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Disappointed with Garmin 424xHD2 Radar

Old 04-29-2019, 05:20 AM
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Default Disappointed with Garmin 424xHD2 Radar

Well, this is my first boat with radar. I had low expectations and anticipation for needing it, but it was included in an electronics package. I've been damn impressed with how sonar technology has improved over the years. High Chirp is downright jaw dropping in the resolution and detail. Unfortunately, my limited expectations for radar haven't been met with this Garmin 424xHD2 unit. Just to specify, it's a 4kw open array on a 9' tall t-top.

All those pretty pictures on the Garmin site are clearly very close range images such as navigating a harbor or inland water way. I've found that the typical targets one would want to see when offshore simply don't show up well or don't show up at all. If I'm sitting idle in flat water, I can paint boats under 50' long at a 2-3 miles at best. If I'm running, i can get similar performance in calm water. Pick up the seas to a 2-3' swell, bye bye target visualization. Ran past a big radio tower about 4 miles out that was easily visible to the naked eye. Could I see it on radar? Nope. I've played with gains, turned off all the sea and rain clutter, and I'm still left disappointed in performance. If I can't see a frigging metal tower with radar reflectors at 4-5 miles, how would I ever spot birds? Like I said, disappointed.

Now, there is a lot of radar enthusiasts and believers. Could it be operator error? Absolutely. If you guys have some tricks or software setup suggestions, please do share. As it stands now, I find it only useful for ranges of less than a mile in adverse conditions where it does a good job of showing nearby objects. Anything further than that is pretty sketchy and unreliable.

Every example on their site is 1nm or less for the range setting. https://buy.garmin.com/en-US/US/p/50.../K10-00012-08#

Last edited by spearfish25; 04-29-2019 at 07:31 AM.
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Old 04-29-2019, 05:24 AM
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I haven't owed any newer radars in a while but what you are describing is crazy. My 25 year old Furuno would spot birds on the surface and light up every single channel marker.
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Old 04-29-2019, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by homeby51 View Post
I haven't owed any newer radars in a while but what you are describing is crazy. My 25 year old Furuno would spot birds on the surface and light up every single channel marker.
At what range though?
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Old 04-29-2019, 06:51 AM
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Sub’ed. I could have written the OP’s complaint about my garmin phantom 24” dome.
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Old 04-29-2019, 07:33 AM
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Something sounds wrong there, I've got a 1224 xHD mounted on my hardtop (shimmed for correct angle when on plane and I can spot birds 5 miles away while cruising at 30 knots. I would contact the installer or the dealer about that.
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Old 04-29-2019, 07:41 AM
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Yea something doesn’t sound right, I’ve got the same radar non HD and can light up a single bird out to about 2mi and clear as day mark the channel markers.
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Old 04-29-2019, 08:01 AM
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Does your radar have the latest software version? Garmin issued a release last winter that greatly improved the performance. My 2526 xHD2 was crap before the update and is now about 75% as good as a Furuno radar, which is to say it is acceptable performance. I can see birds about 4 miles out with the Garmin.
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Old 04-29-2019, 08:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Nomans View Post
Does your radar have the latest software version? Garmin issued a release last winter that greatly improved the performance. My 2526 xHD2 was crap before the update and is now about 75% as good as a Furuno radar, which is to say it is acceptable performance. I can see birds about 4 miles out with the Garmin.
Yeah, I've updated everything with Active Captain. When you say birds, are we talking a massive flock of birds or a single frigate circling? I'm wondering if 4kW is just a joke and I need a higher power unit.
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Old 04-29-2019, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by spearfish25 View Post
Yeah, I've updated everything with Active Captain. When you say birds, are we talking a massive flock of birds or a single frigate circling? I'm wondering if 4kW is just a joke and I need a higher power unit.
I will say that for birds you will ideally want a minimum of 6kw if not 10-12KW
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Old 04-29-2019, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by InternationalMarineBrian View Post
I will say that for birds you will ideally want a minimum of 6kw if not 10-12KW
I've long given up on birds. My unit doesn't show a blip when I'm 3-4 miles from this tower:



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Old 04-29-2019, 09:29 AM
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Sounds to me like you're either angled way down or way up, because that should absolutely show up.
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Old 04-29-2019, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by InternationalMarineBrian View Post
Sounds to me like you're either angled way down or way up, because that should absolutely show up.
I'm convinced it's a radar issue and not a mounting issue.


We drove past the tower yesterday doing about 30 knots. It came into our view at 10deg to port and then we drove past it, keeping it on the port side. I never saw it on the screen, and we were watching closely because I was just complaining to a passenger how useless my radar is.

My radar is installed just as the one in the photo.
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Old 04-29-2019, 10:01 AM
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Please confirm your software and perform another update using a virgin SD card of smaller than 32 gigs and report back.
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Old 04-29-2019, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by InternationalMarineBrian View Post
Please confirm your software and perform another update using a virgin SD card of smaller than 32 gigs and report back.
Thanks Brian. I updated via Active Captain last week to 15.0 on the plotter and 4.0 on the radar (that's what my app currently says). I can try to reload the update this weekend.
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Old 04-29-2019, 10:43 AM
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So, when i first had radar (5 years ago), i couldn't see a damn thing... and then i realized my orientation had been set to North Up rather than Course Up... To this day I have the same radar (Raymarine) and can see very well at 10+ miles out. Just another small idea on checking the small stuff first.
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Old 04-29-2019, 10:54 AM
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One more thing to keep in mind is my garmin unit does some strange things with gain when I change zoom. It can’t hurt to check the settings for each range, you may think you’re in “auto” then when you change range it’ll still be at the setting you had last time at that new range selection. The settings don’t stay consistent as you zoom in and out...
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Old 04-29-2019, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by JerseyBros View Post
One more thing to keep in mind is my garmin unit does some strange things with gain when I change zoom. It can’t hurt to check the settings for each range, you may think you’re in “auto” then when you change range it’ll still be at the setting you had last time at that new range selection. The settings don’t stay consistent as you zoom in and out...
Yep, Phantom and firmware 14.1-15.0 needs to have gain tweaked at every zoom level. Not sure if that is a bug or feature.

OP, next time you have a nice target like that and esp if it is reasonably calm, put your boat in a tight, slow circle and video the display so you can review later to see if you get a better return from one direction or another. And try that on diff targets at diff distances. When I did that I found my radar sucked uniformly in all directions so mounting angle issues were ruled out.
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Old 04-29-2019, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by NEBassMan View Post
Yep, Phantom and firmware 14.1-15.0 needs to have gain tweaked at every zoom level. Not sure if that is a bug or feature.
Legacy units operate the same way. I've seen it touted as a feature, but I've always found it frustrating. I see the logic: zoom way out to watch those storm clouds, but when you zoom in to find that marker the settings are different. My brain just doesn't work that way.
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Old 04-29-2019, 11:14 AM
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I'm going to thoroughly investigate next time I'm out on the water. Videos, screen shots, review settings, etc.

Do you guys actively adjust gain manually all the time or use the Auto Low or Auto High typically? I did play with gain yesterday and had still couldn't see targets, but I'm wondering how much I should be manually tweaking myself.

I know the orientation is correct because it's painting close targets and coastlines correctly when in the bay and marina.


Are there any helpful settings for seeing small targets at longer ranges? For example, a boat painted at 1/2 mile is a big blip on screen. The same boat at 2 miles is a damn tiny blip. I'm surprised there isn't (or haven't found) a way for the software to amplify these targets at the longer ranges to aid visulization of important returns. I have a 16" screen. I can't imagine how people use radar on small displays.

Last edited by spearfish25; 04-29-2019 at 12:36 PM.
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Old 04-29-2019, 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by RollerCoastr View Post
Legacy units operate the same way. I've seen it touted as a feature, but I've always found it frustrating. I see the logic: zoom way out to watch those storm clouds, but when you zoom in to find that marker the settings are different. My brain just doesn't work that way.
Its definately a feature. Ill kick the gain up higher for long range and change some of the filters. I use different settings in close.

I have an older 24hd and i would have no problem seeing that tower at 5 miles. But if i dont tune properly, i can miss a stone jetty at 1/4 mile.
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