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February 12, 2013

Helm Electronics for 2013

Dedicated stand-alone electronics hold their own at the helm.

Multifunction Stand-Alone

The majority of stand-alones combine the sounder and plotter on one machine. In this case, stand-alone means a dual-function instrument that’s not part of a network. This makes sense, as plotter and sounder functions ­increasingly overlap. Case in point is the functionality of Lowrance stand-alones, most recently the Elite-7, a ­combination unit sized for smaller boats, where a network is unnecessary. 

Recording and saving bottom data is the hallmark of the Lowrance Insight Genesis mapping system that allows anglers to create custom charts based on sonar logs: a function that requires plotter and sonar to work together. The 7-inch Elite-7 is available as a plotter, fish finder or combo model ($499 to $869).

Garmin’s new 5-inch GPSMAP 547 plotter ($749.99), plotter/sonar 547XS ($849.99), 7-inch GPSMAP 741 ­plotter ($1,599.99) and combo GPSMAP 741XS ($1,699.99) are designed to fit fishing boats in the 18- to 21-foot range. Different mounting options ­accommodate just about any helm configuration, on any size boat. They can flush, flat or surface mount; the 500 series has a swivel mount ­available, and the larger 700 series has a gimbal mount. While not networkable, these are ­sophisticated instruments; the sonar ­versions are CHIRP capable for maximum detail and resolution. They are preloaded with coastal cartography, and upgradable to ­Garmin’s proprietary G2Vision cartography.

Max Options

Raymarine has moved away from nonnetwork sounders and plotters, according to marketing manager Jim McGowan. The company’s smallest and most economical rollout, the a65 GPS/chart plotter ($814.99) and a67 GPS/chart plotter/fish finder ($914.99) combine power, simplicity and economy. 

“Out of the box you can run this as a plotter,” says McGowan. “There is one screen, one box, and even with the fish finder, it’s under $1,000.” The a-series is networkable, but it’s not necessary. “You can add a second screen on the other end of the boat, or a higher-powered sounder on the network. The ­adaptability is there,” says ­McGowan. Both GPS and sounder modules are built in, so the units are totally self-contained, perfect for­ ­fishing boats in the 20-foot-and-under range. Though diminutive, the a-series has the same processor, graphics and software as Raymarine’s larger systems. “Small doesn’t mean cheap in boats,” says McGowan. “There are a lot of premium small boats, and fishermen in that category demand the premium navigational experience the a-series provides.”