Best network gateways for 2021
1/11/2022

A few years ago the mere mention of a computer gateway drew mostly blank stares. That has changed to some degree thanks to the growing sophistication of boaters and others who spend a fair amount of time online or researching new computer equipment and software. Gateways are simply devices that bridge between computer networks that are governed by different protocols in order to permit communication between them.

For example, a gateway may link a personal computer to the NMEA network and, if needed, convert NMEA 2000 data to NMEA 0183 format so it can operate with PC-based navigation software. A gateway can also convert 2000 and 0183 data in both directions, permitting newer NMEA 2000 devices and sensors to be integrated into older systems. There are other types of gateways that perform a variety of useful functions as well.

Describing a variety of products is part of an exercise Marine Electronics Journal does every year in our Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask the top manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category (17 in all) that they consider to be their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters. Over the past several weeks, we rolled a wide variety of vessel monitoring equipment and systems that manufacturers told us about.

Actisense NGT-1 (NMEA 2000 to PC)

The NGT-1 is an intelligent NMEA 2000 gateway able to precisely transfer messages between the NMEA 2000 network and a computer, while acting as a firewall, enforcing the rules to keep the network safe. It is compatible with a wide range of chartplotter, display and configuration applications available for both Windows and Mac PCs. NMEA Reader, the Actisense diagnostic tool, allows full decoding of NMEA 2000 messages and configuration of NMEA 2000 products from Actisense and other manufacturers. Available in two variants that offer full opto-isolation to suit all installation types: The USB version keeps a computer safe from dangerous ground loops while offering easy connection. The ISO version protects while safely interfacing to an RS232- or RS422-capable device.

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