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Marine Product Reviews & Videos

Current Mid Range Chartplotter's Offer a Lot More Bang for Your Buck

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I can still remember my first chartplotter. Spring of 2002 and it was a Garmin GPSMAP 182C with a BlueChart card for the Texas Coast. At that time It was a state of the art, 5” color unit that literally changed the way we navigated the bays and coast line. The total cost was around $1300.00 and any boater that saw what it could do wanted one.

Fast forward 15 years and that same size unit is considered a bare bones model and cost about a 1/3 of that 182C I was so proud of. And the current, bare bones models are better in every way than the old ones. Time moves on and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone out on the water without a GPS on their boat.

Today, for less than that same $1300.00 you can buy a 9” color chartplotter / sonar combo with great satellite imagery, side view / down view sonar with CHIRP and wireless technology that allows you to view and control the unit from your smart phone or tablet and even update your software and charts wirelessly over the internet. If you’re still using that small GPS and having trouble seeing where you’re going the reasons for waiting are going away quickly. Here are some of my favorites for our lakes, bays and offshore. These come preloaded with charts for either coastal bays and offshore or inland lakes.


Garmin echoMAP™ CHIRP Plus Series

These units are just hitting the shelves as I write this. The screen sizes range from 4” up to 9”. Wireless Wi-Fi, Down View / Side View and CHIRP Sonar are available as is great satellite imagery with the addition of the proper transducer and chart card. Prices on these range from a low of $200.00 for the 4” model up to $1100.00 for the 9” model with the Down view / Side view CHIRP transom mount transducer. An additional $250.00 will get you the satellite imagery chart card. With the larger models you can also add your engine data to the screen with the addition of the proper NMEA 2000 network cables. These units are not RADAR compatible.

The echoMAP units are all push button models. If you want a touch screen model you’ll need to look at the more expensive Garmin GPSMAP units or look at the ones I have listed by Lowrance and SIMRAD later in this post.

These are good units and are easy to use. If you’ve used any of the older Garmin 400 or 500 series unit (440/441/540/541/545/546) these work very similar to those. Warranty: One year


Lowrance Elite Ti Series

The Elite Ti series came out a year or so ago. They now come in 5”, 7”, 9” and 12” models. These are touchscreen units and have WiFi, Down Scan Side Scan & CHIRP sonar.

Again, as with the Garmin echoMAP units, if you add the correct transducer and chart card you’ll get advanced sonar capabilities and satellite imagery. Note, the satellite imagery for the Lowrance is $199. You can also add your engine data to the screen with the right network connections. Some models can also be equipped with RADAR.

These are very nice, easy to use units. They are very similar the the older HDS Gen2 Touch models although they have much faster processors and built in WiFI. They range in price from $549.00 for a 5” model to $2300.00 for a 12” model with a TotalScan transom mount transducer. They offer a lot of bang for your buck. Warranty: One year.


SIMRAD GO Series

SIMRAD has been around a long time but they just recently started making entry level Chartplotters. SIMRAD is owned by Navico, the same company that make Lowrance, so they are very similar in how they operate. If you can run a Lowrance Touch unit you can operate a SIMRAD GO unit. So, that being said, thes

e are all touchscreen units. Everything I said about the Elite Ti can also be said about the SIMRAD GO series. Totalscan transducer and Platinum+ satellite imagery put these units on par with anything Garmin or Lowrance offers in terms of sonar capabilities and satellite imagery.

The GO series come in 5”, 7”, 9” and 12” models. They range in price from $419.00 for the 5” up to $2299.00 for the 12”. As with the Lowrance Ti series, some of these can be equipped with Radar.

The SIMRADs are nice units. They look very futuristic and the screens are very nice. They also offer a great bang for your buck. Warranty: Two years.



Some terms I’ve used to help you keep up:

  • Side Scan / Side View - transducers that look to the side of the boat.
  • Down Scan / Down View - transducers that look straight down.
  • Sonar - lets you see the depth and bottom of the body of water you’re on.
  • Satellite imagery - Google Earth type satellite photograph that overlays on the charts on the GPS. Shows you what the bottom looks like in shallow water. You can see cuts, reefs and other terrain in shallow water.


Lowrance Video Library

 Sonar Modules - StructureScan HDWorking with Lowrance HDS® Gen2 & HDS® multifunction displays StructureScan® HD sonar imaging system delivers greater resolution and wider range for enhanced underwater images.Lowrance LessonsHDS Data OverlayLearn how to set up and modify Data Overlay on a Lowrance HDS fishfinder/ chartplotter.Lowrance LessonsHDS Software UpdateLearn how to update your Lowrance HDS with a software update from the Lowrance [...]

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Garmin Video Library

Garmin Sonar BasicsExpand your knowledge of Sonar with this detailed guide.Garmin Advanced Sonar - Part 1Take your knowledge of Sonar even further with this detailed guide. Garmin Advanced Sonar - Part 2Expand your knowledge of Sonar with this detailed guide.

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