What Do You Recommend for a Boat TV? Ask the Editors

boat tv

Q: The America’s Cup sailboat race is coming to Bermuda in May and June 2017, and I will be in the spectator fleet on several days. The event will be broadcast locally over the air, so I am looking for a flat-panel boat TV. Space is fairly limited, so the screen needs to be approximately 24″. The only power I have on board is a 12V marine battery, so the TV must either run on 12V or consume no more than 200W on 110V so I can use an AC power inverter.

This is all new for Bermuda. The country’s Internet bandwidth is being upgraded for the event so the competitors can communicate in real time with the outside world, and the Bermuda Broadcasting Company is upgrading its equipment to support HD OTA. Bermuda is only 21 miles long, and the broadcast transmitter is in the middle of the island. I’ll never be more than 10 miles from the transmitter.

– John Steele (john_steele)

A: Sounds like fun! I haven’t found any 24″ HDTV that consumes anywhere near 200W; they typically use around 10 to 20 percent of that amount, so just about any 24″ model will work in that regard. Other requirements include an internal DTV tuner with RF input and onboard speakers.

I found one that might be of particular interest: the SuperSonic SC-2411, which can be powered from an AC outlet or 12V DC directly, and it consumes a maximum of 48W. It’s an LED-illuminated LCD TV with 1920×1080 resolution, and it has dual built-in tuners along with a USB port and an HDMI input for something like a game console or Blu-ray player. I don’t know the SuperSonic brand, but it’s one of Lifewire’s top picks for small TVs. (That list includes the 22″ SC-2211, but I’m sure the SC-2411 is about the same.)

The top recommendation on that list is the Vizio D24-D1, which shares most of the same features as the SC-2411, including 1920×1080 resolution, DTV tuner with RF input, USB port, and HDMI input—and it’s brand I know and respect. It also offers smart-TV apps, though that doesn’t matter if you have no Internet access on the boat. In addition, you’ll need a power inverter, since it does not run on 12V DC directly; the power consumption is spec’d at 19.7W.

Since the TV is going to be on a boat, one consideration is durability in a more-or-less outdoor environment. TVs designed for outdoor use are available; two of the most prominent providers are SunBrite and SkyVue. However, the smallest screen size I’ve found is 32″ from SkyVue, which is probably too large for your situation. Plus, the least-expensive SkyVue 32-inchers cost around $1500, and they consume well over 100W.

Whatever TV you get, you’ll also need a DTV antenna—specifically, an omnidirectional antenna, since the boat’s orientation with respect to the transmitter will constantly change over time. Also, I think an outdoor antenna is better for your application; being at sea is a relatively harsh environment, so the antenna should be as robust as possible. Most passive antennas can pull in signals from as far as 35 miles away, which is well beyond the distance you’ll need. Amplified antennas can reach as far as 50 miles or more, but you don’t need that.

I found a list of eight top omnidirectional antennas on eBay. The list includes outdoor models from Terk, Winegard, and Channel Master, which are all very good brands. Also on the list is one that caught my eye for your particular application: the Shakespeare SeaWatch 3020, which seems specifically designed for boats and RVs. (Amazon doesn’t carry the 3020, but it does offer the SeaWatch 3015 and 3019; the last two digits in the model number indicate the size of the antenna in inches.) I would also consider the Winegard MS-2000 and AntennaCraft 5MS921, which look like they would work well on a boat. (Amazon doesn’t carry the Winegard MS-2000 or AntennaCraft 5MS921, but it does offer the Winegard MS-3005.)

Another model that often came up as I was researching your question is the Digital Yacht DTV100, which is designed specifically for marine applications. You can get an optional dual-TV amplifier for it, but I don’t think you’ll need that.

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