Navico 2011, firing on all cylinders?

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.

38 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    By the way, while that last NSS7 screen is only 640×420 VGA resolution, it really did look as sharp or sharper in real life. However, in some cases it didn’t look bright enough in direct sunlight, and not as bright as a Garmin 7″ touch screen, though that may have been a case of an earlier software version not in tune with the internal dimming routine. There were at least 3 revs of NSS software on boats in Palma!
    And sorry about my lack of entries during and after the trip. I had better intentions, but the lost suitcase and the wicked bug I apparently caught on the return flight are my excuses.
    Finally, the new header photo is of a little Simrad photo boat in front of the ancient and giant Cathedral that gloriously dominates Palma Bay:

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I forgot about the special NSS launch video. It may annoy both competitors and old salts, but I’d like to think the portentous sound track signals a sense of humor behind the marketing:

  3. bwp says:

    Ben ….
    Do these plotters have the same 360 pan and zoom features as the Garmin 700 series?
    Thanks …..

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    If you mean in 3D mode, Tom, the NSS seems to have the same capabilities (with a Navionics Platinum+ card) as the NSE, Panbo description here:
    If that’s not what you mean by 360 pan and zoom, please let me know, as it may be something I missed on the 700 series.

  5. bwp says:

    I think we’re on the same page but just in case. In the video but to be sure I’ll embed some video.
    About the 1:50 time frame.
    I have a couple of clients I’ve put in the hold mode until I can see the new Simrad mfd’s.
    Thanks ….

  6. bwp says:

    I had to scratch my head on their claim the 740 doesn’t work well when the screen is wet? Having used my 740 extensively in the offshore environment I can say for sure I’ve never had any issues using the touch screen functionality when the screen was wet. I’ll have to disagree with them on that claim.
    They look like terrific plotters like to see more of the functionalities.
    Thanks Ben.

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Tom, we are talking about the same 3D windows. Garmin does some 3D things sexier, for sure, but actually Simrad gives you more zoomable range, that is to say you have more choice about the amount of chart area you’re seeing in 3D. Tilt and rotation are about the same, I think, except an NSE or NSS won’t go underwater like a Garmin can. But, remember, there’s no 3D at all — just 2D with relief — on these MFDs without a Navionics Platinum+ card.
    But I’m curious if you, or your clients, use 3D much? My writings last summer about its availability on most all MFDs (link above) weren’t exactly greeted with enthusiasm 😉 Heck, I even heard a Simrad product manager say last week, “3D? I HATE 3D!”

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    PS, Tom, I agree about the wet Garmin touch screens. I haven’t had a problem with them either. And there are other exaggerations in that video, which is why I noted how it was underscored with Jaws-like music. I think it’s kind of an excited-to-launch-NSS goof. In fact, generally speaking, the Navico crew have earned high marks in my book for honesty about their products and the competition’s.

  9. bwp says:

    Ben ….
    I use it quite extensively, especially fishing. I am used to using 3-D displays from my Navy days. I’m comfortable switching back and forth as necessary.
    As to my clients, very few use it while many shy away. I really think one the biggest obsticals is the sheer power of the plotters. Many of my clients are weekend boaters so the plotter skills they learn are basic as well as perishable. What I’m trying to say the more they use their plotters the more comfortable they become with the functionalities and displays. The more comfortable a user becomes the more likely they are to branch out into the other display areas (i.e. 3-D).
    I’ve heard other manufacturer’s say the same thing in regards to 3-D charts. I think Garmin has an easier path in the 3-D world, in as much, as they control their own cartography.

  10. Rick R says:

    Letters on the bottom. Cool way of displaying the features of the depthsounder

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Thanks, Tom. It’s good to know there’s someone else out there who likes 3D, though I’d give king-of-the-hill honors to Furuno because they’ve made it seamless with 2D. There’s nothing you can do in NN3D top down (2D) mode that you can’t do in 3D, and that makes it all simpler in a way.
    But in terms of overall MFD simplicity, especially from the inexperienced user point of view, I’d go with a Navico slide I didn’t show which puts Garmin at the “simple” left end and Furuno at the “complex” right end. But the slide is about “interface paradigms” considered in the NSS design process and doesn’t suggest where NSS landed on the continuum. My first impression is somewhat right of Garmin, maybe around where Raymarine’s Hybrid Touch is, or could be with a little tweaking. On the other hand, Simrad has some brand-blind consumer testing that suggests NSS outdoes everything else, at least at some critical tasks. More to come!
    PS Suitcase and health both recovered, and it turns out I was not the only one to suffer this weekend. Mind those exotic tapas, people.

  12. Doug Campbell says:

    Hi Ben,
    Glad you’re back and writing up your thoughts. I was wondering where you’d gotten to when things were so quiet here! Hope you’re feeling better!
    A quick question – where does Northstar fit into all of this? I had the M-121 and BR-24 (based on a great Panbo write up) on my last boat and I thought it was a great combo. While I still see them out there the Northstar website is looking like the red-headed stepchild. Is the brand going away? I don’t see any mention of it in the product map/graphic in your post.

  13. Pete says:

    Re this video you linked to
    Navico’s marketing department could have at least got the time line correct or more likely it was twisted to suit them.
    The Northstar touch screens (6100i) were available in late 2006 if I remember correctly however they only mentioned the 8100i from 2008.
    The Garmin touch screen MFD’s (5000 series) came out early to mid 2007.
    Why then imply that the Garmin 720 touch screen was the first in 2010 when there were other touch screen models from Garmin (5000 series) available three years earlier and why forget to mention the Northstar 6100i?
    Navico may be able to fool the average weekend warrior with their marketing fluff but there are plenty of us out there that see through it too.
    Oh and by the way Garmin touch screens work perfectly fine when wet and with fishy hands. Waves crashing over the side onto the screen is another story however.

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Pete, the Northstar 6100i was a really nice MFD, I think, and perhaps the pinnacle of Northstar design, but it was not touch screen. Bigger picture, though, is that the NSS launch video does not really represent the product launch I experienced, and I think we should leave it be. (I’d already forgotten seeing it and I’m guessing Navico already regrets sending the link.)
    Doug, As for Northstar itself, it certainly seems to be a “legacy” brand now. One thing few of us here the States understood was that it was never a prominent brand elsewhere. I understand that some of the engineers are now part of the global Navico team, but be aware that neither of the products you had were actually developed by Northstar:
    Like I said, it’s been a long journey to the Navico of today. Then again, the very brand name “Navico” was moth balled for years before being resurrected by the Norwegian crew (Altor Equity Partners) that bought and merged Simrad and Lowrance. So maybe “Northstar” will shine again one day.

  15. Quitsa says:

    Odd to be nostalgic for the “good old days” when it comes to marine electronics. I regret not having the choice to pay a bit of a premium and get the best consumer GPS/ chartplotter in the world and know that it was designed and built by some nice people in Massachusetts about 100 miles from my home. The Northstar 951/952 were top of the heap in their day. Now everything is made by outsourcing to China or Taiwan (except perhaps the new Johnson Outdoors equipment which seems to be assembled in the US) and the “brands” are primarily marketing units with some residual design functions (sort of the Apple model). Furuno at least still seems to have full vertical integration.
    These look like nice units though a further setp away from the solid commercial feel of the Simrad CX41, which was more or less the last gasp of the old Simrad.

  16. Peter says:

    Another loss in the Brunswick/Northstar mess was Navman who made some pretty good chartplotters and fishfinders.I don’t know if they are still operating in New Zealand.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Peter, I think the old Navman development group in NZ is a significant element in the global Navico team today, and I think I see some of their style in the NS line. I’ve never done it, but if you put a Navman 8120 — which became the Northstar M121, then the Simrad NX45! ( ) — and an NSE12 side by side, I believe you’d see a relationship.
    However, I think all Navico manufacturing has ended in New Zealand (as it was consolidated into the big Ensenada, MX, plant) and if you go to you’ll find what’s left of Navman’s land & road efforts, which has almost nothing to do with the original company.
    But here’s the question for all with an interest in this somewhat wacky “cottage industry”: If you were handed the hodge podge of assets, platforms, and brands that Navico had rolled up by 2007, would you have rationalized them into a significantly different Navico 2011?

  18. Peter says:

    Yes, some of the later Northstars were Navmans inside,just a different bezel, and model number,made in New Zealand.(sold quite a few of both)
    I think Navico has made the right decisions ,3 brands overlapping the whole market.As a Simrad NSE owner I am very happy(so far).
    Looks like Raymarine are dragging their feet,I wonder if Flir was the right buyer for a consumer brand?

  19. DrewR says:

    Being and unfortunate Navman customer, Navico products in their entirety are at the very bottom of my list for consideration. The Navman 3100 product line was a disaster, I was an early adopter, and the subsequent dropping of the product and now the fact there are no replacements to be had have soured me completely.
    Compared with the treatment I have received from Garmin (out of warranty ‘good will’ free repair, etc) I will NEVER consider a Navico product. Sorry guys to vent, but they have lost a customer…

  20. Peter says:

    Oops,I forgot about Navman’s instruments,Drew.LOL.
    Yeah they were crappy,couldn’t keep the water out of the displays.Wind never worked right.
    But for some reason the chartplotters and fishfinders didn’t have that problem.

  21. Sandy Daugherty says:

    I doubt innovation and hoopla can help Navico’s image without a full court press on product support. Not many HullTruth habituee’s are going to budge until they talk to flesh and blood happy customers. Tough nut to crack.

  22. Damon Michaels says:

    Hello everyone. Thanks for the nice comments on the Northstar brand. As the last original USA Northstar engineer left within Navico, I take great pride in my new company “Navico” and endeavor to bring a touch of Northstar to what I do every day.
    I know from “top” to “bottom” of Navico that customer focus is one of our key values. To those that have been disappointed, I am personally sorry.
    Thank you.

  23. DrewR says:

    Not to beat a dead horse or be unduly negative, but my **recent** experience with Navico customer support was not very positive and makes me question your “I know from ‘top’ to ‘bottom’ of Navico that customer focus is one of our key values.” statement.
    And its not just my Navman experience, it is also my experience trying to get assistance with with my buddies B&G AP as well.
    It will be a long time before I consider a Navico product.
    Ok, no more venting for me, I have figured out how to fix my broken Navman displays and have brought 3 back to life. For anyone interested, here’s a summary:

  24. Damon Michaels says:

    Drew… Sorry to hear that the recent experience was poor. I’d like to hear more about this. If you’re on Facebook I’d like to take this offline without having to resort to posting my e-mail address here (as if I need more spam!).
    You can find me by name “Damon Michaels”. My account is pretty open and I do list my employer. Additionally you can find me on the Lowrance FB page giving support if you have a hard time finding me.
    Absolutely… from the upper eschelons (sp) of management to the people who actually move the product out of the warehouse… Customer Satisfaction is key.

  25. Stian Haukås says:

    I do like what Simrad have achieved the last two years, but still they seem to forget what this is all about. Basic functions like MOB from the WR20, DSC from the RS-series and GRIB weather data display – has been forgotten in the fast-lane towards fancy tv and stereo controls.
    Fancy enough, but not of any importance compared to the above mentioned.

  26. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    But, Stian, isn’t the B&G Zeus version of NSE the only MFD that can display GRIB files? Plus I thought Zeus managed the data display well when I saw it demoed in Newport:
    Also, since the WR20 definitely does have an MOB function, are you saying it doesn’t work over SimNet/NMEA2000 with newer Simrad gear? (I’d forgotten about it, but it still seems quite innovative, if maybe overly complex, four years after introduction: )

  27. Stian Haukås says:

    Yes, sir – the B&G Zeus do have a GRIB capability, but I will not consider re-fitting it with my 1 year old NSE! This is just a minor software thing, that should be in there in the first place on these “top of the range” plotters.
    The WR20, despite its age, is still being advertised as a “magic wand” in the US market (In Norway I believe it has been removed from all marketing materiel) – capable of almost “everything.” I will repeat my personal and objective meaning about this: “It’s a SCAM!”
    Just check Simrad Yachting’s website:
    The WR20 Remote Commander is a sophisticated wireless command centre comprising a rugged, compact, Handset and SimNet Base Station. It enables you to remotely control all of your SimNet electronics such as Plotter/Radar, Autopilots and Instruments. It also controls the VHF with the advanced features of voice calls.
    In practical use, it does display all IS20 information perfect, and it do give you a good control for the AP. But the MOB buttons are not at any use (will produce an error message if pushed) and the VHF/GSM capabilities are somewhat limited. (You’ll need to keep the WR20 up to your ear to be able to hear anything, and the Bluetooth interface for a cellphone is unstable.)
    I have also presented a desire for a MOB/AP function allowing the boat to be steered automatically into the wind-eye, when sailing – and possibly going in a circle when in a “not-wind” mode. So far – this has not led to any development of the existing Simrad AP-software. Not up to my knowledge. (The reason for me to launch these kind of ideas directly into the Simrad product responsible different places in the world, is that my local dealer used this as a “final selling point” towards my need for some kind of MOB safety sailing singlehanded.
    Still, I find it strange that a $5500 plotter (Approximately the Norwegian price, that is.)is not capable of showing DSC information from the $1500 RS-series VHF radio. The old CX-series from Simrad was able to, by using the discontinued iDSC-interface.
    I just find it frustrating to have a complete Simrad range of electronics on-board, not being able to get everything seamless integrated!
    If I mixed several different brands in my setup, I wouldn’t care to continuously chase this. But as I am “running” on a clean Simrad configuration, I do have a few expectations to be bet.
    Don’t get me wrong – I still think I bought the best product to cover my needs a year ago. But the “dot above the i” is still missing.

  28. John says:

    Ben, I’ve enjoyed reading this thread, well done! I’ve been hanging around marine electronics all my working life (both commercial gear and pleasure boat)and can I remember the days when Simrad purchased Robertson autopilots. I was a field engineer at the time and had the greatest respect for both Robertson and Simarad. Seeing the new direction under Navico management is really interesting. It would appear that Navico is totally focussed on the pleasure boat market? All R&D seems to have been poured into MFD technology with new products and features bursting onto the scene at an impressive rate, mucg in the same way that Lowrance kept re-inventing it’s self with new models every six months. I wounder if the Simrad brand will see new models and technology in their commercial range, like stand alone sounders, gyro compasses, IMO autopilotes etc? It’s only the sonars, fisheries sounders and dedicated offshore, DP type equipment that has been held by Kongsberg, the rest falls under the Simrad Yachting (Navico) banner.
    Personally I’m a Furuno fan and I’m using Navnet 3D with great success. I’m also playing with a demo version of Maxsea Time Zero which I will eventually upgrade to a full use application and interface it with the navnet MFD12. I agree with your comment about full 3D functionality. Furuno has really got it right and from playing with Raymarine 3D and Garmin, they are a far cry from what Furuno has achieved. Having said that, I cam live without the 3D function but with the Furuno MFD 12 it is a case of hitting one button and you’re in 3D. It’s fun and growing on me. I do not wish for touchscreen, I simply do not like it.

  29. abbor says:

    Simrad Yachting has not abandoned the commercial marked. New commercial autopilots will soon be launched.

  30. John says:

    Thanks abbor but what about stand-alone commercial echosounders. Unlike pleasure boat autopilots the commercial vessels do not change much. Pleasure boat needs constant upgrading for things like NMEA2000 etc.

  31. PaulV says:

    I heard Simrad launched an Argus Radar in Europe the other week, so pretty sure there is new stuff coming for us commercial guys.

  32. Henning says:

    Some more info on Sitan’s comments:
    The RSxx radios output the following information on the obscure iDSC port, as read with Hyper Terminal this late winter by a radio with software version 2.1 1.0 ISS 2.20:
    $PSIMA,2,7,0,2,RECEIVED FROM RS81/82,*75
    $PSIMA,3,7,0,3,CALLER ID: JULIE ,*1C
    $PSIMA,5,7,0,5,REPLY ON CHANNEL 72,*74
    $PSIMA,15,7,0,7,STOP ALARM,*19
    This results in a display of this same information on a Simrad CP31 plotter that I have and use as a GPS. Note that the data does not include the position of the caller which makes it pretty worthless even with older Simrad gear. It’s not that it is not shown on the MFD, it’s that it is never output by the radio (the calling number would be shown if I hadn’t stored this particular number in the phonebook).
    This same information is also output on NMEA2000 as PGN 130816, also without the position.
    So you’re not really losing anything with new Simrad equipment. It was never there to begin with.
    Yes, I too consider support of the full current set of DSC functions far more important than audio controls and I’m ready to sell my RS82 dual station radio but I guess you’re not interested, are you?

  33. John says:

    What is the definition of an ARGUS radar….anyone?

  34. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t know what “ARGUS” means, John, but Simrad seems to be using the term in reference to a version of Broadband Radar meant primarily for near range security on ships, with multiple radomes mounted around the vessel:

  35. Quitsa says:

    No doubt Simrad is hoping that Argus evokes “Aegis”, the US Navy’s well-know billion dollar integrated radar and combat control system that also is designed to protect ships.

  36. Stian Haukås says:

    This is very interesting information, Henning. Once again, Simrad seem to advertise functions that does not exist.
    “SimNet/NMEA 2000 compatibility for full integration”
    I would not expect a product in this price-range to not have these essentials in place.

  37. Mat says:

    The ARGUS system refers to greek mythology, A giant with a hundred eyes.
    In Greek mythology, Argus Panoptes, or Argos, guardian of the heifer-nymph Io and son of Arestor, was a primordial giant whose epithet “Panoptes”, “all-seeing”, led to his being described with multiple, often one hundred, eyes.”
    It combines standard pulse x band, alongside with 3G broadband units. The Broadband is used for close range vessel survellance and docking, while the X band pulse is used as a tradional navigation and survellance radar.

  38. Anonymous says:

    technically argos is not to be used for navigation as qinetiq failed to pass the broadband 3g radar to be used in navigation situations.
    they did however issue a statement of opinion that if you read confirms that the broadband 3g radar should not be used on commercial ships and it firmly has its place in the yacht market.
    if you want close detection a type approved solid state system would be best

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