Charting compared, mixed results

Croisière estivale aux BaléaresThree weeks and 600 nautical miles of sailing between the mainland and the Balearic Islands have allowed me to test in live some of iPad maritime applications we have.

Warning : it is not about to indulge in a point by point comparison between applications, but rather to identify some key aspects of their use. On the other hand, applications used were up-to-date at the beginning of July. Fast evolving, and updates may have been made in August or early September I did not have. At last, the messaging app iNavX associated with available Navionics cartography from the X-Traverse server for me is the "master-standard" marine applications. iNavX is to date the most comprehensive application in terms of functionality, and Navionics charting (from the X-Traverse server, I specify) closest to the geographical reality observed by many users.


This is most striking in alternating applications on the same route, sometimes it is the fundamental difference in design and ergonomics. At least, applications incorporate three essential features : create waypoints, create routes of many waypoints, and save the track all along the progress of the boat. They all do that, more or less easily, certainly, but they do. However, two fundamental aspects seem to compare : ergonomics, that is to say, the ease of implementation associated with design, and the quality of the proposed charting. you can see below two diametrically opposed designs between Navionics Marine HD and Nobeltec TimeZero :

The same route to a waypoint set, two totally different designs.

In both cases the navigation information provided is the same, a retractable drawer to the left in Navionics Marine HD, a semi-transparent panel to drop from the bottom in TimeZero. However, the first is fixed, the second is fully configurable. The creation of a route in Navionics Marine (subject for purchasing NavModule) is extremely easy. In TimeZero a little less intuitive at first, but once you understand the way to, easy to use.

Nautical information

Usually two kinds of information must be provided by applications : the Navaids and POIs. If navaids are generally available in vector charting applications (iNavX, iSailor, Navionics Marine, BlueChart, Plan2Nav) as extracted from a database associated with the navigation charts, they simply do not exist with the raster charts, that show only what is printed on the scanned chart. For POIs, the prize goes to Navionics Marine HD and Plan2Nav (Jeppesen / CMap) for their rich information database, whose priority data are included in the chart (as harbour master phone number and VHF channel, for example). iNavX, on the other hand, only offers a limited list of information without interest (¹). In other applications it is the desert.

POIs in Navionics Marine HD and iNavX + Navionics. What's wrong?.

Common use

Monitoring the navigation route used to assess the overall usability of the application. As noted in the first paragraph, designs can be radically different, and in this respect only the tastes and expectations of the user will select. If for me, and a large number of offshore boaters, iNavX is the reference application for the wealth of built-in functions, it is by far not the most user-friendly application or the best designed of market. Yet it is the only one to meet the demands of offshore sailing : choice of charting, interaction with other applications (Weather4D Pro, XGate, Iridium Mail), connection with onboard instruments, satellite phone connection, AIS display, GRIB weather display. This bonus for me on some usability issues, but it will not necessarily be the same for the only coastal navigation which does not necessarily require this plethora of functions.

Perspective views in directional 3D with TimeZero, 2D directional with CMap, often appreciated rather than traditional flat view.

A big disappointment to discover that Balearic Islands do not include 3D satellite images in TimeZero, while the same TimeZero application in onboard PC (More exactly a Mac Mini running Windows !) shown these images. This removes a lot of interest from the perspective 3D view, especially for landings.

Cartographic quality

In this chapter, I will definitely be dissatisfied, but it wants to be useful. Accustomed as we are, we French boaters, using for decades a formal charting of extreme quality (SHOM), with a permanent update service, we are entitled to have requirements for electronic charting. It is the Maritime Safety. And in this respect there is quite a work to do by publishers. They can clear itself by clauses to protect them from any legal recourse, each user must accept by opening his favorite app, it remains that these "Aids to Navigation" have become, for many boaters, the only source of cartographic information onboard. This is the inevitable course of events. It is unacceptable to see cartographic representations with no detail (TimeZero/MapMedia3), obsolete charts (Garmin / BlueChart (²), non existent marks or buildings several years after construction, and that in the majority of publishers.

The busy port of Ciutadella, Menorca. Navionics is the only one to represent the pontoons, but it still misses the # 1 hosting tourist boats outside, and which we were moored on catwalks inside.

Same in the following example, landing at San Antonio, Ibiza. Only Navionics shows real up-to-date markup and existing pontoon in north marina. Others are totally approximate, it is regrettable.

Navionics charting is the only up-to-date for San Antonio, Ibiza.

This is marinas frequented by hundreds of boats. But what about the dream anchorages on the north coast of Majorca or Menorca's south coast ? I'll let you judge :

Cala Tuent north of Mallorca. The comparison speaks for itself.

Below Cala Coves. Useless to try to enter with poor visibility or without depth sounder with TimeZero, the south coast of Menorca has no detail (I said that I downloaded all the charts). Navionics in iNavX (July Edition 2013) presents curiously soundings and textual information different than Navionics Marine HD Europe (version 4.7). Again markup is up to date with iNavX / Navionics, consistent with that found.

The beautiful Cala Coves in the south of Menorca.

In conclusion

I remain quite skeptical to the vagueness of some charts. Navionics and Plan2Nav (Jeppesen / CMap), undisputed leaders for chartplotters for over two decades, are the most advanced in this domain. It is only a pity that Navionics does not provide, with the charting available on the X-Traverse server, the same database information in their own applications, since in any case it wins in both markets. iSailor uses very nice Transas charting, but it seriously lacks detail, and the sequence of zoom levels lack of continuity in the data display. The application does not provide setup to delete the light sectors that pollute display some zoom levels, or adjust the display of marks.

The big disappointment is MaxSea TimeZero, more exactly MapMedia raster charting. As I walked around the bay of Hyères, no worries, all details are. But when you move away to the south, even a large port like Barcelona has display shortcomings (Missing lights in the example below :

Barcelona seen by Navionics, Transas and Mapmedia3

MaxSea has announced the use of a vector charting soon in a future release. It is hoped. I have already expressed, and I still say that the raster chart is no longer suited to modern computing devices such as tablets, smartphones and smaller laptops. Display inconvenient, file size too big, no database, difficulty update, etc.

I voluntarily dismissed Imray charts because its raster charting for the Mediterranean is terrific poverty. It only has a few major routing charts and few approach details charts. Chart overlays are laborious, very difficult to use application, ergonomics of a rare poverty. Short for me unusable.

About Navionics, regular updates and global coverage make reference publisher. However, the new deal for updating Navionics Marine applications asks me. I will come back in a future post.

(¹) Indicating that Navionics Marine HD database is absent from Navionics sold by X-Traverse channel ! Not cool…
(²) San Antonio, Ibiza, last correction 26 April 2009.

Related items :
The stakeholders of electronic charting
The difficult choice of electronic charting


12 Replies to “Cartographies comparées, mixed results”

  1. Hello Francis, damage to the Great Bulwark and we may not meet again before my next start. And suddenly I came to take a look at your article. Indeed to go to Noumea, I have a concern, I go through Panama and the Pacific. iNavX that I'm starting to know (several chairs to the Caribbean, Panama, les Bahamas, Cuba or further north Annapolis, several transmed to Greece and Turkey, 4 Transpac to Tahiti) gives me more satisfaction than. I do not sail computer, I chose to have 2 Iphone (cas de Panne) avec la « trilogie magique » iNavX, Weather4D PRO et Iridium AxcessPoint (some bugs in this last application on my last transatlantic). But… To Noumea, iNavX (as MacENC) do not know go the International Date Line. So I gave myself a little comparison, that could perhaps be one of your next posts. In two words iSailor do not know, TimeZero oui, but, I believe, does not provide mapping Pacific. Still missing for me. I understand the fact qu'OpenCPL, but before I leave with a Notebook PC… Another small indication : I offered a Vesper Marine AIS transponder XB8000. I can not use the transmitter, n’étant pas une « station » avec son MMSI, but I hope to use the receiver (I made a little scared recently landing in Cape St. Vincent), TimeZero can not display the AIS, if the other two, tested iNavX, with a question : stopped I have not seen the emergence of CPA and TCPA field. Finally iNavX offers a choice of ortho and rhumb, it is not expressed (unless I'm mistaken) in the other two apps, donc ortho ou loxo ? I think I might be giving me a map to iSailor, probably not for TZ (I will wait for the vector version and the Pacific). I will send a small comparative, but an update of the comparative risk emerged not ? Unless you do attendes Android version, Olivier et Weather4D franchit le pas, done so I think with AxcessPoint then when iNavX Android ? iNavX which remains by far this is the best in iPad. Friendships

    1. The passage of the International Date Line is a real problem, and since I found that Navionics Marine Asia&Africa by faisait, I wonder iNavX and other.
      About AIS iNavX, calculations CPA and TCPA are not made when the boat is stationary (move < 0,3 nds), et ne sont donc pas affichés dans les infos de la cible. Si tu es au mouillage et qu'une cible vient sur toi, pas de calcul. La prochaine version de iNavX aura une fonction d'alarme sur cible AIS réglable (dans les réglages des instruments).

  2. Bravo for this article and comparison. Je pensais aussi que le raster « type » SHOM était le meilleur pour naviguer , but I've changed my mind this summer by comparing with the cards vertorielles iSailor / Transas. In the Western Channel and Anglo Norman area information are very similar to paper maps just Shom. with the flow of the vector and more information about points of interest and markup. For the Anglo Norman Transas charts use data provided by the UKHO Hydrographic Service of Her Majesty. So the serious. For areas further south I do not know ?

  3. Hello Francis, I sail with iNavX forever and do not want to change it's great.
    I do a lot of coastal and I can say that there are not many surprises.
    For coastal details I sometimes use Iphigenia with coastal option card and I can say that it's really top, except that it must load the tiles before sailing if it is long to load.
    I'll see the great bulwark to show you on iPhone and iPad.
    Thank you again for your great work,
    Laurent Camus, La Rochelle

  4. Hello francis
    I iNavX used on iPad; j’ai téléchargé l’application TZ.(Bretagne)
    Conclusions de notre expérience :
    iNavX is much more comprehensive than TZ navigation, plus « marine » je dirais, mais j’avoue consulter TZ pour les cartes sur les zones de mouillage plus informatives sur la nature des fonds et plus « agréables » à lire.
    L’ipad permet ce luxe à cout raisonnable

  5. Merci pour cet article très pédagogique. We have sailed in the Aegean Sea and Weather4D iNavX with no surprises.

  6. J'utilise habituellement iNavX you Navionics Marine HD, ainsi que Weather4D Pro.
    Le premier we parait plus agréable, easier to manage the roads, but the Spanish translation makes it almost unusable, do not changer la langue de l'iPad chaque fois DEVIENT pénible. C'est dommage, I even suggested the developer to remove the Spanish version and leave only the version in French and / or English.

  7. I have already reported to Maxsea on mapmedia2 a big mistake in the northern Bay Stornway (Outer Hebrides) or scan Admiralty charts reported a rock in the scale 1/100.000 in the middle of the bay, but the same rock was absent on the map 1/20.000 ! This rock was present on CMap and Navionics. The cards had been updated at the beginning of the summer 2011. As we choose to wet the bay, goodnight damage !
    Conclusion, as professionals, it takes two electronic mapping systems on board for safety.

    1. Just like the Barcelona card that displays the port lights on the map at a larger scale, but disappear from the map detail. Dangerous for entry at night without another source of information.

  8. Finally, each map in his chosen field …
    – If it's for sailing, be chosen iNavX (to interact with 4D Weather among other) ;
    – If this is for POI information, we choose Navionics Marine HD ;
    – If it is for the details of the coasts and ports, be chosen … iNavX ?
    … until updates and profound changes occur in each software.
    I just ?

    However, I did not quite understand this basic story if absent purchase X-Traverse. What is another source of purchase (including database) ? What difference in fares ? Because if you only pay a little more through something other than X-Traverse to have it all in and making iNavX economy Navionics Marine HD , Here may be a good solution …
    (merci 🙂 )

    1. For the choice, it's actually up to you to select the priority criteria.
      For POIs, they are stored in a data file (database) related to the application. A tap on a particular item (Marina, by exemplke) called by an indexing system data for this element. This is the principle of vector mapping that associates information bases cards. The file used by Navionics Marine, therefore included in this application, simply do not exist in the records (Area) Navionics card distributed by the X-Traverse server. It is a voluntary choice of the company Navionics.

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