Like many forms of tech, marine electronics just keep getting better and better and whether you’re looking at navigational tools like multifunction displays or safety gear like DSC radio, you’ll want to make sure you know about the best boat electronics of the year. Ready to check into what’s hot and what’s new for 2023?
There are so many on-the-water tools available to boaters these days it can be a bit overwhelming, so we’ve broken them down by category. Having the right gear can mean the difference in getting a good catch for dinner or not, or whether or not your onboard guests have a great experience – in extreme cases, boat electronics can even ensure a safe return home. These items represent some of the best marine electronics to have for any avid boating enthusiast.
Best Boat Navigation Equipment
Furuno TZT22X and TZT24X
Furuno TZTouch3 units grow for the 2023 model year. Literally. The new TZT22X and TZT24X offer 22- and 24-inch screen sizes with full HD 1920 x 1080 in-plane switching LCDs. They can integrate seamlessly with existing TZTouch3 systems, and boast some serious speed and power thanks to quad-core processors. The units have USB, NMEA2000, LAN, video, aux, and microSD card ports, and for those who prefer buttons over touchscreens, a remote tactile control is also available.
Garmin GPSMAP 8600 Series
How to get where you are going is top of our priority list. The Garmin GPSMAP 8600 series of touch screen units comes in varying sizes from 10 to 24 inches and are some of the most popular MFD systems on the market today. The larger the screen, the more real estate you have to play with, in regards to what information you want displayed with the customizable screen layouts. Featuring automatic guidance and sonar systems it’s understandable why the National Marine Electronics Association awarded Garmin with a “Product of Excellence Award” back in 2018 when they started this product line. Always innovating and integrating the newest technologies into their products, Garmin’s GPS 8600 series will keep you heading in the right direction.
Simrad NSX Series
Another option for precise nautical navigation, this MFD system from Simrad is another heavy hitting contender and enjoyed a major update for 2023. Available in seven-, nine-, and 12-inch displays, version 1.5 of the software benefits from new sonar sharing, a fully integrated Mercury interface, and a wider range of charting options. The NSX features plug-and-play radar, autopilot, and fishfinder functionality including CHIRP sonar, SideScan, and DownScan Imaging. Included with this device is the C-MAP Easy Routing application and a plethora of charts giving abundant choices for plotting routes almost as effortlessly as newly licensed teens use their phones to direct them to the nearest shopping mall.
SiriusXM Marine Weather
“How’s the weather?” Answer this question clearly, quickly, and accurately when you have SiriusXM satellite services aboard. You’ll also know what’s coming in the future with near real-time weather radar, forecasts, and detailed data on everything from barometric pressure to lightning strike indicators. With the addition of a receiver SiriusXM can be added to MFD systems from Garmin, Raymarine, Simrad, Lowrance, B&G, and Furuno. While SiriusXM has been around for years, they just started offering a new bonus feature: sign up for their new Fish Mapping service, and you’ll also receive up-to-date data on sea surface temperatures, chlorophyll fronts, and major weedlines, plus color-coded fishing hotspot intel provided by scientists who study the current conditions.
Garmin inReach Mini 2
Satellite positioning and emergency communication are essential to staying safe when traveling off the beaten path. A great option comes from Garmin in the form of the pam-sized inReach Mini, which was recently upgraded to the Mini 2. The new version has an improved battery life, a TracBack feature you can use to retrace your route, an improved user interface, a new electronic compass, and faster acquisition times. This highly capable compact device packs a whopping amount of technology in the palm of your hand. Global Iridium satellite coverage plus Bluetooth connectivity means that you can go anywhere and remain connected with two-way text messaging.
Once your device is set up it can be preloaded with contacts and messages that can be sent at the push of a button for quick delivery when time may be critical. It also features the ability to receive detailed weather information. In case of emergency, just press the SOS button and your location and preset message are sent to emergency response services. It is fully waterproof, lightweight, and easy to use.
ACR GlobalFix V6 EPIRB
How do you make a better EPIRB? ACR has the answer with the GlobalFix V6. This new unit can talk to your cell phone, allowing you to check battery life, self-test results, and beacon diagnostics via the ACR app. It also boasts an infrared strobe in addition to the visible light, to make it easier for rescuers to spot you. Category I and Category II brackets are available, and of course the unit meets Cospas-Sarsat, FCC, U.S.C.G., and Intenrational Maritime Organization standards.
Technology has come a long way in the arena of underwater imaging and sonar for consumers and professionals. Lowrance has upped their game in the form of ActiveTarget2, their real-time “live” sonar. It provides higher resolution views than the original ActiveTarget, and provides views in forward, down, and “scout” views. When matched up with an HDS PRO unit, it can also read multiple transducers at the same time and provide multiple split-screen views.
Furuno Navnet TZ Touch3 Fish-It and Drift-It
The Furuno Navnet system has long stood as a top electronics option for serious saltwater anglers, and it incorporates just about every function available in a modern MFD, ranging from radar to 3-D sonar imaging to the ability to create your own bathymetric charts utilizing the pings from the sonar and position data from the GPS. Last year, however, the system gave a boost to anglers with the Fish-It and Drift-It functionality. This allows you to tap the MFD screen and mark a spot you want to fish, automatically creating course lines and dynamic range rings so you know where to position your boat in order to drift across it. You can even choose varying time increments, and the system will tell you when you’re in the perfect position to drift over the hotspot in three minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, and so on.
JL Audio M6-650X
JL Audio takes the cake when it comes to marine quality speakers for your boat. The M6-650X line can handle up to 75 watts each, at four ohms. These 6.5” coaxial marine speakers stand up and satisfy your listening needs. Construction includes injection-molded mica-filled polypropylene cone bodies with UV-inhibitor treated synthetic rubber surrounds, synthetic fiber spiders, UV-resistant polymer baskets, gold-plated brass marine-grade connection terminals, and stainless-steel hardware.
When it comes to marine stereos more power is more better, but small boats don’t have a ton of room for mounting those big amps. The new Clarion XC2410 is a micro-sized amp just seven inches long, 3.25 inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall, so it can be mounted in just about any compartment. Yet it pushes out 400 total watts of power through 4/3/2 channel systems. It features a MOS-FET amp circuit and is conformal coated for marine use.
On top of these goodies there’s an entire universe of new electronics out there for boaters, and each and every year brings a whole new crop. But these 10 stand-outs deserve your attention as you seek to set up your boat with the coolest new marine electronics on the market.
This article was last updated in July of 2023.