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Avidyne IFD 540


(This review is re-published here by permission from Peterson's Performance Plus, Inc. View original review.)

28Feb2015 - There are number of things about the IFD 540 I really like and two big ones that I don't. Here they are in no particular order.

Avidyne IFD 540

When you are inserting an IFR approach into the IFD 540, the map will scroll over to the airport and graphically display each approach you are looking at. This is pretty neat and I like this feature a lot. Unfortunately the GTN 750 doesn't have this and I wish it did. Another feature I like is the ability to use both the VOR nav frequencies for extra com frequencies. It is so seldom I use anything that relates to a VOR that it is nice to have the ability to store four com frequencies. The GTN 750 does not do this either. If you have weather on the IFD 540 you can pull up everything on an information page which is nice but I think I prefer the GTN 750 method of doing this better. The weather page on the GTN 750 is pretty nice, easy to get to and has a great graphic display of winds aloft, weather, etc. With that said I have not flown the IFD 540 in weather so I can't comment on how the actual weather being displayed compares to the GTN 750. Airport information on the IFD 540 is easy to access as is customizing the display. The nearest function works very well and I like it a lot also. When using the touch screen to load frequencies, airports, etc. its smart feature is nice which kind of fills in the blanks for you. The biggest thing about the touch screen I like is it loads the numbers or letters quicker than the GTN 750. The GTN 750 touch screen is great but I think it loads a bit slow. A number of times I have punched numbers in the GTN 750 faster than it can load them which results in me having to back track and reload part of a frequency. This doesn't seem to occur when I load frequencies into the IFD 540. Both are good units but for loading frequencies I think the IFD 540 is a little better than the GTN 750. Another small but neat thing about the IFD 540 that I think is a little better than the GTN 750 is rubber banding a route. With the GTN 750 you need some kind of a nav aid, way point, airport, intersection or something to pull your course line over to when rubber banding a route. With the IFD 540 one can rubber band the route to an empty field which comes in handy when there aren't a lot of designated fixes to use for this. On a cross country over a sparsely populated area it is hard to find a way point to rubber band to when avoiding weather. This is not a problem with the IFD 540.

Now that I've hit on some of the things I like about the IFD 540 here are two issues I have that I really, really don't like. The first is rubber banding the route which I discussed above. The feature works well on the IFD 540 but for some absolutely insane reason you cannot rubber band the segment of the flight you are currently on. You can only rubber band the route after your next fix.

NOTE: As of March 2014, the Avidyne User Forum reported "It [rubber banding current leg] is quite involved so we elected to defer that capability to be a candidate for inclusion in a future release." (http://forums.avidyne.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=334&title=wishlist-for-the-next-ifd-software-release)

So, if I'm flying with a flight plan that takes me from my current location to Greeley, CO then on to Rock Springs, WY, I can only rubber band the (inactive) leg from Greeley to Rock Springs. The active segment of the route does not have this feature and I think that is when you need it the most. For the most part I don't really care all that much about the route after Greeley as by the time I get there the weather will have changed a bunch anyway. If I'm flying into an area of convective activity I need to rubber band the route now. So while I like this feature a lot it is pretty much useless to my flying. In my opinion only the GTN 750 has a rubber banding feature that one can use in real time weather situations. The second not-so-good item is the reliability of the IFD 540. At this point I would not use it in an IFR environment. The reason is simple. On every flight I have taken, it has lost its GPS satellite lock for up to a couple of minutes. If this were to happen during an approach you would have some major issues to deal with. On our last flight which lasted about four hours it was off line more than it was on. Losing its satellite lock for so much of the flight was unusual but that's what happened. We also have a Garmin 430 installed as the number 2 GPS/Com and not once did it wink off. This is one of the things I really like about the Garmin 430, 530 and the GTN 750 is its total reliability. At first I thought it might be antenna related as the 530 we removed was a non WAAS unit so I figured the IFD 530 might be having a little issue with reception due to that. But I recently learned that a local Bonanza owner replaced his 530 WAAS unit with an IFD 540 and he too is having issues with reception and reliability. I am satisfied that Avidyne will work this out but for now I would not take the IFD 540 by itself into an IFR environment. Our avionics shop is sending me another IFD 540 to use and we'll see if its reliability is any better. Once I get some time on it I will let you know what I find.

23Feb2015 - We just installed the new Avidyne IFD 540 GPS/Com in our Kenai. It has been interesting using it and comparing it to the Garmin GTN 750 we have in our King Katmai. Our Kenai had the tried and true Garmn 530 and we wanted to upgrade to a newer GPS/Com. The first thing we thought of was installing the GTN 750 we have grown so accustomed to in our King Katmai. The GTN 750 has served us very well and like always it comes down to comparison and compromise.

The GTN 750 costs more and due to its size it would require a total revamp of our avionics installation resulting in significantly more downtime and expense. The IFD 540 is a direct slide in replacement for the 530 so we really liked the idea of that, not to mention the fact that it was quite a bit less expensive. Before making the decision, I watched a bunch of the IFD 540 videos. I really liked some of its capability which seemed almost superior to the 750 in some ways. We also thought that quite a few of our owners might also be thinking of the IFD 540 as a replacement for their aging 530 so we could give them a heads-up on the good and not so good things we found with the IFD 540. Jo and I now have about forty hours of flying with the IFD 540 so I'll am passing along those things we found really neat and those that are not so neat. As there are a bunch of areas to talk about we'll just hit them one at a time over the next month or so.

Display - The first one is the display. I really like the display and the colors but it is a little less "refined" than the GTN 750. Our initial look at the IFD 540 had us thinking it is a lot (and I mean a lot) better than the 530 but it just isn't in the same ball park as the GTN 750. Now, after having used it a while my opinion is starting to soften a little on that. Restricted areas show up better as do some airspace graphics on the IFD 540. The size of the screen is a little smaller than the GTN 750 but it looks somewhat bigger than the 530 so I don't really mind the screen size. Changing the ranges shown on the screen are easy with both units but I think I like the rotary knob on the IFD 540 better than the push tabs on the GTN 750. With the touch of a finger both units will pull the map one way or the other but only the IFD 540 allows you to change the range by either pinching your fingers together or spreading them just like your iPad which is pretty nice. Where the 530 has data presented in the corners of the map, the IFD 540 has a tab that comes out from the side when you want to use it. The tab cuts down on the screen map size a little but it is still pretty good. The tab however, contains ten times the information that the 530 will give you on the map page and it can be customized. As we have a 430 as the number two GPS/Com, I normally use the full map on the IFD 540 and the data page on the 430. It works well. I think the information and the way it is displayed will be something of a personal preference as to whether one likes it or not. Jo and I both like the way the information page is presented although I think I prefer the 750's display in this area. All in all the IFD 540 display is very good and we are happy with it. Although overall, I still think the GTN 750 is a little bit better.


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