Chartplotters – Buying guide, Reviews & Comparison
Searching for the best chartplotter out there? Perhaps this paragraph might enlighten you. We took the time to look at the user reviews coming from amateur and professional anglers and we came to the conclusion that the Lowrance HDS-7 GEN3 is the one you should consider. The model comes outfitted with anything you might ever fish from a chartplotter in that it boasts an internal GPS antenna, a dual-beam transducer, as well as a built-in selection of charts for inland and coastal US waters. The Lowrance unit is a winner when it comes to versatility as it is entirely capable of functioning as a fish finder. What’s more, it may be worth noting that the device seems to have been built with users’ needs in mind as its interface is easy to utilize and understand. Should this Lowrance model be out of stock, check out the second best choice, the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc.
Our top choices
Chartplotters can not only improve your chances of having a successful fishing trip, these convenient devices can also help you stay safe on the water. Most are designed to be easy to use, and some can even keep you entertained. Now that you know what you are looking for you can find the best chartplotters reviewed below.
Lowrance HDS-7 GEN3
This chartplotter is among the most advanced models we have come across. Despite being packed with heaps and heaps of useful features, it’s also one of the simplest devices to use in the line. The interface allows owners to connect to their tablets or smartphones with the help of the built-in WiFi. You can, therefore, control the fish finder with the help of an iPad, for example.
While for some, this detail might be of minor importance, others should consider this a notable advantage. The chartplotter has been outfitted with a 7-inch backlit screen, so you won’t encounter any issues in regards to visualizing the data displayed.
A dual-beam transducer is part of the deal with this product, so in case any angling occasion arises, and you have to fish either in shallow or deep waters, be sure to take your fish finder and chartplotter with you.
As is the case with other models in the same line, this particular one boasts a built-in CHIRP/Structure Scan Sonar, as well as an internal GPS antenna. All of the characteristics we have tackled in this short review make it one of the highly regarded choices available for sale. Plus, it has received loads of rave reviews.Buy from Amazon.com for: See the Price!
The Garmin GPSMAP 78sc is designed for watersports enthusiasts and boaters who want to use only the best devices for plotting their course in the water. Preloaded with US coastal charts, the device comes with the built-in BlueChart™g2 plus a worldwide basemap with imagery, making it the perfect tool for outdoor adventure. The map detail provides depth contours, shorelines, harbors, marinas, navaids and plenty of others for the US and Bahamas. Best of all, the chartplotter is waterproof and can even float in the water.
Enabling users to get their bearings, the chartplotter is also equipped with a 3-axis tilt-protected electronic compass, which lets you view your heading while standing still. Track changes in pressure easily so you will know your exact altitude, thanks to the altimeter that also helps users monitor changing weather conditions when plotting barometric pressure over time.
The Garmin GPSMAP 78sc also enables the user to share tracks, waypoints, geocaches and routes wirelessly with compatible devices. This allows users to send their fishing location to a friend. The WAAS-enabled GPS receiver has high sensitivity along with HotFix™ satellite prediction, for quick locating of user position even in deep canyons.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($199.99)
Often considered the best chartplotter fishfinder combo there is very little not to like about the Lowrance Elite-5 HDI. One of the first aspects that you’ll notice is the 5 inch LCD color screen that is capable of displaying crisp, clear images. The screen can be split so you can view maps and sonar images side by side, and you will love how easy it is to use. The buttons are marked for easy control, and even the menu is simple to navigate through even when you are inputting GPS data.
The built in GPS is able to quickly lock onto your position and when it is combined with the preloaded Gold charts you can easily plot a course to your destination. Once you get to your fishing spot you can take advantage of the powerful sonar. The dual beam sonar will sweep the area so you can see bottom contours and underwater debris, it will also detect any fish in the area to help you know exactly where to cast. Along with the standard sonar the Elite-5 also comes with down scan technology. This is a great feature for beginners and even experienced anglers since it transmits detail sonar images that are easy to understand.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
If you are looking for an affordable chartplotter/fishfinder the Mark-4 from Lowrance might be the best choice for you. Since it is from Lowrance you can rest assured that you are getting a good value for your money, and that it will provide you with accurate readings and data. The monochrome display may lack some of the “pop” of the color models, but with the high resolution screen you can still see all of the details. Measuring only 4.3 inches the Mark-4 is easy to carry, and also makes a good choice if you frequently travel.
With CHIRP sonar you can detect any fish in the area, and thanks to downscan imaging you will be able to clearly see image details. This allows you to quickly separate bait fish from targets so you don’t waste your time going after small feeders. While there are different mounting systems available, the Mark-4 comes with an easy to use transom mount. To ensure that you can get to your destination the internal GPS will plot a fast and safe route, and it also comes preloaded with charts of the U.S. coastline and most major lakes.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($124.98)
There are several reasons to like this chartplotter/fishfinder combo and the first one is its 5 inch color display. With a resolution of 480 x 640 images and details are crisp and clear, and since it is backlit you can easily see the display in low light. This also makes it a great choice for nighttime fishing or at dawn when they are often the most active. The controls are conveniently located on the front, and make it easy to access and navigate through the menu.
With the built in GPS and Humminbird cartography UniMap you can start plotting courses to hot spots and pick out waypoints. The card slot also allows you to save information so you can easily find your way back to favorite spots. Another advantage is that the chartplotter installation is quick and easy. You can keep it on the “quick release” mount which also tilts and swivels so you can see the display at almost any angle. If you want something a little more protected and permanent, the 688ci can be installed in the dash. Create charts of lakes and rivers in your area and even receive daily updates, all with the 688ci from Humminbird.
Click to see the price on Amazon!
One of the first things consumers often mentioned is the large color display that can be easily read at a distance. This GPS chartplotter from Garmin is designed to make it easy for you to get to your destination, and then find the best place for you to toss in your line. Not only do you have the convenience of the touchscreen, you can even zoom in on an image simply by pinching your fingers against the display. This allows you to see in an instant if the fish is worth going after.
SInce this is a Garmin unit you know that the GPS is fast and accurate. Within seconds it can pinpoint your location and find the best route to your destination. The 10 Hz GPS receiver ensures a reliable performance, even during cloudy weather. The GPSMAP 741 also comes preloaded with U.S. coastal and inland maps. It can be gimlet mounted, laid flush or flat so you can easily see the images in bright sunlight or in low light. You will also appreciate the convenience of its wireless design, and it can also support radar and NMEA 2000.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($729.95)
Created using premium quality materials, the Lowrance Elite-7 Gold CHIRP Fishfinder/Chartplotter has undergone testing to prove its genuine durability. Employing the latest technology to assist anglers, the device offers high-definition imaging to provide picture-quality images that help users catch more fish. Thanks to the addition of CHIRP sonar technology, users enjoy better sensitivity levels, enhanced target resolution and exceptional noise reduction so bait fish and game fish targets are clear and easy to see. Even at greater depths, the CHIRP sonar provides more dependable target identification. Fish can also be marked clearly at variably fast boat speeds.
Users can enjoy multiple CHIRP ranges from just one transducer unit. On just one display, the operator can view several CHIRP sonar settings. The DownScan Imaging system has selectable single-frequency operation thanks to the class-leading performance of the onboard Broadband Sounder™. The built-in GPS antenna works with a detailed US map to provide highly accurate data on more than 3,000 lakes, rivers and coastal contours up to 1,000 feet.
The real sonar data recorded with Insight Genesis™ allows users to make their own maps.Buy from Amazon.com for: See the Price!
Choosing the Right Chartplotter
If you aren’t sure how to use a chart plotter you probably don’t know what to look for, and this can make it easy to overpay. That is why it is a good idea to understand the basic concept of a chartplotter, along with deciding on a comfortable budget before you start shopping. This will help narrow down your choices, along with making sure that the chartplotter comes with the features you need. This way even if you are a beginner you won’t waste your money on unnecessary functions that could actually make it harder to operate.
Chartplotters can vary in size from small units that can fit in your pocket to larger models that are designed to be seen from a distance. If you travel frequently than you will probably want to choose a smaller more portable device, but this will also affect the size of the display. When it comes to compact chartplotters the screen size is limited, and chances are you will have to resign yourself to constantly holding it in your hand. If portability is not an issue, then you will want to get the largest screen that you can comfortably afford. If you are working with a tight budget you can save money by looking for a grayscale display instead of a full color one.
The best chartplotter fishfinder combo reviews suggest choosing one with a display measuring at least 5 inches. This will allow you to see it at a distance, along with displaying all of the data without overcrowding the screen. If you are new to chartplotters this can be an important consideration. The screen resolution is also important, especially if you want to be able to clearly see the images. Pixel count does affect the price, but it is possible to find an affordable chartplotter fishfinder combo that comes with 480 x 480. Backlighting is also a convenient feature on displays that can make it easier to see the images when you are fishing in low light.
Along with ensuring that the connectors on the chartplotter are designed to last, you also want to make sure that it is compatible with all of the devices that you need it to be. Metal connects do last longer than plastic which are prone to breaking, especially if the unit is constantly being unplugged. Some chartplotters can also connect to several devices, and for some anglers this is an important consideration. If it comes with GPS capabilities you might want a port for an external antenna since they are generally able to transmit signals faster for more accurate information. This can be especially important if you are trying to keep up with changing weather forecasts.
Some chartplotters can connect to computers and laptops via a USB cable, while others come with Ethernet ports or Wi-Fi connectivity. Bluetooth compatibility is something else to consider, and it has the advantage of being able to provide you with entertainment when you are waiting for the fish to bite. Stream music and movies to the display, as most can connect to the speakers in the dash.
Even though chartplotters are intended for use on the water, not all are actually able to survive getting wet. If you don’t want to make an expensive purchasing mistake, it is important to pay attention to the IPX or JIS ratings. In the product description there should be an International Protection Code or Japanese Industry Standard rating. The higher the number the better the degree of protection.
If the device has a rating of “4” it is probably not a good idea to take it out on the water, but one with a “5” or “6” can usually handle being splashed. If you love seeing what is biting in the rain or frequently find yourself in rough water a chartplotter with a rating of “7” or “8” will be able to withstand being submerged without any adverse side effects that could affect its performance. It should be noted that higher ratings usually mean an increase in price.
You also want to consider the type of mapping system and the best one for you will often depend on where you are fishing. If you plan on staying on small lakes and lazy streams than a non mapping system will work fine. These basic maps will let you know distance and your position, but not an actual chart of the area. Base maps will be familiar to drivers that own a vehicle GPS, and an advanced system is always recommended if you plan to do saltwater fishing or you like to visit large lakes where it might be easy to get lost.
Garmin 010-01524-01 echoMAP 74dv
Easy to install and effortless to use, the Garmin 010-01524-01 echoMAP 74dv chartplotter features a large 7-inch high-contrast color display that features automatic backlight adjustment for problem-free viewing in any lighting condition. The unit is equipped with a transducer for 50/200 kHz HD-ID sonar, along with the clearest scanning sonar, the Garmin DownVu. The device has an internal 5Hz GPS that updates the heading and position five times per second, ensuring reliable and up-to-the millisecond data.
The cords plug straight into the mount, ensuring quick installation and removal from the power outlet and the mount. The integrated scanning sonar delivers a virtually photographic image of what is beneath the boat. Thus, fish, structure and submerged objects can be seen clearly. The boat’s position and the timing of the sonar return are well coordinated thanks to the sonar-recording capability of the chartplotter, which also saves digital information for problem-free playback on a PC, for which the free HomePort™ planning software can be utilized.
The user data sharing cable can be employed to share routes and waypoints between a number of devices.
If connectivity is a priority then you might want to take a look at the CPN700i from Standard Horizon. Not only does it come with an internal GPS antenna and preloaded cartography, but it can also be connected to several devices via the USB or Ethernet ports. It also comes with built in Wi-Fi and bluetooth connectivity. You can send and share images from the display, save charts, receive calls and even stream music and movies. You can get all the entertainment you want when the fishing aren’t biting with this touchscreen chartplotter.
To ensure that you can see maps and charts, along with movies and sonar data it comes with a 7 inch high resolution color display. The menu is easy to navigate through, and there are even buttons that can be preset to save favorite screens. This makes it easy to retrace a route or go back to a specific spot. The display will also let you zoom in on images and scroll through the pages simply by touching the screen. With this chartplotter from Standard Horizon it is easy to stay connected no matter where you are fishing.