Sunday, March 18, 2012

Types of Marine GPS Units

Portable units like the GPS 620 Marine Navigator (above) are extremely versatile

Portable units like the GPS 620 Marine Navigator (above) are extremely versatile


When looking to purchase a GPS unit for your boating activities, it can be a little difficult to decide what kind of device is best for you. With a plethora of sizes, types and features—not to mention prices—it can quickly become overwhelming. So here is a basic overview of the different types of marine GPS units to get you started:

Handheld Unit

Magellan eXplorist 510_Navionics Marine EditionThe smallest of the three main types is the handheld unit. This is sort of similar to the handheld units you would use if you were going hiking or cycling, but with marine charts instead. These units are often a little cheaper, but not quite as versatile and not as good if you are actually driving due to the small screen.


– Small and easy to carry
– Good for using on other boats; when you aren’t steering
– Oftentimes a lower price point
– Battery doesn’t require plugging in anywhere


– Small screens are harder to use to navigate while steering
– Not as versatile; fewer features

Portable Units

640The most versatile of the three types, the portable unit is very similar in appearance to the sorts of devices that you would commonly see in a car. Many have easy-to-use touch-screen interfaces and slightly larger screens for easy reading. They are usually a little too large to comfortably hold, but can be mounted on the dash with a temporary mount. However, portable units in general are more likely to be stolen because of how easy they are to remove.


– Larger display is easier to read
– Simple touch-screen interface
– Some units can also be used on the road
– Some units offer sonar or other features as well


– Too big to hold comfortably, so requires space to mount

– Risk of theft

Fixed Mount Units

Garmin GPSMAP 741xs reviewThe last kind of marine GPS units are fixed mount units. These units come with a mount and they are not removable once attached. You can get a larger unit (around 7 inches) with a nice touch-screen or a smaller unit with no touch-screen. A lot of these units can be set up as an all-in-one device and sync with your sonar and radar. However, the cost of these additions can be pretty high.


– All-in-one capability
– Easy to see screen
– Touch-screen interface on larger models


– Can be a little pricey with all the gadgets
– Lower-end non-touch-screen interface is awkward


As you can see, all of the marine units have their downsides as well as their awesome features, so it really all depends on what your budget is, how you use your boat and your own personal preferences.

What are some pros and cons to your marine devices?

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