Simrad NSE, brand new & looking good


Yeeeeha, Simrad is introducing the interesting new NSE series today, and Panbo already has a pre-production unit installed in Gizmo’s dash.  Apparently it’s not entirely coincidental that this NSE 12 model (there’s also an 8-inch) fits fine in the hole once occupied by a now ‘classic’ Raymarine C120 (which wouldn’t accommodate a new C- or E120W).  Who wouldn’t want a nice slice of that upgrade market, and the NSE may well earn one.  For starters, that display is not only as bright and crisp as it looks in this not-fiddled-with photo, but it’s backlit with power-efficient and cool running LEDs.  And displayed on screen is another power-related feature I’ve picked up on lately…

The NSE 12 has a Standby mode that shuts the screen down completely, but comes back on instantly. (I measured 12 watts in standby, vs 33 at max level 10 with “1500 nits” of screen brightness, 25 at level 9, 20 at 8, etc.)  This feature is getting important, at least for power sensitive sailors, as MFDs can take soooo long to boot up these days.  That’s particularly true of the Furuno MFD12 I’m testing, which is where I first saw a Standby mode.
   That may be a lot of words spent on a minor feature, but it’s a good example of the smart thinking I’m seeing in the NSE. Some of it is quite familiar from the Lowrance HDS…like excellent NMEA 2000 management and diagnostics. NSE is most definitely built on the Navico Operating System (NOS).  But NSE is not HDS in terms of hardware and user interface.  The machine below has a significantly more solid feel to it than the HDS-10, and check out the I/O.  Aside for the three auto sensing Ethernet ports, there’s a DVI video out and a USB port (with another USB in front, under the SD card door).  I’m told that in addition to memory sticks these USB ports will eventually support off-the-shelf keyboards and mice, so it seems quite possible that I could have a big second NSE station at the lower helm using just components already there for the boat’s PC (like NavNet 3D).

Simrad_NSE_12_back_lr_cPanbo.JPG   The NSE interface was clearly grown from several familiar roots, but the sum is quite new. NSE actually stands for Northstar Edition, and thus it has those 6100i-like dedicated mode keys across the bottom. But it also has classic Simrad numeric keypad shortcuts, a NX/M series style cursor key cluster, and a very handy rotary knob that wasn’t on any of these MFDs.  I’ll be writing more about the NSE interface, which I’m getting fond of fast, but will finish today with examples of the two default radar modes found under the radar key (you can easily add more):

NSE_6nm_radar_split_cPanbo.JPGNote the radar gain, sea, and rain controls upper right in the left window. You can quickly switch between them and set auto modes or manual settings with just turns and clicks of the rotary knob. I’ve maybe overdone the gain but am getting a headland at 8 miles with the flying bridge mounted BR24. (There was no noise in full auto mode, but then again some of those islands three miles to starboard weren’t visible either).

NSE_1_8nm_radar_cPanbo.JPGThis default all-radar screen looks almost like a ship’s, with the nearest AIS targets shown in data boxes. (I presume the lack of CPA and Range calculations is just a Beta software thing.) The very readable data bar, incidentally, can be custom edited for this screen, or globally, and can be one line, two lines, one line flipping between two sets of numbers, or not at all. Nice.
  The NSE 12 will retail for $4,595 and will supposedly ship in November.  That seems likely as even this pre-production unit is quite stable, and very fast. Simrad just posted lots of NSE info here.

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.

23 Responses

  1. Kees says:

    Sensible division of labor: Lowrance HDS at low end and Simrad/Northstar NSE at high end.
    This does seem like a very nicely system. I like the professional style of data presentation which just seems clearer than the more flashy nature we’ve seen recently from all others (including Lowrance HDS).
    Still, I don’t regret getting into HDS. It’s got plenty of features and speed for me at half the power envelope (see my blog).
    As to your power figures, was there as difference between standby and the system on but with backlight at minimal/off? On HDS there is no measurable difference.
    Interestingly the NSE info at the Simrad site clearly positions the Broadband Radar as the low end option as well, advising normal HD digital scanners for larger boats (over 40 feet).

  2. Brad says:

    If those units are actually using LED backlights, I’m surprised at the significant difference between the on and standby modes. One of the benefits of LEDs is that they use very little energy. I’m thinking there is something else that’s also shut down to accomplish the reduced power use.
    On a different note, is that an optical illusion, or is that Simrad radome in the first photo really at groin level? As a man of reproductive age, I would not like to have radar emissions aimed at that area.

  3. AaronH says:

    How much of a “drop-in” was the unit? Could a user with a pre-cut helm or NavPod swap to this Simrad without breaking out the jigsaw or drill?
    Very smart to make the unit the size of the Raymarine C/E120 and I assume the 8″ is similar to C/E80, as that should also fit dashboards that had older Raymarine Pathfinder **70 gear. I was just lamenting the loss of that form factor the other day, so I look forward to hearing more about these units when they officially come to market.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Aaron, I had to do a tiny bit of Starboard trimming with a knife, but I think that’s just because the C120 had been crudely installed. I haven’t compared the C120 and NSE12 cut out templates but I believe they are the same.
    Brad, No worries…that’s a BR24 radome with a peak emission of 0.01 Watt. You can safely run it in your lap. The real question is whether 2 and 4 kW radomes in the same location are any more dangerous:

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Aaron, it turns out that the NSE 8 and 12 have a slightly tighter radius at their bottom corners compared to the same size C and E Series. An existing hole shouldn’t take much modification, like mine didn’t.

  6. Rob Emmet says:

    Tommy Z from Navico came by our shop with an NSE 12 yesterday, and it is an impressive product. Key points in order of what impressed me.
    Very fast re-draw. When you use the rotary control to zoom in or out the chart image is hardly distorted during the zoom. Very fast cursor movement to where you want to zoom.
    Gain control on both the radar and sounder are excellent, same fast redraw rate.
    Very good N2K interface. When N2K devices are found you can name them and pull the data into very easily customized consoles that can be rolled at defined time intervals.
    Screen resolution. You have to see it to believe it. In 3D mode, it looks like you’re flying over.
    “Commercial” clasic green radar display with MARPA and AIS target data on a side console. Very cool.
    Look and feel. Ergonimic controls, bonded glass display, anodized aluminum case. It reeks of quality.
    Temperature. A very cool-running unit.
    I’m a PC navigator without much need for an MFD, but I could be happy with one of these for sure.

  7. norse says:

    I found this document on the Simrad site which strongly implies that the Simrad and Lowrance BR24 scanners are identical except for the brand logo.
    “Navico BR24 RTTE NB opinion”,2905
    (add the .pdf extension after you download it)
    What I have not been able to find anywhere is a user manual for the BR24. The radar user manual is really an installation manual and leaves the usage details to the HDS manual (which doesn’t mention BR24) or the NSE manual (which isn’t available).

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    They are definitely the same, and I don’t think Navico is shy about it. I’ve used the same scanner with Lowrance HDS, Simrad NX, and Simrad NSE. More here:

  9. MarkG says:

    I currently have an OLD Simrad chartplotter system (CP 32 master and DC30slave display) on the flybridge of my Sabreline trawler. I’m in the market to replace both and was excited to read about the new Simrad NSE MFD. I was, however, disappointed to learn that this system now employs Navionics cartography as opposed to C-Map. I’ve been thrilled with the correlation between what’s diplayed on my plotter and my paper charts, and I was looking forward to purchasing the NSE with it’s vibrant color display and oodles of features. I’ve seen Garmins with Navionics cartography and have been unimpressed. Am I missing something in the way my boater friends have setup their charts, or is much less detail something that is to be expected if I make the transition to Navionics?
    Have you heard of any rumors regarding a new technology Simrad that may use C-Map cartography in the future?

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Actually, the NSE for US distribution comes with Navico’s own Insight digital charts preloaded. They have a few presentation issues, in my opinion, but aren’t bad. An NSE will also run any Navionics chart format. I’ve been trying a Platinum card on the pre production NSE I’m testing and it works quite well.
    I’m not sure what you mean about seeing Navionics charts on a Garmin, as Garmin switched over to its own BlueCharts a long time ago. If it’s been that long since you looked at Navionics, you should definitely give them another chance. C-Map charts are good but Navionics charts are pretty much equally detailed, at least here in the U.S.

  11. rick says:

    i’m in the market for 2 12″ mfd’s and have been reading in intensly the manuals from furuno and simrad.
    FRom what i can see is that the furuno may pack more features the interface is less intuitve than the simrad.
    I have also looked at and read the raymarine manual and looked at the garmin but have pretty much ruled them out for 2 reasons.
    The Raymarines user interface and the garmin for not having a product-s and manual mfd and h604 radar yet.
    my question to all is. which one would you get fr the reaccreational boater who puts on 150 hours a year?

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    “The Raymarines user interface and the garmin for not having a product-s and manual mfd and h604 radar yet.”
    Sorry, Rick, not sure what that means. Overall, I’d say all the modern systems have a lot going from them. What you get out is largely a function of the networked system you build around them and how much time you spend to learn what you have.
    You might want to read back through my radar testing series:

  13. George says:

    If only it had a touch screen. Major praise for the DVI output, do you know what the maximum resolution is?
    I adore the touch screen interface on my Garmin 5212s. For what we actually do as boaters it is hard to beat, my wife was using the thing to about %80 of its capacity within the first couple of days. I have also become very fond of the auto route feature, after being skeptical initially.
    We boat a lot (even last week in the freezing weather) and I have never found a downside to the touch screen. We have it inside in the pilothouse with a display slaved to it so other applications may not be as good.
    My Nobeltec is more professional looking (and I happen to have a better radar hooked up to it) but the Garmin is hands down easier to use when you need to be concentrating on where the boat is going rather than remembering which button does what. I play with new units in the stores but something doesn’t seem right about having to click tiny buttons or scroll the excuse for a mouse or a trackball that the MFD have.
    I have an I-Phone, too, so maybe I’m just getting spoiled.

  14. rick says:

    I got a chance to look at the Furuno Navnet 3d-mfd12 vs. Simrads nse12 today and I came back more disappointed and confused than I was, before my little sales pitches or lack thereof were over. My point is neither display has the ability to show 3d mode in demo configuration. So with that being said, how do I buy my case $10,000 system, without seeing it work the way they were intended.
    There’s also some other points that I would like to make. When you buy into one of these new multifunction displays, you are buying into the manufactures system i.e… Cartography, radar, sonar, weather, ais. Now you must look at the system as a whole which can be quite a quest for knowledge and truth.
    I�ve written in blog’s and read many articles over the past 4 months about who has what and who’s got the best or not even the best but, how about just good radar or sonar, without a lot of progress. So here goes some of the questions about the two systems.
    Furuno�s 3d charts are custom to their system and since I haven�t seen them in action first hand, I really can�t comment on them. On the other hand, Simrad�s premium cartography uses Navionics charts which I think is a big plus since I�ve always been a believer in doing the best at one thing. For me that is what Navionics does. I have to give the edge to Simra. Their out of the box charts are flashier than Furuno�s showing some bottom detail. However, Furuno�s standard charts are based on paper charts, so maybe they are better. I just don�t see myself using the standard cartography much – but if I do I liked Simrads better.
    Traditional Radar. =(excluding broadband for the moment)
    Both radars, Furuno’s DRS6A vs. Simrads TX06s, seem to very good at what they do. For me, it�s all about seeing birds – which are why I�m sticking with traditional radar vs. broadband. The rub with broadband is they have exceptional in close clarity. But from what I�ve read and heard, you�re going to have a hard time seeing many past 5 miles. The only difference of importance for me is the ability to stop transmitting in a certain sector. Let me explain. It means that the radar antenna or magnetron (the thing that spins around) stops transmitting in a user defined area. For me that’s somewhat important since I have a son of child producing age who will be spending a lot of time on the boat in the marlin tower – a mere three feet behind the radar antenna unit at just about the same height as his unit if you know what I mean. I’d like to shut it off for the guy.
    You will find no shortage of radar warnings on the pages of the installation manuals despite what most people including doctor’s say about it not being harmful. I’d rather not take the chance, as for me I got fixed a long time ago.
    Furuno�s Radar unit has sectoring. Simrads does not. So I will have to shut off my Radar if I go with Simrads when my son is up in the tower.
    Furuno�s black box DFF1 gets high scores from what I�ve read. The DFF1 is a traditional narrow band sonar and Simrads competing BSM 1(broadband sonar) there is nothing but the manufactures literature and videos out there.
    So, digital narrowband sonar or digital broadband sonar -your guess is as good as mine. Here’s what I did find.
    When you look at high end sonar/ff they use broad band. If you Google scifish2000 you can read about their products. These are high end ff’s that can identify fish species to a certain degree; however they start at 50k so I won’t be installing this system anytime soon.
    By the way did you know that sperm whales use a type of broadband sonar? So if it’s been good enough for them, then, well just maybe it will help me catch a tuna or two.
    I have also read that some fisherman will shut off their FF�s when fish are around. Maybe the sales pitch coming out of Simrad about sending out a whisper signal, AKA broadband signal, may turn out to work better. Again your guess is as good as mine.
    As for AIS
    Furuno’s FA50 seems to be quite good as well as Simrad�s NAIS 300. It�s not that important to me but I would like the capability to see super tankers bearing down on me in the middle of the night should I decide to do an overnight fishing trip.
    finally as far as the MFD’s are concerned.
    Furuno’s is bigger with a lot more buttons to learn.
    Simrads was super bright and clearer than Furuno’s
    Furuno’s is 800×600 resolution with 1100 nits of brightness
    Simrad’s is 1024×768 resolution 1500 nits of brightness.
    Which one would you buy I’m still not sure

  15. Arnie says:

    It sounds like you need to find some professional help you can trust from some reputable dealers. Your research has only confused you more than helping you and your demo of the Simrad and Furuno was obviously done without a qualified individual to answer your questions beyond reading a brochure. I can’t speak for the new Simrad, but the Furuno MFD12 can be put into a demo mode that will enable you to look at the 3D detail of the charts.
    Asking questions here or on the whole hull truth is fine if you are only planning on buying on-line and making your electronics investment a crap shoot. But if you want it done right by a pro, and by your posting I suggest you should, then pick a good installing dealer, get and check their references, and enjoy a useful and functional package that works for YOUR needs.

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I react somewhat differently to your post, Rick. Even if you feel confused now, you’re doing yourself good by trying to look deep into the system comparisons.
    In fact, I think your line “Now you must look at the system as a whole which can be quite a quest for knowledge and truth” should be embroidered, framed, and hung on the wall of every marine electronics shop! In my opinion, boaters who want to simply call one brand best and others no good are just looking for simple answers where they don’t exist. The system comparisons are very complex, and some the important factors vary from user to user.
    I do agree with Arnie that a good technical dealer/installer can be a really valuable ally in your quest for truth and knowledge. I also agree that you should be able to see 3D modes on both those machines in a demonstration. At most it would take a simulated GPS feed, I think, and probably not even that (I’ll check when I get a chance).
    You may be off track regarding broadband sonar. Navico’s Broadband Sonar is quite good, I think, especially in terms of efficiency and value, but I don’t think it’s broadband in the sense of using variable frequency or chirping sonar pings like the really high end fishfinders are starting to do.
    I believe you’re right about radar sectoring, though. Even the little 18″ Furuno UHD radome I’ve been testing can be set up not to transmit through at least one sector of its rotation. And I suspect that the UHD is the technology to beat in terms of bird detection, too. There is a cost, though; the many advanced features on the NavNet3D system are challenging to master.
    But immersing yourself in details during the shopping process will probably mean that you’ll be quicker to master whatever you end up buying.

  17. rick says:

    Thanks Arnie and Ben,
    Your points are well taken.
    Arnie & Ben, I do agree that having a qualified dealer help and maybe install my system has alot of validity.
    I am a highend computing dealer so power and data cables don’t scare me and the only reason that i want to install and build my own system is that the dealer isn’t going to be there 20 miles out to see if have issues so i take it opon myself to know all things related to my boat including reading and navigating with paper charts. rest assured it wont be smooth sailing for a while after the install but by excepting that electronics/computers & operating systems all have their quirks. I must be able to fix it on my own.
    Ben, youre right, more investigating into the two systems is needed and with regards to the broadband sonar. Is the BSM-1 the same or newer model of the lowrance version?

  18. Rickq says:

    Hi Ben,
    After having your nse12 for six months are you happy with it?
    If you want you can send me a private message about it.
    Since you are the only one i know who has one i would like to know how you feel.
    I’m seriously considering buying
    2x nse12
    1 6kw radar
    1 Ais
    1 Bsm1

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’m not shy, Rick. I think the NSE is an excellent MFD. I’m not sure I’ve yet used the ‘Gold’ (shipping) software version but what I have is at least very close. And it’s handling both Navico and Navionics P+ charts very well, along with Broadband Radar and a large NMEA 2000 sensor network, AIS included. It’s really bright and it’s really fast.
    I do sometimes want to touch the screen, especially the big icons on the Page window, and I do sometimes wish the mode keys were somehow also soft keys. But to a certain degree those are occupational hazzards. Once you get used to it, the button, menu, and rotary knob interface works well.
    I’ve been meaning to do a follow up entry, and have lots more screen shots. I’ll get on that. I also have the unit set up in the lab for further torture sessions.

  20. rickq says:

    Thanks Ben you have been a great help.

  21. rickq says:

    I went down to the Providence Boat Show yesterday
    and stoped by the Navico booth hoping to put the NSE12 thru a more rigorous challenge than i was able to at my local dealer.
    I worked with the regional sales manager Michael Gaunya who was great. We really put it thru its paces – loading up the navionics chartography as well as radar,weather and satelite overlay. We tried pretty hard to crash the CPU or should I say GPU (the GPU is really the processor that handles all the graphics hence the name GPU/Graphics Processing Unit) – it handles 90% of the workload in this application. He worked with me for over an hour. I was not only impressed with the system but also with Mike. He went out of his way to try and answer all of my good and bad questions.
    There did seem to to be some minor glitches that were really related to the fact that these systems – all manufactures of GPS/FF/Radar – are only able to be used in demo mode. Similar to test driving a new car in the showroom on a simulator before buying it.
    The only things that i would like to add to your report is that Navico says they are and will continue to come up with more software upgrades as customer needs change. With this system being for the most part only limited by the software it runs, then i think they will be able to do it.
    The other biggy is that Mike was pretty sure that the operating system is linux/unix based which is a much more robust and stable operating system than windows. So we should not be seeing any bizzare quirks showing up on our screens. This may not mean much to the average boater but take it from a man who has built countless computer systems on both Unix and Windows based systems, I can tell you without any predjudice that a unix based system is harder to configure at first but will outrun its counter part by months, maybe even years without having to reboot or maybe have to be sent back to the factory/dealer to have its operating system reinstalled.
    I know some people are saying well i’ve never had to do this with my old GPS. Well I believe we are seeing a fundamental change in navigation systems in the recreational market. We are now dealing with computers not GPS or fish finders. Anyone with a personal computer will probably have run into issues that were not easily fixed.
    I think that we should make a fundamental change in our thinking,testing and purchasing of these multifunction displays and start calling them what they are – which is an on onboard computing system. Adding sonar ,weather, radar, autopilot. AIS and even music we are actually talking about a comuting server and its network capacity and its peripherals.

  22. Damon says:

    We have a new NSE-8 headed to our boat in Panama along with some other new electronics from Simrad. Can’t wait to get the NSE installed and running, looks like it’s going to be a great MFD.

  23. Mark Hoenke says:

    I have the NSE8 installed with broadband radar and sounder. I have tried to add a remote monitor and all attempts yield a new monitor message of “no signal”. The new monitor is VGA with a DVI to VGA adapter at the NSE8 video out port. This set up works on my desk top computer with a DVI output so I know the monitor can be driven from a DVI port.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *