boat speeds.
Advanced Signal Processing automatically tunes the set to give the best signal and the clearest definition of underwater targets.
COLOURLINE separates fish and rising bottom structure from the seabed contour and separates hard seabed from soft seabed feature.
Fish I.D. interprets the sonar return to highlight fish targets and displays these in four different sizes of fish symbol allied to fish size.
In conjunction with Fish I.D. Fish Track has a digital depth shown above each relevant fish symbol, plus you have multi-zoom options, sonar alarms and back up memory.

There is a 12-parallel channel GPS plus WAAS receiver, and you can store up to 1,000 waypoints and 1,000 event markers and 100 routes with 100 waypoints per route.
It has 100 saveable plot trails with 10,000 points per trail and 37 zoom ranges.

You obviously have full navigation chart access with two waterproof MMC/SD memory card slots for mapping, recording and upgrading.
Also advanced digital recording playback of sonar graph and GPS details, plus custom map uploading options.

It offers networking facilities via NMEA, audio output for remote speakers, a high-impact screen cover, plus is sealed and waterproofed for saltwater.
You also have the option of a dual-frequency 50/200kHz, or single frequency 200kHz Skimmer (low profile for high speed working) transducer with built in temperature sensor.


Eagle Sea Charter 500C

Ever more popular are combined Sonar/GPS units giving a space saving aboard smaller boats with limited space, but also offering the practicality of having just the one unit to work with.
The Eagle SeaCharter 500C fits this specification perfectly.

This combined Sonar and GPS unit has an ultra bright sunlight viewable 256-colour, active matrix Thin Film Technology LCD 5” vertical screen, and a 320V x 240H pixel count to give maximum definition.
The screen is also back lit.

The function keys are arranged in two vertical rows, but individually horizontally ovalised to give a big target area for easy operation, with the main navigation button positioned immediately above.
The keys are again back lit for night time or low light conditions.

It has a depth capability down to 1500-feet with a peak to peak power of 4000 watts via the high performance, low profile 50/200KHz Skimmer dual-frequency transducer delivering an extra wide angle of fish detection through high sensitive settings.
This also sports a built in temperature sensor which can operate at speeds up to 70mph or 61-knots. Also included is an SP-U transom mount sensor to give exact trolling speed/distance log readings.
Surface temperature readings are also available.

On screen you have adjustable ping speed with automatic HyperScroll to display fish targets better when running at high speed. A choice of six colour display modes to match outdoor light conditions and to improve the identification of fish hiding under seabed ground feature.
The FastTrack vertical bar flasher displays real time sonar return signals and relative strength of each target, and the Advanced Signal Processing automatically adjusts your settings for the optimum picture.

The COLORLINE feature can separate fish from close by ground feature and the seabed, plus defines the type of seabed and its hardness.
Advanced Fish I.D can show targets in different sizes of fish symbols, and FishTrack will display the depth of the fish above the fish symbols.
You also have easy zoom in/out control to focus on bottom tracking, plus can select on/off alarms to indicate a shallowing depth, depth, fish and zone.

There is also an overlay facility displaying GPS data on the sonar screen, or sonar data on the GPS screen.

On the GPS side it sports 12-parallel channel GPS reception with fast satellite lock-on to give precise tracking with position updates taken every second via the external EGC-12W receiver.
It is said to be capable of a position accuracy of under 10-feet.

It can save up to 1,000 waypoints, 1,000 event markers, and 100 different routes with up to 100 waypoints each. You can select from 42 different graphic icons to identify marks, locations and distinct feature.
It even offers a 40 map zoom range from 0.02 miles to 4000 miles.
The internal back-up memory system keeps all your stored GPS data and sonar marks permanently safe.

An optional extra is a GPS Mapping Accessory Pack including MapCreate CD Software, a digital media card, an MMC/SD card reader/writer that lets you create and customise your own maps.

It is a tough, reliable unit, fully sealed and waterproof for the worst possible conditions and comes with a full one-year warranty.


Lowrance Elite-5 DSI

Specification

Screen Size - 5 in / 127 mm
Screen Resolution - 480 x 480 pixels
256-color SolarMAX PLUS TFT
Transducer Type - Transom Mount
Imaging - Down Imaging
Transmit Power Max - 500W RMS 4000W Peak-To-Peak
Sonar Frequency - 455/800 kHz
Maximum Depth - 1000ft
GPS Antenna Type - Internal high-sensitivity WAAS + EGNOS + MSAS
Waypoint Storage - 3000
Routes - 100
Plot Trails - 100 retraceable plot trails/up to 10,000 points per trail

Features

The Elite-5 DSI fishfinder brings exquisite detail to your fishing experience with a display that showcases the underwater world in picturesque quality. The 480 X 480 pixel high resolution display appears in great clarity on the 5” screen. You are able to view the area beneath the surface at a wider angle and with a vibrant brightness that brings it to life before your eyes. The CCFL backlit screen and keypad ensure that you are not limited to daylight fishing by providing the ability to use the fishfinder for your low light and nighttime excursions.

Lowrance DownScan Imaging sets the Elite-5 DSI apart from the crowd. This technology allows you a crisp and clear view of exactly what is lurking beneath the boat. Not only will you receive an unmistakable view of the fish, but being able to expose the boundaries between cooler and warmer water will lead you directly to where the fish are at. Worrying about structures interfering in your experience will be a thing of the past as you will easily identify them in photo-like quality. This ability to differentiate between the fish, structures and bottoms without interpretation will only serve to enhance your angling experience.

The Elite-5 DSI boasts 4000w of peak to peak and 500w of RMS power output that offers expanded capabilities for users. This fishfinder defies the obstacles of depth and speed. You will be able to capture images at depths of up to 200ft and boat speeds of up to 40mph. The dual 455/800 kHz coverage will ensure that your views go wider and deeper than ever before.

Navigating the waters with the Elite-5 DSI is a much simpler task due to the internal 16 channel GPS antenna. Slip your favorite mapcard into the microSD card slot and you will be plotting your way through the waters like a pro. This fishfinder accepts the most current and up-to-date mapcards so that you are always on top of your game.
Software updates are available here Lowrance web site


 

Disclaimer: Everything written in these reports are based on personal experience and the individual's opinion only. I have tried my best to present the facts correctly, but I/we take no responsibility for any mistakes or omissions.