If you’re a hobby boater, you might be looking for an affordable, yet reliable, navigation system. If so, have you considered a fully-rugged Panasonic Toughbook? Paired with the right software and a dedicated GPS module, it has the potential to be the perfect setup. Let's talk about what you'll need.
First, given the wet or salty environment that it will likely be exposed to, it's recommended that you start with a fully-rugged model like the CF-31 or CF-19. It might also be worthwhile to consider upgrading to a rubberized keyboard.
Second, you’ll need good charting software. This is a matter of personal preference. There are many to choose from, however, some of the tried and true are Rose Point’s Coastal Explorer, and TimeZero's TZ Navigator. You also can look into free navigation software like SeaClear and OpenCPN.
Last but not least, you’ll need a GPS source. This can be wireless, connected via the serial port, or connected with a converter via the USB port.
The software and GPS need to communicate-and they do so with a signal called NMEA 0183. Therefore, in order for the GPS source to communicate with your Toughbook, you'll need specific driver software (that's designed for the GPS of your choosing).
Typical specs needed for electronic chart software are:
- Windows 7, 8, or 10 (32-bit or 64-bit)
- At least 2GB RAM
- 500 MB or more available hard drive space
- 1024x600 screen resolution or higher
- NMEA 0183, NMEA 2000, or Garmin compatible GPS
Do you use a Panasonic Toughbook on your boat? If so, please share your experience with us in the comments section.