Navigation on Computer vs. Chartplotter?

Question:

I have an older 26 ft. Campion Sport Cruiser and I am researching which chartplotter gives me the best bang for my money. I keep coming back to a hand held GPS (or mounted antenna) in combination with a cheap laptop with navigation software installed. For the cost of one of the new chartplotters I can get a much bigger screen, better resolution, more computing power, a multi-functioning machine that I can replace four or five times before I come close to matching the price of one of the new HD chartplotter/fishfinders that are mentioned in the latest Pacific Yachting issue. Why wouldn't I do this and spend the money saved on a new fishing rod and an electric downrigger?

Answer:

Your query is an interesting one. As marine grade price points are coming down, many boaters are dropping the laptop route and opting for a dedicated marine display.  At the end, it comes to what drives your decision. For some cost is king. Where cost matters the most, a laptop with marine navigation will be a strong contender. If your value simplicity or reliability, a dedicated marine display is your overwhelming choice. In the end, it depends what you value most. Personally, I would make sure that I have a very reliable marine display that I can count on nearly 100% of the time. Once the dependable is achieved, I would consider augmenting with a laptop solution.

Additionally, a laptop will not provide you an inexpensive radar or sounder solution. If those two features matter to you, a marine display will be a contender as well.

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