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Tablets for navigation vs fixed chart plotters laptops


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I have tablet, not water proof but a boat that is very unlikely to get it wet. I prefer MarinerMX for local and have used navionics offshore.  Cheap as chips and duplicated on at least 2 phones.

Now watch me get shouted down.

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Totally agree tablets are excellent.  They are simple, cheap, can easily be waterproofed and can replicate instruments easily.  In my mind they are better especially for tricky eyeball navigation.  I use a few of the ipad Mini's you can easily hold them in one hand and steer with the other if you have to :-) 

Interestingly we hardly turn on our chartplotter.  I tend to only turn it on if using the radar.  

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I bought a cheap tablet as a backup, put it in a rugged case, used it happily several times. Get one with plenty of memory, most apps won't go on a card these days.

Not waterproof but you can put it in a plastic bag if you really need to.

Open CPN is pretty good but might be a bit more than you need, it depends and can be a bit quirky to learn. I think its better on a laptop, I use it at home for planning.

Navionics is good, and cheap, on a tablet or phone.

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The real answer is "it depends". But firstly let me say I do marine electronics for a living.

Tablets are cheap (ish) A good tablet can be more expensive than a reasonable chart plotter. Chart plotters (really no such thing now, they are MFD's (multi function displays).  MFD's start at about $1200....

Issues with Tablets are

  1. not normally waterproof
  2. If in a waterproof case they can't be charged/plugged in without compromising the waterproofing
  3. The screens are not great in direct sunlight
  4. Some don't dim down sufficiently for night use, without compromising your night vision
  5. Can be fairly easily broken if not actually mounted in a bracket
  6. Can be an issue to get instrument data, radar, AIS, sonar data connections, depending on what you have
  7. Can be difficult/impossible to use in poor weather, water, snow, etc

Advantages of tablets are;

  1. Mobile
  2. Versatile
  3. Choice of Nav apps
  4. Easily replaced

Advantages of MFD's

  1. Designed for marine environment
  2. Great screens, wide viewing angle, bright and dimmable to low levels
  3. Easy integration with other boat instruments
  4. Works in crap weather
  5. Easy setup, easy to use
  6. Never goes flat if boat has power
  7. Mount it in the cockpit if you only have one, in view and reach of the helm if possible.

Updates etc are pretty much the same now, use a hotspot and wifi, both devices should do auto udates.

For those who think a Ph or tablet is fine - IMO safe navigation requires 3 points of data. So your eyes can be one, GPS another, esp if on a plotter of some sort. The third can be traditional coastal nav, sonar, or radar. If you have radar, you are obliged to use it - the colregs say you must keep watch by "all available means"

Often people who say "the tablet is fine" are amateur sailors, who have never been on a boat with a modern nav system, or if they have, they don't know how to use it.

IMO Tablets are fine for local sailing in daylight. For any serious passages, a properly set up dedicated Nav system has substantial advantages.

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I use an "old" MFD and a Tablet running Navionics plus my eyes :).  I can get okay detail on the MDF, updated data on the tablet (but not actual measured depth) so good outcome.  When I get the $$ i will bring the MDF up to new tech and still run the tablet, and also add radar.

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For anyone in the gulf harbor area who would like a look at a modern system (once out of lockdown!), you're welcome to have a look at Island Time. I have both B&G systems and a PC with OpenCpn.... with most of the options - AIS, Radar, Fwd scan Sonar, Zeus 3 MFD, Triton Instrument system. All the systems are integrated on both the B&G and the PC, except the Fwd Scan.

Send me a PM or a ph call 0221539176 for anyone interested.

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I find tablets and phones difficult in bright light.  Also, I'm horrifically myopic (in meany meanings of the word) but also longsighted for reading.  Go figure.  So I need simple, bright, clear displays.  Or big.  A tablet ain't big enough.

I'm keen on putting an e-ink display in the cockpit relaying basic nav data (COG, speed, depth, etc) from the OpenPlotter server in the cabin.   But that would all be numeric, not graphic.   

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Have Navionics on an I pad, but issue is keeping it charged if screen is active all the time, preferably I use my Garmin 750s with the blue charts which is mounted on the helm pedestal, easy to see in sunlight but touch screen operation is a bit random when it is wet

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58 minutes ago, whitepointer said:

Have Navionics on an I pad, but issue is keeping it charged if screen is active all the time, preferably I use my Garmin 750s with the blue charts which is mounted on the helm pedestal, easy to see in sunlight but touch screen operation is a bit random when it is wet

One of the reasons I have prefer MX Mariner over navionics is it uses way less power.

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Ive  got a Vulcan MFD, the only comment is get one with a dial, touchscreens suck when its cold and wet.  If I were to upgrade I'd go for Zeus 9 any smaller its hard to read, I m not sure id want a bigger plotter at the helm station as you tend to look at them all the time like a magnet!

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8 hours ago, Black Panther said:

One of the reasons I have prefer MX Mariner over navionics is it uses way less power.

MX Mariner appears only to be for Android.   
My apple phone is of course IO$ 

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10 hours ago, Island Time said:

For anyone in the gulf harbor area who would like a look at a modern system (once out of lockdown!), you're welcome to have a look at Island Time. I have both B&G systems and a PC with OpenCpn.... with most of the options - AIS, Radar, Fwd scan Sonar, Zeus 3 MFD, Triton Instrument system. All the systems are integrated on both the B&G and the PC, except the Fwd Scan.

Send me a PM or a ph call 0221539176 for anyone interested.

If we ever get out of lockdown, I will be keeping my boat at GH, so would like a look, even though I cannot afford the B&G systems at this time....but one day I will be able to afford at least a portion of them, so will be fun to have a look

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There are tablets and tablets.  The Apple products are expensive but last and work.  I can verify this as I've had the same Ipad Pro on board the yacht for 4 years and it's seen salt water many times. I really don't have the daylight viewing issues that people discuss here.  I just finished a round the South Island trip and simply swear that the Ipad has a better user interface is more reliable and user friendly.  That may have to do with the fact that my chartplotter is located out in the cold cockpit.  Yes the ipad can be fragile but I'd suggest that if your chartplotter was designed to carry round that would be also.  

My Ipad Pro battery lasts all day but then I don't have it on all the time, I just view it when I need to. Most of time it lives in its cradle I built with the 3d printer plugged in.  

My Raymarine Axiom on the other hand almost always had a daily melt down on this trip and needed to reboot.  It was not happy with the recent software upgrade.  The Wifi radar on the other hand is excellent.  

My Ipad connects to the boat Wifi via Vesper AIS and will happily read all the instruments data including AIS, wind, depth etc wirelessly.  I look at some of the systems these days and they are so complicated.  I'd much rather have a simpler system that just works with limited things to fail.  If the chartplotter shits itself you can't grab the spare and start using it straight away.  The bonus with an Ipad is that it's always connected and I can watch netflix via downloaded movies, check weather and send the odd text also.  

I can also review sailing performance vs. polar and can control the autohelm via my smart watch.  

Look at what a lot of the solo guys are using now, tablets just make sense.  

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11 hours ago, Island Time said:

Issues with Tablets are

  1. not normally waterproof
  2. If in a waterproof case they can't be charged/plugged in without compromising the waterproofing
  3. The screens are not great in direct sunlight
  4. Some don't dim down sufficiently for night use, without compromising your night vision
  5. Can be fairly easily broken if not actually mounted in a bracket
  6. Can be an issue to get instrument data, radar, AIS, sonar data connections, depending on what you have
  7. Can be difficult/impossible to use in poor weather, water, snow, etc

 

I have a Samsung Galaxy Tab Active running OpenCPN.  Its waterproof, can be charged when wet, as it has Pogo pins on the side (docks are avalible), screen isn't the best in direct sunlight...But I just move it, DIMs down fine at night, Its tested to MIL-STD 810G US military standard for ruggedness, I use signal K sever [can run on almost any device]for AIS Sonar Data and can run radar this way, Has a S Pen that works when device is wet....but to be fair it works pretty well when wet with your finger anyway. 

Comes in a 8inch [i have this one] and 10inch sizes.

https://www.samsung.com/nz/tablets/others/galaxy-tab-active-8-inch-black-16gb-lte-sm-t395nzkaxnz/

Example of one of the numerous charing mounts for these using the Pogo Pins https://www.rammount.com/part/RAM-HOL-SAM60PU

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I have always used navionics on my phone and tablet as well as open CPN loaded with google earth charts for the tougher spots in the pacific and other places with coral. 

However I have always had a chart plotter/MFD as backup. 

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Those of you above with an MFD with touch problems in the wet - Esp PSYCHE - the B&G touch units on old software had issues in the wet. Update to the newest software, makes an amazing difference. The software now can detect what is a water drop on the screen, and what is a touch... Other brands may be similar....

For anyone who has a plotter that "requires a reset" or resets itself. This is a problem on your boat, or with your unit. It's a fault, and should be addressed.

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4 hours ago, Island Time said:

Those of you above with an MFD with touch problems in the wet - Esp PSYCHE - the B&G touch units on old software had issues in the wet. Update to the newest software, makes an amazing difference. The software now can detect what is a water drop on the screen, and what is a touch... Other brands may be similar....

For anyone who has a plotter that "requires a reset" or resets itself. This is a problem on your boat, or with your unit. It's a fault, and should be addressed.

Hey IT i had the same answer from L&B. Basically they said a power problem.  I put our work power analyser onto it and measured the power over 7 days and recorded no drops or major voltage fluctuations.  When presented with that they replaced the unit and that solved it.  One thing I found out was that you need to install the earth wire on the older Raymarine screens as without that it would not know the difference between rain and finger.  Made a big difference.  

The issue I had was with the latest Lighthouse software upgrade it stuffed my plotter, reinstalled it the other day and now works fine without dropping out.  

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