Whether you’re checking out new boats or looking to upgrade the electronics on your existing boat, you’ll want to know about the latest in chartplotter developments.
To today’s anglers it’s no surprise that modern marine electronics can help you catch more fish, but considering the blinding pace of electronic evolution, the word “modern” has taken on new meaning. These days a five-year-old chartplotter is utterly archaic. The good news is that a truly modern unit can often be upgraded with software alone, so if you put a dazzling new chartplotter in the dash right now, you’ll be able to harness much of next year’s tech, too.
But, which chartplotters offer the coolest capabilities, and what are the newest units available from the industry’s heavy hitters? Here’s the latest and greatest in chartplotters for 2022 (in reverse-alphabetical order, since we’re all sick and tired of always going from A to Z).
Simrad NSX: An All New MFD
At this year’s Miami Boat Show Simrad made what many would say was the biggest announcement of the year in the world of marine electronics: the introduction of the all-new NSX series of chartplotter/fishfinder MFDs. The NSX lineup includes seven-, nine-, and 12-inch displays and represents the company’s mid-range products, but in a surprise move Simrad didn’t just build on the older lineup. Instead, they build a new operating system from the ground up.
The concept behind NSX is to provide boat anglers with the latest tech but make the setup and interface easier than ever. To this end, a “setup wizard” provides step-by-step instructions from the first time you hit the power key. That eliminates a slew of mundane tasks like searching through menus to figure out how to make the machine realize there’s a radar trying to feed it data.
As far as capabilities go, don’t let the NSX’s mid-range sizes fool you. These are fully-capable units (autopilot, ethernet, engine display, you name it) that come with a number of perks last year’s models cant match. They can display hi-res bathymetry including contour lines down to a single foot, present the latest chart presentation via C-Map Discover X and Reveal X, autorouting functions are the fastest ever, and the fishfinding capabilities are at the top of the curve: Active Imaging, CHIRP, DownScan, and Side Scan are all in there. Like many modern systems the NSX is also uber-communicative, and can Bluetooth with your phone allowing integration with the Simrad app. That makes updating easy, as well an giving you the ability to pre-plan at home then upload data to the MFD when you board the boat. Pricing starts a hair over $1,000; visit Simrad to learn more.
Raymarine LightHouse 4
Raymarine’s MFD systems are still based on the Axiom platform, with the Axiom+ introduced in late 2020 remaining the latest iteration. That does not, however, mean Raymarine hasn’t been busy lately. In April of this year they announced LightHouse 4, a new generation of operating system.
LightHouse 4 is intended to make operation easier with refined and more intuitive menus, more personalization elements, and better integration with marine partners. That improved integration has a few significant features that will make a real on-the-water difference. There’s deeper integration with Mercury Marine engine systems and the ability to present NMEA2000 or SeaTalk data immediately on startup, but more critically, it brings SiriusXM Fish Mapping integration into the mix. You can get the full scoop on this service by reading SiriusXM Fish Mapping, but in a nutshell, it allows you to overlay temp charts, chlorophyll charts, up/downwellings, and more right on the chartplotter screen — along with color-coded predictions of where specific species should be found, thanks to interpretation by oceanographers.
LightHouse 4 also upgrades audio controls, support of hi-res bathy charts and satellite image data with Navionics Platinum+, and route line visual display. Best of all, this is a free upgrade (Free! Free!) for existing Raymarine Axiom users. Visit Raymarine to learn more.
Garmin LiveScope XR (and more)
As usual, Garmin has kept up a steady stream of new introductions in 2022. There’s new chartography in the form of Garmin g3 v2022.5; new auto-guidance tech integrated into their app; a new ECHOMAP UHD2 keyed small boat chartplotters (five- and seven-inch sizes); and heck they even have a new watch, the Quatix 7, that can communicate with your chartplotter. For offshore anglers, however, the big news for 2022 is LiveScope XR.
On the inshore grounds and freshwater lakes real-time fishfinder imaging has been all the rage for a couple of years now, but it wasn’t really an option for offshore anglers. The new XR system is optimized for deep water, and can see up to 350’ around the boat even in the brine. It can display both close and long ranges at the same time, and motion sensors keep the image steady even in rough seas. You’ll still either need a trolling motor on the bow for transducer mounting or deal with a fixed-perspective shaft-mounting arrangement, but with 200-percent more range than previously available, the possibilities are sure to raise eyebrows. Cost is around $3,000 for the transducer and a GLS 10 black box. Visit Garmin to learn more.
Furuno NavNet TZtouch3: Drift It and Fish It
We brought you the news of Furuno’s latest and greatest software update when they first announced it, in Furuno Introduces Fish It and Drift It Software Upgrades, and since then we had an enlightening conversation with one of the pros behind the development: captain Jack Carlson of Two Conchs Sportfishing—an outfit with over a dozen boats that fish inshore, offshore, and everywhere in-between.
Just what is Fish It and Drift It? You create a Fish It waypoint where you want to fish, such as over a wreck or reef, simply by tapping the MFD screen. Then when you activate the Drift It function the unit calculates starting points for different length drifts that will take you across that Fish It waypoint. If it takes you five minutes to deploy the baits, for example, you can follow the Furuno and know exactly where to begin your drift in order to pass over the hotspot five minutes later — eliminating all the guesswork usually associated with positioning your boat upwind and/or up-current of a hotspot.
Now that he uses Fish It and Drift It, Carlson says “My system tells me exactly where to go to set up for a drift. I know how long it will take me to get to the wreck or structure, so I also know how long I have to get a kite spread up or get all my baits right. Or, if I want to anchor it tells me just where to position the boat, so I only have to drop the anchor once. And all this take just a couple of taps on the screen.”
Fish It and Drift It is an upgradable feature for Furuno TZtouch3 owners; the lineup ranges from nine- to 19-inches and starts around $3,100. Visit Furuno for more information.