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GPS, or a tablet with Skydemon

My question is would you choice a gps garmin or other or a tablet with apropriate software,like sky demon ?

LFDU, Switzerland

I’m on the camp of 100% tablet / no brainer for me.
I think most of GPS hardware advantages are no longer valid these days:
- battery life: a tablet with external battery will last for more than you can fly in a single day
- screen / sub: I personally haven’t had any issue with shutdowns my iPad Pro (has on some earlier iPads), even with long flights through Spain and Portugal in August (no cloud)

Software: tablets get better software to start with, which unlike hardware decides does get updated with significant new functionalities.
Plus you get to file your flight plans etc

You can take the tablet home and prepare your flight, file a flight plan, download met, charts and notams, during flight it will warn you of notams and airspaces, give winds at altitude, log your flight for later scrutiny.

Anything else you require?


Assuming both are handheld devices, tablet for reasons mentioned – main for me:
1 Full maps incl. airfield information → paper is obsolete
2 Full access to notams and weather

Personally, i go for redundancy of 2 tablets, since they occasionally have overheating (sun…) or other issues (but not both).
If you go for android, they dont cost much these days and SD allows two devices anyway.

EDM_, Germany

Good points made already.

One downside of tablets, particularly the higher power (faster CPU) ones, is that they easily overheat and shut down. This is made worse in aviation because higher up you get thinner air, plus the moving map products keep the screen on continuously. Some previous threads here and here.

Another is that the tablet doesn’t just start up in the config you want for flying, with the right app running and the right map loaded etc. Maybe some progress is being made there… Whereas my Aera 660 (yoke mounted) powers up into the Safetaxi airport chart… One thread on aviation GPSs is here.

The battery life of tablets varies and is probably good enough for 1-2hr flights and back. It is less than you might expect, due to the constant-on screen, and in sunlight they need a lot more power. They also get a lot hotter then, which contributes to the shutdown problem, which is made much worse if you charge it during flight.

The GPSs in “aviation” boxes tend to be a lot more solid than in tablets or phones; this varies a lot e.g. an Ipad2 GPS doesn’t work in my TB20. Same goes for sunlight readability, with the aviation boxes having better screens, although tablets can be improved with matt screen protectors and turning up the brightness.

Personally I use a tablet in flight (the GPS in the yoke is there just for emergency, for the Safetaxi charts, and for GPWS) and I have it running the VFR chart(s) for where I fly – even on an IFR flight. But I don’t use that tablet (have two of them, different type, both capable of the same job) for anything else, generally. Well, one of them, an old android one, Samsung T705 (low power, never shuts down in any heat) is a backup for my phone, with a £9/m contract SIM in it.

Some people “live” with a tablet and have no laptop or PC anywhere. Actually most people today “live” with just a phone, hence the market for ever bigger phones, but I am not sure how true that is for GA pilots. You cannot do much typing on these unless you get a bluetooth keyboard, and phones are too small for a moving map application (again, unless it is a big phone) but one could navigate VFR with a phone if it is a well designed app. Most people are looking for convergence i.e. using one device for as much as possible.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Phone – yes, sort of back back back up for me, too, if the onboard 530 and the 2 tablets fail…
Too small for me, though.

Battery life
My previous Samsung 7’’ tablets had a battery life of 3-4hrs.
My current no-names/7’’ have done 4.5 hr flights at full bright screens with 25% left (indicated)
I could charge them inflight from a 12V socket, though.

So far, i have only experienced overheating, when the devices were in direct sunlight for extended periods (>30min)

After starting the tablet, it is just starting SD and the GPS location pulls automatically the correct (airport and regional) maps. Worked the same after an inflight over heat shutdown ;-) when I hadnt watched the backup tablet on the copilot yoke)

Last Edited by ch.ess at 08 Mar 07:09
EDM_, Germany

I’m also pro Tablet, because I don’t like the small screens of the typical GPS units. Plus you have the additional flight planning features a tablet application offers.

For flying purposes, I use a fairly large Android tablet which I bought at a supermarket because of the screen size and the huge accumulator capacity. The built-in GPS works excellent in GA planes and even in window seats of airliners.

The computing power is not up to par with the newest iThingy, obviously, but I hardly use the tablet for anything but flying.
And I never had any temperature issues, even in summer.

EDXN, ETMN, Germany

Tablet/phone is the way to go these days. It’s not an optimum solution, but the one that works best.


I think it’s worth distinguishing the use cases.

I find for navigation that a 5 inch phone with skydemon is all that is needed. It’s mounted by suction on the window at instrument height. It means I spend my time looking out the window, glancing at instruments (and so this phone has now just become another instrument) and the current track (and my alignment to it) and time/dist to next waypoint. I don’t need to look down at the yoke or to my knee. You can achieve the same navigation use case by the garman/avidyne, but I think their user interface is not as good as skydemon.

For the other use case information, being that of plates, pilot log, etc, you need a larger form factor: a tablet or paper printout. I prefer paper printouts because in the cockpit I don’t want be stuffing around with the tablet being in the wrong app or configuration or something else, plus it’s an insurance policy against a technical problem (like anything else, you pay the insurance premium all the time for the hopefully very rare occasion it saves you). So I do all the printouts before hand. You also don’t need to refer to these as much (only departure/arrival).

To implement this, I used a phone (moto g) and a tablet (nexus 9), both are old devices now 100% dedicated to flying (they have other apps for taf/metar, windy, electronic pilot log, pdfs of flight manuals and equipment instructions, e.g. the garmin). They don’t go out of my kit, and they just get charged before an outing. Plus I carry a large portable charging pack, also always in my kit. I do all my planning and printing on a PC, then it just easily loads into the devices due to being cloud saved.

The best recommendation here? Try different options and see what you like. There’s not really a right answer, only pros and cons, and preferences.

Last Edited by matthew_gbr at 08 Mar 11:49
EGL*, United Kingdom

I run SkyDemon on a Nexus 7. The battery life is not what it once was, but it will still run SkyDemon for at least as long as any flight I’m likely to make. If I have never had a ‘crikey I wish I could charge this’ moment. I use it for very little that is unrelated to flying.

Back when it was newer I made a few 3.5hr flights and it barely used half the battery. If I’m away overnight then I’ll take a charger and recharge it before the return flight because well, why wouldn’t I?

It’s important to turn wi-fi off when you’re in the air. Devices burn quite a lot of battery searching for wi-fi networks when there aren’t any.

When the Nexus 7 reaches the end of it’s life then I’ll buy whatever small Android tablet at the time has the best combination of battery life, screen quality and low cost.

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