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Yacht, a renowned German nautical magazine, tested 12 AIS receivers and gave Watcheye 5 out of 5.
“There is no navigation without AIS”, states the article. But how to choose? Prices vary from € 120,- to over € 600,-, but it is unclear what the differences are. That is why Yacht tested the 12 most popular brands. They made a consideration about the different options against the price.
All receivers receive AIS data, yet there are many differences in range, the susceptibility to interferences and the connection to other equipment.
First there is the shell, which is comparable for 10 out of 12 tested receivers: a compact black box which can be mounted out of sight.
Second there is the connection: USB, NMEA0183 and NMEA2000 and the multiplex function, which isn’t standard applied to every receiver and can vary in baud rate.
The receiver must be connected to a VHF antenna or splitter. There are two receivers in the test with an internal splitter, but the outcome is that there is no difference to it.
Furthermore there are several configuration possibilities: most receivers are designed as plug & play, but two of them need configuration.
Also the options to check the functionalities of the AIS are tested, which might be useful during installation: is the power ok? is the antenna reception ok? etc.
The conclusion is that to determine which AIS receiver is best, depends on personal wishes. Check which data your other equipment uses (NMEA0183 or NMEA2000), decide if you would prefer a separate VHF antenna or a splitter and if you need the multiplex option.