I'm building a 701 and trying to figure out what avionics to get. 

Looking for a glass display for AS / ALT / ATT and color/annunciator flashing engine monitor display (if that makes sense, not sure what the technical term for that is). 

I believe I have narrowed it down to 3 companies Dynon, MGL, GRT. Are there any others I should consider?

Anyone have a setup they love?

Update: Really appreciate all the advice and comments!

I ended up going with a Dynon system, it was the name that kept coming up from vendors, and seems to have the best quality and, importantly for me as a first time builder, ease of install. 

The cost was definitely steep, things like the AHRS computer are a separate $1,300, but I've spent so much on tools etc that I've resigned to this not being a budget build anyway. 

SteinAir has been very helpful and patient walking me though electrical systems and has been a much better vendor for those components than Aircraft Spruce.

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I am in the same situation. I have been looking at all of them, but leaning towards the Garmin.  

I'll let you know if I get any good information!

I have an alternate thread going here https://www.reddit.com/r/homebuilt/comments/tabhxf/build_support_co...

I bought a partially finished 601XL project that came with a GRT EIS so I went with a GRT Sport 10.1 EFIS which will interface with that EIS.  I will have a Trig remote transponder and autopilot and want a platform that will be good for cross country so this package made sense.  Lead time has been quite long - I ordered in November and they expect to ship in a week or so but I expect it to be worth it.  I have a Jabiru 3300 which is known to have cooling issues so the GRTs ability to graph temperature over time will be handy.

Shaun,

i just finished installing GRT Horizon 10.1 w/GRT safe fly GPS, GRT EIS, Trig TT22 Transponder, and Garmin GTR 200B com and everything seems to be functioning correctly.  I cannot provide an assessment of functionality in the air but some thoughts on the install process. 1) GRT documentation is not necessarily the best in my opinion (of course I’m not the brightest). I get the impression that they started with a base document and then modified as they developed new systems and new capabilities so the documentation for the specific EFIS may refer to other models which can be confusing. This can easily be overcome by calling or emailing their technical support.  I would recommend emailing tech if you need assistance since Jeff who is the programmer works afternoons/nights and seems to be the most knowledgeable of the systems. Phone service just did not seem as knowledgeable. 2) For comparison the Garmin GTR 200 was very straight forward following their install and users manual.  2) GRT uses all RS232 vs Canbus that MGL, garmin and dynon use.  As I understand it canbus just daisy links all the devices together and info is passed between all devises.  Rs232 requires wires coming off each device and then spider webbing to other devices so i would access the effort is a little more rigorous and not as neat as canbus.


In the end everything is turning on and communicating and more importantly panel is complete so I am content.

Just my opinion so take it for what its worth.  Best of luck.

Another system that may be worth looking into that looks really interesting is Level depending on your requirements.  You would still need an eis but I think it interfaces with grt eis.

Asking if anyone has a setup they love is like asking if they have a woman they love. Sure they do, but that doesn't in any way mean it'll work for you.

Opinions are like..... Oh, nevermind.

I've gotten a general impression on my multi-year search for a panel solution;

Garmin makes great products, but their reputation among pilots in both the experimental and certified worlds seems to be taking hits lately. They don't work and play well with others. They never have really. They're very fond of proprietary protocols that can severely limit your ability to integrate any non-Garmin equipment. In some respects they seem to be getting deliberately worse in this regard. They have a virtual stranglehold on service and repair of their products, and it's very expensive compared to others. They seem to be deliberately tightening that stranglehold too. Although I really love their equipment and the functionality it offers, these reasons have caused me to steer away from them for the time being (I change my mind every so often).

Dynon is the market leader in experimental glass panels, and their recent forays into the certified world mean an increased market share that should serve to improve their products further, both in cost and compatibility with other systems. They're fairly responsive to customer questions and input, and service on their systems is reasonably priced, as avionics service prices go (none are truly cheap). They don't have the clout Garmin has, or their deep corporate pocketbook, so they don't have the same flexibility in innovation. But they're continually improving an already very good product. Plus they're multitudes more 'builder-friendly' and user configurable than Garmin products.

GRT makes great products and always has. Their line isn't as varied and robust as Garmin and Dynon, but that in no way means they're a 'no frills' product. They make great stuff that I hear is very user friendly for homebuilders, and they have a good reputation with their customers. The only possible drawback for me personally, besides a more limited lineup, is longevity. Their market share is fairly small, so I can't help but wonder if they'll always be around, and I've heard many horror stories about orphaned products in the experimental marketplace. Truthfully though, I'm not all that familiar with their situation, so that worry could be misplaced.

MGL has a limited market share like GRT, but they occupy a unique niche that GRT can't claim. They're the low cost, glass alternative to the big players. Their customers really like them, and my impression is they're very responsive to builders. Their lineup is also somewhat limited, but that's really part and parcel with their low cost system focus, so it really shouldn't be considered a huge drawback. If you need more capability, you probably shouldn't be looking at a low cost solution anyway.

I'm looking for a robust, wide technological capability that works and plays well with others. That puts MGL out of my current focus. I also want a system with liberal configuration and repair capability, so I'm also currently leaning away from Garmin. That leaves me with Dynon and GRT, and I'm leaning more toward Dynon due to market share. Quite frankly, if the Dynon EFIS could interface fully with more than one radio, and not require a separate control panel for each radio that takes up precious panel space, they'd be my hands down choice right now. But that just serves to highlight the dilemma we all face. Our own personal situations are fairly unique, so the best panel choices for us will be similarly unique. What works for others may not work well for us at all. So, while input from others is always welcome, we still have to make our own decisions based on our own circumstances. Plus it doesn't help that the avionics marketplace is rapidly advancing, and your dream panel today may seem all but obsolete, insufficient or outdated tomorrow. That's why I'm only "leaning" toward a panel choice. I won't make the final decision until it comes time to start ordering stuff.

Great analysis of the competition, Bob!  I have no personal experience with anything except MGL and would just add that although they are generally lower cost than the competition, I've found their XTreme EFIS, EMS, V6 radio, AHRS, magnetometer and AP servos to be "bulletproof."  Most of my equipment is 10 yrs old or approaching it and I've had zero reliability issues. Support was very helpful way back at installation - I understand Michigan Avionics now provides support.  Since I've had no issues with the equipment, I haven't needed them for support but did have some email correspondence about potential upgrades and the tech was very responsive and gave very useful, detailed advice.

John

N750A

I need to drive up and look at your panel some day. I'd also like to use your runway occasionally for some 'cross country' transition and STOL practice sessions when I get my plane built. But that's still quite a ways down the road.

The welcome mat is always out at TN66!

John

I'm going to add an item I probably should have included in my original post. Aside from the base map that comes pre-packaged with Dynon EFIS systems, all sectionals, enroute charts, airport diagrams, approach plates, etc. are downloaded and updated into the system using ChartData from Seattle Avionics. ChartData has always been a source of major complaints from Dynon customers, and things seem to have gotten noticeably worse since the software underwent a big revision recently. The problems have actually gotten to the point that I'm considering going with something other than Dynon. Major software revisions are notorious for producing unanticipated bugs, and there will apparently be plenty of time for those to be addressed before I start ordering system components. But based on the past dismal performance of Seattle Avionics with ChartData, and their outright refusal to even acknowledge or respond to customer complaints or questions, I can't say that I'm confident things will be satisfactorily resolved. Their customer service is, in a word, horrible. It is a very often posted wish on the Dynon customer forum that they're investigating other avenues than Seattle Avionics for their EFIS system updates in the future. I pray Dynon is paying heed to those wishes.

It's a bit odd that nobody has created a comparison table for all the different systems - that would probably be a popular web page. The closest I could find was an article in Kitplanes from 2020, which is out of date now but it's an okay starting point if you want to build your own spreadsheet. That's what I ended up doing because I found it really difficult to compare the different brands (and even product lines within a brand) - there are so many variables, and what's included in one system is an extra cost in another. I would offer to send you my spreadsheet, but it's a total mess and already outdated, so it's probably easier to make your own.


I can't speak to the functionality or installation yet, but I was looking for something with similar capabilities as you are and I ended up ordering the 7" GRT Sport and their engine monitor (which can be mounted remotely and displayed on the Sport, if that's what you want), because it can do everything I want and seemed to give the best bang for the buck. It has a built-in AHRS unit and built-in GPS - with most other systems you have to buy those things separately and wire them together. You can also purchase the basic Sport system to begin with and then add more features later if you decide you want them (synthetic vision, for example), and you just enable them with a software update, because all the hardware is already in the unit. That's their sales pitch, anyway.


Depending on what your timeline is like, availability might narrow your choice - last I read, Dynon wasn't making any Skyview units for the foreseeable future because they couldn't source the parts (though there might still be some available in the shops), and I can't recall for sure, but Garmin may have been having trouble producing the G3X too (or maybe I couldn't justify the price tag after I added everything up). GRT was estimating a three-month build time when I ordered a couple months ago, so it remains to be seen if that's accurate or not.


Happy shopping!

Nobody maintains such a comparison table because the system capabilities change so often that it would be nearly impossible to keep up to date. The possibilities in capability are also so vast that it would be an enormous data repository, making it even more difficult. Much of it would be "depends", which can't adequately be portrayed, and even one answer could vary dramatically when various other equipment is installed. Can I do A? Depends. If you have transponder x or y you can, but other transponders depend on protocols, wiring etc. It would be an impossible undertaking. The Kitplanes article was pretty general, and as you noted, it was quickly out of date (one reason why they made it general).

Dynon is shipping new equipment again since finding new parts sources. Unfortunately they're more expensive parts (go figure). But you're correct that lead times are a major consideration now, much more than before.

It's good to hear that Dynon is back on track.

Respectfully, I think "impossible" is overestimating the difficulty of a project like that... it's not like there's an infinite number of options, and if a human can answer a question once, it can be coded. I think a single enterprising avionics technician with basic coding skills could probably manage it. It would certainly take a bit of imagination and the ability to negotiate the right financial incentives - for example, if he made affiliate deals with the brands then he could get a cut of each sale that came from his website. For the brands, that would be more cost-effective than what they're doing now, which is paying humans to answer the same questions over and over again. Even if the database only answered basic questions about features and price, it would be a good starting point, and it would save both the customers and the brands a ton of time.

Some people prefer the human touch, and maybe I'm in the minority, but personally I found the customer service at these companies somewhat frustrating. If I could get back all the hours I spent shopping around and gathering data to make an informed decision, I'd pay money for that.

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