It is really amazing what high-tech marine companies are coming out with these days. One instrument that has seen perhaps the most innovation over the past decade is the chartplotter. Modern chartplotters can do so much more than their name suggests; they are more of nautical command centers than simply a map with waypoints.
These new instruments come with so many features and expansion capabilities that it becomes impractical for The Teak Rail to designate a “Best Chartplotter” because of the extensive time it would take to master the best chartplotters. We’re sailors here, not computer experts, and so a chartplotter has come across our helm that we knew you’d want to hear about.
Though we couldn’t designate the Raymarine A95 as the best chartplotter, it certainly caught our eye with its intuitive display and powerful capabilities.
It looks incredibly sleek and can be flush mounted in any instrument panel. The touchscreen works nearly identically to an iPad, with pinch-zooming and a vibrant, nine-inch HD display.
The a95comes standard with Raymarine’s Lighthouse II user interface, that is incredibly simple to learn and almost infinitely customizable. We had no problem seeing the screen during bright, sunny days unlike some older chartplotters with dimly lit screens.
The a95 has a 10Hz, 50-channel GPS for fast and easy vessel tracking. It is compatible with both Navonics charts and Lighthouse II raster and vector charts as well, which can be downloaded off their website here.
We were very pleasantly surprised by the expandability of this chartplotter. It has two RayNet network ports for connecting to other displays, radar, sonar and Sirius XM weather receivers. My personal favorite feature of the a95 is the capability to view thermal and night-vision cameras right on the chartplotter’s display.
We’ve tested a number of ultra-modern sailing products, but never before have I felt more like James Bond in the Teak Rail test cockpit. In addition, the a95 has NMEA-2000 inputs so you can track engine instruments and performance.
Another very convenient component of the a95 is its built-in WiFi. It seems like almost all electronics we test now have WiFi built in, but the a95 has a smartphone application and a tablet application for remote controlling of the chartplotter.
The RayControl tablet app turns your iPad into a fully functioning Multi-function display (MFD). Everything from charting to sonar to thermal cameras can be viewed and controlled on the RayControl app. It’s not recommended for smartphones, but Raymarine still has you covered if you prefer your iPhone to a tablet.
Raymarine’s RayView and RayRemote applications are meant for smartphones. The RayView app essentially mirrors your MFD’s display to the device of your choosing. The RayRemote application serves as a mobile remote for Raymarine MFDs, including the a95. It allows you to control (not view) the functions on Raymarine MFDs.
The a95 is not only for the most tech-savvy sailors, though. With a price point that is below nearly all comparable 9-inch MFDs, it is an incredible value for what you pay for.
Whether you are keeping up with the Jones’ boat in the slip next to yours or your chartplotter is from the first Bush administration, MFDs have come a long way in the last few years, and now is a great time to upgrade.
With so many network expansion capabilities, the Raymarine a95 is ideal for the sailor who wants to take his or her helm into the 21st century.