As the ever-so-slight name change implies, "plus" is only an incremental change from the original multifaceted Platinum format, mainly offering improved resolution of the photo maps and panoramic port photos. But the improvement is major. One measure of how much more data is included in Platinum+ is that the $499 XL3 area cards are 8 GB big, as opposed to the 2-GB original, which will still be sold (for $299). For me, a Navionics-hosted cruise around some complex Cape Cod ports suggested that the higher detail may mean a different use. When the program is so well annotated with chart detail like soundings and nav aids—as I saw done on the Raymarine E used in the demo—you may want to navigate right on these photo maps, not just use them for reference. I'm not positive that Navionics can deliver the same high resolution I saw on the Cape to every coast, but the same doubt applies to the high-res photo maps now coming from Garmin, C-Map (in Max Plus, soon to be more heralded), and even Furuno (see 3D & G). The manufacturers can't guarantee a minimum resolution because their sources vary, which is why you may want to preview a photo-centric chart card before purchasing.
This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.