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Garmin GPSMAP 8000 Glass Helm series, oh yeah

Written by Ben Ellison on Feb 14, 2013 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub

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Garmin isn't messing around. The 8000 Series announced this morning includes three MFD sizes -- 8-, 12-, and 15-inch -- as well as the 8500 Black Box that can drive new Garmin monitors available in 15-, 17, and 19-inch sizes. Do click on that family photo above to not only see the whole range but also something called the GRID for Garmin Remote Input Device. I've wondered if Garmin would ever add a rotary knob or joystick to its touch screen interface and the answer is that now you can have both...

Today I'm only going to put up high res product photos, but yesterday I did get some time on a boat equipped with a pair of GPSMap 8500 Black Boxes each cabled to a GMM 19 multitouch monitor. Yes, that's about $34,000 worth of hardware, before you add the radar, sonar, autopilot, and watches! The 8500 system is definitely premium gear -- as the lads at HullTruth are noticing -- but I saw a lot that might justify the cost...

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Even the prototype displays I saw were wonderfully bright, crisp, and handsome. Apparently they're backlit with two sets of LEDs so they can go all the way from a half NIT to 1200, and they can be flush or inset mounted. The Garmin engineers even figured out how to combine the on/off button with the alarm speaker to maximize the clean glass bridge styling...

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The developers have also been busy with the touch (and now GRID) interface. As suggested by that bottom bar, you no longer have to cycle through the Home page to get many tasks done. Regular Garmin users will adapt to the changes easily and like them, I think. What Garmin is trying to do now is to organize the interface more in terms of user activities, and that quickly made good sense to me. Especially SmartMode, which lets you set up one or many displays -- including every detail like instrument boxes, radar settings, etc. -- just the way you like them for a particular boating mode. Smart indeed.
   I've got to get over to the Big Show but want to note a very interesting detail of Garmin's black box. I'm talking about the three N2K/CANbus labeled NMEA 2000, Engine, and House. I've never seen that before and it certainly suggests that these boxes could eventually be integrated into a boat in new ways.
   There's lots more detail about the 8000 Glass Helm here, or least what Garmin is willing to reveal now. But I'll be spending time in Garmin's booth and will be checking Panbo comments to see what questions you all come up with.

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