Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Raymarine E125 plotter and radar review

In February of this year (2013) I replaced my Raymarine radar and plotter.

Raymarine E125

The older 24 mile unit had failed and new radar units from Raymarine were not compatible with my RL80C plotter.

I replaced the RL80C with the Raymarine E125 unit and the radar with the HD Color 24 inch closed array unit.

Now that we have had a few months to play with it and do several overnight passages with the radar I thought I'd share pluses and minuses of the installation and usability of the set up.

Installation / Compatibility Positives
  • Cables for radar is smaller than the old one.  This made it easier to fish it into the mast.
  • The E125 unit has two NMEA 183 ports that I needed to communicate to my existing instruments.
  • Bolt pattern for the radar was identical to the old one.  This made the physical mounting easy.
Installation Negatives
  • The E125 has no Seatalk connectivity to be compatible with my existing instruments.  I was lucky that I already had a Seatalk to NMEA 183 bridge that allowed me to interface to my installed instruments.
Seatalk to NMEA converter.  This converter also has an RS-232 interface that connects to my computer.  I use this connection on the laptop for Airmail (ham radio email) - lat/lon, sog, cog.

Plotter Positives
  • Touch screen.  Ipad meets plotter...... 
  • Configuration of data screens. Lots of options to view data any way you want.
  • WiFi with Ipad.  Ipad works as a remote display down below.
  • Screen quality and brightness is amazing.
  • Charts.  I bought the Navionics chart chip that covers Mexico.  It is way more accurate than the c-map charts in the RL80C.  I have no more screenshots of the boat on land!
  • AIS integration.  I feed AIS data to the plotter from my Standard Horizon GX2150 VHF radio.  We have been getting AIS data on the radio interface and on the laptop using Paul Elliot's free program NavmonPC.  The integration with the plotter is great in both the radar mode and chart mode.  BTW, I have a lot of great things to say about NavmonPC in a later post.

 Plotter Negatives
  • We have experienced several hangs and reboots(5 or 6).  The firmware for this new product has some bugs.  The good news is that the procedure to upgrade firmware is easy.  I've done it once and the new version added new features and fixed bugs in the first release.

Radar Positives
  • Color and clarity of images.  Really this is a function of the screen quality but....
  • Quality of return signals from up close objects (< 1 mile)
  • Dual range radar (except no Marpa when you use this feature) 
  • Sea clutter (waves on the windward side) is reduced 
Dual range radar.  3 miles on the left and 12 miles on the right.

Radar Negatives
  • Gain controls are no better than my old unit.
  • Mid and long range no better than my old unit.
  • Finding pangas at more than 1 mile range is not possible.  I had hoped that the radar would perform better for small, fiberglass targets.  The good news is that the radar supports dual range so I'm not moving the range up and down all the time.

At a high level the plotter exceeded expectations and the radar is just OK.

In the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot category.

Here is a screenshot of a ship passing on our port side  at 1.6 miles during the Mazatlan to Baja passage.
Note the AIS arrow is pointed the wrong way.  The ship must have a problem with the heading data they are sending out.  The SOG was correct but the Heading was 180 degrees off.  To us it looked like the ship was passing us in reverse!

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