Creating a proper graphic display screen for a fishfinder is perhaps the most challenging task makers of marine electronics face. Think of the large number of fishfinders used on open boats, in full sunlight, by helmsmen unable to devote their undivided attention to the display. Clarity, particularly image contrast, is paramount.
Raymarine designed and developed its new L1250 Plus Fishfinder/Chartplotter to set the standard for sunlight-viewable LCDs, all the while packing minimal power consumption, top-level graphics and high-quality fishfinding ability into a 10.4-inch unit.
The L1250 differs from many fishfinders in its use of a backlighted display, instead of a transflective LCD. Backlighting a TFT screen provides better color rendition, according to Raymarine, but often consumes immodest amounts of power, which transflective technology does not. Although this demand for power may not pose a problem on most boats, the heat generated may require cooling fans and compromise the life of the display when the device is used in direct, tropical sunlight.
The L1250's screen backlight consumes only 10 watts, an impressive achievement and a great asset in avoiding heat buildup. I have used some screens of similar size that consume four to five times that amount of power to achieve merely adequate sunlight readability. Further, design engineers at Raymarine's new electronics design and prototyping center in Ft. Lauderdale assured me the system has been tested in temperatures well above those that might occur in an exposed installation.
Most important, the image produced on the L1250's 480-by-640 pixel TFT color LCD is outstanding. I had no trouble seeing the image under a full tropical sun, just as Raymarine intended.
Although often overlooked, the ability to dim the display to an extremely low light level for night use is every bit as important as brightness and contrast for sunlight viewing. The L1250's dimming range and the choice of viewing colors will make using the unit at night as easy as doing so in daylight.
A word of caution: The screen lighting intensity level is stored when you turn off the unit. If you shut down at a low intensity level, the screen may appear to be inoperative when turned on in daylight. Pressing and holding the Multi key for one second will restore the screen to full brightness.
Raymarine also offers the L1250 as a sounder (Plus Sounder) and as a sounder/chart plotter (L1250 Plus Raychart Sounder/Chartplotter). The sounder/chartplotter version accepts two C-MapNT chart cartridges, loaded via the waterproof hatch on the face of the housing. Data, including chart information from additional C-MapNT cartridges, can be exchanged when additional chart plotters are connected via the Raymarine high-speed bus. A single unit, such as the L1250, can access its two internal chart cartridges plus as many as six located elsewhere in the network.
SeaTalk, Raymarine's first-generation proprietary bus architecture, and the new hsb2 high-speed data bus integrate the various devices. Connections to both bus systems are required for full functionality, slightly increasing the initial installation workload, compared with some other data systems of comparable speed. The fishfinder also provides output data in the NMEA 0183 format. The L1250's control panel shares its housing and basic control layout with the other 10.4-inch display products, the hsb2 Chartplotter and the hsb2 Radar.
Controls consist of 10 dedicated function keys and a four-way cursor control, or track pad, on the right of the unit's front panel, and four soft keys immediately below the display screen. The Power key is isolated on the lower left of the unit, reducing the chance of accidentally turning off the set. The dedicated keys control Display, Marks, Gain, VRM/EBL, Multi, Alarms, Range, Enter, Clear, Menu and Power. The largely intuitive operation of the dedicated keys will shorten the user's initial learning process. Overall, the control functions are well designed.
The L1250 displays data on the full screen or in a number of split-screen formats, allowing simultaneous display of fishfinder information along with navigation data from the GPS, chart plotter or radar. While I concentrated my attention on the L1250's fishfinder operation, I couldn't help noticing the bells and whistles of the chart plotter. Combining the plotter function with the fishfinder data on a split display will make returning to productive fishing sites a breeze.
I also could have connected the system to the handheld ST80 Navigator Keypad, allowing me to control most functions without having to touch the main unit. Another word of caution: This keypad was designed in England and uses its standard system for placement of letters on the numerical buttons of a telephone keypad. The letters A, B and C are on the "1 button, and so on.
The L1250's power amplifier, or sonar transmitter, can deliver as much as 1000 watts RMS to the transducer, allowing a maximum depth range of 5,000 feet. Standard sonar frequencies are 50 kHz for deep water and 200 kHz for shallow water use.
The location of likely fishing spots, or of a fish, can be stored in the system's 998-waypoint memory. After you enter a position, the display shows the bearing and distance to that location.
Activating the man overboard function stores the location and provides a continuous display of range and bearing to the MOB, as well as time elapsed since the person left the boat.
The L1250 consumes a maximum of only 30 watts of power from a 10.7- to 44-volt source. On a typical 12-volt boat, the current flow will be less than 2.5 amperes, even when the battery is 50 percent discharged and the engine is not running.
Operational functions include an unusually flexible tri-mode A-scope display. The normal A-scope image shows what lies beneath the transducer, plus Raymarine's patented bottom coverage width indicator. The second image choice improves the image resolution by expanding the width of the return echo to fill the window. The third choice carries the improved resolution to the next step by using the available image width to show half the sonar return. Price: $5,885 without transducer.
Contact: Raymarine, (800) 539-5539; www.raymarine.com