How We Test Chartplotters

Normally we test marine chartplotters aboard our one of our test boats. We aim for a competitive analysis by comparing at least two or more like units during each review.

One of the most important features of any gps chartplotter or chartplotter fishfinder combo unit is how well you can see the screen under a variety of conditions. We appraise this by judging viewability both day and nigh

Displays are rated under a wide variety of lighting conditions ranging from bright sunlight, to cloud obscured daylight, to nighttime conditions. We look at the screen from various angles, with and without polarized sunglasses, and when applicable using different background color palettes. After the sun goes down we rate the screen for night viewability and turn an eye toward the quality and adjustability of the unit’s backlighting.

We rate each chartplotter for user interface based on the unit’s controls and software. The easier a unit is to use the better we like and the higher we rate it. We like marine chartplotters with intuitive software, alphanumeric keypads, and numerous dedicated function keys so they will normally get the highest ratings.

We always use the supplied GPS antenna to receive satellite position signals and mount it with an unobstructed view of the sky. As we maneuvered our skiff testers enter waypoints, edit them, and delete them. We also like to check man-overboard functionality. To review route capabilities we normally build a short route to assess route building and usage abilities.

If the marine chartplotter we are testing is also a fishfinder we review it over bottom and structure we know well. When a transducer is shipped with our test unit we use. If not we sometimes use a crossover cable to connect the machine to the flush mounted thru-hull transducer in our test boat.

All sounder testing is done in saltwater that depending on the season varies in temperature from 65 to 85 degrees F. Sounders are judged on their ability to show bottom detail, their ease of use, and for their array of features.

Fishfinders that are easy to use and show exceptional bottom detail get high ratings. We like sounders that feature things like bottom lock, shift, A-scope, and easy to adjust manual gain.

When a marine chartplotter is network capable we normally investigate these traits by having the subject unit connected to at least one other of its compatible devices. These devices could be a different size chartplotter, a black box sounder, radar, or a weather receiver.