With so many options on the market, and a range of pricing and features, finding the right fishfinder GPS combo can be a lot of work. And on top of that, every angler’s needs are different. That’s why we’ve put together this guide. We’ve done the research for you, digging through countless articles, reviews, forums, recommendations from friends, and our own experience to put together the definitive guide to choosing the best fishfinder GPS combo for your needs this 2017 season. In this guide, we’ll touch on what to look for in a fishfinder GPS combo, and how to navigate through all your options. And If you need a more in-depth primer on fishfinders and GPS combos, we recommend taking a look at our Guide to Selecting your next Fishfinder/GPS Chartplotter.
Let’s get started.
Best fish finder chart plotter on the market
Some people want to cut through all the nonsense and just go for the best. We hear you. If you need to build a custom system, or just need a large format screen with tons of flexibility, the LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 is our top pick for the best fishfinder GPS on the market. That doesn’t mean we went out and found the most expensive one out there. The LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 is still actually fairly affordable as far as high end chartplotter GPS units go, but our experience, research, and endless reviews confirm that this is possibly the best fishfinder/chartplotter on the market. In fact, people love this unit so much that they’re buying 2 or 3 and creating an unstoppable fish finding and chartplotting control center.
The LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 is the big daddy of multi-function displays. The stunning 12” multi-touch color TFT LCD screen is the star of the show (and one of the best displays on the market), boasting a 1280×800 pixel display that looks great and is clear and visible even in the brightest sunlight. This thing is gorgeous.
As for sonar, the LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 covers all the bases, including CHIRP Sonar, Broadband Sounder™, StructureScan® HD, DownScan Imaging™ and Trackback™ view. And with 12” of screen real estate, there’s plenty of room to take advantage of the 2-way or 4-way split feature, allowing you to customize up to 4 different views of information on one screen. It’s a great way to start with one unit and add on more units later.
Speaking of add-ons, one of our favorite features of the LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 is is flexibility and compatibility. Aside from connecting seamlessly with additional HDS-12 Gen3’s to create an epic control center, this unit integrates with almost any device on or off your boat, including Broadband Radar, SonicHub Marine Audio, SiriusXM Marine Weather and audio, Class B AIS and DSC VHF, as well as auto-pilot systems like SmartSteer MotorGuide PinpointGPS and the Lowrance Outboard Pilot.
The LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 comes pre-loaded with the Insight USA map pack, but you can download tons of additional maps including Insight Genesis, Lake Insight™, Nautic Insight™ PRO and HD, Insight™ TOPO, Navionics®+, Navionics Platinum+,Gold, HotMaps® Premium, Fishing Hotspots® PRO and Jeppessen C-MAP MAX-N+ with the built in Wi-Fi integration. What’s really nifty is that Insight Genesis can automatically create your own custom maps using your SONAR data, and you can even layer on vegetation and bottom composition details – something that’s truly unique to Insight Genesis. That’s a lot of flexibility.
Bottom Line: If you need flexibility, customization, and all around stellar performance, the LOWRANCE HDS-12 Gen3 is by far the best fishfinder and chartplotter on the market today. The screen alone is worth the asking price, but with a range of flexibility and the ability to interface with almost any device on your boat, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution for any situation.
Best large screen multifunction GPS fish finder combo
Multifunction displays are extremely popular because of their flexibility. Most can be used as a standalone fishfinder and chartplotter, but their true power lies in the ability to be networked with other devices such as sonar, radios, autopilot and more. Some of the newer units even feature Wi-Fi, so you can communicate with an iPhone, iPad or other tablets and phones. You’ll pay a bit more for a multifunction display, but customization is key when you need it.
There are so many great things to say about the SIMRAD GO9 XSE 9” multifunction display, but the first thing you’ll notice is the gorgeous and super bright 9” multi-touch display. The screen alone is a selling point, and it’s a much welcome bump up from the cheaper, lower resolution displays that have been commonplace up until recent years. What’s more, the multi-touch interface allows you to use this display like you would a phone or tablet, with the ability to pinch to zoom maps, tap to create waypoints, and drag and drop modules to customize the layout however you’d like. The resolution could be better, clocking in at 800×480 pixels, so don’t expect as crisp a screen as your latest tablet or phone. But all of that said, it’s a bright, good looking display that won’t dissapoint.
As far as fish finding and chartplotting, the SIMRAD GO9 XSE will get you integrated GPS and an integrated sonar module with side-imaging, DownScan, and CHIRP capability. People are raving about the pre-loaded Insight maps, featuring top-down as well as 3D views, and simple and intuitive charting and waypoint plotting via the multi-touch interface. Side-imaging and DownScan have become extremely popular, and CHIRP technology makes imaging accurate and reliable, allowing you to see the fish, bottom, structures, and wrecks in amazing detail. You’ll need a capable transducer to get the most out of the SIMRAD GO9 XSE, but that’s par for the course with most fish finders.
Finally, let’s talk about networking, which is why we really love this unit. The SIMRAD GO9 XSE interfaces with nearly every part of your boat. Aside from being a fully capable unit on its own, it can also connect to Simrad Broadband 3G™, Broadband 4G™, and Halo™ Pulse Compression radar systems, get real time weather updates by connecting to SiriusXM Weather, can connect to engine monitoring equipment to monitor speed, fuel levels, heading, water temperature, and more, and if you have a Simrad SonicHub®2, you can stream music and audio via Bluetooth or listen to AM/FM radio, and control it all on your SIMRAD GO9 XSE. What’s more, you can connect via WiFi to your phone, tablet or home network to download maps and software updates, and it can even mirror your display on your phone or tablet, allowing you to control your boat from your pocket. Not too shabby. The one drawback to this unit is that it’s lacking the ability to network and share information with other GPS chartplotting devices. However, this unit does so much on it’s own, and the screen is a great size that for lots of people this isn’t a deal breaker.
Bottom line: The SIMRAD GO9 XSE 9” is feature rich, a pleasure to use, and an endlessly customizable solution for folks that need flexibility and features that easily earns its reputation at the top of our list.
Best Mid-Priced Fish finder GPS Combo
When it comes to mid-priced fishfinder GPS combos, there are lots of options and configurations to consider. Some units may seem like a great deal, but may be missing key features like chartplotting, or don’t come with a transducer. And with so many different names for and types of sonar, it can be confusing to compare your options. If you’re looking for a complete package at a mid-range price, we recommend checking out the Lowrance Elite 5 ti.
We like the Lowrance Elite 5 ti for a number of reasons, but let’s start with the screen. Sporting a 5” 800×480 pixel multi-touch screen display, it’s a great Goldilocks size – big enough to be useful as a touchscreen and in split-screen mode, but also small enough to feasibly take on a kayak. It could very well be the perfect size for some. We found that imaging appears bright and clear, and glare from the sun is fairly minimal. Controls are intuitive and simple, so you’ll have no issues navigating the waters as well as the screen. The 5” size works well for smaller boats, but if you need a bump up in size, Lowrance offers the Elite 7 series as well which features a 7” screen.
When it comes to fishfinding, the Lowrance Elite 5 ti is surprisingly rich for a unit at this price point, featuring support for CHIRP, StructureScan, and Downscan sonar. CHIRP creates a clear picture with its multiple frequencies, and StructureScan and Downscan give you an accurate holistic view of both the sides and the below your boat. You’ll need the TotalScan transducer to take advantage of StructureScan, however. It’s $100 more for the TotalScan package, but beats buying it separately, which will run you $300 for the transducer only.
As for GPS, the Lowrance Elite 5 ti is one of the only units in this price range that is a true chartplotting device, which means you’ll be able to use maps for wayfinding, plotting courses, and marking points of interest. The Elite 5 ti comes with the Navico basemap, but you’ll be able to purchase and download additional maps including C-MAP MAX-N/N+, Navionics Gold, Platinum+ and Navionics+, Fugawi Aboard, NV Charts and more via the micro-SD card slot or over WiFi.
Speaking of WiFi, one of the most interesting features of the Lowrance Elite 5 ti is the ability to use a smartphone or tablet to view and control the unit, adding more flexibility to your setup.
Bottom Line: For the price, you can’t beat the features on this unit. The Lowrance Elite 5 ti is a solid entry level investment if you need a true chartplotting and capable fish finding in an affordable package.
Best fish finder GPS on a budget
If you’re on a budget, or just need a simple fishfinder and GPS without any bells and whistles, look no further than the Garmin Striker 4. Compared to the other fish finder GPS combos in this article, this one may feel stripped down, but it’s beauty is in it’s simplicity, and the price is right.
The main difference in fishfinder GPS combos at this price point is usually screen size and capabilities. The Garmin Striker 4 isn’t a chartplotter, so it doesn’t have mapping software. However, it does have depth finding, speed tracking, and a quite accurate GPS, and some useful navigation features, including wayfinding via markers and paths. You’ll be able to track the path your vessel charts, and mark points of interest including docks, obstacles, and hot spots. And sometimes that’s all you need.
At 3.5” the color screen isn’t anything to write home about, but it does it’s job, and does it well. That’s thanks to the CHIRP transducer that comes with the Garmin Striker 4. Unlike traditional sonar that sends one frequency, CHIRP sends a continuous mix of high and low frequencies, and then interprets them individually, resulting in a crisp and accurate picture of the bottom and the fish. It’s advertised as working at depths of 1,600 ft in freshwater, and 750 ft in saltwater, but we’ve found mileage can vary depending on the water conditions. Still, for a screen this small, we were really impressed with the clarity and level of detail the CHIRP transducer delivers. Missed marking a hot spot? The Striker 4 lets you rewind activity to see something you missed. Need more CHIRP? You can upgrade to a high performance GT8 or GT15 transducer for even more clarity and detail.
Finally, there’s the portability factor. The Garmin Striker 4 can run on a 12v battery, so it’s ideal for small motor-powered boats, but also works great for kayaks and canoes. Garmin also sells a version of the Striker 4 that comes with a sealed rechargeable battery, charger, a suction cup transducer mount with float, and a bag that fits it all.
Bottom line: If you’re looking to net an affordable yet capable fishfinder GPS combo that does the basics well, the Garmin Striker 4 is a great option, especially for smaller boats and kayaks.
So there you have it. Our top picks for best fish finder chartplotter GPS combos for Spring 2017. There a 100’s of options on the market, so distilling it down to just these units was quite difficult. On top of that, everyone fishes differently, so in the end it all comes down to what you need. What do you think about our picks? Do you have a unit that’s not on this list that should be? Let us know on our Facebook page.
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