While Microsoft have had a hard time with their Surface tablet product, the latest generation really is a great product and may make a brilliant solution for on board navigation. With an amazing 2160 x 1440 pixel 12″ screen it’s hands down better than pretty much any chart plotter and its portability means you can use at the chart table, in the cockpit or for planning at home. It’s also priced like a 5″ plotter
The keyboard is detachable so you can use as a tablet (with touch screen, mouse or stylus) or in a more familiar notebook format which is good at a desk or chart table. We also wrote about the Lenovo MiiX tablet (a smaller 8″ unit) HERE a few months back but Surface offers a bigger screen and a more powerful Intel based processor for superior performance.
But… Unlike many tablets, it doesn’t have a built in GPS so until now was not a contender for on board navigation. However, our WLN series nmea-wireless servers can stream your boat’s NMEA instrument, GPS and AIS data direct to any mobile device including iPads, Android tablets, PCs, MACs and now the Surface Pro. This is a much better solution even if your tablet has an internal GPS as your on board system will generally be more accurate and have other data like AIS and instruments available. It alos means the tablet will work below decks and save on tablet battery consumption.
You can of course use our SmarterTrack PC navigation program on a Surface Pro and this works well. Swedish developer SeaPilot have just launched a FREE app on the Windows store and there’s a large selection of professional charts available to download for a modest cost turning the Surface Pro 3 with a WLN10 into a pretty powerful navigation solution. Here’s a quick 2 minute video with Jens Johansson from SeaPilot when I caught up with him at Boot 2015