Okay, so having wrestled with it i've gone ahead and ordered the 1299A (with built in AIS Transceiver)..... Dealt with Alan Vicks (importer) directly. Have had other positive reports on the product and Alan himself.....a very nice chap to deal with.
It may be considered a bit of a gamble, but the (worldwide if you search) reviews i've read seem positive and to indicate it will suit my needs (thanks also /again to Daniel for his feedback). It comes with UK cartography and at a very strong price point.... I also mentioned this thread to Alan, so he may be along at some point.
Will let you know how we get on when it arrives..... linky below: Scroll down to the 'A' version for specs Onwa chartplotters from AVES Marine Ltd
Fully aware this wont appeal to the tech heads, but so long as its an easy to use / reliable plotter (AIS a bonus) i'll be happy.... I can honestly say I never use anything like the full capability of the Lowrance HDS we have, most of the capabilities are wasted on me