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C-Map NT Compact (MapSend Marine), a review by GPS Nuts.

Overview.

 For a long time, along with Navionics, C-Map has been recognized by the boating community as a leading supplier of vector based, electronic charts. Magellan has a long-standing relationship with C-Map. Many Magellan marine-oriented units are capable of working with C-Map cartridges. When Magellan introduced the Map410 GPS to the market in 1999, it was capable of being uploaded with maps and charts from the MapSend series of CD-ROMs.  At that time, C-Map become the provider of the nautical charts for the marine versions of the CDs. C-Map NT charts were modified in size and coverage detail to fit into the Map410's memory and optimized for the receiverís display screen. The resulting charts are called C-Map NT Compactô and are distributed on Magellan MapSend Marine series of CD-Roms. There are 3 versions of the MapSend Marine and each one includes charts for a different area of the world. The three are: America, Europe & Africa and Asia & Australia / Pacific . At the end of this review there is a link to the detailed catalogue of the regions and charts included on each one of the CDs. According to Magellanís website, NT Compact charts do not contain some of the sophisticated information one would find in the C-MAP NT. Landmarks (airports, cemetery, buildings, monuments, etc.) and objects (crane, anchorage, etc.) and other generic symbols are not displayed in NT Compact. Special features such as Port Info and Tide Info are also not available. †Spot soundings are available from a determined scale onwards and up to 20 meters. The same goes for depth contours, which are displayed up to 100 meters (200 meters for one specific chart scale).

 The usual questions are: 1) Are the C-Map NT Compact marine charts worth the money they cost and 2) Are they what you want and need? With this review we attempt to give you some information that may help you to decide for yourself. 

The review is based on the MapSend Marine Americas version 1.03 working with Map410 GPS receiver, software / firmware version 1.05 

The screen shots included in this review were taken with a flatbed scanner and they do not reflect the real quality of the chart display on the receiver's screen.

 

Ordering Chart details and getting an unlock code for the selected chart.

The MapSend Marine CD-Rom can be purchased from Magellan dealers. There are different regional versions of the CD. Since GPS Nuts live, sail and boat in the USA and Canada, we got the "Americas" version edition.   One of our concerns was whether the particular charts we were interested in were actually included on the CD. A short email exchange with Magellan confirmed that the Great Lakes are indeed covered, but we were still unsure what other charts were included. Neither C-Map's nor Magellan's websites provide any listing that would clear this up. We decided to go ahead anyway.

From Magellan's website, we knew that the price of the CD includes one unlock code for one chart region only and that additional unlock codes have to be purchased separately from C-Map. Our expectations were simple: we get the CD, then call, fax or email C-Map with the serial number of the CD and receiver, and receive the unlock code for a chart we can pick from some sort of a list.  For the most part, we were correct. The whole thing was simple. 

After a couple of minutes of reading the small manual, we loaded the CD into a P200MMX, 64MEG Ram, computer running under W98.† Installation went without a single hitch. A few minutes later the program was up and running.  MapSend automatically recognized that on startup, an American version of the Map410 was hooked up to the serial port.Then after selecting "get unit ID" from the menu, it provided the internal serial number of the receiver. Now all we needed to decide was which particular chart to unlock. A right click on the displayed overview map activates a pop up menu that indicates available data sets for the particular region. The options are: Marine,  POI, Superlakes and Roads.

Marine and Superlake categories contain charts for various American regions. The only POIs (points of interest) on the MapSend Marine are nautical NavAids and there are no roads to be uploaded. Users of MapSend Land, presumably, can upload different POIs and roads together with the marine charts. NavAids present as POIs are separated into 6 overlapping regions covering all of the Americas and do not require an unlock code in order to be uploaded. Only charts require such a code. Regions of interest can be opened and previewed either by the graphical interface mentioned earlier (right click on the chart), or simply selected from the list of the regions available. The list consists of  115, often slightly overlapping regions  (click here to see the index)Each area is small enough to be loaded into the Map410 along with the related set of NavAid POIís. †There was even some room to spare, presumably for additional data from the MapSend Land CD. However, many areas are large enough to prevent uploading 2 charts together with a set of NavAids at the same time. 

Viewing the charts.

Even before getting the unlock code, the MapSend program allows the user to preview in fair detail the areas covered by each regional chart.  The screenshot below shows an overview of the area covered by the chart we got the unlock code for, but "unlocking" of a chart has no impact on the detail that could be previewed on the computer. 

The yellow lines indicate individual charts included within a region. Regions covered by the NavAids are indicated in a similar fashion.

After inputting the code, the "unlocked" chart can be loaded into the receiver. The actual loading is a  straight forward operation and we had no problems following the manual. With the receiver ON and hooked up to the computer, one needs to start the MapSend program, select the chart and a NavAid set for upload and... upload.

 The initial connection has to be made at 4800 baud, but once it's established it automatically changes to some higher, unknown to us, value. In effect, it took approximately 18 minutes to upload the data set shown above.

 

On the computer, charts can be previewed with lots, but not all of the detail that is available to be seen after uploading into the receiver. Specifically, the preview does not show the soundings, depths for the bottom contours or finer detail that is visible for some areas once the charts are loaded into the receiver. 

Areas covered by the chart.

To see the list of individual charts included within the region we uploaded, click  here

A number of charts are nested one within the other.   Borders of each chart are indicated on the display with solid lines and easily distinguishable from other features.

Chart detail. 

Depending on the particular source chart scale, different charts are displayed at different zoom levels.  

   

There is a limited control over the display of NavAids and map the text can be turned OFF / ON, but the  Map 410 does not allow user control over which charts are displayed on each of the zoom levels. In general, the smaller the zoom scale, the more detailed the chart (if available) that is displayed and more detail from each chart is displayed. 

 

 

Most of the time it provides a clear and readable display, but in some areas that are rich with rocks, shoals or other features , the display may become cluttered and unreadable. As illustrated above, the way to clear the clutter is to change the zoom level.

Naturally, only so much information can be displayed on a handheld receiver's screen at any one time. Still, the amount of detail displayed on small scales is tremendous and includes most of the information from the corresponding printed charts. 

At larger scales, some of the information (labels, NavAid characteristics and such) can be displayed by placing the cursor over an icon or feature, but most of the labels are displayed automatically at small scales.  

Depth contours and soundings are marked in feet, regardless of the units set on the receiver . However, most other labels are displayed in the units used by the source, printed charts. In effect, as illustrated above, the display may contain mixed units.  Still, it shouldn't really affect the use, since most mariners do carry the official, printed charts on board.

Charting errors and omissions.

When loaded into the receiver, the chart does not require the datum to be set. It eliminates the possibility of the most common error. All the features checked against the official charts were positioned properly and there were no significant errors spotted.

Few NavAids are integral with the charts and most of them come from a separate database. The database contains a lot of them, but not all.

Subjective comments and opinions.

The combination of the C-Map NT Compact and Magellan Map410 is a powerful, navigational tool. It may be especially interesting to users of small to medium size boats. When moving at planing speeds of a motorboat,  the relatively slow screen refresh rates of the Map410 make using small scale charts an exercise in futility (the receiver is redrawing the chart more often than displaying it). When used on a fishing boat or a sailboat, which isn't moving at 20+ knots, the charts are fully usable at all zoom levels. 

The electronic charts do not replace official, printed charts which should always be on board, yet... they kind of make you put the paper charts in the bottom drawer of the nav table. 

Aug. 12, 2000

 

    The combination of C-Map NT Compact and Magellan Map410 is a powerful, navigational tool. It may be especially interesting to users of small to medium size boats. When moving at planning speeds of a motorboat,  relatively slow screen refresh rates of Map410 make using small scale charts an exercise in futility (the receiver is redrawing the chart more often than displaying it). When used on a fishing boat or a sailboat which isn't moving at 20+ knots, the charts are fully usable at all zoom levels. 

    The electronic charts do not replace official, printed charts which should always be on board, yet... they kind of make you put the paper charts in the bottom drawer of the nav table. 

    GPS Nuts

    Aug. 13, 2000

     

    To find out more about the Magellan Map410, check the review on this website.

     

    Other related links:

     

    Detailed catalogue of the C-Map NT Compact charts. 

     

    Magellan

    C-Map

     

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