Compact, easy-to-use chart plotter
By Bob Mueller
The Garmin GPSMAP 541s chartplotter/sounder interfaces with NMEA 2000 networks for engine diagnostics, weather instruments and more. Preloaded with U.S. coastal charts, the chartplotter has an SD card slot, which can be used to load additional charts and transfer waypoints, routes and tracks. The GPSMAP 541s includes a built-in sounder module for direct connection to a transducer for depth and fish-finder functions.
The extremely bright 5-inch diagonal color display is easy to read in direct sunlight and shade; however, you should reduce the brightness in the dark to preserve your night vision. Although initially disappointed with the 234 x 320-pixel resolution, I had no problems reading the display.
Easy to navigate with arrow keys, the interface features well-designed screens and an intuitive menu structure. On the main screen, you can choose the major functions: chart, sonar or a combination. Additional options appear on the home screen when accessories, such as XM weather or NMEA 2000 engine diagnostics, are attached.
An industry standard NMEA 2000 connection allows the GPSMAP 541s to interface with a variety of other devices, including engine diagnostics, weather instruments, sail instruments, VHF/DSC and AIS.
The preloaded U.S. coastal charts are easy to read, contain great detail and allow for a 3-D view.
The spot soundings are clear and easy to read. Shoreline detail and land masses are clearly marked and labeled, and navigational aids are easy to identify. My only complaint was with chart clutter, as it’s difficult to decide how much information to display on a chart.
The sounder module performed flawlessly. One version of the GPSMAP 541s includes a transom-mount transducer, but I used an Airmar in-hull transducer for these tests. The sounder held a bottom lock at various speeds, saw the fish and determined the approximate bottom composition.
The GPSMAP 541s offers a few different mounting options. The mounting bracket included can be affixed just about anywhere, allows for full articulation and is secure. You can also surface-mount the unit.
Garmin GPSMAP 541s is a nice fixed-mount chartplotter for any recreational boater.
P/C Bob Mueller, JN, is an America’s Boating Course instructor, a vessel examiner and a Squadron Emergency Response Assistance Team leader. This article is a condensed version of one that originally ran on GPStracklog.com.
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