Garmin SmartMode, and here comes Simrad Bridge


Garmin’s SmartMode station control seemed like an obviously great idea when introduced with the 8000 Glass Helm series in early 2013. The basic feature simply lets you group 8000 displays at a helm (station) and control what the various screens are showing all at once. But the interface designers went a smart step further by naming the default SmartModes after the overall tasks at hand, instead of the conventional specifics about the tools needed, like “chart/radar/cam”. Thus the 8212 now being tested on Gizmo came with CRUISING, DOCKING, ANCHORING, and FISHING modes already suggested, and I’ve been adding my own in the same task-not-tool spirit…


Another sign of Garmin’s interface smarts is the well-done SmartMode explanatory graphic that pops up when you set up a Station. While station names cannot be customized, there are lots of choices, and note that you can use SmartMode on a single display. In fact, that’s the only way I can test it, as the feature does not extend to the Garmin 741xs also installed on Gizmo. That may change, though, as the smaller MFDs have already been given lots of other network integration abilities. (The 741 is already sharing charts and sonar with the 8212 and I can even save screenshots from the big screen to a card on the small display.)


SmartMode on a single display is quite similar to setting up a regular custom screen on the 8000, but you do get to add a graphic of your choice, and by using SmartMode you’ll have two pages of custom screens available from your Home page. Note that the Functions windows would look more interesting if I hadn’t chosen four Gauge windows…


…but then again my Systems Check smartmode is pretty interesting. I had not realized until I tried this that the Garmin can now display some fairly esoteric data from Gizmo’s NMEA 2000 network, like engine room (actually exterior block) and refrigerator temps coming from a Maretron TMP100. They haven’t yet provided automatic or manual gauge configuration for these values, like they have for the tachometer and a few other common gauges, but let’s hope. I also like those tank level graphics you can add to the data bar. And it’s important to note here that whatever I select for the data bar and/or lower and upper bars, plus each window’s gauge selection, are all saved in this SmartMode.


There may also be screen setup features I’ve missed. It was only yesterday that I realized I could use lowercase letters when naming things even though that upper right arrow — which even glows when in CAPS — now seems quite obvious. Note that Garmin has offered a choice of alphabetical or qwerty touch keyboards for some time.


While I’ve been meaning to explore SmartMode for some time, it certainly came to mind when Simrad announced a similar Bridge Control feature in the recent update to evo2 software. A manual addendum about how to use it (and the other interesting new features) still isn’t available, but I found the Networking/Bridge menu easily and was happy to see that I could use both NSS16 and 7 for testing. What I missed (without a help call) was a new Bridge button somewhere on the Home page that will let me choose any screen presets already on each MFD for a Bridge preset. I hope to try it later today.


I can’t remember if it was Simrad or Raymarine who first came up with a screen editor where you could just touch slide the functions you want onto draft page, but the evo2 version seems perfected. You don’t have to specify how many windows you want; you just add functions until you’re done or the maximum is reached, and then a graphic drop-down lists shows the different ways you can arrange that many windows. Finally, anytime you’re using the screen you can adjust the window splits with a shortcut found on the menu under the power button. Nice!

In the spirit of building on your competitor’s good ideas, check out the spectacular wind gauge page that recently came to both the Garmin 8000 and 7×1 displays in a recent update. Everything you see there is by default, but you can do a fair bit of customization, like which value to chart, right from the menu button. Who would be surprised if Furuno and Raymarine have a feature similar to SmartMode and Bridge Control on their software road maps? But speak up if you want it, because there’s lots of features and improvements still possible. In the meantime, I think that many MFDs will already let us try the idea of naming preset screens for their use; maybe some of you already do?


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

10 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Once I noticed the little multi-screen icon that now appears at the bottom of the NSS evo2 home screen, Bridge Control works great. The network sees all the screens already created for each MFD in the Bridge group and let’s you save them as Bridge presets. Nice!

  2. Capt Bill says:

    that wind page looks like it is from the 741. Where is it on the 8xxx series? I searched in vain and the best I can get to show wind is a “wind Rose” overlaid around the boat on a chart. We are using an Airmar WX150 weather station (N2K).

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Bill, look in Functions/Gauges/Wind. Full screen on the 8212 it’s even sexier than the 741 screen, w two wind history graphs and more data windows. Great by default but much customization possible under Menu key. My water speed and wind is coming from Maretron sensors, heading from Raymarine, so think it will work fine w Airmar N2K.
    If you don’t see the feature, check your 8xxx software for possible update.

  4. Xavier Itzmann says:

    Hello Ben,
    Does Simrad Bridge control the Tritons/IS40’s/Triton HV displays also?
    Or only the MFD’s? We find ourselves changing many of our displays depending on whether we are on an oceanic multi-day non-stop leg, or motoring, or sail-motoring, or in a river, or what have you.
    The ability to do “bridge” across a couple of Zeuses and several Tritons would be awesome; if the functionality is merely confined to just Zeus/NSO/NSS, the value of the proposition is probably not sufficient for us to upgrade to evo2; we would have to wait for the next hw/sw upgrade cycle.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Xavier, Simrad Bridge works quite nicely with the NSS16 and 7 evo2’s but did not show the Triton installed in the test system as a display it could coordinate.

  6. Xavier Itzmann says:

    Thanks Ben. There are probably computing power limits to how much can the Tritons do.
    Nonetheless, you’ll have to agree that:
    1) Tritons/IS40s are made for dynamic changing; otherwise, we should just go back to analog gauges that cannot be changed!
    2) Just like Simrad Bridge will change the displays on MFDs to suit function, it logically should be able to change the Tritons/IS40 as well.

  7. Currently Bridge Control functionality is only supported on the Simrad evo2 platform. We don’t integrate B&G Triton or Simrad IS40 displays today – but it is a direction we are pursuing. Bridge Control relies on Ethernet connectivity and extending to N2K instruments requires additional development. The B&G team is also pursuing similar concepts to Bridge Control for HV displays (via Zeus2 and H5000 systems – which can change data displays based on the wind angle) and by extension the Triton displays. Larger boats may have upwards of 10 Triton or H5000 displays, so ensuring that the configuration is easy and intuitive presents some special challenges, but we have ideas on how to do this. Stay tuned.

  8. Steve says:

    [email protected], glad to hear the bridge control for the Tritons is on the roadmap. Will definitely be useful for my Zeus2 and 3 Tritons on my sailboat.

  9. Xavier Itzmann says:

    [email protected],
    Thanks for the follow-up and here’s looking forward to the fruits of your labor!
    You raise the point of controlling HV’s from Zeus2 —but let’s not forget that the “Triton HV” product is controlled… from the Tritons.
    Hopefully the “Triton HV” series will be evolved in sync with the “HV” series.

  10. tcy says:

    Hi Ben.
    Didn.t you notice Garmins new 74 serie on there website also has smartmode. And what about the new pilot can.t whait the see it working the ghp12 is great pilot do think with this new pilot it only gets better.

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