Best Marine Electronics of 2018

High technology trickles down to simpler, more affordable units.

helm display screen
New Crop: Sophisticated units grow smaller and more affordable.Courtesy Raymarine

When I step aboard a fishing boat, one of the first things I do is check out the electronics. A helm filled with a modern array of marine electronics tells you a lot about the boat and its owner. You might not own a high-powered offshore fishing boat glowing with two or more fully integrated multifunction displays, but today the technology has trickled down into smaller, affordable models right at home on smaller craft.

This year’s crop of the new marine electronics includes a number of great examples of this trend: downsized, simplified and competitively priced. Let’s look at the 10 best marine electronics products you can expect to see at boat shows and in dealer showrooms in 2018.

GO12 XSE and GO7 XSR Multitouch Chartplotters
GO12 XSE and GO7 XSR multitouch chartplottersCourtesy Simrad

The affordable GO12 XSE and GO7 XSR multitouch chartplotters from Simrad sport a restyled, glass-helm design and feature radar compatibility not previously available. Their super-bright displays and easy-to-use interface boast pinch-to-zoom or tap-and-drag to pan smoothly across charts. Compatible with Simrad Broadband 3G/4G and Halo Radar systems, the new GO12 XSE and GO7 XSR units also include internal GPS receivers, StructureScan HD and CHIRP sonar, autopilot integration, engine-data monitoring, plus connectivity with SonicHub2, SiriusXM weather/radio, and much more.

Lowrance Hook2 Series
Lowrance Hook2 SeriesCourtesy Lowrance

The Lowrance Hook2 series features SideScan and DownScan Imaging, plus auto-tuning sonar that corrects settings for the clearest view. A wide-angle broadband sounder and chirp fish finder more than double the sonar coverage of other models. Available in 12-, 9-, 7-, 5- and 4-inch displays, most include full navigational capability and come pre-loaded with high-detail mapping. Packages include TripleShot (3-in-1 sonar with High CHIRP, SideScan and DownScan Imaging), SplitShot (2-in-1 sonar with High CHIRP and DownScan Imaging) and Bullet (vertical 4-inch display with broadband sounder). All models, except Bullet, include a built-in chart plotter.

Lighthouse 3
Lighthouse 3 SoftwareCourtesy Raymarine

The LightHouse 3 software upgrades Raymarine’s eS and gS series MFDs currently running LightHouse 2. This update allows eS and gS model integration with the newer Axiom and Axiom Pro MFDs. When connected together, the eS and gS series work seamlessly in the network with Axiom products. Axiom’s RealVision 3D sonar will be fully accessible on the older models, and conversely, any sonar capabilities in those MFDs are visible and controllable from Axiom. The visuals are new and fresh, and the layout intuitive. Software upgrade is free.

Garmin’s EchoMap Plus Combo Series
Garmin’s EchoMap Plus Combo SeriesCourtesy Garmin

Garmin's EchoMap Plus combo series features 4- to 9-inch sunlight-readable keyed and keyed-assist touchscreens. The EchoMap Plus 94sv includes a 9-inch display, a transducer for Garmin midband, ClearVü and SideVü CHIRP scanning sonars, and supports Garmin's Panoptix sonar. The 94sv comes pre-loaded with BlueChart g2 charts covering the coastal U.S., and incorporates Quickdraw Contours mapping software to create personalized charts. Wi-Fi pairs with the free ActiveCaptain app for access to OneChart to purchase and download new charts.

Airmar P75M and P95M Chirp Transducers
Airmar P75M and P95M Chirp TransducersCourtesy Airmar

The P75M and P95M, two of Airmar’s economical in-hull chirp transducers, cement to the inside of the hull, eliminating the need to cut holes. The base adjusts to compensate for deadrise angles up to 22 degrees. The 600-watt P75M offers a chirp frequency range of 80 to 130 kHz, and a 16- to 24-degree beam width for readings to 900 feet. The 300-watt P95M transmits on a chirp range of 95 to 155 kHz with a 17- to 26-degree beam width for readings to 600 feet. Mix-and-match cable plugs connect with nearly any MFD.

Furuno DRS6A-NXT Radar
Furuno DRS6A-NXT RadarCourtesy Furuno

Furuno expands its family of solid-state Doppler radars with the DRS6A-NXT open-array series. Three available arrays include scanners measuring 40.8, 49.4 and 70.7 inches. The DRS6A-NXT features Furuno’s Target Analyzer with solid-state pulse-compression Doppler technology to identify approaching targets in red and safe targets in green. The Fast Target Tracking and Auto Target Acquire features monitor returns with a target vector and echo trail. The RezBoost beam-sharpening feature boosts resolution. Bird Mode identifies distant bird activity that spells fish.

Humminbird HB2124 CHIRP Radar
Humminbird HB2124 CHIRP RadarCourtesy Humminbird

The lightweight Humminbird HB2124 CHIRP radar provides accurate and clear returns in both long- and short-range modes as far out as 24 nautical miles, yet it also detects objects as close as 18 feet with outstanding target separation. The 12.3-pound, 21-inch-diameter radar dome networks with select Humminbird Helix and all Onix MFDs. Thanks to solid-state technology, the HB2124 is ready to use in seconds, without a lengthy warm-up period. Power consumption is 17 watts in transmit mode.

Icom’s M330 Fixed-Mount VHF
Icom’s M330 Fixed-Mount VHFCourtesy Icom

Icom’s M330 fixed-mount VHF offers an IPX7 waterproof rating and packs a boatload of features and performance into a compact case, ideal for panel- or bracket-mounting on boats under 25 feet. This new Class D DSC radio offers a bright clear-dot matrix LCD screen, easy to read day or night. A loudspeaker on the faceplate offers plenty of volume. The microphone includes buttons to switch to Channel 16 and toggle from high to low power. Available in black or white, and optional GNSS/GPS versions. The M330 had not received final approval by the Federal Communications Commission and pricing was unavailable at press time.

Power-Pole Vision
Power-Pole VisionCourtesy Power-Pole

Described as a marine multimedia tablet, the Power-Pole Vision allows control of multiple boat accessories — including Power-Pole’s shallow-water anchors — via one touchscreen device. It connects to the internet through Wi-Fi or a personal hotspot, and supports thousands of Android apps. The Vision also communicates with the Power-Pole Charge for a real-time view of battery power. Mapping lets you track your position using satellite images. An enhanced 7-inch display is easy to read in full daylight, even with polarized sunglasses. Mounting options include flush-, gimbal- and Ram-mount.

Standard Horizon HX210 Handheld VHF Radio
Standard Horizon HX210 Handheld VHF RadioCourtesy Standard Horizon

Standard Horizon's compact and affordable HX210 handheld VHF radio serves as a remote VHF, and makes a great backup. The HX210 floats and offers an IPX7 submersible waterproof rating (1 meter for 30 minutes). It also features a water-activated strobe light and boasts a high-resolution dot-matrix LCD screen, plus selectable output power (1, 2.5 and 6 watts), high-capacity rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and programmable function keys. The HX210 receives and transmits on all U.S., Canadian and international channels, and also has NOAA weather radio service.