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I’m researching some small EFIS panels for an upcoming build, and have narrowed it down to MGL and GRT. Their offerings seem so similar, I’m having tough time deciding which is “best.”
I’m looking at: the MGL iEFIS Lite and XTreme Mini EFIS
compared to: the GRT Sport and Mini-X EFIS
The panel will be VFR only, and I plan to feed 912ULS engine data to the EFIS.
MGL *seems* more expensive, but it’s tough to apple-apple the two. The MGL UI seems more “Windows 3.1” clunky to me, partially due to the design, partially due to the relatively lo-res displays. GRT doesn’t seem to publish the resolution of their screens, but the UI design seems more crisp.
Opinions on these devices and their features? The companies, the support they offer, software updates and longevity, etc?
OK, let me preface my remarks with a confession: I'm a huge fan of MGL products! I initially planned to do a minimal round gauge, VFR panel. A very experienced builder/friend/A&P kept telling me "look at MGL." I found that an XTreme mini-EFIS cost little more than a panel full of new round gauges PLUS it included a GPS navigator with full airport database PLUS it can remotely control my Sandia 165R transponders PLUS they later released upgraded software (free!) to control 2 servos and act as a control head for a 2-axis autopilot (you do have to add an AHRS for the autopilot, however)! Also, since it has on-board GPS, it has a GPS-driven artificial horizon that is just as good as an AHRS-driven one. It is NOT approved for IFR, but it is plenty good to get you down through the cloud in an emergency. I think it is probably one of the greatest "bang for the buck" items in aviation!
At first I was worried about too much heads-down time looking at the EFIS when flying. However, it has multiple parameters you can set and if anything is not nominal, you can install a big 'ole flashing red light to get your attention. So, you can actually keep your head looking outside when flying low and slow and as long as the red light isn't flashing, you know everything is A-OK!
The biggest negative? That's a tiny screen to display both EMS and flight data. I had already bought and installed a GRT EIS-6000 and it worked great. However, after a while, it looked rather dated with its alpha-numeric data vs the graphic display of the XTreme EFIS. So, I eventually decided I wanted to add a second screen for the EMS data. I already had the GRT and about that time they were going to release their mini-EFIS and supposedly a matching EMS. Their new boxes looked identical to my EFIS, so I held out for a while for the GRT EMS since it would be plug-compatible with my EIS-6000. However, eventually they dropped the idea of the dedicated-EMS box, so I got a MGL XTreme EMS and made up a harness to make it (actually, the RDAC XF interface) plug-compatible with my GRT sensors. The EMS is less expensive than the XTreme EFIS. A lot of people are now going to the "Discovery Lite" with a ?7"? screen and displaying both EMS and flight data on one screen.
I also have a MGL V6 radio. All 3 products have been seemingly bulletproof for nearly 6 years and 540+ hours. Matt at MGL provides great support and although I've never needed repairs, I've heard good reports for quick turn-arounds from those whose have required them.
GRT makes an equally good product, I just think the MGL gives more flexibility in panel design and nice add-ons like an autopilot, etc. With my transponder remotely mounted and the EFIS controlling the autopilot, it makes for an uncluttered panel:
Hope this helps!
(not affiliated with MGL or GRT, just obviously a satisfied customer!)
I had an MGL V10, the slightly larger version of the V6. Transmit quit. I sent it in for repair. They sent me a new V10 (and charged me for it), saying the V10 has parts that can no long be repaired. That unit quit the second time I used it. Since it was number new warranty, I sent it back. They offered me another V10, or one of the new V16s.
Having had all the experience with V10s I really wanted, I took them up on the V16. What they didn't tell me was that they didn't have any V16s on hand. I'm waiting for the shipment to come from Africa.
I obviously have a negative opinion of their radios so far, and of their ability to respond. I seriously considered writing the V10 radio off, and buying something with better U.S. support.
If you're having success with them, great! But I probably won't buy any more new MGL equpment.
I have the 10" challenger lite with the v6 radio, ECB's and 2 axis autopilot . I have just received my airworthiness cert. and will be starting phase 1 testing.
I found the MGL to be very easy to install with sufficient documentation. The knowledge base website is fairly comprehensive and the forum is responsive to questions.
Matt, while very knowledgeable and friendly, has other ventures and is very hard to get a hold of.
In my opinion one of the best features of MGL is the ability to completely customize the screens to your needs. The engine monitor screen has a specific Rotax setup you can use or customize if you want.
They update the software frequently and the owner ( Ranier) is updating and improving the product line regularly.
I am happy I chose MGL.
Hope that helps.
I can't compare the two since I have no experience of the GRT line, but I do have the MGL iEFIS and V6 radio and have been very happy with both. I installed all the parts with wiring etc in a couple of days and it worked right out of the box, other than an issue with my Sandia transponder would keep disconnecting (which just turned out to require me to use a different port).
I agree with John that support from Matt is really good, I got daily replies to my questions and there is a small community that was helpful as well.
I chose the MGL because of the price and the flexibility - I love that I can design custom screens (I've made a few changes to the layouts) and add new things were I to come up with them.
So I'm a happy one year customer of MGL BUT I can't compare what the experience would be like with GRT.
I have the Sport SX from GRT in my 601XLB. I've been very pleased with their responsiveness and support. Thay are constantly upgrading the platform, usually at no cost to me. It takes some digging, but it has unadvertised features. Right now, I'm working on using their Garmin 30 outputs to control a MGL V16 receiver.
They also have an android application that will do a snazzy job of passing data through the EFIS to the receiver. The application has an internal database. You can give it a route of flight, and it will load all the necessary frequencies, making them available to you along the way. It interfaces with the EFIS via bluetooth. Admittedly, it's a little tricky. They aren't the only one who has something like this, but I've had better luck with their lower cost approach.
My ADS-B is also tied through the GRT EFIS. It feeds the altitude to my (older) transponder. GRT has a package deal on an ADS-B transceiver that works with the EFIS. For a tad less than $1,500, I got full ADS-B.
If it sounds like I really like the unit, it's because I do!
Another factor to consider is that MGL is in Africa. Support has a relatively long chain, while GRT is in Michigan. I have/had an MGL radio. They've been good about supporting it, but I am currently down which waiting a shipment from Africa.
Just to point out that MGL support for the USA is out of Torrence, CA. When I was struggling to get my panel to look right with my custom changes, I flew into Torrence, walked into their office with my unit, Matt plugged it into their test harness, made a few adjustments to my files and I flew out an hour later with the screen I wanted and a lesson in how to use their editor. I am fortunate that I live "close" and can do that, but I've never been stuck waiting to hear from someone in Africa. You are right though that if you do have to wait, that isn't going to be good.
Sounds like the GRT experience is also great, just have to come up with your pros and cons and see which ticks more boxes for you.
It's been about 7 years since I seriously considered the MGL EFIS, whereas I'm more current with GRT. If I had to fault GRT, it would be with the documentation. It takes a lot of digging to find out exactly what the unit can do.
For example, the SX cannot directly support blue tooth, but it can be made to do so. It took a lot of reading of documentation to learn this, plus email exchanges to find out the hows and whys.
There are no perfect units out there; they all have their plus and minus aspects. The amount of digging I am willing to do might not be appropriate for someone else. But I do want my parts in a timely fashion.
I purchased the GRT EX VFR package with external magnetometer for $2430 but I haven't installed it yet. A winter project. I didn't know which one to purchase, these are all new to me so I have a large learning curve ahead of me.
How are you making out with the EX install? Looking to buy the same thing but am scratching my head on all the other stuff for the panel.