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NMEA Boater Blog
Top Dog MFDs for 2019

No other single piece of marine electronics has changed helm design and how boaters use their equipment as much as the MFD--the multifunction display. It has become the brain and central nervous system of the onboard electronics network. In the process, most of the dedicated electronics that once took up real estate on the console are now black boxes hidden away in equipment cabinets and other storage areas. The result is much cleaner dashboards—what has become known as "glass helms.”

Data comes into the MFD from a variety of equipment, ranging from fishfinders and radars to engines and entertainment systems and is displayed on the screen in a highly customizable fashion to suit the preferences of the helmsman. Helping to make all of this happen seamlessly is the expanded use of digital switching technology.

Below are the pick of the MFD litter. These are the models that manufacturers singled out as the Best & Brightest of their line of MFDs—not necessarily the latest or the one with the most features, but the MFD that may be their most popular or the workhorse of the line. This exercise in naming top products in 16 categories is something Marine Electronics Journal does every year. We call it the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics. Here are the results of the MFD category for 2019—next week The Mic will roll out the top dog autopilots.

Garmin GPSMAP 8616xsv

The GPSMAP 8616xsv chartplotter features a 16 inch full HD in-plane switching (IPS) touchscreen display for wider viewing angles, superior clarity and sunlight readability, even with polarized sunglasses. It offers built-in support for our sonar, including dual-channel 1 kW traditional CHIRP, CHIRP ClearVü and CHIRP SideVü scanning sonars plus built-in support for ultra high-definition scanning sonar (no black box required). It also supports the Panoptix LiveScope system and the entire Panoptix all-seeing sonar line, which allow you to clearly see fish swimming around and below your boat in real time. It’s preloaded with Garmin BlueChart g3 coastal charts and LakeVü g3 inland maps, which have integrated Navionics data as well as Auto Guidance technology. The processor delivers our fastest map drawing, superior networking, video distribution and more.

Simrad NSO evo3

The Simrad NSO evo3 features an ultra-bright 19 inch display, ideal for both indoor and outdoor installations. Wide viewing angles keep the screen in view from anywhere in sight, even with wearing polarized sunglasses. See more than ever with full HD resolution, and the option to combine up to six panels in a split-screen layout. Every NSO evo3 display features an integrated quad-core processor that easily delivers swift access to the information you need, whether cruising the ocean or carefully navigating a crowded harbor. Create custom helm layouts, and switch seamlessly between those layouts in an instant. Low-profile glass helm styling conceals and protects NSO evo3’s powerful core, and complements any helm design. Connect with GPS, radar, sonar, keypad controllers and other accessories to create your ideal vessel-wide system.

The Axiom XL 24 is the pinnacle of Raymarine navigation and modern helm integration.  Designed for glass bridge installations, Axiom XL 24 offers superior performance, large format visibility and elegant simplicity. Every model in the Axiom XL lineup uses IPS display technology and optical bonding to deliver wider viewing angles, sharp contrast, and unmatched readability in bright sun. Edge-to-edge glass construction gives vessel designers the ability to create integrated and elegant helms with a sleek, modern appearance. More than just a big MFD, Axiom XL 24 is also a powerful, super-bright HDMI monitor and repeater.  It supports HDMI input and output, along with touch control input and output, making integration of other onboard systems easy.  

Furuno NavNet TZT2BB

Furuno’s newest addition to the NavNet TZtouch2, the TZT2BB Black Box, uses familiar pinch-to-zoom and a variety of multi-touch gestures for an extremely intuitive user-interface, or you can utilize optional remotes or keyboard to operate it from a distance. The TZT2BB packs enough processing power to drive two separate displays, such as Furuno’s 17, 19 or 24 inch multitouch displays, delivering twice the navigation potential from a single, compact black box unit. It can also utilize Furuno’s award winning network products such as doppler radar, DFF3D multibeam sonar, AIS, instruments, engine data and more. Additionally, you’ll be more connected than ever by controlling your TZT2BB with your tablet and smartphone, using free apps. Enjoy free NavCenter Weather Forecasting for up to 16 days in advance.

B&G Zeus3 16

The B&G Zeus³ 16 is a complete chartplotter navigation system for blue water cruisers and regatta racers, featuring a 16 inch SolarMAX HD display with brilliant daytime visibility and ultra-wide viewing angles even through polarized sunglasses. The high-performance processor built into Zeus3 delivers responsive operation and quick chart redraws while moving, panning or zooming. Zeus³ is powered by B&G software designed for sailors, and packed with an array of sail-specific functionality and significant new features, like Enhanced Windplot and automatic routing. Integrated WiFi lets you access charts, weather information, software updates and online support directly from your display via any WiFi hotspot. Zeus³ connects seamlessly to a wide range of sensors, instruments, displays, expansion modules and accessories, allowing you to create a fully integrated electronics solution.

Humminbird SOLIX 15 MEGA DI+ G2 CHO
With a large 15.4 inch display and advanced technologies like Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar, AutoChart Live, WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet and NMEA 2000 networking, coupled with Humminbird Basemap with US coastal coverage, the SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA DI+ G2 CHO is a powerful nautical tool. SOLIX’s intuitive Cross Touch interface makes even the novice look like a seasoned-veteran.

Lowrance HDS LIVE

HDS LIVE delivers powerful real-time sonar, charting and connectivity features including Active Imaging, LiveSight, Genesis Live and LiveCast smartphone integration. Simple to use without the need to change frequencies while fishing in most conditions, Active Imaging provides crystal-clear sonar detail with uncompromised range. LiveSight delivers detailed views of fish, down to every turn and flip of the tail, as they swim in and around cover. HDS LIVE harnesses the power of Genesis Live charting, which creates real-time depth-contour overlays on your charts. LiveCast lets users view their smartphone in full-screen or split-screen windows via HDMI connection. Anglers can view video, Google Maps and fishing data on their HDS LIVE touchscreen.

Onwa KMR-6

The KMR-6 MFD with NMEA multiplexer can accept most major NMEA 0183 sentences. It has five input ports and two output ports. Six display modes show the input NMEA 0183 sentences in digital and graphic modes: Wind (relative and true wind speed and direction); Ship’s progress toward waypoint (highway screen); Weather (change of air pressure and temperature); Compass (COG and heading both in digital and analog form); AIS (AIS targets on the radar screen, distance of AIS targets and TCPA alarm); and Gauges (SOG, speed, depth and input power voltage in the form of analog gauges). An optional junction box (KMR-JB) is available for easy wire connections from external equipment. All input and output ports with baud rate and polarity are clearly labeled.

SI-TEX NavPro 900CF

The SI-TEX NavPro 900CF features a brilliant 9 inch display and is packed with advanced features for navigation and fishing. It features rugged IPX6 waterproof construction and NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 connectivity for easy system integration. The NavPro (also available in 12 inch) offers Hybrid Touch Control for easy, intuitive operation using either the touchscreen display or a combination of robust hard keys, four-directional pad or rotary knob controls. This gives boaters the ability to operate their NavPro system the way they want. The NavPro comes with C-MAP 4D cartography and is offered with integrated or black box CHIRP sonar available in 46-65, 100-140 or 160-200 kHz frequency ranges for serious fishing use. The new NavPro Series also delivers powerful built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.  

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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 3 ( 13 comments)

Jp:(8/11/2018 5:28:29 PM) "I have a 2018 Yamaha f40 la and Humminbird helix 7 di , I would like to leverage the nema 2000 capability of the helix 7 to display engine info, what do I need , Humminbird does have a gateway and lowrance makes a Yamaha nema cable, but I'm reading connectors are proprietary . How can I get what is needed?

Since these products are not NMEA 2000 certified there is little assurance that they will share data with each other.

1. Here is the link to see all NMEA 2000 certified products:

2. The NMEA 2000 cables and connectors are from many manufacturers: Here is the link for approved cables and connector manufacturers:

AC/DC grounding distance:(8/2/2018 1:29:35 AM) "What about the grounding points of AC /DC systems? can they be grounded at the same point?
If one system has both AC and DC can they both be grounded to a common buss-bar that has only one conection to the hull?

Here's what Ed Sherman, electric tech guru at the American Boat & Yacht Council, said:

The ultimate goal should always be to tie ac and dc grounds together on board at a single point. In ABYC Standard E-11, it is described as “the engine negative terminal or its buss.” It is most commonly done at a buss."
Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
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