Bushnell's Onix 400 mapping GPS is designed primarily for hikers, but I'm not the only boater to notice its ability to deliver both XM Satellite Weather and Radio in a form portable enough to also go on the water, in the car, etc. Unfortunately the weather data it displays is a limited subset of what's available from the XM satellites; there are no buoy reports, sea temps, or wave forecasts, for instance. But the Onix does provide a medium-resolution version of the real-time Nexrad Radar and lightning strikes that are arguably the most valuable elements of satellite weather, and the data limitations are more than reflected in the reduced subscription price: $17 a month with all 170 XM audio channels and customizable sports reports. The $500 Onix 400 is also an impressive portable hardware achievement; its 3.5-inch transflective screen is quite readable in all light conditions, and its excellent power-management features means long life on the trail. It aso has an easily understood user interface. But its base map is rudimentary, and the detailed cartography sold online by Bushnell so far only includes topo and photo maps, not nautical charts. Bushnell certainly has the ability to develop a truly compelling all-in-one portable that includes boating.
This article originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.