By Ben Ellison
More to Come
|Raymarine puts boaters one step closer to the truly integrated helm.|
Well over two years ago, Raymarine announced its intention to offer a real boat computer called the Argonaut, even tantalizing the press with a snappy prototype. I waited with much anticipation to profile the finished product, which promised to be the first truly integrated PC-based system from a major marine electronics company, a milestone in the evolution. I waited and waited. And, in a sense, I’m still waiting. Raymarine does not yet have an actual computer to sell us, but the company has developed so many interesting system components—in fact, it has two integration strategies in play—that I’ll be hard put to cover them all in this column.
Let’s start with RayTech software. Its current version, 4.1, is already a powerful charting program, and with the addition of Raymarine’s Pathfinder PC hardware, it can establish a unique bond with the company’s radars, plotters, fishfinders, autopilots, and instruments, conversing on hsb2 and SeaTalk networks. The aim is to seamlessly combine the flexibilities of your onboard computer with the capabilities of your so-called embedded electronics, i.e. those aforementioned boxes. You can, for instance, overlay radar imagery—even MARPA targets—onto the digital chart displayed on your laptop (or whatever monitor you’ve set up) while controlling that radar with mouse clicks (or a trackball, etc.) on a toolbar that looks just like your radar’s button layout. You can also pass routes—even C-Map charts—around the system and voyage assured that if the more delicate PC subsystem goes down, you’ll still have what you need to get home.
RayTech RNS 5.0—which I’ve been beta testing and which is due to ship next spring—raises the integration bar considerably. For one thing, the company has almost entirely revamped the interface, successfully in my view. I’m particularly fond of the tabbed pages seen at the bottom of the screenshot on this page, which let you set up various windows from a cornucopia of possibilities, then flip through them easily. Waypoint entry and numerical data display are also improved, as is overall package value, with the inclusion of former options like worldwide tide and current predictions, weather routing, and the ability to download sophisticated surface temperature and plankton maps (beloved by fishermen).
Notice the initials. RNS stands for Raymarine Navigation System, which I read as both a proclamation of the existing level of integration and a declaration of more to come, such as the duo of new PC-specific hardware products. One is the M1500 Monitor, pictured at the top of this column, which was previewed to the press last year and is now shipping. It’s a gorgeous 15-inch screen with specs and features not previously seen in a waterproof, sunlight-viewable marine display. For instance, it supports the latest Digital Video Interface (DVI), which is faster and cleaner than its predecessor (also supported) and—along with the built-in stereo speakers—should make the M1500 a heck of a DVD player when at anchor. It also sports a removable bezel which can be painted to match a dash or left off entirely for a built-in look. The bezel not coincidently matches those on Raymarine’s high-end ST290 instrument displays (which also have a special data display relationship with RayTech RNS 5.0). Stylish aesthetics, also evident in the 5.0 interface redesign, are clearly part of Raymarine’s system approach. The software and monitor are also said to be the perfect showcase for the high-definition fishfinding imagery made possible by Raymarine’s new DSM250 sounder module.
This article originally appeared in the November 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.