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XM Satellite Weather Review

Garmin GDL 30A Marine Weather / Audio Satellite Receiver
XM marine weather data is transmitted to a compatible system, like the Garmin GDL 30A weather receiver and Garmin 3210 multi-function display we used for testing, with satellite based radio signals.

marine electronics reviews


xm weather

The satellite mosaic over the Southeast US and Caribbean.

Weather information is collected from both government and private weather providers then analyzed and processed by WxWorx, a private weather company that has partnered with XM radio.

Products received varies depending on your selected subscription. We reviewed XM weather using the Master Mariner subscription.

Updated weather data is sent to your receiver every few minutes to every 20 minutes depending on the product.

Severe storm tracks are updated most frequently with new data sent every 90 seconds. These arrow-like indicators provide speed and direction information on strong thunderstorms.

Other rapidly changing data sources like radar and lightning data update every 5 minutes.

A longer update time of 12 minutes is the standard for most other items. The longest times are for the satellite mosaic, every 15 minutes, and for marine weather forecasts, every 20 minutes.

Accessing XM Weather on a Garmin Display

xm weather

Text data is accessed through menu tabs.

Graphically displayed products like weather radar are viewed on the Garmin 3210 system through soft key activated page presets on the map page.

Map page presets called General, Sea State, and Storms can be customized to fit your specific needs.

To reduce clutter on a page specific displayed items, like radar or lightning data can be turned on, off, or on for certain map ranges only.

Text based weather information is accessed through the weather tab on the main menu.

Here you’ll find several more tabs including Current, Forecast, Sea Surface, Marine Bulletins, and Forecast Maps.

Each tab has list of weather information available. For example, the Marine Bulletins page shows the user a list of nearby marine forecasts, which can be selected and read onscreen.

Once our weather receiver was activated we found the data transmission speed and chart update speed to be fairly fast.

garmin gdl30

Garmin’s GDL30A sends satellite radio signals to a variety of Garmin multi-function displays. It is capable of receiving both weather and audio.

Within a couple minutes of turning the unit most weather data would be displayed.

Both XM marine weather services and Garmin claim the weather system will receive signals and work well up to several hundred miles offshore of the continental United States.

We spend several hours using the XM weather system and found all the information useful, easy to access, and easy to decipher.

Although XM and Sirius both provide similar weather products we found the XM marine weather system carried a slew of items that had more or better coverage or access.

Only the XM system provides a satellite mosaic showing cloud cover areas. Buoy data coverage was more extensive and marine forecast data was easier to access and read.

garmin gxm31

The Garmin satellite antenna is very similar in size to a standard GPS antenna.

Sea surface temperature used numbers to enhance the value of the graphically displayed data.

Finally, the wave height data was also displayed in number format increasing its usefulness.

At the present time Garmin is the only XM compatible standalone hardware maker. The XM weather system is also compatible with a number of PC-based navigation display systems.

Subscription Packages



Master Mariner




RadarPrecipitation Type

Precipitation Type

Precipitation TypeMarine Zone Forecasts

Marine Zone Forecasts

Marine Zone ForecastsSurface Analysis Maps

Surface Analysis Maps

Surface Analysis MapsSurface Pressure

Surface Wind Spd/Direction

Surface PressureSea Surface Temperture

Sea Surface Temperture

Sea Surface TempertureFronts


FrontsWave Height

Wave Period

Wave HeightBuoy Data

Wave Direction

Buoy Data

Wave Direction

Wave Period

Surface Wind Spd/Direction

Hurricane Track


Severe Weather Storm Track


Satellite Mosaic
Unfortunately the two $29.99 a month XM marine weather packages are missing what we consider to be essential weather information.

We’d have to opt for the more expensive Master Mariner package at $49.99 per month. Only the latter features lightning data, the satellite mosaic, severe weather tracking, hurricane tracking, wind speed/direction, and wave information.

A $50 one-time activation fee applies to all packages. If you’re boat is only in the water for part of the year you may be able to get the activation fee waived upon seasonal reactivation of your account.