The market of fish finders is truly wide, with many brands pushing their latest models. It can be truly difficult to know which brand to choose since each of them seems so similar at first glance, but they become very different once you start digging and seeing what they offer and what they specialize in.
Today we’ll be comparing three of the biggest brands: Garmin, Lowrance, and Humminbird. All three of these brands have shown that they can create amazing fish finders for various buyers and needs. From high-end units that have half a dozen imaging types to small units that you can use by yourself on the weekend with a tiny boat, they serve multiple markets.
We’re going broad today and comparing the brands and what they generally offer. Be sure to give each brand a shot and look at everything they offer before making a final choice.
Before getting too deep into what each brand offers, let’s introduce them to you and get you acquainted. This will give you a better idea of what each brand is and why they offer what they offer.
Lowrance opened its doors in 1957 and has been a leader in marine technology since its inception, creating many fish finders and related sonar units. They have adapted to new trends and imaging techniques, such as side imaging (StructureScan) and down imaging (DownScan) with ease. Perhaps their biggest innovation in the market came in 2008 when they were the first to introduce an HD multifunction screen. They continue innovating and making products that anglers the world over love.
Humminbird started in 1971 and has been marked by homegrown roots and innovation from start to present. Beginning in a small garage in Alabama, Humminbird started a trend of being the first to produce or use new technology. They were the first to introduce a waterproof depth sounder, one of the first to use LCR screens (which later evolved into modern LCD screens) and they were the first to use 360-degree sonar technology. From anglers to large boats, Humminbird is a company marked by unique products and a willingness to try new technology.
Garmin has different roots than Lowrance and Humminbird, but their commitment to their fish finders and products, in general, is definitely top class. Starting in 1989, Garmin started and is currently a leader in GPS technologies. They have adapted their GPS units to work with automotive, marine, aviation and outdoor needs, plus they have created many types of wearable tech. Though their fishfinder lineup is limited, it has a serious following because the Garmin brand is all about quality.
Though all coming from different sides and areas, they all converge when it comes to caring about GPS and sonar tech, and they all cater to the fisherman who doesn’t want to go into the waters blindly. Now, let’s start dissecting them to see which fits you best.
Number of Products
The number of products may not seem initially important, but there’s a big reason we’re bringing it up. Having more products means that the brand can reach more markets and hence you’ll have an easier time finding a fish finder that works for your exact needs. It also means that there will be more options and the ability to work within your budget or preferences.
Lowrance has the most products overall. They have more series, more screen sizes and more overall options than the other two brands. Due to their commitment to anglers, you will find many products that are smaller and meant for personal use, but they also have larger and professional units that will work for your needs.
Humminbird has fewer series than Lowrance, but the gap is very small. They offer nearly as many products, but their offerings go in a different direction. Humminbird, as you can tell for their brand description, concerns itself more with new technology. You will often find higher-end units here that offer various types of imaging and other tools that you’ll need for a great fishing trip.
Garmin seems stretched a little thin here since they currently only offer several types of fish finders. While they don’t offer as many products as the others, the Striker and EchoMAP series do have a very dedicated following for the quality of their screens and the number of features that you can get for the price.
At the highest level, all of these brands offer nearly the same features. You can get CHIRP, traditional sonar, down scan, side imaging, multi-panel displays, dedicated GPS units with maps and so on. But, let’s break down what the general offerings are so that you get a better idea of what each brand offers.
Garmin is the easiest to sort out since they only have a few series. Here you get units between 4 to 9 inches. The 4-inch and 5-inch units only offer CHIRP and ClearVu, which is similar to down imaging. The 7-inch and 9-inch models also offer SideVu. The GPS is incredibly accurate and you can easily draw your own maps, but it doesn’t play well with map software. You’re expected to rely on waypoints more than premade trails, and it actually does the best job of allowing you to draw out your trail.
Lowrance has a wealth of features. Their products range in size from a small 4 inches to a huge 16 inches, and you get all sorts of features depending on size and model. In general, their smaller units have down imaging and CHIRP, while larger units are equipped with side imaging and other features. Most models have button-based interfaces, but some of the higher-end models have touch screens with surprisingly wide viewing angles. What you’ll notice is that the bulk of their market and technology is placed within units up to 7-inches. After that, you start seeing the same features, just with larger screens.
Humminbird doesn’t have many products smaller than 5 inches, and the truth is that the majority of their products start at 7 inches and go up from there. While there are a few units only with down imaging, most have side imaging and other advanced features. Their largest model is 15 inches, and you can get WiFi, Ethernet connections and much more. Their maximum depths are amazing, and you can easily make out vegetation, objects and everything else around your boat.
While your exact model will determine what features you get and the price you pay, this is what you can expect to find from each brand.
If money is of no concern to you and you just want the best fish finder possible, then feel free to skip this section. Much like with the overall features section, here we are going to talk about which brand is most budget-friendly so that you get the biggest bang for your buck. Once again, this all depends on which exact model you get.
Lowrance has the most offerings in the lower price range, and their models tend to be a little less than the others overall. While they do have a fully-stocked line of premium devices, the majority of their fish finders have lower price tags, making them ideal for anglers who want a small or mid-tier unit without emptying out their wallets.
Garmin is pretty middle-of-the-road here. They tend to be more than Lowrance, but are usually more affordable than Humminbird. That’s mostly because their sizes and features are also between the two, so you should have no problem finding a good unit for a reasonable price.
Lastly, we have Humminbird. Their overall price tag tends to be the highest, especially since they don’t offer many models below the 5-inch size, and because their largest models are packed to the brim with features and ports. They do have many budget-friendly options and mid-tier items, but it seems like the bulk of their products are more towards the premium market.
Ease of Use
Lastly, let’s talk about ease of use. How quickly can you pick up and learn these fish finders so that you can easily switch between tools and options and start finding fish? Honestly, all three are tied here. They are all built to have low learning curves so that you can immediately get out there and start fishing.
No one wants to spend hours of time reading manuals, figuring out buttons, coordinating options and so on. Each brand knows that fishermen just want to attach the finder to their boat, turn it on and get that sonar running. Don’t worry, you’ll have an easy time regardless of what you choose. Unless you are getting a huge, premium unit, all of the fish finders from these three brands should take very little time to learn and properly use.
Here we’ll discuss three of the best models from each brand based on price and functionality. We will separate them into affordable, best value and high-end premium units.
Affordable: Garmin Striker Plus 4cv
The Striker Plus 4cv is their smallest unit, but it comes with CHIRP sonar capabilities and ClearVu imaging, which is similar to down imaging. It’s incredibly small with a 3.5-inch screen, but the clarity is surprisingly good and you also get the Quickdraw Contours map for creating your own trail. Overall, this is ideal for personal fishing trips where you want a fully functional sonar and GPS.
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Best Value: Garmin Striker Plus 7sv
When serious fishermen talk about the Garmin line as a whole, you’ll notice that the Plus 7sv model comes up a lot. At around $500, this model offers a ton of features, an amazing 7-inch screen with great resolution and a simple interface. You can choose between side imaging, ClearVu, and CHIRP sonar, or just have all of them on the screen at the same time. The GPS is pinpoint accurate and there’s even WiFi access for updating maps and the fish finder in general.
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Premium: Garmin EchoMAP Plus 93sv
Much like the Striker Plus 7sv, you get a combination of SideVu, ClearVu, and CHIRP. The CHIRP can be used along with the SideVu for even better images, and the huge 9-inch screen offers a great resolution. The only major difference is the inclusion of map software preloaded into the fish finder so that you can easily download and create trails. It comes preloaded with U.S. Lakevü HD maps.
Affordable: Lowrance Hook 4x
A small unit at 4 inches, you get a surprising number of features with this one. You get CHIRP and traditional sonar along with DownScan to see deep under the water. This unit also comes with an optional ice transducer for ice fishing. Advanced Signal Processing greatly reduces sonar noise, and you can view several imaging types with the multi-panel screen.
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Best Value: Lowrance Elite 5-Ti
The Elite line is one of Lowrance’s best because it offers a tremendous amount of tech power at a mid-tier price. The Elite 5-Ti is their first product in this line and there are larger ones, but they all have similar levels of power. With this unit you get side imaging, CHIRP, down imaging, WiFi and BlueTooth connectivity, microSD card slots, many map programs and so much more. It’s a laundry list of features for a reasonable price.
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Premium: Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3
The HDS line is amongst the top in the world, and it’s one of the Lowrance’s best offerings. Coming with a 7-inch screen that has best-in-class brightness, you get all the imaging types you need like StructureScan and DownScan, along with a multifunction screen, video input cable, several map software programs, WiFi connectivity and so much more.
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Affordable: Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP DI GPS G2
As stated above, Humminbird doesn’t have much in the affordable class so this is more expensive than the other affordable units, but it makes up for it in power. This 5-inch fish finder comes packed with down imaging, CHIRP sonar, an amazingly accurate GPS and chart plotter features.
Best Value: Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP SI GPS G2N
If this doesn’t have enough features for you, then nothing will. The Helix 7 comes with side imaging, down imaging, CHIRP, GPS and chart plotting along with a dual-beam sonar and an easy to use interface. It also has networking features, 360-degree view, SmartStrike to predict the fish location and Ethernet access.
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Premium: Humminbird Helix 9 Mega SI GPS G3N
This is a lot like the Helix 7, just it features a larger, 9-inch screen and a few additional features to make it even better. You get all the features listed above, but you can also link the fish finder to your motor to control both simultaneously, engine stats to see how your fuel consumption and performance is, wireless access and several other amazing features such as Mega Side Imaging+ and Mega Down Imaging+
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