The 5 Best Marine Chartplotters

Paper charts will always have their place and are a reliable backup in case things don’t go as planned or expected when you’re out sailing. Modern chart plotters have far surpassed their physical paper counterparts in terms of usage, ease of use and the sheer amount of data available. Even if you’ve lost your bearings whilst out sailing a chart plotter won’t as it will always know where you are at any given point. All of the complexity and terms used causes a lot of confusion when it comes to buying the best marine chart plotter for your boat.
 
Once you begin to understand the basics, choosing a marine chart plotter for your boat becomes much easier and less confusing. So what should you look for when you’re shopping for the perfect chart plotter? Below is a list of the most important features when it comes to finding a high quality chart plotter for your boat.

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Dimensions Screen Size Type Weight Preloaded Charts
Simrad Go7 XSR Simrad GO7 XSR Combo 18 x 10 x 6 inches 7 inches Chartplotter & Fishfinder 4.63 lbs Yes
Humminbird Helix 5 G2 Humminbird Helix 5 G2 7 x 3 x 4 inches 5 inches Chartplotter & Fishfinder 3.8 lbs Yes
Simrad Cruise 7 Simrad Cruise 7 10.8 x 9.2 x 8.2 inches 7 inches Chartplotter 4.84 lbs Yes
Garmin Echomap UHD 74 Cv Garmin Echomap 74Cv 13 x 10.3 x 8.5 inches 7 inches Chartplotter 6.75 lbs Yes
Raymarine Axiom 7 Raymarine Axiom 7 18 x 13 x 13 inches 7 inches Chartplotter & Fishfinder 8.8 lbs Yes

Things you should look out for before buying a chart plotter

When it comes to choosing the right chart plotter for your boat it can get quite confusing as there are hundreds to choose from and the prices can range from $500 to $1000 or more and there’s a world of difference between them. As there are so many chart plotters available, you can easily decide which one is best for your needs after you’ve figured out what you would use it for so how can you make an intelligent choice considering your needs and your budget? Before you go ahead and purchase a chart plotter be sure to consider these important features.

Screen Size

The larger the screen the better (5-7”), as this dictates from how far you can view the screen, how large the numerics will appear and how congested the screen will become if you zoom into a particular point or use the split screen functionality. Anything smaller than this will be difficult to view as details on the screen can become cluttered. Before you go ahead and pull the trigger take into consideration the screen size as the larger it is, the easier it will be on your eyes. 

Last but not least, another important consideration is screen resolution which determines how much detail a chart plotter provides you with. Screen resolution is measured by the pixel count with more pixels being better. 

Power

Power is another important factor to consider and it’s only half of the battle as to how deep and accurately your unit can see what lies beneath the boat. These days chart plotters come combined with fish finders as they offer a visualisation of the area beneath the boat. Power and transducer (more on this in a moment) will determine how deep you’re able to see when you’re out sailing. Units in the lower range put out between 100 – 300 watts and if you’re sailing in shallow depths (up to 200’) then this is perfectly suitable for your purpose but in deeper waters you’ll definitely need more power. 

Transducers

Transducers go hand in hand with power. A transducer with a focused beam is better as the more focused it is, the deeper it will penetrate. The larger the transducer crystal the more focused the beam will be. 

Longevity

This is another important consideration to factor into your buying decision. If you’re thinking of mounting the chart plotter on a small open boat the main thing you need to be wary of is water resistance. Pay attention to IPX (International Protection Code) or JIS (Japanese Industry Standard) ratings which are exactly the same. A rating of four is normally considered splash proof and this is not suitable especially if you have a small, open boat. A rating of five means that the unit can withstand low pressure bursts of water, six means that it can withstand high pressure bursts of water, seven is submersible up to 30 mins at three meters and eight is can be submerged and be operational. Essentially the higher the rating, the longer your unit will survive in the harsh marine environment. 

Now that you know what to look for in a marine chart plotter it’s time to look at some of the best marine chart plotters that consistently get great reviews from customers. This list below should help you to narrow down your choices and help you select the right marine chart plotter for you and your budget. 

Simrad Go7 XSR Combo

This is a powerful, fully featured stand-alone chart plotter and fish finder packed into a sleek, easy to use display. Built with the latest technology it features a wide screen display with a LED backlight, internal high speed 10Hz GPS receiver, StructureScan HD imaging and CHIRP sonar, integrated wireless connectivity, full audio entertainment integration with SonicHub 2. 
 
It boasts a 7-inch display screen with intuitive touch screen controls and features that many smartphone and tablet users will find intimately familiar. You can tap the screen to create, select and deselect waypoints, pinch to zoom into a specific area of the screen. Adjustable split screen views and the ability to customise home screen layouts with clear large captioned icons make the XSR a fully featured chart plotter.
 
Unique to XSR, is the TripIntel technology where you can track the days boating activities with real time performance data. You can also choose from a wide range of cartographic options such as C-MAP and Navionics which includes advanced features like C-MAP Routing for a truly automative like navigation experience. 
 
This units waterproof rating is IP-X7 which means that it’s rain proof, splash proof and can withstand a depth of up to 3 meters for approximately 30 mins. It’s ideal for use in open air vessels such as bay, deck, ski and wakeboard boats, bow riders and tenders and can be flush mounted to bracket mounted. The Simrad Go7 XSE comes in 5” 7” 9” 12” screen sizes.  

Humminbird Helix 5 G2

This is a dual purpose chart plotter packed into a sleek and compact display case. Built with the latest technological innovations it features a CHIRP Sonar, GPS mapping, Autochart Live, Dualbeam PLUS, SwitchFire and Humminbird’s base map with charts of more than 10,000 lakes which are all built in. 
 
It features a 5” screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels and a powerful backlight that illuminates the screen which is helpful when you’re navigating and charting a course in less than ideal conditions. The unit also includes a micro SD card slot for saving maps or waypoints.
 
You have the ability to save, organise waypoints alphabetically, by recently saved, by nearest location, by a specific name, by a specific date using the inbuilt waypoint management software. In addition, you also have the ability to capture screenshots and record sonar and this comes in handy when you want to review footage at a later date. 
 
Unique to Helix 5 G2, is the the CHIRP Sonar, which include side and down imaging. This creates  a clear and crips images of what lies beneath the boat and to the sides and at a glance you can see the surrounding underwater terrain including fish and structure. 
 
The product has a rating of IPX7 which means that it can withstand splashes, spills and incidental water exposure and can withstand a depth of 1 meter for approximately 30 mins. Each unit includes a transducer and for this particular model, transom mounted XNT 9 20 T transducer comes as standard. The Humminbird Helix 5 G2 is affordable, packed full of features and great value for money. 

Simrad Cruise 7 

The Simrad Cruise 7 is an affordable and entry level chart plotter built for the recreational and leisure boat enthusiast in mind.  A sleek looking unit that is  jam packed with features and is low on price. It features a built in GPS antennae  and this can be flush mounted into a console or externally bracket mounted. You don’t need any technical know to install and use complex electronics as wiring is simple and straightforward, you have a power supply for the unit, and a signal lead for the transom mounted transducer. 
 
The Cruise 7 is a simple, easy to use interface, sunlight viewable display which comes pre-loaded with US coastal charts and a sonar transducer. 
 
The user interface is controlled with a rotary dial and a keypad which is easy and simple to use and unlike touchscreen it’s truly effortless. Spilt screen functionality displays your speed, depth, GPS location, battery level and temperature information. You can also track the days boating activities in real time using TripIntel technology. Users can choose from a wide range of cartographic options such as C-MAP and Navionics which includes advanced features like C-MAP Routing for a truly automative like navigation experience. 
 
The units waterproof rating is IP-X7 which means that it’s rain proof, splash proof and can withstand a depth of up to 3 meters for approximately 30 mins.  The Simrad Cruise 7 comes in  5” 7” 9” screen sizes. The Simrad Cruise 7 is an affordable, easy to use chart plotter that you can plug in and go cruising. 

Garmin Echomap UHD 74c

The Garmin Echomap UHD is a new line of mid-sized combo units with advanced keyed and touchscreen features that come with built in support for Garmin’s High-Definition scanning sonar and Panoptix Live. Not only that, but it comes with the best mapping as well. This chart plotter comes preloaded with BlueChart g3 maps or LakeVu g3 maps covering the coastal U.S. and it’s Wi-Fi enabled and compatible with NMEA 2000 network. 
 
This unit is jam packed full of features as each Echomap UHD series come with Ultra High-Definition scanning sonar and it comes bundled with Garmin’s latest UHD transom transducers and trolling motor mounts. Unique to this, is the High-Definition ClearVu which gives you a a high resolution photographic sonar like view of what is around and beneath your boat and target separation and definition. 
 
The Echomap UHD includes quickdraw contours which is easy-to-use software that instantly allows you to create your own personalised maps with 1-foot contours. You own the maps and can share it with friends. No specialised experience is necessary you just steer your boat and let it handle the map creation for you. 
 
It offers the ease and convenience of a touchscreen display with keyed assist controls which gives you access to features you want to use the most. Available in a range of sizes to accommodate nearly every boat and budget, the Echomap UHD series features a bright, sunlight readable display with a quick release bail mount for easy set-up and removal from your boat. 

Raymarine Axiom 7

The Raymarine Axiom 7 is a powerful and versatile multifunctional chart plotter and fish finder. A sleek looking case jam packed with the latest technological innovations and features. It features a powerful quad core processor with built-in RealVision 3D sonar, both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth come as standard and the new Lighthouse 3 Operating System. 
 
Unique to Raymarine is Hydrotough coating which dispels water and oil and delivers improved touchscreen controls with a keypad. The unit comes with a ultra strong touch screen display coupled with the powerful Lighthouse 3 Operating System which recreates an easy intuitive to use interface in the style of a tablet or a smartphone. 
 
The RealVision 3D offers lifelike imagery for viewing fish and identifying underwater terrains and structure. You can see what’s behind, below and to the sides of the boat, all at once and in 3D. At a glance you can see the underwater terrain including structures, objects, terrain, fish and foliage in stunning detail. You have the ability to pan, zoom and tilt the 3D image for screen rom any angle. If you see unidentified structures or objects and want to view it in detail, simply tap on the point of interest on the screen to view it. 
 
Of particular interest is the RealVision 3D transducers which combines CHIRP DownVision, CHIRP SideVision, High Frequency CHIRP into a single transducer housing. This unit is also gyro-stabilised to compensate for boat movements and deliver the best possible data. The Raymarine Axiom 7 has a water proof rating of IPX7 and a screen brightness of 1,200 nits. 

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