Plotter-sounders Undergo a Battery of Tests

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

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IPX6 test

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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, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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