Top boating multifunction displays for 2020

Multifunction displays (MFDs) are truly the center point of onboard electronics, both in the functions they provide and in their location on the dashboard. A single or multiple screens have long replaced individual displays and controls that often cluttered the helm. Instead, black box electronics hidden under the dash and in cabinets send signals and data to MFDs. You choose the information that you want to look at via touchscreen "buttons” or traditional knobs in some models. Want to see bottom characteristics and fish activity while keeping close tabs on the radar while monitoring changes in the weather? Simple—split the screen and scan the information simultaneously.

Below are top-pick candidates if you’re shopping for a new MFD. 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 technologically advanced or the workhorse of the line. This exercise in naming top products in 19 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 2020—next week The Mic will roll out the top-dog autopilots.

Furuno NavNet TZtouch3 TZT19F

Furuno’s newest addition to the NavNet series, TZtouch3, is available for the first time in the 19-inch TZT19F multi-touch MFD. Features include a powerful quad-core processor for lightning-fast response, a built-in dual-channel 1kW TruEcho CHIRP & CW Fish Finder, edge-swipe features, and single-tap menu options so you’re never more than a tap or swipe away from what you want to do. Furuno’s PIN Code lock allows you to require a four-digit password on startup, keeping your data safe against theft. TZtouch3 utilizes Furuno’s award-winning-network sensors, such as solid-state Doppler radar, DFF3D multi-beam sonar, AIS, instruments, engine data and more. You can control your TZT19F with your tablet and smartphone. Also available in the 16-inch TZT16F and 12-inch TZT12F with Hybrid Control.

Garmin GPSMAP 8616xsv

The fully networkable 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 1kW 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. The GPSMAP 8616xsv is preloaded with Garmin exclusive BlueChart g3 coastal charts and LakeVü g3 inland maps, which have integrated Navionics data as well as Auto Guidance technology.

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, viewable even through polarized sunglasses. The high-performance built-in processor delivers responsive operation and quick chart redraws while moving, panning or zooming. Zeus³ is powered by B&G software designed specifically for sailors, and packed with sail-specific functionality and significant new features, like Enhanced Windplot and automatic routing. Integrated Wi-Fi lets you access charts, weather information, software updates and online support directly from your display via any Wi-Fi hotspot. Zeus³ connects seamlessly to a wide range of sensors, instruments, displays, expansion modules and accessories.

Humminbird SOLIX 12 CHIRP MSI GPS G2

The SOLIX 12 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G2 combines advanced technologies like MEGA Side Imaging+, MEGA Down Imaging+, Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar, AutoChart Live and intuitive Cross Touch control for serious tournament anglers and weekend warriors alike. MEGA Imaging+ extends Humminbird’s exclusive imaging capabilities down 200 feet for MEGA Down Imaging+ and 200 feet to each side with MEGA Side Imaging+. Humminbird’s MEGA Imaging+ technology is in the megahertz range with performance that’s three times greater than traditional 455kHz frequencies. It provides the clearest, sharpest imaging returns ever, unlocking more fish and structure with 20% percent more detail than MEGA Imaging. It also comes equipped with Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar to help anglers see individual fish, clearly identify bait and structure, and reach greater depths.

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. Finally, 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 right on their HDS LIVE touchscreen.

Maretron TSM810C

The TSM810C is a dedicated 8-inch touchscreen with N2KView vessel monitoring and control software that allows you to configure favorite screens with exactly the information you want to see from anywhere on the vessel. The display includes two USB ports for connecting keyboards, mice, or trackballs, and an Ethernet port for connecting IP cameras for viewing within N2KView. The unit’s solid-state disk drive withstands pounding associated with waves and only dissipates 10 watts (no need for internal cooling fans that are noisy and wear out, causing electronics to overheat and fail). The TSM810C can be mounted outside (TFT LCD screen and waterproof front) and contains two completely isolated CAN bus connectors (M12) for easy connection to single or redundant NMEA 2000 networks.

Onwa KMR-6

Onwa KMR-6 MFD with NMEA multiplexer can accept most major NMEA 0183 sentences. It provides 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/direction), ship’s progress toward waypoint, weather (change of air pressure and weather temperature), compass (COG or heading) both in digital and analog form, AIS (targets on radar screen, distance of targets and TCPA alarm) and gauges (SOG, speed, depth and input power voltage). Optional junction box (KMR-JB) available for easy wire connections to external equipment—labeled input and output ports with baud rate and polarity.

Raymarine Axiom XL 24

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 exceptional 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.

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, including wireless radar with the new SI-TEX MDS-12 Network Radome. The NavPro (also available in 12-inch model) 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. The NavPro comes with Navionics+ cartography and users can select one of three different cartography formats, Navionics+, C-Map Max, or C-Map 4D. The NavPro series is offered with integrated or black box CHIRP sonar available in 46-65kHz, 100-140kHz or 160-200kHz frequency ranges for serious fishing use.   The NavPro Series integrates via NMEA 2000/NMEA 0183 and also delivers powerful built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.  

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 if you’re 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.

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Page 1 of 3 ( 14 comments)

Bob:(1/8/2020 7:08:01 PM) "How does Vesper Cortex win an award when its not even available to users? Last I heard, they were still awaiting FCC certification.

Anyone remember the Standard Horizon GX6500 that was introduced 3 years ago?

Thanks for the comment and my apologies for our delay in responding. In checking with NMEA, immediate availability was not a criteria for the Best New Product award. Cortex also took an IBEX award and an honorable mention in the DAME award competition--but I don't know whether their criteria included availability. In our humble opinion, a product should be on the market in order to qualify for a product award."
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."
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