The WindMate 200 features a large digital display and sturdy construction. It's pocket-sized with a cover plate that easily swings to the side when in use. Obviously the unit will display windspeed, but it will also give you air temperature, wind chill, and digital compass readouts. In addition to realtime/current windspeed, you'll also have the option of seeing the average over 10 seconds as well as the maximum speed. All windspeed readouts are available in mph, km/h, knots, ft/min, or Beaufort scale. Don't forget you'll be getting apparent wind if you're sailing, not true wind. There's a small wind vane beneath the fan that can be used to help you orient to the wind direction. The display is backlit so it's useable at night. There's also a threaded fitting for a tripod and an adjustable wrist lanyard.
The WindMate 200 is simple to use with just three buttons and very logical displays. I suppose the advantages of a handheld unit like the WM200 are affordability and portability. But the disadvantage is that you've got to get the thing out and hold it up in the wind to get a reading, unlike a masthead anemometer with a cockpit mounted display. You'll also have to make sure you're holding the unit in the direction of the wind if you want accurate readings. This doesn't sound difficult, but in a crowded cockpit with luffing wind it can be hard to find the perfect unobstructed direction. Having noted the usability trade-offs, I've never not been able to get what I feel is an accurate reading. You can also use the unit on the dock, at home, or on the beach before and after sailing. If you're a racer who just needs a quick windspeed reading, a fixed mount masthead unit is probably more suitable. But for day sailors and cruisers on a budget or who want a back-up to their fixed mount wind gauge, the WM200 is a good option. The WindMate 200 retails for around $125, but I picked mine up used off eBay a couple of years ago for $70. There are also other low-cost alternatives to the WM200. For example, you could try the Wind Meter app for iPhone/iPad, NOAA's wind information broadcast online and on VHF, or any number of competing handheld wind meters. Truth be told, I've rarely used my WindMate since the first season I purchased it.
Now that I've gained some experience, my sailing senses have matured and I can more easily resist the allure of certain technologies. A wind display is one such technology I now find a bit superfluous. You simply don't need a digital display to tell you if the wind is blowing hard or just barely puffing. You can feel it on your skin and in your hair. You can see it on the surface of the water. You get the most valuable information by simply listening to your boat and watching your sails. I can't necessarily tell you at what wind speeds I need a first and then second reef in my mainsail, but I can sure as the sunrise feel the need through my connection with the tiller, sheets, and sails.
WindMate 200 Review Summary
Pros: affordable, portable, and simple
Cons: not as convenient as a fixed mount display
Conclusion: Quality option for budget-minded cruisers and day sailors, or as a back-up to a fixed mount display.
Another affordable alternative wind meter called the Wind Wizard is offered by Davis Instruments, but I haven't personally used it.
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