Gizmo’s big work & play display, advice please


I’m a little spoiled. The home office where I do most of my online research, writing, and photo editing work is equipped with a pair of fairly spacious Dell monitors — 24- and 20-inches — where I can spread out the various PC programs I use, not to mention a full-sized wireless keyboard and a really good chair. For over a year now I’ve been trying to figure out how to best replicate those work station ergonomics on board Gizmo. I’m imagining a single 25- to 30-inch LED backlit screen which could also be used to test navigation programs and perhaps watch TV or a movie on occasion, but the problem is where to put it without destroying the lovely aesthetics of the salon. Well, I think I’ve come up with a fairly brilliant scheme in that regard, but I’d really appreciate some help with the hardware decisions…

First let me note that the photo above (which you can click bigger) illustrates a testing day and does not represent the screen acreage I care to have in the same space that’s also our living and dining room. In fact, I’m thinking of replacing that salty Clear View Screen with a regular wiper to get even more uncluttered view lines. (It even has a built-in defroster, so high latitude cruisers might want to make an offer!). I spent a lot of time researching wall and ceiling monitor mounts with the idea that I could fold and bungee a big screen against the overhead when not in use, though nothing seemed like it would work well.

   But now I have a better idea anyway, I think. See that lovely cherry chart table with the large, strong and well-hinged lid opening over a chart locker about 5 inches deep? I believe I can mount an LED monitor or TV as big as 32″ on the underside of that lid, plus make the face of the locker removable revealing a pull out keyboard and mouse shelf. Thus the whole PC rig would be completely invisible when not in use, but just by securing the lid at 90 degrees, I’d have a very modern electronic chart table. Is “brilliant” an overstatement, or am I nuts?

   Whatever screen I get has to support the VESA wall mount standard so I can use a bracket like this Cheetah, and I need to be mindful about needed connectors that exit directly out of the back. But should I get a monitor or a TV? Having a built-in tuner might be fun and I’ve seen a 32-inch Sony HD TV display VGA computer input well, and I think HDMI can do better. Then there’s the AC or DC question. I understand that some displays can even run right off 12 volts and others can be converted with a DC-to-DC voltage transformer, but there’s not much point if I can’t also find an small, efficient 12v PC that’s got guts enough to run, say, MaxSea TimeZero. Plus I already have a pretty good inverter, with a better one possibly in the cards.
   At this point I’m liking the ASUS VE278Q monitor because it’s earned good Amazon reviews and has a backside design that should work with my install scheme. But there’s also the Vizio M261VP, which not only has an HDTV tuner but also built-in WiFi and apps so that it could stream Netflix all by itself, at least theoretically. It still claims a max of 400 nits brightness and 40 Watts of average power consumption, and its reasonable price makes me wince about past monitor purchases. These are good times for buying consumer grade screens, but what should I do? Any advice on a small but powerful PC to go the screen would also be welcome. Thanks!

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.

36 Responses

  1. Christopher says:

    The one thing I think I would add is some venting so the heat doesn’t spike when a hot monitor has to be stowed in a hurry. Maybe even a muffin fan to let the whole thing cool down more like it would in open air operation.

  2. Patrick - sv Deep Playa says:

    My 12V DC setup is comprised of the following:
    Viore LED19VH50 – 19″ Monitor
    Aleutia Maritime PC
    (I actually have one generation earlier than they show)
    Startech Mountable Rugged Industrial 7 Port USB Hub ST7200USBM
    The last is interesting because it’s a 12VDC powered (wide input) USB Hub. So it’s both a USB hub and it’s a 12VDC to 5VDC converter. Not cheap at ~$75 but a good solution for getting power over the USB.
    All of these are running off of a single breaker going to a fuse block and each are then protected by their own fuse appropriate to their load.
    Everything is working swimmingly, with the exception of the Aleutia which is occasionally (but not always) flicking off when I start the engine. I don’t think that should be happening as it is designed for this application and I don’t think my batteries were low. But, since I plan on adding a dedicated starting battery instead of using the house batteries to start I’m not too worried about it.
    Be interested to see if anyone has any suggestions on that though.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I tend to use inexpensive flat TVs on my sailboat. The large TVs typically don’t like pounding to weather and tend to go bad quickly; however, my current Vizio has been going for ~ 5 years and 4 trips to the Bahamas.
    The only thing I would add to your suggested set up is a long range wireless keyboard and mouse. I also wire my computer into my boat sound system, including the TV speakers. It makes listening to music / watching streaming videos a lot better.

  4. Here is my configuration aboard Prince Oc:
    – Mag Innovision GML2226 (LED Backlight, VESA Mount, 12V, 8W @ min brightness)
    – Ergotron Neo-Flex LCD Arm Extend ® ( )
    – Mac Mini under Windows With MaxSea TZ
    – Carnetix CNX-P2140 power supply Outpur Dual 185 Watt DC-DC Power Regulator ( )
    All consumes 20W, as far as my console Furuno MFD8 …

  5. Jeffrey says:

    Ben – you certainly are on the right track in placment and install space. I would stay away from Sony as they use second rate power supplies that fail way too often just after warrantee period of 90 days….and that is short term warrantee. I do like the Samsung or Panasonic line in TV’s.

  6. Jeffrey says:

    For best prices and good selection check this site out for TV brackets… FOR LCD TV

  7. Bill Southworth says:

    I’ve got a couple different approaches to this on the Barbara Ann. If you are passing through Rockland, stop in at Journey’s End Marina and I’ll give you a tour of the project.

  8. Peter says:

    Ben – they have a TV at Sell out Woot today. Seems to be a good price
    Usually these deals go fast and are only good for one day.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I will certainly take you up on that invitation, Bill. S/V Barbara Ann looks fascinating. Thanks!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I would consider a touchscreen monitor

  11. Peter says:

    I think a TV is better idea…I compared my monitor with DVI and my TV with HDMI and I couldn’t see any improvement with the monitor.
    The TV gives you more options esp for inputs and the online menues are usually more user friendly. Plus you get a remote with the TV.

  12. Ben,
    I’ve been researching something similar recently – check out this explanation regarding power supply’s:
    Here’s a DC-DC power supply on the same site that will power both a PC and monitor:
    They also sell a custom wiring harness for the Mac mini for $30 which should make installation a breeze. It also includes the ability to remotely power-on the PC thru the power supply, instead of having to physically locate the power button on the PC to boot it up.
    I really think the Mac Mini is a great choice, and this setup would work well, as Olivier posted above. It’s compact, powerful, has lots of ports, and dual-boots OSX and WIndows. It also has dedicated graphics which is pretty much a must-have for MSTZ Explorer or the new Nobletec Trident (same graphics engine). Coming up with a suitable shock mounting and location should be well within your capabilities.
    While AC may be tempting, even the best inverters can fail, where a total DC failure would be unlikely. I know you have plenty of Nav redundancy on Gizmo, but I would still lean towards DC power using one of the regulators mentioned or another make. You also avoid the potential of RFI or other interference introduced by the inverter into the monitor/TV/computer.
    As far as TV vs. PC – I’m not sure it’s that critical. I would be more concerned with available connections, size, weight, image quality (resolution)and mounting options. If you go with a TV and it’s only “computer” connection is a VGA port, you may want to look into whether you can still make a digital connection from your computer outputs over DVI or HDMI. The bottom-mounted connections on the Asus model in your picture are definitely the way to go.
    And yes, your idea to undermount it on the chart table is, if not brilliant, at least inspired, as I posted when you mentioned this idea last year. Good luck!

  13. Lookout Sailors says:

    I really like the Vizio TVs. Most of them are 12V DC with an external power dongle. They can be wired directly into your 12V system with the appropriate fuse.

  14. Patrick - sv Deep Playa says:

    @Grant I have also looked at that Carnetix. Be sure your monitor can operate at =3Amps or the second output isn’t that useful. I was hoping to not need it, but with my engine starts shutting of the PC I have considered it as well.
    NOTE: The Aleutia Marine PC also has an additional output: 12V@1Amp
    A great site for looking at the carnetix or really any 12VDC computing used in cars is The forum there is hours of geeky reading.

  15. Thanks Patrick. You are correct, the second output is probably not much use in terms of running a 32″ flatscreen, even an LED one.
    The Aleutia PC is a nice product, and obviously purpose-built. The fact it uses an SSD drive, as opposed to the traditional hard drive option on the Mini is also a plus.
    But I’m skeptical the Intel Atom processor with integrated GMA 600 graphics would run MSTZ Explorer, and for sure would not support the radar overlay. We tried it with a Macbook using the GMA 3100 graphics, and that wouldn’t even run it.
    BigBay Technologies also has a nice lineup:

  16. Chris Hallock says:

    I just installed a Vizio M220NV (M221NV replaced it) on my 31′ Express. They are pretty cheap at Costco and online, and have dual HDMI, full 1080P and have RGB input as well as well as composite input. I fabricated a custom mount so it would sit flush against the wall. It has the VIA (built in wired and wireless Ethernet) and allows apps to be run like weather / face book / news etc. Its a little awkward to type on the TV remote, but you can run Netflix over a wifi hotspot. I can send you pictures, if you would like. It would be simple to fabricate some sort of mount that would be movable, or purchase an off the shelf mount that is used in furniture to raise and lower the TV into the table. Power for my TV is via small cheap inverter that the boat builder supplied for the old analog TV.
    I 2nd the wireless keyboard and mouse, allows you to store it where ever and no cords to trip over or have to figure out what to do with.
    I would highly recommend the TV route vs. the dedicated monitor. I purchased a 26” Samsung monitor with built in TV tuner a few years ago for my main computer monitor and its nice to flip over to TV when your waiting on something for the computer to finish.
    Chris Hallock

  17. The Mac mini (Early 2009) has the chipset NVidia 9400.
    MSTZ works very well on this setup. I confirm that the radar in overlay mode also works.
    By cons, I have not yet tried dual screen mode with the latest release 1.9.5

  18. Norm says:

    You may want to look at the KEP Marine line up. They have a great selection and are bing used by many of the major electronics installers.

  19. Patrick - sv Deep Playa says:

    Here is a list of Monitors I gathered in research:
    Aleutia 12V 20″ Ultra Slim LED Display – – $240
    ViewErav151HV – 15″ 25W – – $220
    Mag Innovision – 22″ 36W –
    19″ ASGUARD LM19U-R10 DVI LCD Monitor w/Speakers (Black) – 19″ 48W –
    Coby LEDTV1935 – 18.5″ 42W – – $149 (Refurbished)
    Coby LEDTV2235 – 21.5″ 45W – – $200
    Avtex L185DR (DVD\TV) – 18″ 40W – or – $650 (Cord Mount is not ideal)
    Avtex L185TR (TV) – 18″ ~ – $537 (Cord Mount is not ideal)
    Viore LED22VF60 – 22″ – 60W –
    Viore LED19VH50 – 19″ – 35W – – $130
    Viore LED19VH65D – 19″ Wide – 50W –
    Probably 12V
    Philips 191TE2L – 18.5″ 20W – – $???
    ELO Touchsystems 1919L 19″ 19W – – $650
    Mimo Monitos – – $240
    SAMSUNG 22 inches Grade A Industrial LCD Widescreen Monitor –
    8U Rackmount 19″ Samsung TFT LCD Monitor –

  20. John - gCaptain says:

    I’ve done a lot of research on this topic and I’m leaning towards going with an all-in-one computer/monitor combo. For the interior I’m leaning towards an iMac running windows (via bootcamp) with a VESA mount ($39 via apple
    But for the exterior I’m going with a Citadel computer. I still working on getting a demo unit to test but the model I viewed at the offshore technology conference was running inside a plegiglass dishwasher and the sales rep said it’s been inside there for 5 years. Their computers are built to run on industrial forklifts and are waterproof, dustproof, daylite viewable, touchscreen and run off 12volts. Plus they are fairly thin and contain the entire computer inside the monitor. In short I was VERY impressed with everything – including the price, less than $3000 – except the design (it looks like a generic pc from the early 90’s).
    BUT… if price wasn’t an object I’d inlay a touchscreen computer in the chartable itself! Either the Microsoft surface PC or a custom design.

  21. John - gCaptain says:

    Agreed Jeff, Monoprice is THE place for cables. I just ran 100′ of Shielded cat6a cable up to my Rogue Wifi unit on the mast… total cost $32.71 which included $5 overnight shipping (sorry Ben, the $5 overnight shipping is to California only)

  22. Carl says:

    I have a very similar setup in my motor sailer (32″ TV/monitor screwed to underside of a chart table lid). It’s worked well and does completely disappear. I don’t have any pictures but will try to remember to get some.
    If I had it to do again, I’d go with a smaller monitor. It’s great for TV from across the cabin but too big up close for computer work. 25″ would have been a better compromise (same size as my MAC at home). Before picking your size, bring a TV to the boat. They look much bigger than at home.
    Even though the TV is quite light, the lid is surprisingly heavy to open and close. There is a small gas shock on either side of the lid. This keeps the lid from opening too far (it goes about 5 degrees beyond vertical) and takes some of load when closing. The problem is that the shallow depth (about 5″ too) of the cabinet means that the gas shocks are almost no help during the last couple of inches when raising or lowering as they are almost parallel to the lid. I haven’t figured out a better way to mount them.
    Your table looks a little lower than mine. This means that the monitor will need to go farther beyond vertical to get a good viewing angle for computer use – as with a laptop screen. Instead, it might be a good idea to make a bi level table that is sort of like what you have on the helm side. The front section wold be the same height as the current table and hold the keyboard. It would then step up 4″ or so to a upper lid that has a monitor. This would put the opened monitor at a better viewing level. You could hinge the lower keyboard shelf for a slip in storage compartment under the TV compartment. The negative would be that you couldn’t spread out paper charts full size. You also couldn’t use a really big monitor.
    I think the MAC mini would be a great solution (running Windows if needed). Low power and silent – quieter than a laptop.

  23. Bill Bishop says:

    I think that Chris’s Hallocks’s advice is on the money. It is much easier to get a TV that is also a good monitor, than it is to turn a monitor into a TV, and a whole lot cheaper. Add a DVD player, and the grand kids can watch Sponge Bob Square Pants with sound to boot, while the adults do adult things. I use Monoprice often, John is right, it is the best buy, by far, over all. Who is Plankton’s wife? Your grandkids all know the answer. Simpler on a boat is always better.

  24. Michael says:

    You might take a look at the Navroc computer by our own Rockbound Cumputers (on Rt 1 in Rockland, just north of the Thomaston line). Mine runs Fugawi fine and I don’t see why it wouldn’t run anything else.

  25. Sandy Daugherty says:

    For the first time in my life I’m chiming in on the far right; of the cockpit that is. Aren’t there little high power magnets on the SD slot doors on that bug Garmin MFD? Don’t they affect your compass?

  26. Bill Bishop says:

    Sandy is correct about the magnet. It is located to the right of the Garmin SD card slot, and is used to keep the cover closed. You do have to be careful when mounting these units near a compass. It is quite a strong little fellow. Use a paper clip, or the ilk to feel how strong it is.

  27. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Excellent advice here and much appreciated. I must say the Mac Mini is tempting, but then I get trepidations about software compatibility. It happens that I own fresh copy of Windows 7 I could Boot Camp onto it, I guess, but will it really run everything? When I downloaded and installed GPS Gate on the XP Datalux yesterday, no problem, I wondered if, say, a comm port utility like that would work so smoothly on Mac/Win PC?

  28. John - gCaptain says:

    Good question Ben, I know when Bootcamp was first released drivers where a major issue. I’m told that it’s no longer a concern but haven’t tested it myself. I do know that I’ve run into very few problems running marine applications on my mac via parallels.
    I’m also really interested in a product on the site Patrick mentioned… mimics. Looks like the perfect solution for leaving the iPad at the nav desk but also being able to control it topside:

  29. Ben,
    My Mac Mini is connected to a Pactor modem via USB. I also use a
    converter USB/Serial and I get my GPS position for Airmail.
    My power supply carnetix is also connected by USB and i use the Windows
    monitor application with no problem.
    A Mac Mini under windows is a PC …
    Personally I have replaced the hard drive with a SSD. The system will boot in 5s!
    Be careful, opening the mac mini (early 2009 model) is very delicate.
    You should know that the new mac mini are differant and require a 110/220v supply.

  30. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hmmm, so the Carnetix “MacPac” doesn’t apply to the new Macs. Carnetix looks like a neat company, but they should be clearer about this.

  31. John - gCaptain says:

    They can’t…. Apple’s legal department is well funded and know for aggressive tactics. It took many years of consumer battles to get their legal department to turn a blind eye to simple 12v adaptors for macbooks ( and those that do exist are all white-label plugs from China. You won’t find any legitimate company willing to put their name on one.

  32. Bob Etter says:

    New Mac Minis work just fine on 12V
    That and the Carnetix power supply are perfect for a boat….especially if you put an SSD in the Mini.

  33. Northern Spy says:

    Dang. I’d rather have the Clear Screen. But my boat is a tad wet and I live in the rain.

  34. Paul Purcell says:

    21 inch iMAC with VMWare or Parrallells (your choice) WIN7 installed (in Parrallels or VMWare). Add a TV tuner (USB type) a USB HUB (powered) and all can be done on the one device You can then even have a play with MAC software for boating including iPAD/IPOD Touch etc. Oh I would double the standard RAM amount. If you wish a really fast boot spend more dollars and get a SSD as the primary drive (option).
    The best of ALL technology world’s at your finger tips. Software and hardware choice from WIN and MAC.

  35. Bill Southworth says:

    There’s a nerd side of me that likes every latest electronic gadget. It battles with the Luddite side of me, born out of Windows crashing on me 200 miles offshore in a storm, and autopilots that spin me in circles.
    I’ve been very happy with Parallels on my Macbook Pro. I run Windows 2000 for a few things like Autocad and some device setup applications; I use Debian Linux for my boat’s control software. I don’t trust Nobeltec and I don’t need 3D or sat photos, thank you. I like marine charts, especially vector charts.
    When RayMarine updated its product line, I found a great deal on E120 chart plotters from a dealer that was going out of business. I’ve been very happy with Raymarine over the years. When I’ve had a problem they’ve always fixed it instantly. A couple times I’ve driven to Nashua and they’ve done a repair while I waited.
    That said, I’m really liking the IPad nav apps and weather apps, and I really need to get them communicating with the instruments on my boat.
    Since my disenchantment with Nobeltec and its ilk, I’ve tried to make boat controls less VGA looking and more tactile. I like gauges and levers and switches a lot more than touch panels for fast operation with wet hands while sliding around slippery decks. My boat is large for one person to handle so I have a lot of hydraulics and mechanical aids. For those interested, there’s a picture of my console layout at
    My TV is a Sony flat panel that stays hidden unless we’re using it. It’s pretty easy to mount any LCD panel these days on either a VESA mount of just a piece of aluminum with the right drill pattern (I think this is a more rugged approach on a boat).

  36. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Grant confirmed that the CarNetix power supplies don’t work with new Mac Minis unless you get into the fairly deep moding that Bob Etter linked to:
    “Thanks for your inquiry. It is correct that the new Mac Minis can’t (easily) be powered by our CarNetix line of DC to DC regulators. It would involve bypassing the integrated Apple PSU inside the Mini. It has been done, but we can’t recommend or endorse this process as it’s fairly tricky and you could
    damage your Mac in the process. You can see a blog about how to do it here, however:
    Best, Stephen & The mp3Car Team”

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