Instrument display readability

I’ve been having a discussion with Ben over on Panbo over the good and bad sides of the slew of new colour graphic display sailing and boating instruments that the various manufacturers are rolling out. Whilst I think the potential for great things is there all of the displays that I have seen appear to have been hijacked by the PR and marketing department along with the graphic design department and usability/readability seems to have taken a back seat.

My main complaints are gimicky over-crowded displays, poor ergonomics in control placement and size, poor menu design, and poor night illumination and viewing angles.

They generally consume about twice the power of the older style monochrome LCDs, be careful if you are thinking about an upgrade to also consider your power budget!

On the plus side there should be savings in being able to equip a boat with only one type of display unit; here are a few:

  • If we say a typical small boat has four displays using the ‘old’ technology then a manufacturers production run is going to be at least four times higher for the single display.
  • R&D should be cheaper.
  • End users and chandlers will have to carry less stock in spare parts.

Having just a bank of display units that you can customise exactly to your need, and to be able to change mode easily (I expect you will be able to have pre-configured set-ups programmed in) between inshore and offshore navigation, upwind and downwind, racing and cruising etc. should enable any given boat to have a few less displays than a bunch of stand alone units.

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