Plotter-sounders Undergo a Battery of Tests

Testers look at resistance to fogging, display visibility, and ease of use.

IPX6 test


Fogging screens, water intrusion, poor visibility in bright sunlight, and slow redraw rates are the most common complaints we get regarding plotter-sounders. Better construction, new screen technology, and faster processors in our current crop of units seems to have addressed these issues. None of our products experienced serious problems during our environmental testing. Our tests focused on four key elements:

Ease of installation: Testers used accompanying literature to install the units as directed and evaluated directions for interfacing with peripheral devices. They made two mock call to customer support at lunch hour on a weekday, asked identical questions, and rated the response.

Ease of use: Testers evaluated three key functions, adding waypoints, building routes, and activating any man overboard functions or aids.

Screen visibility: Three testers subjectively rated screen visibility in bright sunlight (with and without polarized sunglasses), at night, and in shade. Screens were viewed from different angles. Dimming ability and palettes were compared.

Environmental tests: Testers evaluated resistance to heavy splashing and rain by simulating the IPX6 standard tests which requires a device to withstand water sprayed through a 12-mm nozzle at a rate of 100 liters/min for at least 3 minutes.

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him by email at