Features December 2013 Issue

Test Driving New Nobeltec TZ

Sea trials find new nav app does a good job at quilting the raster charts.

A pop-up appears when you tap on a waypoint. Across the bottom is the route’s distance, arrival time, and speed over ground.

Nobeltec, a marine-navigation software developer based in the U.S., recently released a new chartplotting app for the iPad: Nobeltec TZ (or Time Zero). We took it for a weeklong test cruise and found it to be a good basic nav program with some significant strengths and notable shortcomings.


The Nobeltec TZ app’s basic chartplotting functions—displaying real-time position, speed, and course on marine charts, creating routes and waypoints, showing tides and currents, and so on—are as good as the other leading iPad nav apps we’ve tried (PS, April 2013, March 2012, and February 2012). Nobeltec TZ also does a comparable job of overlaying satellite images on top of marine charts, including a good “3-D” view. We rarely use this feature in everyday sailing, but others may find it more useful. The app also offers a convenient way to take photos and screenshots on the iPad and to store and activate them in the nav screens.

Another plus is the app’s excellent “dashboard,” which gives current data when underway such as speed over ground, course, distance to waypoint, etc. It occupies a lot of screen, but it can be hidden when it’s not in use. The app also does a good job of “quilting” raster charts. This is especially useful in route planning, for example, when you’re laying out a route that covers more than one chart.

As with other apps, charts can be downloaded and stored on the iPad, but with the Nobeltec TZ, they can also be removed, if device memory is a problem. (It rarely is on the iPad, unless you bought the minimum memory and you’re heavy into storing movies/videos or 10,000 songs.)


The Nobeltec app has several shortfalls, in our opinion. First, it is not usable on the iPhone, only on the iPad, and there’s no Android version for non-Apple tablets.

The program uses raster charts only—and they are expensive ($39.99 for U.S. charts). These are basically the free NOAA raster charts, but you must buy them through the app. Other apps, like iNavX, let you use the free U.S. charts for free. Other Nobeltec charts are also pricey: $49.99 each for Canada, the Caribbean, and most other foreign areas.

A major shortcoming for us was that users cannot name waypoints or routes—a big problem when you have a couple hundred of each. There’s also no ActiveCaptain data for those who are into crowd-sourcing nav information.

Another weakness is that exporting/importing routes and waypoints can only be done through other Nobeltec programs, using the company’s proprietary protocol (TZD) rather than the more universal GPX, CSV, or KML formats that most nav programs use. In addition, oddly, you need to use the iTunes program on a PC in order to export or import; it’s a rather crude process.

And finally, there is no ability to connect to onboard WiFi.

Nobeltec will undoubtedly be updating this new app, as all the other programs tend to do in their first few months, but in its current iteration, it is not among the best iPad nav apps we’ve tested. However, it will be of interest to sailors who depend on other Nobeltec software on their computers or dedicated chart-plotters.

Bottom Line

We still consider iNavX to be the Best Choice iPad navigation app. It would be good if iNavX could quilt the raster charts as well as Nobeltec TZ, but otherwise iNavX is a superior program.

If you want vector charts rather than raster charts, we Recommend Garmin Blue Chart Mobile (www.garmin.com). It has the advantage of including ActiveCaptain (www.activecaptain.com) information. Navionics (www.navionics.com) is a close second.

For the tight-budget sailor, there’s Transas iSailor; it’s the best value. For under $10, users can get the basic navigation app and coastal vector charts for a major U.S. area. Charts for other sizable areas are usually $4.99 each.

Comments (3)

Dear Mark E, Ummm hello. Did you actually read this review? This is a review of the iPad app. Not the full PC/MFD software versions.
Good job PS. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: MICHAEL F | December 12, 2013 11:16 PM    Report this comment

"Another weakness is that exporting/importing routes and waypoints can only be done through other Nobeltec programs, using the company's proprietary protocol (TZD) rather than the more universal GPX, CSV, or KML formats that most nav programs use. In addition, oddly, you need to use the iTunes program on a PC in order to export or import; it's a rather crude process"


Posted by: Mark E | December 10, 2013 3:33 PM    Report this comment

This review deserves a D-

This has incorrect information. I have recently installed TZ and it does have the ability to name routes and way-points. It also has the ActiveCaptain data and can be set to update automatically or manually.

As for chart pricing. I purchased the entire Caribbean and Central America charts for approx $160. How much cheaper do you need it to be? My upgrade included ALL USA (both Raster and Vector) charts at no additional charge.

NobelTech on-line and tech support is A1. I can get a real person (English speaking) who knows the software immediately. This is not true with most other apps.

You also do not mention their weather overlay and free weather service. This is a great feature for trip planning.

As for the iPad. Who cares? The majority of the world is still running non-Apple operating systems. I will not use a iPad on my vessel for something as critical as navigation until the issue with corroding connectors is resolved. A cruising buddy had 1 iPad and 2 back up units on his vessel for navigation. In one season in the Caribbean, all 3 units failed to charge due to corrosion issues.

You also do not mention the ability to overlay all data (radar, AIS, etc) onto one screen eliminating the need for multiple monitors. The speed in which a user can zoom in and out in incredibly fast. Also, the screen can be split into two views (one zoomed in and one zoomed out). This is ideal when approaching a narrow passage (zoom in) and need to look down the course for traffic (zoom out).

This is perhaps the worst attempt at a review I have ever read on PS. You should be ashamed of this.

Posted by: Mark E | December 4, 2013 10:46 AM    Report this comment

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