Victron Cerbo GX, good AC/DC power monitoring gets better
The existing Victron Venus GX and Color Control GX are both excellent AC/DC power monitoring products in my estimation, but with many boat systems it’s hard to decide which one to use. While the Venus blue box is less expensive with more networking capabilities, none of its display and control abilities are as fast and easy as the CCGX’s screen and button interface. I’m happy to report that this purchasing dilemma will end next year with the new Cerbo GX and GX Touch 50, and valuable additional GX features are included.
To put it another way, when the Venus-like Cerbo GX ships in February (“expected”) at a Venus-like retail price of $381, you’ll also be able to purchase a $287 GX Touch 50 for what looks like a direct color display even nicer than the CCGX. Moreover, existing GX products already have more display options than they did last year, and more to come.
A good resource for understanding the Cerbo evolution is the Victron GX product range page. And if you’re not familiar with what a GX device can do, you might appreciate my first Venus GX testing entry last winter, and then what I saw as the MFD glass bridge integration feature underwent beta testing. (MFD integration is now an official feature, Raymarine just joined Garmin and Navico, and I was delighted to spot a Furuno engineer discussing it with Victron at METS.)
Meanwhile, I believe that the NMEA 2000 integration feature highlighted in the Cerbo introduction photo at top is just coming out of Beta testing (a little later than planned) and I hope to try it with the Venus GX soon. But while I can picture how the MFD integration, N2K output, or a dedicated GX display could be useful on a boat like mine — actually, there are good reasons to want them all — just using the Venus GX via WiFi and Ethernet has been quite satisfactory on and off the boat.
In fact, the detailed battery, inverter/charger, and solar panel data that Venus logs to the free Victron Remote Monitoring (VRM) service has vastly expanded my understanding of electron life on Gizmo. Individual loads aren’t identified, and neither is alternator output, but highly detailed voltage/shunt current graphing and other data can show you a lot about, say, the power cost of refrigeration or the performance of a smart regulator (and an odd recent example was checking out the power needs of my DIY hookah compressor).
You can see much of Gizmo’s VRM site yourself, though I suggest using the many date filtering options (and the Advanced section) to look into the April through October season. The boat is now without solar power, and often offline, in steel building at Journey’s End Marina where I am redoing most of the electronics. A test Cerbo GX will hopefully be a key aspect of the new scheme, and let’s look at the details.
While Victron’s new Cerbo GX page doesn’t include a datasheet yet, the aforementioned GX range page does enumerate the profusion of connection ports. Note, for instance, the increase in tank level and temperature sensing inputs compared with Venus. (Though so far the implementation and configuration of these extra beyond-power monitoring features seem hard to figure out, or perhaps underdeveloped, I remain hopeful. And, then again, my Venus GX can already make good monitoring use of an inexpensive USB GPS.)
Note too the BMS-Can port with support for many third-party battery systems. And to see how GX can scale up to a very large boat, or an off-grid eco-village in Corsica, check out this recent Victron Blog entry. Which makes this a good spot to note that the VRM cloud service — which can also be used to configure, update, and troubleshoot many Victron devices — means that a boat owner cowed by GX complexity can have a professional installer with powerful remote access.
And a big deal for both professional and DIY installers is that Cerbo is the first GX product with a “Smart” Bluetooth connection. So a Cerbo can be directly configured using the Victron Connect app I raved about here. In other words, while you can still use one of the several (somewhat tricky) initial Venus GX setup methods, instead you will be able to pull out your phone, have Victron Connect pair with your Cerbo automatically, and then walk you through the initial configuration.
I didn’t get to try the GX Touch 50 at METS but I’m very familiar with that animated and informative main screen, and how a user can drill down to further power detail (and many settings). And I imagine that besides looking good in this flat glass 5-inch format, the interface will be quite responsive with its HDMI connection to the Cerbo GX, which itself has more processor and memory than the Venus.
I also like the thin waterproof design, which is about 5 x 3.5 x 1/2 inches including the fixing bracket that permits surface mount with only a small hole in the underlying panel. Wouldn’t it be nice if a navigation electronics manufacturer developed a similar NMEA 2000 instrument display, especially if it too cost less than $300 retail?
Victron managing director Matthijs Vader — who is personally quite instrumental in GX development — says their strategy is to make the monitoring options flexible and affordable because it helps to sell other Victron devices. And given my GX experience on Gizmo, and having been inside the big and busy Victron U.S. distribution warehouse here in Maine, I believe the strategy is working.
This SmartShunt was also shown at METS though so far it’s only been mentioned online in a Victron Blog show preview entry. So the timing of confirmed product details and actual sales is currently uncertain. But I did gather that the SmartShunt is essentially a BMV-712 Smart battery monitor without the display or buttons. Which means even more elegant installs will be possible, with just Touch 50, glass bridge, N2K, and/or mobile app interfaces visible on a boat. Cool!
In fact, Ben Stein and I saw several other innovative AC/DC power monitoring developments at METS — from brands like MasterVolt, CZone, and Carling Technologies (Maretron) — and you’ll be hearing about them. I may be a little overfocused on this area personally, because my boat rarely has shore power, but isn’t it true that as marine navigation, communications, and comfort systems mature, the remaining mystery on many vessels is the mess of AC and DC components that power all the goodies? Are you well informed about electron life on your boat?