Best Electronics Awards 2021
This article was originally featured on BoatingMag.com
Welcome to the inaugural Best Elex Awards, which honors standout marine electronics products that have been reviewed and approved by the editorial team behind the four leading titles in marine media: Boating, Yachting, Cruising World and Salt Water Sportsman. Over the course of two months, the nominees were evaluated by our team of eight judges, including the editors-in-chief and electronics editors of the aforementioned brands. In the end, seven products set themselves apart. And the winners are:
- Editors’ Choice: Raymarine Axiom+
- Leading Edge Technology: Furuno NavNet TZTouch3 9F
- Best Integrated System: Garmin GPSMAP 1243xsv
- Most Innovative for Sailing: Airmar DST 810
- Best in Entertainment: Rockford Fosgate 12-inch Color Optix M2 Subwoofers
- Most Innovative for Power: Dometic Optimus Outboard Electric Steering Actuator
- Best in Communication: Standard Horizon GX2400 Matrix
Editors’ Choice: Raymarine Axiom+
Raymarine’s Axiom+ multifunction displays replace the company’s original Axiom line in 7-, 9-, and 12-inch-display models. The plus units integrate a quad-core processor, multi-channel sonar views (including RealVision 3D), and augmented-reality navigation, and include up to 16 GB of onboard data storage. All displays employ in-plane switching for better, brighter viewing along with the company’s HydroTough treatment to repel water and oils. Axiom+ models start at $749.
What the judges said: “These units have more memory than your mother-in-law. They run a multitude of apps, using an intuitive GUI ripped from a smart TV, and, thanks to WiFi, no pulling radar cable through pipework. What’s not to like?”
Leading Edge Technology: Furuno NavNet TZTouch3 9F
Furuno responded to customer requests for a smaller version of its TZTouch3 technology, introduced last February, by delivering the 9F, a 9-inch IPS display for tighter helms and second stations. The hybrid-control TZT9F features a quad-core processor, 256 GB memory card built into the system, a built-in 1kW, single-channel TruEcho CHIRP Fish Finder, and a traditional 50/200kHz RezBoost Fish Finder. The MFD comes with a PIN-code lock feature and is also compatible with a wide array of Furuno peripherals, including radar, autopilot, VHF, and black-box sonars. The TZT9F costs $2,995.
What the judges said: “This smaller version of the TZTouch3 delivers so many of the best features of its bigger brothers. The edge-swiping interface, in particular, puts all of your most-important functions within quick reach. The built-in 1 kW chirp that’s frequency agile is a big plus for anglers, as is the ability to lock the MFD with a passcode.”
Best Integrated System: Garmin GPSMAP 1243xsv
Garmin’s new GPSMAP 1243xsv multifunction display surpasses its predecessor, the 1242, with edge-to-edge glass, an IPS display, higher resolution, better scanning sonar and more. Garmin says it has now brought those premium features—indicative of its 8600 series—to mid-level consumers. The 1kW chirp unit incorporates all of Garmin’s sonar capabilities such as LiveScope, SideVu, and ClearVu. The 1243 can be flush-mounted in the same space as a 1242 with a retrofit kit. The 1243xsv costs $2,899.
What the judges said: “Garmin’s new 1243xsv combines popular, SideVu, ClearVu and chirp sonar all in one device with no black boxes. In addition, they’ve upgraded the screen for brighter, sharper resolution and made the device networkable to integrate with NMEA 2000 connected engines and all other Garmin products.”
Most Innovative for Sailing: Airmar DST 810
Airmar’s DST810 Smart Multisensor makes calibrating accurate speed a simple process. The unit features an integrated attitude sensor, as well, for logging heel and trim data. With the free CAST app, boaters won’t need expensive PC software to provide heel-compensated speed across multiple heel angles and speed ranges. The 5 Hz output delivers unrivaled speed for making quick decisions on the water. The sensor, which also measures depth and water temperature—to a tenth of a degree—accommodates hull angles of up to 22 degrees and costs $399.
What the judges said: “Airmar sensors are used extensively by sailing instruments, which means the new sensor can easily replace older ones. The ability to self-calibrate and ‘see’ down to the bottom when measuring depth is a great benefit, especially for sailboats that often have curved hull forms. The ability to correct for heel and calibrate speed accordingly is of great value to racing sailors, but also to navigation, since speed through the water is used to calculate current, true wind speed and other critical sailing data.”
Best in Entertainment: Rockford Fosgate 12-inch Color Optix M2 Subwoofers
Rockford Fosgate has introduced 12-inch Color Optix Subwoofers for its M2 line of Element Ready sound technology. The subwoofers come in two types — infinite baffle, which provides more strength in the cone — and sealed options for smaller enclosures. Available in black, white, black with stainless insert or white with stainless insert, the subs can be customized by connecting an optional Color Optix Controller and RF Connect App that allows selection of various light colors and patterns. The 12-inch M2s cost $449.
What the judges said: “The M2 subwoofer’s customizable LED colors let users personalize their audio experience. With the ability to pump out up to 1600 watts of power, a lack of volume should never be an issue.”
Most Innovative for Power: Dometic Optimus Outboard Electric Steering Actuator
Dometic’s Optimus Outboard Electric Steering Actuator delivers full power-steering functionality with auto-adjustable parameters to any conventional outboard. The actuator, electronic helm display and harness install quickly without the need for hoses, oil or purging. The system also integrates with joystick control, SeaStation (position hold), SeaWays (Dometic autopilot), and third-party autopilots. This actuator employs a compact brushless DC motor and a unique roller screw that produces enough power to push even the heaviest outboards. Two engines require two actuators; triple- or quad-outboard setups also employ two actuators with additional tie-bars. Price for a single-engine system is $5,700, about 15 percent higher than equivalent electro-hydraulic systems.
What the judges said: “The new Optimus electric steering system brings marine-steering technology into the 21st century.”
Best in Communication: Standard Horizon GX2400 Matrix
Standard Horizon’s GX2400 Matrix VHF radio replaces earlier GX220 products; it offers an internal, 66-channel WAAS GPS receiver; NMEA 2000 networkability; a wireless (or wired) full-functioning, second-station RAM mic; and an AIS receiver. Anglers can employ the voice scrambler to send encrypted messages to fishing buddies. The fixed-mount radio costs $449.99.
What the judges said: “Standard Horizon’s GX2400 is a feature-heavy VHF base-station radio that delivers mic expandability and NMEA 2000 compatibility at a budget-conscious price point.”
Even without stabilization, the steady picture enhances nighttime navigation.
New EPIRBs and PLB also allow boaters to monitor their devices with a mobile app.
Electric power might be all the rage, but it has its limitations.
Vehicle autonomy on land has led to vessel autonomy at sea, and more practical uses for self-steering boats.