I have been using Garmin products since the inception of mainstream GPS units started being sold to the average user. Coming from Loran C the new GPS units seemed like Buck Rogers or Star Trek accuracy with these cool integrated Computer course guidance. It was like playing pong while fishing or diving, much resembling the old Compu Nav Lorans. Well, times have changed, now we have a chart plotter on our dashboards that keep up with us in real time no matter how fast we go and all we have to do these days seemingly is point our finger to the touch screen to a spot where we want to go and off we go.
Garmin 5212 Review
I have been looking forward to writing the review on the Garmin 5212 touch screen GPS Chart Plotter for a while now. I was very skeptical at first about liking a touch screen on a boat that runs 40mph through 3-5 ft seas, I was envisioning all sorts of mis placed fingers to get what I needed done correctly on the fly. I also thought,, Touch Screen, if you read my review of the Garmin 188 C Chart Plotter I wrote a few years ago you will definitely get the feel that I have no faith in Garmin's screen technology, Especially with junk on my hands and the screen needing to be touched to make it work.. I had to have some time with this unit to really make sure it was the Bomb..
The Yellowfin 32 Center Console is my tool of choice for offshore fishing here in Key West. As one can imagine between the Gulf, Atlantic, Reefs, Dry Tortugas, all the wrecks and whatever else we do with our 32 Yellowfin a good if not Great chart plotter was in order. The boat was put together to be delivered in Feb. 2008. I have the Garmin 5212 with the GMR 404 4 KW Radar using the GMR 406 pedestal base. Along with that I went with the GDL 30A for my XM weather and Radio overlay. GSD 22 for the bottom machine capabilities.
Purchasing all of these accessories was the big question.. New boat, do I want to have to take it back to the factory to have anything fixed. THe answer was no. So I purchased all my components at West Marine with my Port Supply Card here in Stock Island near Key West. I worked with the store manager and he offered me a deal and a great ESP warrantee that I could bring it back if there was a problem for three years or something like that. Great deal, all the parts, and great service this guy knew his stuff. When the boat was assembled at Yellowfin all the parts were there and there were no issues. Thanks Lake.
Installation Garmin 5212
I have installed the 4212 in smaller consoles of my 24 Yellowfin bay boats and it was a breeze. The 32 was done by Yellowfin at the factory and what a great job they did. No one likes to punch a Huge hole in the dash board but flush mounting was the way to go. Be careful and read the Destructions. Plug and play all the way. push the button and bingo your sailing. The Radar base is HEAVY.. I have had to change it due to a motor issue but easy to install with a friend. Make sure your mounting surface is very STRONG. The NMEA portion takes a little guess work but some trail and error all your toys are talking to each other seamlessly.
Ease Of Use Garmin 5212
The thing is touch screen. You cant mess it up. push buttons all day and when you get ready to erase something that the machine thinks is a bad idea, it warns you. There are only three buttons on the chart and they take you to menus with all the same stuff we have had in all of our other machines. ONE DIFFERENCE>. this one is up datable. This, as far as I know, is the first time Garmin has offered a machine that grows with technology. Yep you can update this machine with the simple use of a SD card and some computer savvy. Go to Google Type in Garmin 5212 updates, and press the page that looks right, hit download and follow the directions. You will have a whole new machine with new toys and improvements for Free without going to the store next week and realizing your machine is antiquated. Very Cool feature.
Garmin 5212 Chart Plotter
With 12.1 inches of screen on the dash displaying your charts this thing is easy to read and kinda fun to use. Impress your friends at the dock by moving the chart around to display where you went fishing last week as you slide your finger along like the now famous Iphone. The resolution is better that I have seen in any other model and incredible in sunlight. At first I was miffed by the chart plotter not having a MOB or a Mark Button as I had to go to the home page then hit mark then back to chart it was a royal PITA. Now with the newest update of August 08 I did my little update download and the Mark spot button is right on the front screen. Nice!!!!
Garmin 5212 Sonar
I am not nor have I been super impressed with Garmin's Sonar technology. They have a standard 600 Watt with a 1000 watt RMS upgrade "black Box" that offers what you need inside 100' and readable to about 900 ft or so with some detail. I am not impressed only because I am a Furuno guy when it comes to bottom machines. I chose the Furuno FCV 1100 to share the landscape of my dashboard for my Sonar needs. My Furuno can see the crack in a mosquito's ass at 700 ft at 40 knts. Coupled with an expertly installed R-209 Transducer by Airmar I feel as though there is no better sonar setup for a center console boat of this nature. So, my review of this machines Sonar will be very bias..
Note: I have spoken to Garmin and they say that Sonar is high on the list for improvements. If they do as well with this as they have the chart plotter, well we will see.
Garmin 5212 Radar
The Radar on my 32 Yellowfin's Garmin 5212 setup is pretty decent. Can it see birds? Well not sure. I have tried but I really don't use Radar enough to get it really dialed in. I am sure a tech can make the thing sing. I like the positioning capability of the Radar and the ability for it to run at night. very impressed with redraw and updating as it is pretty fast. As I mentioned earlier the motor mount for the radar went bad on me but West Marine and Garmin ponied up with Warrantee. The radar sucks the life out of the house batteries as any radar does. The whole unit on the dash gets very warm when Radar is on.
Garmin Weather / Radio Captains Package
VERY COOL FEATURE. Garmin and XM have this licked. On my 32 Yellowfin I have the XM Mariners package. Live Doppler radar update and storm tracking. Updated every 2 minutes or less. I cant tell you how much this feature means to me as I am trying to dodge our summer storms for a day of fishing. Saves me fuel as I know exactly where to run to get out of harms way or if I have to run at all. This is in my opinion a must for anyone considering this unit.
The XM radio is cool too but I also have Sirius on this boat and listen to that mostly. The XM radio pops up on the screen with the song and station that is playing. Like I said I don't use it much.
Other Garmin 5212 Features
There are many other features on this unit that make it more interesting to different people. Like Video and Blue Chart G2. I don't have a need for these items but have heard they are very cool. Another interesting note. is that through your NMEA and Garmin's extra accessories you can have it monitor engine data as well with a full screen or partial screen view of gauge like data.. I use the Mercury Vessel View monitor so this was not really a great thing for me. By the way, Mercury Vessel view so far as I know and can get to work is a one way communication from GPS to Vessel view
Garmin 5212 Problems
I have had one issue with the Radar pedestal motor going bad. The screen gets hot to touch if I am using lots of accessories or expanding and contracting the screen allot. Sometimes the screen takes a bit longer to redraw when warm and on rare occasions if there are many tracks in a small ares it will not draw them all.
Garmin 512 Surprises
The screen technology of Garmin has definitely improved. After 6 months and 500 operating hours on my motors the screen is still perfect even after grubby hands touching it.
All in all from Bay boats to Large boats a consumer will be hard pressed to find a better solution for Chart Plotter GPS than the Garmin 5212. The bottom machine Sonar is adequate for 90% of the fishermen out there but not the units strong point. The Radar is better than I know at this point how to use it. The longevity so far is impressive..
Capt. Steven Lamp Updated 7/5/12