The Lowdown on LED Displays

Author: Sea Magazine Staff

When it’s time to update your boat’s helm displays, you’re going to find an abundant supply of new technology to choose from. LED displays, many with touchscreens and/or remote keypads to control the functions, are gaining ground every day. But it’s not enough to simply choose a nice-looking ­display and say, “Yep, that’s the one.” Nauti­comp, a leading supplier of bridge displays, has advice for boaters looking to upgrade their helm — advice that applies whether you buy its displays or something from Furuno, Garmin, Raymarine, GeoNav, Simrad, SI-TEX or any other manufacturer.

When it comes to choosing a ­display, consider the following:

  • Determine which inputs will be re­quired (e.g., computer, navnet system, cameras, television).
  • Determine the helm space available and how many display units you would require.
  • Know the ambient lighting conditions. The brightness and contrast levels for helm displays will be dictated by the ambient lighting. Will the helm glass area be in a pilothouse or an open-bridge arrangement with bright colors surrounding the helm? 
  • Establish whether the boat will be used at night. If it will, determine the dimming levels and features that will be required. Dim to black? Dim to red? The latter allows the user to keep the brightness level a little higher without distracting from forward vision.
  • Ensure that all video sources are divided between the monitors on the helm. This way, in the event of a failure, one of the other displays will show the pertinent navigation information.
  • Avoid mounting the unit on a flat, desk-type surface pointing straight up. The images — especially on bonded-glass displays — are optimized when viewed straight on the display. 

When it comes to configuring the displays, consider these points:

  • Will the display be an exterior application? If so, it had better be waterproof. All marine applications will typically endure salt and corrosion — waterproof displays are protected from these elements and will last longer.
  • How good are your source video resolutions? Make sure the display will show the resolution that your source outputs.
  • How good is the cable routing? Cable runs that are too long can make the video cables susceptible to AC noise or signal loss.
  • What are the power requirements? Typically, DC (12v or 24v) is preferred on a constant power source.