Testing Furuno DRS4D-NXT solid-state Doppler radome, “Radar Redefined” most definitely

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.

37 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    PS: This 2010 entry shows a bit of what Camden Outer Harbor looks like and also shows the odd NOAA presentation of the channel buoys that has never been corrected but has trickled down to all electronic charts:
    Also, I’m wondering if Furuno’s ad department is also Doppler assisted, or something. Of course they knew I was testing the NXT radar, but how did they manage to send NXT ads minutes after we published this entry?

  2. Sheldon Haynie says:

    Nicely detailed report. With that confidence in the ARPA, it would be tempting to leave it on as you note and rely on alarming…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Ben:
    Have they preserved the “true wake” feature? That is what I like best about my older Furuno radar and I would think it would definitely help to differentiate moving from moored boats in that crowded harbor of yours.

  4. Don Joyce says:

    I can really feel your excitement, Ben. I’m hoping Furuno would offer a portrait TZ2 version so one could drop it into the slot left by standalone radars. I think quite a few people would jump on the opportunity to install an SS Radar given the Portrait vs. Landscape option.

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Interesting, Don. I recall that the L in the awkward model name TZTL12F stands for Landscape, so…?
    I have not yet checked out echo modes, Bird Mode, and some other features, but will.

  6. Sven-Bertil Carlsson says:

    Hi Ben!
    Interesting article! Is it possible to set the presentation to the following combination in both radar screen and chart screen:
    North up
    Off center
    True Vectors (both own vessel and other targets)
    Heading line (“to infinity”)
    True trails
    A possibility to easy change the vector length and true/relative vectors in the configuration above.
    This is the way we professional mariners in Scandinavia like to configure the presentation.
    Sven-Bertil Carlsson
    Chief officer on a car and passenger ferry

  7. Howard says:

    Awesome report and what looks to be a great product. I can’t justify upgrading my conventional 4kw dome, but it sure is tempting. I hope open arrays are not that much farther behind. That would be enough of a performance upgrade to justify. I would probably keep the 4kw dome for redundancy then.
    Furuno is selling it outside the USA already

  8. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Howard, the DRS6AX looks interesting, but it is not a solid-state radar at 6kW peak output power.
    I’m a little surprised that Furuno is using the term “Fast Target Tracking” with it because I think the NXT Doppler is what makes FTT amazingly fast to lock in and also smart about which target it tracks. The big DRS6AX also has a 30 target max, whereas NXT can purportedly handle 100 at once (40 automatic and 60 manually chosen, I think).
    Sven, I hope to check on “true trails” (and vectors) tomorrow, but think it may be another feature that won’t seem so valuable once you’ve experienced Furuno’s Doppler assisted ARPA.
    In the meantime, Head Up and North Up can be changed right on the TZT2 screen, chart and radar independently (but there is no Course Up). You can also drag the center of each screen however you want and it stays there underway until you tap the Center Vessel button. Same with pinch zoom until you hit the Reset Range on the chart side or change ranges on the radar side. I find it all very intuitive and effective.

  9. Sdpaddler50 says:

    Interesting, thanks for the write up.
    One of the aspects that bothers me about Marpa is the fact that you have to manually mark the target, to get a vector of the boat.
    I really like the fact that this Doppler radar radar does this automatically, and is arpa, not Marpa.
    Has anyone heard if the Simrad halo will eventually incorporate a version which will provide vectors without manually selecting the target? IE, Arpa, not Marpa. Perhaps through a new halo version or through a software update?

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sdpaddler, I think that all the major brands have wanted to provide ARPA for quite a while, but apparently it’s not easy to do. And now that solid-state Doppler technology has been shown to make ARPA even easier and more effective, I’d guess that the pressure is high.
    Simrad, incidentally, was talking about adding Doppler to the Halo radars before NXT or Garmin Fantom came along.
    Let’s note, though, that you have to buy a Furuno TZT or TZT2 to use a NXT radar, and while they are fine MFDs, Furuno does not offer some of the options that the other big brands do, like network displays smaller than 12 inches and side imaging.

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sven, I need to double check, but I don’t think that the TZT2 offers any kind of radar trails, let alone true wakes. That doesn’t mean that the solid-state NXT radar can not produce trails — in fact they are shown in the brochure — but I think that so far they’re only available on the TZT screens.
    (I believe that TZT2 is a complete rewrite of the Time Zero MFD software because it’s running on Android instead of Windows. So no one should expect to see all the features they may have seen on the original TZT or NavNet 3D, but then again they may get added in future updates. Which, as I have seen, can be fully automatic if you allow.)
    I did find a choice of True or Relative Bearings and EBLs in the TZT2’s Radar Menu, and you can easily turn the Radar Heading Line on and off.

  12. Larry Shick says:

    Way cool. Second the earlier motion that it would be ever so nice to be able to drop one of these new displays into the hole left by its predecessor (e.g., Raymarine RL70C).
    Do any of the current radar/chartplotter combo’s support directly downloaded S57 charts, or must one still buy chips?

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Larry, all these manufacturers now provide dimensional drawings and templates for downloading. None, however, support direct downloading of ENC/S57 charts. Some like Raymarine and Navico let you download charts right to the MFD over WiFi, but they are S57 derivatives like LightHouse Fugawi vectors, plus Navionics and C-Map.
    Furuno is most different as TimeZero only supports MapMedia charts, though their core data is sourced from S57, raster, Navionics, C-Map, etc. On the other hand, the TZT2 came with 128 Gigs of North American charts and hi res sat photos, with U.S. NOAA charts and sat photos free, the rest available with unlock code.

  14. Gram Schweikert says:

    Will also second the eventual availability of Portrait mode MFD’s. Sure would be nice to have a decent option to replacing older stand-alone Radar screens without having to totally redo the entire dash. On Visons of Johanna we have a computer screen and older CRT Radar next to each other in the pilothouse. I don’t think we will ever want to give up the computer screen as we use it for navigation, weather routing, communications etc but there isn’t enough width to put two landscape mode displays next to each other….only other idea I have had is to find a large MFD with external input (VGA or HDMI), but unless they support video in side by side with Radar, you would have to choose on or the other which isn’t very desirous.

  15. Howard says:

    I overlooked that Ben! It is now showing on FurunoUsa.com though.
    Hoping for SS open array!

  16. mark heeley says:

    Nmea etc . will this outstanding radar talk to my soon to be commissioned Garmin 8215 MFD
    Garmin radar looks clunky in comparison.

  17. Larry Shick says:

    Does the DRS4D support multiple displays (e.g., nav station and helm)? I looked through the installation manual and it always refers to “the” MFD.

  18. Kees says:

    Mark, no all radar data is company specific and does not use standards. That is “parent company”, of course you can mix sub-brands like B&G/Simrad/Lowrance or Furuno/MaxSea/Nobeltec.

  19. Anonymous says:

    its a shame this isnt the first generation of one-net radars or have them adopt a known standard like asterix

  20. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your reply!
    No doubt some of the new presentation a Doppler radar can deliver will render old school setup perhaps a bit unnecessary but why not have both and let the user choose? I think manufacturers (especially Garmin) underestimate the users and designing the software as simple as possibly which make the equipment lacking vital functions and not fully utilised. Maybe they could design the software like many computer programs where the user can choose between “beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced” at first startup?
    One thing about the Furuno colouring all targets red that moves towards you with a relative speed of three knots, that means that boats you are overtaking with a speed difference less than threes knots will still be presented in green? Why not instead present everything that’s moves red? And let the ARPA automatically plot and present graphic CPA information for all targets within selected distance/time. For example the Swedish navigational system SeaCross has already several years delivered a software that compare the radar video with chart data and colorise all echoes that does not correspond to the charts red.
    By the way, do you have any plans for comparing functions TZT2 – NXT Doppler radar v. TZT – NXT?
    Best regards,
    Sven-Bertil Carlsson

  21. Anonymous says:

    Not doppler- but an interesting expansion of the Furuno DRS X Class Radars.
    Furuno has submitted equipment approval requests for 12KW and 25KW “X Class” radars. This follows up on their DRS6 X class open array.
    While I was hoping to see a solid state open array for the recreational/yacht market, more options are always nice.
    Here is the link to one the 12KW application documents:

  22. Garrett says:

    Hi Ben,
    Your report only described the NXT’s performance in clear weather. Have you now had experience using it in inclement weather? As I understand, many radar systems target discriminators degrade in inclement weather. How has the NXT’s performance been effected?

  23. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Fog, yes, but sorry, Garrett, haven’t had the NXT out in serious rain yet. Hopefully, I can do that fairly soon, and also see the new Garmin Fantom 24 in rain. Winter lingers in Maine (while I’m in St. Lucia boatless) but that’s got to change, I think.

  24. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Excellent news: There is now a Furuno DRS6A-NXT open array radar with all the features of the NXT radome plus higher resolution and longer range:

  25. Howard says:

    Couple of interesting things I noticed in the specifications comparison between the NXT dome and open array. The unit appears to optimized to spot in closer and farther than the dome. Pulse lengths and repetition frequency vary over a wider range to see closer and farther. Furuno is calling this a 72nm radar, yet shows a minimum detection range of 10 meters vs 20m for the dome
    Here is the USA installation manual
    USA Brochure

  26. David says:

    It would appear to be standard practice across the board for all manufacturers to dumb down their operating platform to that of a simple smart phone app look and feel.
    As you have already pointed out, this is very evident in the Garmin man-machine interface and I believe this is because they come from a consumer electronics background. Whether it’s user interface, backup support or warranty service, all but Furuno seem to have adopted the consumer approach to their business. There would be no money in repairing a $699 plotter/sounder so best throw away and replace with a new one. I recently had that experience with a Raymarine plotter. Luckily I could sell the new replacement unit as “unused” and that freed me up to buy something a little more substantial.

  27. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t see any reason that a smartphone-like interface has to “dumb down” what a device can do. For instance, there are a lot of sophisticated features available in the very modern Furuno TZT2, though it purposely has fewer features than the heavier built and more expensive TZT.

  28. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good discussion of new Furuno NXT open array at The Hull Truth:
    And thank you, Howard, for the research. If you get to see the DRS6A-NXT in action during the NMEA Conference, please report.

  29. Howard says:

    I would also to refer to your past post about how Simrad Halo works
    It appears to me (non-expert) that Furuno and Simrad follow similar methods on the radio frequency portion of their radars. The largest difference is the proprietary processing of the received signals.
    Garmin debuted its Fantom radar with only single frequency (compared to Simrad/Furuno using 3 channels). Sometime this spring they updated their FCC authorization, but I am not sure if/when they implemented this in their product.
    I have geeked out over the prospect over open array solid state Furuno radar (for no good operational reason). I am anxious to see how it compares to a magnetron radar. My primary usage of radar is collision avoidance in the highly trafficked Puget Sound VTS lanes. The Doppler processing with vectors and color indications I believe will be beneficial when solo navigating the boat in the fog.

  30. We would appreciate comments on the of Furuno DRS4D-NXT in a setup with ONLY a PC, and no dedicated radar display or chartplotter. We visualize using the radar with Nobeltec time Zero Pro.

  31. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Neil, You can definitely have that setup now, and there’s some up-to-date discussion of what’s possible in the comments section of this entry:

  32. Sdpaddler50 says:

    Ben, do you know if this system will have an App to allow a mirror of the radar screen to a tablet like Simrad offers?

  33. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Yes, Furuno, Raymarine, and Garmin all offer MFD screen mirror apps like you’ve seen with Simrad. Actually, it took a while for the Furuno TZT2 to get the app compatability that the TZT has long had, but it’s working fine now on Gizmo with iPad, TZT2 and NXT radome.

  34. There is now full ARPA for the Navico / Simrad Br24/3G/4G radars. Not released by Navico itself but as a plugin for OpenCPN. The plugin allows you to set guard zones that will automatically create ARPA targets from return inside the guard zone. Up to a 100 targets per radar can be found and tracked automatically. As these radars don’t have doppler the target movement is determined from the sweep to sweep movements of the return. This is less accurate than the doppler based target recognition, but works surprisingly well if there is an accurate heading source.
    I have been using a beta version all of last summer and had it on continuously. I don’t use the classical pixel alarm in guard zones anymore, only the ARPA. Locked ARPA targets are handled identically as AIS targets. They will raise an alarm if CPA and TCPA get smaller than the predefined values.
    OpenCPN with the Navico radar plugin is open source software that will run on Windows, Mac and Ubuntu.

  35. Anonymous says:

    While I don’t doubt you have created something that is useful, what level of testing with regards to standard ARPA scenarios have you completed ?

  36. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Anon, there’s a screenshot showing what the plugin ARPA looks like here:
    It seems pretty amazing given that Navico itself has not come up with ARPA and I’m sure they’d like to.
    Further down that thread you’ll see that the OpenCPN Navico radar plugin also supports Halo now, apparently even though the developers did not have one to work with!

  37. Einstein says:

    Can I simply use an Android tablet with the DRS4D-NXT or is the NavNet display required?

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