Written by Ben Ellison on Jul 29, 2014 for Panbo, The Marine Electronics Hub
The press release (PDF here) for Furuno's new color 711C autopilot control describe it as "completely redesigned to provide an excellent match with Furuno's flagship line of NavNet TZtouch MFD's... right down to the control knob!" There's no denying the similar handsome styling, and doesn't it make you wonder if Furuno will eventually offer a color NMEA 2000 instrument display with the same standard DIN size and 4.1-inch color screen? That's 100% speculation on my part, but doesn't it make sense as Furuno finds itself competing with Raymarine, Garmin, and Simrad over the glass style helm that the TZT Series arguably spearheaded? The MCU002 remote TZT keypad, also now official and shipping, seems like another step in keeping TZT competitive.
Furuno USA lists the 711C as a complete autopilot system, but in fact it uses the same NavPilot Processor Unit as the existing 700 autopilot. That's a good thing as you can purchase a 711C Control Unit for use with an existing Navpilot system, which already has a lot going for it. For instance, check this 2013 Miami Show entry for some detail on the Navpilot 700 series Safe Helm and Power Assist features. You'll also get to compare the old monochrome control screen with the 711C's bold new color graphic screens.
I found the most detail about the new 711C Control Unit at Furuno's Navpilot site, particularly from the brochure you can download there. The diagrams below, for instance, explain the "FishHunter" mode in action on the screen above and also what "Advanced" means on the top screen. The 711C strikes me as a good autopilot -- anyone out there tried the 700 series? -- and it sure looks like it would fit nicely with most any glass style displays. Note, though, that if the 700 series is fitted with a TZT system, you'll also have autopilot control on your MFD. Same brand MFD autopilot control is now true for all of the Big Four electronics brands.
Similarly, the advent of the Furuno MCU002 remote control means that all four multi-touch glass helm systems have an optional keypad. As noted in my recent shakedown cruising entry, I think these remotes can be quite valuable. Furuno's version seems compact and simple -- 2.3- by 4.5-inches with USB interface and power -- yet quite fully functioned. There's good overview document available on the product page, but better yet is this Eric Kunz demo video.