The autopilot mode controller, even more to the point, is almost identical to units you’ll find in G1000 installations, because there is no advantage to be gained by putting autopilot functions in the software. The physical controller continues to do its job perfectly.
The displays are widescreen (16:9 ratio), so they can accommodate more information. Older displays are 4:3 ratio. The transition from older to newer display formats is identical to the changeover from our old CRT televisions to new, high-definition models. The new ones are wider, sharper and more capable in every way.
Because it’s wider, the new PFD, for example, can be used to display flight plan legs, a traffic inset window and more. It also does a wonderful job of being a PFD; with its widescreen format, the synthetic vision display gives wider, better visual cues. The MFD, likewise, can display a map and all the engine gauges, so you don’t need to swap back and forth between pages of the MFD to see what you want to see. Wide screens are not just different: They’re better.
The displays are LEDs, as opposed to the LCDs in G1000, so they’re more vibrant and can display many more colors. Because their resolution is so much better (1280 x 768 versus the 1024 x 768 displays of the G1000 system), there are many more addressable pixels so that the screens can display more imagery and keep the images sharp even at smaller sizes.
In some installations, the widescreen aspect ratio can free up panel space — because it’s wider and not as tall as previous displays — allowing panels to be a bit shorter.
Another big advantage of LEDs is their ability to dim very effectively compared with LCDs. They run cooler and have better luminescence and better contrast to boot. LEDs also last longer than LCDs.
The main displays are not touch screens, which is part of Garmin’s philosophy on the system. A touch-screen controller is used to control the displays, and standby hardware controls back up the touch controller. In some installations, again, there will be multiple touch-screen controllers.
This approach, which is physically similar to using a cursor control device, focuses the pilot’s attention more effectively than if there were multiple touch points, as there would be with a touch-screen PFD. There’s also an argument to be made that controlling a screen that is a good reach away is more difficult because the long reach makes fine motor control more difficult. The touch controller, on the other hand, requires a shorter, easier-to-make touch.