Paul Dennis checks out Raymarine’s exciting new navigation system.
I’ll get straight to the point – Raymarine look to have seriously raised the bar with their new Axiom range of navigation systems. While you would expect excellence at the higher end of the market, the more affordable units also have plenty of features.
Of major interest to anglers is the new Realvision 3D Sonar, which shows what is below the boat, and to the sides, on a 3D display. While 3D has been around for a while, the big change with the Raymarine Axiom is that only a single transducer is needed to produce it.
That means less wiring and less interference than from multiple transducers, and you get CHIRP Downvision and Sidevision.
It’s clever stuff, and on the trials that I joined it worked great. The imagery was impressive, and as a fish and feature finder, I haven’t seen anything to touch it.
The Axioms all have touch screen technology driven by the new Lighthouse 3 operating system powered by a quad-core processor chip. In layman’s terms, they are fast and easy to use, and you can personalise the unit to multiple settings.
So far so good. The ‘sea’ trials for these new models took place on Lake Maggiore, Italy, which was a decent choice, offering less chance of the trials being ‘blown off’. Lake Maggiore is big, deep, and it has plenty of features, including wrecks. So, on this big inland sea, how did the Axiom perform?
As I’ve already said, it was impressive. Bait balls were found, and a real bonus, thanks to the side to side facility, was that it was possible to see which side of the boat the fish were on. Likewise, structure could be pinpointed – great for accurate casting.
The Axiom units come in three sizes, 7, 9 and 12.1-inch screens, all with glass screens and all touch screen active. Basically, the same pinch and spread techniques that you use on your smart ‘phone work on these units, making them intuitive to use. The screens can be divided into four, with different sizes depending on what you want to see most of, and they can be populated on a drag and drop basis. Again, this is optional, you can work off one screen if you prefer.
There are various chart modes available, as simple or complicated as you wish, but favourite marks can be easily stored, and popular chart systems like Navionics and the like are supported.
In use, one thing that I noticed was that it was dead easy to flip back to either a previous setting or the base setting, from a personalised mode. Far easier than smartphones in that respect.
Raymarine also acknowledge that the Axiom system is a work in progress, meaning that new apps and upgrades will be made available, and these will be downloadable direct to the unit, which is WiFi enabled.
Now, I could see problems in this – what if the signal in port wasn’t great etc. etc.? Well, there’s a USB port so that you can download any apps or upgrades to your smartphone, laptop, tablet, or card reader/USB stick, then physically connect to the Axiom and upgrade when it suits you.
As product launches/sea trials go, obviously Raymarine were catering for a wide sweep of the media – including the luxury yachting media, so they had set up with Axioms that had loads of facilities that might not be applicable to the small inshore craft market. The processor that they use is so powerful that it can comfortably multitask, offering entertainment and engineering facilities as well as the core navigation and fish finding tasks.
Having said that, the ‘important stuff’ for small, inshore boat users was what was covered in depth. The basics are very well done.
Within the same company as Raymarine are Flir – major players in visual technology, with heat sensitive cameras that are commonly used for surveillance, but which also have uses in the recreational market.
The Flir thermal cameras are great for navigation into port if you have stayed out a bit longer than you intended – they also work as normal optical cameras during the day. But from the safety viewpoint, they also add a degree of comfort if a fog bank rolls in, as they can pierce the gloom.
These camera images can also be displayed on the Axiom screens.
Again, in use, they were very impressive. Like the Axioms, there are several models with varying degrees of sophistication.
And that takes us down to the bottom line – what does all this technology cost?
Well, the 3D facility is an extra, as is the excellent transducer, charts and the like.
The basic 7in Axiom costs £745, but for the all singing and dancing, transducer, 3D, charts etc. option, you are looking at just shy of £1,400.
Is it worth the money? I would say yes. You get a huge amount of usable stuff for that price, and you are buying kit that, so far as I can see, outperforms most of the market in less components.
Put bluntly, the Axiom is affordable excellence.
SSP: From £745.