Furuno TZtouch2 and FI-70, back in the game!

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Sorry for the blown out screens, but the point of this photo is Furuno USA marketing manager Dean Kurutz, who co-delivered the NavNet TZtouch2 introduction with senior product manager Eric Kunz just like they did with the original NavNet in 2001 — when I was just getting into electronics writing — and every NavNet update since. The dynamic duo have been coming to Miami with the company since well into the last century and a lot of their colleagues have similar histories. If you go Furuno you get remarkable management consistency and institutional memory, but that doesn’t mean they’re old school…

Well, in some ways Furuno is old school: they distribute mainly through traditional dealer/installers; their famous customer service apparently stocks spares for decades-old equipment; and they’ve earned high esteem in tough niches like offshore commercial fishing and the US Coast Guard. But the corporate personality is quite complex, especially since the Furuno team partnered with the TimeZero developers at MaxSea, which means they’re now also deeply involved with Nobeltec.

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In fact, at least one sweet detail of the new TZtouch2 user interface — that blue ship wheel icon above representing a collapsed route that can be opened with one tap, which also collapses any other route cluttering the screen — first impressed me in the Nobeltec Timezero iPad app. The powerful TZ charting engine marks the decidedly new school side of Furuno, and it’s now being developed in Windows (all previous NavNet TZ MFDs plus MaxSea/Nobeltec charting programs), Apple iOS (MaxSea/Nobeltec apps), and now Android (the new 12- and 15-inch TZT2 MFDs). I didn’t know about the Android platform change until after the Miami introduction, but I sure noticed how the new interface seems to nicely mix elements from all sorts of touchscreen systems.



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The NavNet TZT2 site and especially the brochure found on the new MFD product pages are good ways to get familiar with the “Total Control, Simply Refined” graphical interface. Don’t the new big Home Screen icons look like Windows 8 tiles, in a good way? And the four “edge swipes” remind me of many likable tablet and phone features. Down from the top reveals those big tiles for Quick Page changes, while in from the left gets the familiar TZT custom data window (which therefore no longer needs an onscreen button). Swiping up from the bottom yields a Layers menu context sensitive to the active window function and finally, a right edge swipe slides out a menu similar to what you’d get if the good old NavNet RotoKey was still there.

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So here’s the 15-inch TZT2 with the Layers menu showing chart options. Many of those controls may actually be easier to access than with the RotoKey, but the TZT2 MFDs can also be controlled by the MCU002 keypad and/or a new Android NavNet Controller app (iOS version coming). Note the Departure/Arrival choice under Routes On/Off, which means those collapsed route icons can display at either end. Also, note that the new MFDs are not actually named TZT2, I guess because they will network fine with the existing TZT models, which aren’t going away. TZtouch2 is more an interface and feature set, while the MFD above is officially designated a TZTL15F, which may imply future models that aren’t in Landscape mode and/or do not include a internal sonar for Fishing.

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And here’s the NavNet TZTL12F showing a new autopilot control window that looks quite powerful. I think it’s great that the manufacturers are learning how to put more controls onto their main touch screens, or a single swipe, tap, or button push away. The ever growing System Controls menu, always accessible with the Lowrance (and sister MFD) power button, is a good example, and TZtouch2 seems to have come up with several new ones. Incidentally, the TZTL12F will usually be panel or even flush mounted, which seems almost mandatory given such a clean glass style, but the photo shows a new style plastic bracket that’s quite a contrast to the heavy metal ones designed for previous Furuno MFDs. The change is no doubt part of what may be TZtouch2’s biggest feature — “Best-Ever Furuno MFD” value — which I’ll get to below.

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First, I want to touch on the instrumentation display that Dean and Eric emphasized during the Miami demos. The screen above is not meant to be useful but rather to show off all the gauge and numeric data styles available, as well as the expanded NMEA 2000 PGN support, and this video suggests how you can apparently fingertip arrange all those instruments in nearly infinite ways. I’m going to reserve judgment until I can see how well we can customize gauge ranges, yellow/red alerts, labels, and so forth — Maretron has long shown the way — but TZtouch2 may have the best MFD instruments yet.



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Of course, Furuno had another reason to work on instrumentation and that’s the new FI70 4.1-inch color N2K display also introduced in Miami. It wasn’t really a surprise given the matching 711C Navpilot head covered here last summer, but it looks good. I noticed that Furuno was willing to borrow the nice mini AIS display first seen on the Raymarine i70, and they’re going for NMEA 2000 certification by only including one N2K port. In other words, the FI70 can’t be daisy-chained (even if that wasn’t a bad idea), though the limitation can be overcome fairly easily with a multiport.

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Another feature emphasized during the TZtouch2 intro was the RezBoost technology that can purportedly improve the internal fishfinder imaging (something like CHIRP does). But perhaps the bigger story is that the new MFDs are the first in the NavNet series to have any internal sonar at all, plus a built-in GPS, and all without any apparent cost increase.

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A somewhat hidden cost of the existing NavNet TZT system is the need for a separate power supply even for the little but mighty 2kW DRS2D radome, but it looks like Furuno is dealing with that issue, too. The DRS4DL was not mentioned in Miami — and the US team doesn’t know what it will cost or when it will arrive — but the brochure certainly suggests a version of the DRS4W WiFi Radar that runs directly on 12 volts and trades advanced features for a lower price.

Incidentally, not only did the attractive integration of WiFi radar and the Nobeltec TZ app become official in Miami, but there’s yet another Furuno 19-inch radome, the DRS4DCM, that will work directly with Nobeltec PC programs, no MFD required. There’s more info here and I understand that another TZtouch2 feature — the “coming soon” TimeZero Cloud Data Service — will further enable integration among all the TZ cousins. Also “coming soon” are ActiveCaptain cruising info support, first ever on an MFD, and Community Charts, MapMedia’s first foray into crowdsourcing, all purportedly made easy with TZT2 WiFi.

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And now the TZT2 booty shots, which reveal a backside very unlike other NavNet MFDs. In fact, I don’t recall any MFD that uses pigtail ports like these, but I think they make sense for easing installations and cutting production costs. And that latter part is really key to this whole endeavor. I exaggerated when I added the “back in the game!” to this entry. Furuno has never left the game, at least in terms of medium to big recreational boats, but when I discussed specs/price options in the popular glass bridge MFD style last summer, the TZT14 that arguably spearheaded the trend had become a distinctly premium choice.

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Well, compare that spreadsheet to this one! The game has tightened up all around. Furuno already dropped existing TZT prices considerably and the new MFDs — said to ship “spring of this year” — are right in the ball park, built-in features and popular 12-inch size included. Garmin also got more competitive with their new 76xx MFDs and for a minute both nearly matched the NSS evo2 pricing (which just went down). But MSRP pricing is only a guide, and the ones for Raymarine MFDs are quite tentative so far. I added their a- and e- models to better illustrate the broadness of their lines, though they aren’t quite “glass bridge” style, and I added weight specs because that also seems to tell the competitive story. Note, for instance, how the TZTL15F — which could have easily been called a 16 — weighs about 2/3rds of a TZT14. If you need an MFD that you could practically drive a truck over, a TZT2 may not be the right choice.

So that’s what I mean by “back in the game!” In the world of glass bridge systems there are four strong competitors, and Furuno is suddenly looking quite good. I do have caveats, though. When you port or rewrite a whole MFD software package like TimeZero, things can get lost, and a couple I’ve noticed with TZT2 is the lack of Axis IP camera support and also support of Furuno’s NavNet Remote App (though I’m told that’s planned). TZT users may find things they can’t do anymore. Moreover, Furuno still doesn’t have a 7-inch networkable MFD, let alone Ray’s a5, and it is the only one of the big four that hasn’t partnered with a digital switching and monitoring company. Nor have they shown interest yet in all the sonar innovations the others are mainly bringing to fresh and shallow water boaters, but which hold promise for deeper water fishermen and cruisers. Overall, though, I almost feel sorry for anyone trying to make the big main MFD system decision these days, except that you really can’t go too far wrong, especially if you take the time to figure out which system, and company, suits you best.

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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

19 Responses

  1. Howard says:

    Do you think the build quality is the same between the TZT and TZT2? Does the 15″ screen include multiple Ethernet ports like the 14″ TZT?
    After a year of use of the 9″ TZT I wish it was not widescreen. I wish it was larger on the vertical axis.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    In terms of sheer ruggedness, probably not. That’s what happens when you substitute plastic for metal, etc. But built plenty well enough for yachts, probably yes. Plus fast processor, bright hi res screen, etc. etc. Note the weight drop from Garmin 8xxx to 76xx too.
    The TZT2 MFDs only have one Ethernet port and one USB port, though both can be easily expanded with off-the-shelf switches/hubs. They also have only one SD card slot, on the back, but there is a remote USB dual SD card accessory available. These and more specs are easily found at Furuno links above.
    Widescreen MFDs seem to be a function of what’s available in high bright LED backlit screens and also what fits well on many helms. I don’t think it’s going to change. I agree that it’s not always the best aspect ratio, especially for head-up navigators like me, but it’s surmountable by using split windows and putting data/menu bars at the sides (as supported by most manufacturers).

  3. Mike says:

    SO is there any word on whether the TZT2-15″ is shipping, or if not, when?
    Likewise, are the Simrad NSO ev2 processors and displays shipping?
    I’ve been looking at the FI-70 and can’t decide whether or why it is
    superior to the RD-33. The screen on the -33 is a bit larger, although
    the overall box is as well, but they both seem to have the same display
    technology. Have you seen them side-by-side?
    -mo

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    TZT2 shipping “spring this year” is what I was told, Mike. Pretty sure NSO evo2 has been available for a while.

  5. Mike says:

    oy. was hoping to get refit done before summer season really gets here. Looks like Furuno isn’t an option. There’s a lot I like anout Simrad, but the are still incredibly snooty about some things, esp cartography. Iff one is willing to jump through a lot of hoops, it is possible to use NOAA RNC and ENC charts along with the commercial ones, but Furuno can use them right off a memory card without a bunch of curation and format conversion.
    Furuno seems a lot less “top-down” than Simrad, who reminds me of my first satnav in a BMW. Clearly a product of the Prussian Army – “you will use it exactly as we have provided with no unnecessary flexibility.”
    I guess that is consistent with NMEA’s world view. (grin)
    sigh.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Geez, Mike, Fugawi has NOAA and Canadian raster chairs for NSS evo2 you can buy on SD cards or download to your own from the GoFree Store, Ditto for nice NV Charts custom rasters of US East Coast, Carib, etc. Mapmedia NOAA charts are free for NavNet owners but Simrad is first to let you download new charts direct to MFD.
    PS. There’s news in the works that may cause even you to get over your NMEA distaste 😉

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Furuno TZTouch2 is coming. Some online outlets say they can ship TZTL15F or TZTL12F MFDs next week, and some say the week after (and some don’t mention actual availability at all ;-).

  8. Quitsa says:

    I am waiting for a pair of TZT 2 15s. This has made me a bit of an expert on the topic of when they will be available. The story as I understand it is that the first batch of the units has been in the US for at least a couple of weeks. However, they are not being released because of some software updating that is in process.
    At one level if this is the correct explanation, I think it is commendable that Furuno does not use its customers as beta testers. On the other hand, it is pretty bad for those of us who live up north with a short season and relied on the “spring 2015” release date.

  9. Hans says:

    Furuno and Nobeltec are indeed using customers as Beta testers. Bought in April the full TZT14, hub, radar, gps package and upgraded Nobeltec to Trident from Odyssey (which I loved!). After multiple hours of tech assistance, the Furuno system still does not integrate with Nobeltec as advertised. I have now received an apology and acknowledgement from both companies that “there are software issues that they hope to have solved shortly”. End of summer boating season? Much of the system is great, but without reliability, how can you cruise in Northern BC and Alaska?

  10. Howard says:

    Maybe that is why Nobeltec and Furuno are as closely tied anymore. Furuno has stopped their support of the software and refers everyone to Nobeltec. It is hard to point the finger at Furuno when they are not the software vendor.

  11. Quitsa says:

    So will there be a Furuno TZT 2 tester on the bridge of Gizmo soon? They seem to be available finally. I should have two myself installed in about two weeks.

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’d be willing, Quitsa, but I haven’t made any plans with Furuno. Might you write a review or notes? Are you possibly in Maine?
    What I am working on right now is an entry about Nobeltec PC Radar, which is looking fine, plus the TZ v2 app which now support AIS, etc plus Furuno WiFi radar. The TimeZero engine has many cylinders!

  13. Quitsa says:

    I am in Massachusetts. I would be willing to write a review or user notes once I have a little time on the water with them. I have been using a TZT 9 that is supposed to be mounted on the tower helm at the main helm so I can easily compare to the 1st generation TZT. I have a complete system with a DFF1-UHD sounder box, 12kW open array and Furuno 711C autopilot (I have become really good at switching screens on the TZT 9 having just the one small screen!).
    The Android OS underneath will also be very interesting as a point of comparison to the Windows based TZT and the NavNet 3D that I had a few years ago.
    Will be in touch.

  14. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Sounds great, Quitsa, thanks!

  15. Don Joyce says:

    WOW,
    I look forward to both your report on the Nobeltec PC radar and Quitsa’s report on the TZ v2 MFD’s since I’m debating whether to install an Intel NUC/Nobeltec TZ system or the new Furuno TZ MFD’s.
    While I like not having to explain much to guests on the use of MFD’s to get them started, I also like the ability to put together a system that “just right” using multi-source components.
    Cheers
    Don

  16. Quitsa says:

    I think one of the central questions is system longevity and adaptability. The processing capability of the higher end NUC boxes has to be a multiple of the chips powering the TZT displays. The dividing line between hardware and software is getting less and less clear. There is a lot of signal processing going on of what comes out of the radar sensors and sounder boxes. I have not seen it in action yet, but the “Rez Boost” feature of the TZT 2 built-in sounder circuit is a good example of the enhancements. They are taking the signals from what look to be similar circuits to their FCV587 sounder and then applying processing to produce a higher definition output. The same was true of the UHD radars introduced with the NavNet 3D system.
    If I had a boat that was more suitable to that type of installation, I think a PC based system would offer more capability over a longer period of time — if Nobeltec keeps pace with its software. On the other hand, if you want simplicity and integration, the TZT displays would be the way to go. It’s sort of like the difference between using an iPad and a desktop computer. For many purposes, there is 100% overlap in functionality but the desktop can do many things the iPad can’t, which only matters if you actually use those capabilities. And it is easier and cheaper to just dump your iPad and get a new one as Apple upgrades the performance and features.

  17. Don Joyce says:

    Fully agree. Regrettably there are lots of tradeoffs that make the decision of which way to go muddled.
    Look forward to your notes and report!
    Cheers
    Don

  18. Don Joyce says:

    Hans,
    Are your issues resolved?
    Don Joyce

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    TZTouch2 is officially shipping and here’s a new video illustrating it:
    https://youtu.be/nz_iHxi46-A
    And here’s new Panbo entry on related Nobeltec PC Radar:
    http://staging.panbo.com/archives/2015/07/nobeltec_pc_radar_tz_v2_app_blazing_trail_two_ways.html

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