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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    up on the moors.
    Posts
    33,219

    Default Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    This is prompted by PhilM's recent Plymouth experience and the productive thread arising therefrom.

    When solo and in restricted viz or night, I would like to have a tablet to back up my eidetic mind-chart, so that I do not have to set the autopilot and head below to the chart table to use the other nav systems. The tablet would also be used for planning purposes, away from the boat, in conjunction with the charts and books at home.

    There seem to be two paths:
    1 Ordinary tablet with a protective case
    2 Ruggedised tablet


    My initial spec (not priority) is:
    1 Pocket-sized, about 8inch screen
    2 SD or MSD card slot
    3 Good multi-source GPS
    4 SIM card for phone
    5 Wifi (for AIS)
    6 Decent memory for apps such as Ephemeris, Star Map, some music/books, etc.


    What suggestions or practical experience does the forum have re the type of tablet, and what other specs would be good to have, please ? I am neutral about iOS or Android..

    I have a laptop with OpenCPN, and a handheld GPS, but neither is suitable for use when isolated in the cockpit.

    TIA
    I think, therefore I am. I am, therefore I sail.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    36,745

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    I think it's best to have a clear view of exactly how you intend to use this.
    I have a Nokia phone which is very good, it works in a plastic bag in my pocket and takes its chance. It was about £100 and has survived a couple of years, if it dies now so be it.
    Spending proper money and only wanting it to work on one boat, I'd get a proper water proof Garmin plotter that could be used above or below deck.

    But a half-competent passage plan with a few key waypoints in the HH GPS would work just as well.
    A bracket to hold the GPS in the cockpit is a good move.
    There's a waterproof (ish!) clear pocket on the back of the cockpit halyard bag, used for courses and SI notes when racing.
    Key points of the passage plan in there for instant reference is a lot more use than an android toy sometimes.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Hopefully somewhere warm
    Posts
    9,249

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    One option would be hunt ebay for a 2nd hand sony xperia which is bit bigger than your wish list but a good size. works really well. Easily viewable in daylight though not really in bright sunshine, fine under a sprayhood. Waterproof, unless you want to charge at the same time. Huge plus is having the excellent Opencpn AIS display

    Did you get a Rasp Pi up and running? Works great with data from the Pi with a few cheap sensors EG barometer, thermometers & battery voltage.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Ireland, (Crosshaven)
    Posts
    892

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    I am in the process of relaunching after 5years ashore. My plotters are both operating very well but have old charts etc. In order to remedy this and to get ais I bought a bundle from London chart plotters. I got a really poor quality feeling tablet with doubtful battery life and a plastic bag to put it in and a mount with a set of impressive raster charts and an ais/wifi thing.

    All of this cost me circa 200euros.

    Separatly I bought a rugged waterproof phone with incredible battery life and memory...cubot King Kong 3.. opencpn and vector charts for the British isles and northern France and with a bicycle mount/bag from Aldi I now have a binacle mount for my phone. Bluetooth earphones let me take calls and listen to music and the charts /gps are totally protected and independent of the boat. What I must do next is set up the ais on the phone and it will be a really good combination for less than 3oo quid including dual SIM phone.
    Finally found out how to change my signature...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Boat (now back in) the Clyde
    Posts
    5,327

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    If it is intended, as the OP says, as “backup” for primary navigation systems I would definitely suggest (and it is what I have as backup):
    (A) any decent tablet with integral GPS and a waterproof case (only used when tablet is in fact needed on deck), and
    (B) mobile phone with GPS.
    I happen to have all U.K. Admiralty Charts on both using Memory Map, as main navigation use is with Antares.
    But if not in Scotland Navionics is probably an easier to use alternative.

    Could probably buy a couple of spare tablets cheaper than one rugged one. But my iPad has lasted 5 years so far - in spite of a smashed screen when it literally blew away in a gale and smashed on the stone quayside.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Posts
    36,745

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    The OP seems confused whether it's a backup or the preferred first thing he's going to look at.
    I use my phone, but I don't call it a backup, I think of it more as a tool I use but don't rely on.
    My HH GPS is a backup. It is rugged, waterproof and self contained. It will survive any problem I've ever had, or am likely to have.
    It's actually quite hard to use a tablet singlehanded when your autopilot goes u/s.

    Different people seem to use the tools in very different ways. The plotter or other device is only one tool, a part of your system for navigating from A to B. It might help to think about the whole system.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    1,446

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    Planning on a tablet - lacks precision in my opinion.

    You have a laptop running OpenCPN - this says to me your tablet might benefit from also running OpenCPN for consistency. First question is - does the tablet run OpenCPN ...or... do you use it as a remote monitor to run the laptop's OpenCPN +/- a RasPi's

    You can take the laptop home. Passage plan to your hearts content and then revise those plans down below in the cabin and view them on screen with AIS overlay etc.

    That means the tablet doesn't need GPS.

    It does need WiFi (all tablets surely have).

    In my opinion, you will want to charge as you sail. (Or maybe two tablets!). I think that is a challenge. But most tablets struggle to do lots of wifi etc with bright screen for a long time.


    Pocket-sized, about 8inch screen
    2 SD or MSD card slot Makes waterproofing harder on a rugged machine. Why do you want it? MicroSD is so tiny they are easy to loose. If you are using a VNC to the Laptop / Pi you don't need any major memory in the screen
    3 Good multi-source GPS As I said above - consider using what you already have. Your phone has a GPS no doubt so if its as a contingency - you have one already... consider a suitable app for it
    4 SIM card for phone Why? If you get a GPS tablet it will usually have a SIM usually. But presumably you already have a phone?
    5 Wifi (for AIS) All tablets have WiFi
    6 Decent memory for apps such as Ephemeris, Star Map, some music/books, etc. Don't use SD cards for Apps if you can possibly avoid it - they are slow and less reliable. BUT - I think the brain belongs below deck I've never been a music guy, so the idea of sailing with music is weird to me. I certainly couldn't read while sailing. Perhaps at anchor. But a waterproof bluetooth speaker from phone/laptop seems more functional to be honest.

    Why pocket sized? Are you going to sail with it in your pocket? I think most people would sail with it mounted somewhere. I think that should be mounted and charging. I don't know any rugged machines that can charge and remain waterproof. I think there are some cases that can do that - but your starting point may be the case - then the tablet because sure as eggs are eggs if you buy a random cheap tablet there wont be a case that fits that lets you plug in and turn it on in the case.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    1,446

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2019
    Location
    The Known Universe
    Posts
    1,074

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    Run a Huwaei 10.1 inch in a case fitted to it within a waterproof bag/case
    this sits on the helm I run open CPN with intergrated GPS using Admirality charts from O Charts for the UK
    Run main computer down below HDMI onto 24 inch screen running the same program
    AIS with wifi to Tablet

    No need to buy an expensive tablet ,
    Back up, always 2 phones on board me and the lady GPS and local maps and Apps
    2 hand held GPS Units on board and paper Maps of my crusing ground (with the abilty to read and plot and use thsoe Maps)
    So unless the 7 Riders of Death descent upon the earth and start the End of Humanity I should be able to find my way
    Flying birds have no master

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Oban
    Posts
    1,768

    Default Re: Rugged tablet, or ordinary tablet with a good case ?

    I don't know where you sail, but I'd say get a cheap tablet and use Navionics on it. I sail in Scotland and Greece and it all works fine. I also have Marine Navigator because it allows me to load the Antares charts and it can use the SD card to store vast amounts of data. It is fast enough and reliable enough for the job. I like to have the Ordnance Survey maps too, and Viewranger handles that well, with the maps on the SD card. (All of this is duplicated on my phone.)

    The real brains of my system is a Laptop with SeaClear which sits below and drives instruments in the cockpit for the helm as well as picking up AIS,

    I bluetooth routes etc between devices depending on where I do the planning - e.g., on the tablet in my bunk over my morning tea.

    As my tablet is not the main navigation device I let it switch off its screen for most of the time on passage. (You may be able to do this anyway.) There's also no need for it to do any wifi or bluetooth during a passage. Mine, under these conditions, and using its internal GPS will give about 24 hours use without charging, which is longer than almost all of my passages. The laptop is always under charge from the boat's 12V system.

    But, having described all this complexity, I should say that I know yachtmaster instructors who secretly do all their own nav on a phone with Navionics and nothing else.

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