We knew a Raymarine Element review was in order as soon as we had the chance to play with one of these new fishfinder/chartplotter units at the Miami International Boat Show. What do they have to offer that sets them apart from the crowd? They’re designed to give an angler the most bang for the buck with multiple potent fish-finding abilities and a big screen, at a much lower cost than a full-blown networked MFD system. To accomplish this task the Element is rigged with some serious power – it has a quad-core processor for instantaneous re-draws and lightning-fast responses. It also has a slew of different imagery options: 1.2 mHz CHIRP for hi-resolution side- and down-scanning at short ranges, 350 kHz CHIRP for scanning ranges out to 600 feet, 200 kHz CHIRP for deeper waters and high-speed performance, and 3-D capabilities. All of these functions are built-in (along with a GPS/FLONASS receiver and full chartplotter functionality, of course), and operate via Raymarine’s HyperVision CHIRP transducers.
The Element comes in seven-, nine-, and 12-inch display sizes with optically-bonded LCDs, and is waterproofed to IPX6/IPX7 standards so it’ll have no problem living on an open, exposed helm station. While it isn’t fully-networkable it does have NMEA2000 compatibility so you can display engine data and/or interface the GPS with your VHF for DSC, and it’s also WiFi- and Bluetooth-equipped. Added bonus: it also has RealBathy personal contour charting ability, so the GPS and fishfinder can work together to create your own personal uber-detailed chartography as you fish. When we played with the Element we found the interface easy to understand (an instruction manual is simply not needed to get started with these units) and the re-draws were just as rapid as promised. We also like the keypad position, which will be much easier to use than a touch-screen in a small boat bouncing over big waves.
It's clear that Raymarine is undergoing a serious tech boom these days. You might remember that last year they rolled out the ability to go drone fishing with Raymarine MFDs on your boat, and prior to that they introduced the Axiom series (which we reviewed in Hot New Fishing Gear, June 2017). At Miami they also rolled out an assisted docking system for yachts that integrates FLIR cameras which can spot solid objects like piers and pilings and create a "virtual bumper" around the boat. Truth be told, modern marine electronics evolve at an utterly blinding rate no matter which manufacturer you're talking about. But the segment of the market that the Element addresses - simpler systems with broad capabilities that are ideal for small and mid-sized boats used in areas like the Chesapeake - often goes ignored. And the bottom line here is that if you have a center console or a walkaround that doesn’t need a networked system, but you want the potent fishfinding abilities those far more expensive MFDs come with, the Element is going to be ideal. Price: Packages start at $879 for complete systems including internal chartography and a full-function transducer. Visit Raymarine to learn more.