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iPad or Laptop?

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Could you please tell me if you have evaluated or plan to evaluate soon the navionics app for the ipad and the (gold) charts that navionics uses with this app. As far as I can tell, with very little experience, this combo sure looks good for my boat based in Sweden. I understand from the Apple people that the invisible film/cover available from another supplier is much better than using saranwrap to minimize moisture damage in a cabin environment. If this isn't recommended then I guess Stentec's wingps 4 navigator program will be my best bet. The NV charts that are used are based on official H.O. charts and pretty much cover the world (even with a USA chart dealer). -- Adrian

26 Replies

  • Adrian, I think Navionics Mobile is a terriffic value and useful for many things, but it's really not meant for primary navigation. If you want to do your main nav on an iPad, take a good look at iNavX. Used with an X-Traverse account, it may give you a choice of Swedish cartography. MemoryMap, and other iPad nav programs, may also offer Swedish charts.
    I don't know anything about Stentec, but I do know that there are several PC charting programs that are way more powerful than anything on a mobile device and which support chart for your area. Coastal Explorer 2011, MaxSet TimeZero, Nobeltec VNS 11, and Fugawi ENC are all worth consideration, and there are no doubt others. Sorry for a complicated answer ;-)

  • Curious, why do you say the Navionics isn't for primary navigation and the iNAVx is?


  • I do see the Navionics App has a warning "do not use this App you bought for navigation for navigation" on startup and the iNAVX does not.


  • I suggest you compare the feature lists and screens, Patrick. Navionics displays virtually none of the data fields you might want to have underway, like distance and bearing to waypoint. While iNavX can display most any data including from your vessel's sensors via WiFi, plus AIS targets. Navionics Mobile is great for planning, sharing tracks, etc., but it's not really designed for underway navigation.

  • AH... I was thinking of using it just for charting and relying on the ships instruments for instrument displays.


  • iPad is great domestic portable Internet access device and many other exciting android tablets are on the way but none of these were designed for the marine environment and constant exposure to moist salt air. I like the Navionics app, but for fun, I bring it when on cruise liners, but i won't be using it in the cockpit of our boat. Putting iPad in a clunky plastic cover negates half the ergonomics and screen quality that draw folks to it.

    In relation to a Laptop or PC, protection from the marine environment is also needed like shock, vibration and salt air. PC plotting software tend offer more physical options for connecting into a vessels instrumentation system, and simply better and more extensive functionality. There are specialist manufacturers that produce marinised and/or ruggedised laptops and PCs, but at a price.

    Despite me being an IT gadget fan, personally I still prefer a proper marine chart plotter for primary navigation on board, but use a laptop for passage planning and the other stuff a laptop can do. A secondary or backup could be a smart phone or tablet, or a handheld marine gps plotter. I wouldn't like my families safety to depend on domestic coffee table electronics however 'cool' they are.

  • Well said, Ocean Froggie. In the forthcoming war of the pads, it may occur to one or another manufacturer to address the needs of the casual sailor, but it is unlikely. A pad that can survive in a soltware environment, be useable in direct sunlight, and have the processing power to provide even the minimal features of a marine chartplotter will sell no better than a minimal marine chartplotter! And in the miniscule numbers that we would buy, it would cost no less.

  • I recently used my iphone 4 with navionics charts to navigate from the east coast to the caribbean. A power generation problem prompted me to use the minimal power draw iphone over the power hungry chartplotter. I continued to use the iphone once in the caribbean and found the charts to be very accurate and in most cases, more detailed and at least as accurate as the chartplotter charts (which in my case are 2005-6 vintage). I used a waterproof velco arm band type case with soft plastic window when using the phone/charts outside the cabin. The navionics app allows the user to set a route, edit the route by touching/sliding the waypoints, measures distance, and shows heading line and SOG. It also integrates three days of GFS wind model data on the chart if you can download via wifi or cellular signal. Not a lot of bells and whistles compared to fancier navigation packages but very adequate for my needs. I believe the ipad would be even better due to the large screen, if a good waterproof case could be found that would allow touch screen functionality.

  • Millsource, there is at least one fully waterproof iPad case:

    But that doesn't mean you'll be able to see the screen in sunlight. Can you really see your iPhone4 screen out in the cockpit in the middle of the day?

    Also, isn't it true that Navionics Mobile won't give you distance and bearing to next waypoint, which I'm pretty sure was on my first GPS about 20 years ago? I guess I sound like a wet blanket, and I do like iPads and so forth a lot, but I also think that folks are ignoring a lot of shortcomings in their enthusiasm about them.

  • I use a Garmin 400c mounted on the binnacle for course, distance, bearing to waypoint, etc. while underway. For everything else, I use an ipad or a paper chart. If I was going to use an iDevice underway, it'd probably be an iphone with a waterproof cover (there are several). Though I've just ordered a scanstrut waterproof ipad case. iDevices can be hard to read in bright daylight, but I haven't found that to be a major issue in practice, probably because I mostly do my planning down below. Navionics is great for planning, but I'd probably use iNavX while underway. Garmin also has an ios app in the works which they say will be out this summer.

    A lot depends on your expectations and how you navigate or intend to use the device and/or app. iDevices are way better than a chart plotters in some cases, not so good in others. Can they be a replacement for a "standard" chart plotter, absolutely.

    I read more and more often about sailors using idevices effectively during extended journeys. Standard plotters are not about to go extinct, but I know already that I'll never buy one.

  • I used my iPad with iSailor quite a bit last year and found it to be excellent. Nevertheless, I did feel a bit uncomfortable using it as my primary navigation device. I will continue to keep the iPad fully charged and ready as an emergency backup since I like the redundancy of a totally separate system that does not rely at all on the boat's electrical system or any other electronics (same reason I keep a fully charged handheld VHF).


  • I used my iPad with iSailor quite a bit last year and found it to be excellent. Nevertheless, I did feel a bit uncomfortable using it as my primary navigation device. I will continue to keep the iPad fully charged and ready as an emergency backup since I like the redundancy of a totally separate system that does not rely at all on the boat's electrical system or any other electronics (same reason I keep a fully charged handheld VHF).


  • I prefer the ipad, no way to compare it with anything else. On ipad you can load multiple apps and enjoy the best you like, gps has the same accuracy, waterproofing ok, is not available, however also my phone and other instruments has similar problem, if the boat is not so small of course is the right choice. Try all navigation apps, navionics, inavx motionx flytomap chart&tides, you will get suprise on the result you get.

  • iPAD. I have about had it with all the interruptions in use of my PC I have experienced this spring, as various products demand to be updated on my boats laptop. Comparatively the iPad hardly needs such TLC.

  • Does anyone know of a good Ipad cover to simulate that original Lemur feel, or that at least takes away the glossiness of the Ipad ipad 2 leather case

  • IPad. Used it from Valdez AK to Panama, from California to Sydney, from Oregon to Spain... Me and my brother are delivery captains. For the last 2 + years we have been using IPad for primary navigational on various vessels with no problems. My IPad has about 30 000 nm. offshore use on power and sail boats. From foggy places like Canada/Alaska to hight humidity tropics. Keep it in the cabin and will be ok. Water proof case will allowe you to use it in the cockpit even during heavy rain. IPad uses a lot less power than any laptop, does not need GPS antenna /it has internal antenna unless is the wifi model/ and does not has the cooling fan laptops have. Try pushing salt air trough sensitive warm electronics to cool them...
    Navionics charts for IPad are the same charts Raymarine uses on their C and E series units. Just several times less expensive than the data chip required by the Raymarine.
    We use Digital Yacht WiFi receiver with our IPads as well. 2 units, one is chart plotter, the other is AIS receiver monitor. This is all we need even in busi places like Panama Canal, Gibraltar, ext.

  • My 2 cents worth i use my ipad in a gallon ziplock and mounted with a. Ram mount on my 30 mph inflatable and it works fine. Not very bright but usable and provides any data i could possibly need - especally weather radar. I use both inavx and navionics.
    When I go ashore it snaps out quickly to stay with me. My data is all by Verizon Mifi but I have the cell ipad version just for the accurate gps.


  • I am struggling to use an iPad above decks in my 39 foot sailboat. Straining to see whats on the screen makes any task and quadruples the time.

    It is almost unworkable to bring a laptop into the cockpit while the boat is moving, so all things being equal the iPad would seem to rule.

    If you don't need an iPad above decks (e.g. you have an MFD, etc.) and are deciding based on meeting your needs below decks. The laptop is far faster at getting tasks done.

  • iPads are useless in sunlight. A laptop in the cabin with MaxSea TZ is the best planning system. Couple that with an NMEA2000 remote display outside to give you basic Nav/Data would be much more practical.

  • While I use a PC for planning prior to departure, I would like to use a tablet for route re-planning, while on the boat. We have Navionics Platinum on the Lowrance HDS7, but it’s cumbersome to do planning on the little screen, where it’s mounted for navigation. I rather replan on the tablet and upload new routes /waypoints as we go.

    The issue is how to get the routes/waypoints uploaded into the HDS from the tablet. I can’t get an answer yet if the tablet Navionics apps will export GPX format, but I suspect they can’t.

    How do others solve this problem? What app do you recommend (Android) for planning on a tablet, for subsequent use on the chartplotter?

    Another option is to get GoFree wireless and use the Tablet as a larger display, in a convenient location in the cabin, to remotely do the planning on the HDS directly. Does anyone do this?

    I rather have a separate app on the tablet, however, so that I can plan on it, while the HDS is being used for navigation. Can’t do both at once with GoFree (I think). I don’t feel a need to attach GPS to the tablet to use it for navigation, but this could be a nice backup.


  • garysailor,

    You asked for some suggestions. Here goes:

    I have installed the Lowrance HDS-12 Gen2 Touch, the Link 8 VHF [with AIS], G3 broadband Radar, the heading compass, a thru-hull sonar and the GoFree wireless for use with my iPad-1 tablet . . . all over a NMIS 2000 backbone. I'm still waiting for Lowrance to publish its software update so the wireless will work [any day now I'm told]. This is a sytematic approach to underway navigation including the iPad as a useful tool.

    I'm a Mac guy . . . so I purchased MacENC online from Fugawi [$180] and downloaded all the NOAA vector and raster charts free. I'm sure you can do the same with your PC. On the chilly winter nights here in Seattle I plotted my routes/waypoints and exported them to an SD card using GPX. Then I just went on the boat, inserted the SD card into the Lowrance Touch chartplotter and that was it.

    During the cruising season, I will eventually bring the iPad aboard and plan my navigation routes from the main cabin below linked up to the Lowrance Touch chartplotter located on the flying bridge. If I get caught in bad weather, I can operate the chartplotter and the whole system including the radar from below at my secondary conn in the maindeck cabin where I have another VHF radio. Does this sound expensive? I did the whole thing for about $6000. Installation was another $3000 by my local installer.

    I don't think I'll need to purchase iNav-x for the iPad unless I decide I need a completely separate backup chartplotting system. I like having the iPad as a repeater and alternate controller for my Touch chartplotter, radar, sonar, AIS, etc.

    Hope this helps.

  • Thanks Jim for the suggestions.

    I did end up buying Navionics for our Android tablet and find it useful for browsing charts, measuring distances and especially for clicking on Ts and Cs (Tides and Currents) to look at conditions for dates in future. We’re planning a trip to San Juans in July and, as you know, it’s important up there to time your routes right.

    It’s true that Navionics on the tablet can’t export GPX files, so no use for planning routes. Even if it could export routes, the routing tool is near useless (imo) since you can’t modify a route, once entered, unless you delete all the waypoints from the end back to where you want to modify it, and start over entering waypoints from there.

    So, we decided, as you, to go the GoFree way, and to plan our routes each night on the HDS7 itself, but via the 10” tablet xface. We have Navionics Platinum 912P and I think this will be sufficient.

    At home, I’m just using my old Garmin Mapsource SW on the PC to make initial cuts at routes/waypoints, exporting to GPX and will pre-load on the HDS prior to the trip. I found it VERY handy while using Mapsource, to have the tablet on my lap, running Navionics and looking up Tides/Currents for each date, as I go.

    Like you, I downloaded the Lowrance GoFree SW onto the tablet, but it says to go to to get HDS firmware version 45.120. But it’s not available yet. They should not have put the Lowrance GoFree app on the site yet, as I was told explicitly by a marine electronics dealer that installing the GoFree HW without the firmware update will crash your boat’s Ethernet. (Not sure if HW damage could occur, but I’m holding off until I see the update.)

    Jim, please let us know how your Gofree works, when you get the firmware. Maybe I’ll hold off buying it until someone says it actually works. ;-) I sure hope it does.

    Side note: (our system is Broadband 3G, HDS7-g2-touch, NAIS-400, Simrad RC-42 compass, connected up to Tacktick gear (wind, speed, depth, etc..) via Tacktick T122 NMEA183 xface, Standard Horizon GX2000 VHF, and an old RM ST4000 tiller pilot. All seems to be talking together, finally. I did the install. NMEA183 is a pain!)

  • Having got BlueChart mobile recently was surprised but happy to see that it apparently worked with the iPad II (3G/cellukar) models to provide real time vessel tracking with COG and SOG display.

    Marketing info had suggested that it was a planning only tool, but this weekend we tested it extensively on Lough Derg and found it very accurate for position fixing and eminently useable for visual chart navigation.

    Already had and pleased with the Navionics app, but BCM excels. For me it solidified the case for tablets as the best planning and backup nav tool on a boat.

  • garybsailor,

    At around noon today [Seattle time] Lowrance finally published it's version 2.0 update for its HDS and HDS Touch. I'm heading down to my boat to install the update and see if it all works, especially the GoFree WiFi for my iPad. Lowrance made the controller available in the iTunes app store a couple of weeks ago. See

  • Good catch, Jim! Make sure that all your Lowrance Ethernet components like radar and StructureScan have the latest updates. That's what it took on my Simrad system to make WiFi1 work well. But work well it does. All sorts of apps like iNavX, iRegatta, and MID are getting copious data via GoFree, and the Lowrance/Simrad/B&G MFD repeater app works well too. Updates here:

  • Ben, I've been checking Gizmo's progress up the East Coast through your daily DeLorme inReach "share map" reports . . . attempting to predict from 3000 miles away where you'd anchor each evening. Congrats on a safe and speedy voyage back home to Maine. I'm sure many of us were with you in spirit while enjoying your latest Panbo articles.

    Hope you keep your inReach track up on-line. For anyone who's interested, here's the link:

    Jim Klauser, Seattle, WA.