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Garmin Quatix, best 'aquatics' watch yet?

Written by Ben Ellison on Jan 17, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

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Holy Batman, the just-announced Garmin Quatix watch can connect wirelessly to a Garmin autopilot and not only show you what the AP is doing but let you steer the boat from your wrist. Plus if you fall overboard the lost wireless connection will set off an MOB alarm on a Garmin MFD and the AP will try to steer back to you. I hereby rescind my recent mumbling about Garmin's conservative approach to marine electronics!  And aside from all the connectivity -- the Quatix can apparently interface with Garmin PC, Mac, and iPad apps too -- it seems like a heck of a boating watch even if you aren't running other Garmin gear...

The Quatix -- I think it's pronounced like "aquatics" without the 'a' -- is purportedly lightweight, tough, and waterproof to 50 meters. It's equipped with "ABC sensors" -- altimeter, barometer and compass -- and in this case compass means a 3-axis electronic sensor that can will supposedly hold onto your wrist's heading no matter how you move it...

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And of course a Garmin watch also includes a GPS, and probably a very good one, so it's possible to get your location, COG and SOG.  Note though that Quatix battery life goes from six weeks to 16 hours when you enable the GPS, and also that it's not clear yet how you charge the thing. Actually there are many unanswered Quatix questions in my mind. We're told, for instance, that it has has basic watch functions like "alarms, chimes, various vibration alerts, timer, stopwatch and a world clock with the ability to display several time zones" but can it also correct itself using GPS atomic clock time? I'll bet yes...

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I'm also guessing that the neat tide level graphs seen below are built completely into the watch and don't need a connection to other Garmin equipment, and also that it will pull up the tide closest to your location, but I'm hoping for confirmation from Garmin. My biggest questions, though, involve the connectivity, which sounds amazing. I can picture, for instance, how just the Quatix can be used to set up a racing sailor's starting line and "calculate both distance to the line as well as desired speed and burn time available" but what's up with the "tack-assist" mode that indicates lifts and headers? Will you have to manually enter wind data or will the Quatix be able to get it from a Garmin system using its built-in ANT wireless technology (or will both be possible)?  Similarly, and of interest to all sorts of boaters, what are the details of "integration to both BlueChart Mobile {reviewed on Panbo} and HomePort {also reviewed} by allowing the user to transfer waypoints, routes and tracks via ANT"?...

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Hopefully Garmin will start revealing more information about the Quatix soon, price included, and it will supposedly be available to try by April. I'm intrigued with all that it promises, but probably the biggest factor for its success will be ease of use. Almost ten years ago I tested a Suunto M9 "wrist-top computer" that was almost as ambitious but it was a bear to use and not very reliable either. It didn't catch on. However, today's GPS chips and other sensors are far better and Garmin is expert at making complexity in small devices usable. In fact, when I look at the watch-like gear the company has already developed for other sports -- like the Forerunner 910XT -- the Quatix almost seems obvious.
   In fact, I spent some time scouting around for other possible hints at future marine developments. While I guess the new BarkLimiter doesn't count, it does show how niche Garmin is willing to go (and there are some boats out there that could use some bark management ;-). But how about the K2 Infotainment Platform prototype that Garmin showed off at CES. In fact it shares a lot of a features like voice controls and deep smartphone integration that I've been experiencing recently with my Ford Touch and Sync My Ride systems, and I'm planning to write about those on Panbo because I can see ways they'll come to boating eventually. I was already looking forward to the a slew of new gear Garmin is promising at the upcoming Miami show. Do you agree that the Quatix suggests that we might see more innovation than expected, and the K2 suggests that it won't stop?

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PS: Garmin just put a special Qautix site and, even better, detailed shop pages. The Quatix will be $450 once FCC approved and, yes, it can receive NMEA 2000 wind, depth, and other data from your boat system using another new product called the Garmin GNT10 NMEA Transceiver. That may mean it can work with any N2K instrument system. Holy cow!

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