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Buy Raymarine AIS500 or buy £800 of Raymarine shares?

AIS500 I applaud Raymarine for having brought this unit out earlier this year, it is good product marketing and market positioning (pun intended:-)

But if you already have a reasonably sophisticated set up, and already have AIS, is it worth spending £800+ to upgrade to this unit?

Here is my take on the list of features for the AIS500:

Feature Comment
* Class B AIS Receive & Transmit Good – and so do all the competition at this level
* Dual Channel AIS Monitoring Ability Good – and so do all the competition at this level
* Targets displayed on chart and radar screens Clever – but I normally overlay radar on the chart plotter or display AIS targets on the chart rather than the radar which could be very confusing if not misleading due to the different methods of target acquisition
* LED Status Indicator Good – Surprising omission on so many marine electronics and very annoying when there is no status light and you are troubleshooting.
See my posting here on the RaymarineAIS250
* NMEA 0183 – Compatibility with Raymarine A, C, E and G Series Good – the great majority of Raymarine users must be on C series (or lower) still.
* Buddy Tracking via Raymarine MFD – Distinguish favourite targets (MMSIs) from others by adding to favourite list Clever – but is this really needed – oh ok could stave off boredom in some situations to switch between “favourites” and “all” targets. In between calling your buddy on the radio…
* Silent Mode – Turn off transmit function during tournaments or races if you do not wish to be seen. Good – But only if you expect to be sailing in regions where piracy is possible – not really a problem in the Solent – yet!
I did refer to this as a good thing in my posting here:-)
* Built-in NMEA multiplexor Not Good – I have a principle of using separate dedicated pieces of electronics instead of multifunction devices ion this situation. A faulty multiplexor can take down the whole backbone and all links between devices I would not want to troubleshoot that with a device that was doing so much else as well.
See my posting here on multiplexors.
* VHF Splitter – No need to buy a separate antenna. Utilize your existing VHF antenna and cable. Not good – don’t use splitters on your VHF cable!. keep the radio and its aerial as separate as possible. Yes I know that DSC has meant connecting the VHF to the NMEA circuit – but just don’t mess with the VHF aerial. This is a critical lifeline. Install a separate VHF aerial for AIS on the pushpit IMHO.
* Includes dedicated external GPS antenna (16 channels) Not good – as per comment above. Keep the GPS separate, you probably already have one, get another one for backup don’t get one built in to another multifunction device.
* Configure via PC Software
* Software upgradeable through PC and RS232
Ok – but why use serial connections and then very probably a serial to USB convertor when you can use high speed USB. Most modern laptops don’t even have serial ports
See my posting here on serial / USB convertors

I last did a quick survey of transponders (or are they transceivers) in June 2008, but I have held off updating this since I believe that we can expect another revolution in AIS for small boats in the next 6 months.

On that basis I would not buy the AIS500 now, if you already have AIS – if you don?t – then it is a very capable unit with the benefit of a back up GPS.

If you already have AIS and you want to spend £800 buy Raymarine shares, if you made 30% profit when Garmin buy them, that would be an extra £240 to spend on the next generation AIS – then again shares can go down as well as up:-)

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2 comments to Buy Raymarine AIS500 or buy £800 of Raymarine shares?

  • adriana malhotra

    Hiya, I’m starting up a blog website and I’ve started making somewhat varied articles. Would you mind if I write about this blog? Obviously I’ll give you and this site full credit.

  • Oliver

    "Funny" thing: You cannot switch to silent mode with the software included in the package. Both, the hadrware and software Manuals telling its possible, but well, its not 🙁

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Download Maretron Software FREE!

Maretron have allowed a free download of their excellent drawing software for free here.

Using this software you can:
* Design NMEA2000® Networks
* Document network Design Decisions
* Analyse NMEA2000® Networks
* Automatically Generate Bill of Materials (BOM)
* Create Network Configuration Files
* Print Schematics and Reports

N2KBuilder™ software is a powerful, free PC-based tool for designing and verifying the integrity of NMEA 2000® networks. The N2KBuilder™ software, when installed on a Windows PC and used as part of an integrated design workflow can be used to layout, document, and validate the design of complex NMEA 2000® networks. In addition, it will directly produce a Bill of Materials (BOM) for Maretron® products, eliminating guesswork and transcription errors.

I have used it to map out a schematic of my old NMEA0183 network too..I know that this undermines the built in checks and balances but at least I get a nice schematic diagram..which I previously had to keep up to date using Excel and pasted images.

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Hyperterminal no longer free with Windows Vista

Anyone who has recently bought a laptop or PC with Vista on it may have discovered that there is no Hyperterminal software.

You may also realise that this useful bit of software is needed to update configurations on marine electronics like multiplexers.

Not to worry..Microsoft only bought the software from Hilgraeve any way and you can go and download the real thing from their site…

An alternative piece of software is Poderosa which is open source and therefore free software.

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Using Hyperterminal on your laptop

If you have had to configure a unit such as a multiplexer you will have come across the part in the manual where it says use Hyperterminal. This is a free communications program that you can use to monitor the signals going in/out of the serial port on your laptop and to send configuration commands from the laptop to the multiplexer.

For example to set one of the ports on the multiplexer to a higher speed such as 38,400 baud suitable for connecting your AIS unit. Signals and data from the AIS would then be routed via the multiplexer to your chart plotter for example.

In my case I link a NASA AIS unit via my Brookhouse multiplexer to my Raymarine C120 chart plotter in this way. But to make it work I had to get my laptop, plug in a cable in the laptops serial port then put the bare wires at the other end into the Brookhouse multiplexer and tell the multiplexer to change the speed of one of its ports from 4,800 to 38,400 baud. Then unplug the laptop, connect the AIS and that was it – AIS data on my C120.

Even if you have done all this before did you know that that little program called Hyperterminal is no longer given away by Microsoft with Windows Vista? {read my post here to find out more…}

If you are having trouble with Hyperterminal read these tech notes from Microsoft.

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Which Multiplexer ?

Over a year ago I searched high and low for the “perfect” multiplexer and readers of this blog will know that I selected the Brookhouse from New Zealand in the end {more of that in this post from last year}.

Configuration for nearly all these units is by using Hyperterminal or similar software – so you had better find out how to do that!. {see my posting on this program here}

This is a new unit from on sale at Marine Electronic Service Ltd for £194 inc VAT.

Eissing SB2006– 1x input NMEA0183 / RS-422 isolated

– 3x input NMEA0183 / RS-422 isolated

– 1x output NMEA0183 / RS-422 isolated

– 1x COM port (RS-422 level)
– power supply for external equipment

You should note that RS422 is not RS232 or RS232C which is the “older” and slower PC comms port standard – but nevertheless make sure that the laptop you want to connect to supports RS422 as its serial connection…{see my post here on the subject}.

I cant vouch for its operation since I am very happy with my Brookhouse. But you may want to compare the two if you are about to take the step of trying to integrate AIS and other slower NMEA instruments into your chart plotter or laptop. {See my posting here on the Brookhouse}

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