In recent years Garmin has been making a name for itself by making massive strides in GPS and sonar fishing unit technology. There are multiple options at multiple price points for Garmin sonar units today, but in this article we are going to compare the two popular transducer options for these GPS/sonar units, the Garmin Panoptix and Livescope Transducers.
There are 2 different styles anglers can use with the original panoptix transducer, the panoptix forward and down variants. These two variants are your typical sonar transducer that shows the bottom makeup and any other types of bottom structure like brush, rocks, weeds, as well as fish suspended off of the bottom.
Compared to the livescope that we will mention further along in this article. The image is made of varying colors that vary on the size of the objects that the sonar echo is pinging off of, with solid hard pings being yellow and red, showing the bottom or larger fish, with other colors like purple showing smaller pings.
The down variant is of the standard sonar transducer style that has been the most familiar with anglers and a staple in the fishfinder market. The down variant gives you feedback to your unit in real time, allowing you to see small schools of baitfish, larger target fish, as well as any bottom structure and a depth readout. It also allows you to be able to pinpoint the distance of the fish from your boat to the left and right if they are not directly under you.
Panoptix forward directs its sonar beam horizontally from the boat, allowing you to see fish swimming towards or away, as well as allowing you to see structure from a side view that is not directly beneath the boat, out to 100 feet away. Using the REALVU and FRONTVU modes you can see a complex mapping of the area in front of the boat in a 3D view which also shows you structure and fish and almost looks like it’s from a video game.
Garmin Livescope has 3 different modes to choose from. Forward, Down and perspective modes. Down and Forward mode are essentially the same as the panoptix with a few differences that we will discuss, but the biggest difference between the panoptix and livescope is what you see on the screen.
The detail that livescope brings to the table is nothing short of amazing. You will have the ability, depending on depth and fish size, to actually see the fin movement of fish in sharp crisp detail, as well as individual fish in bait schools, individual branches in brush and other structures with insanely high resolution detail compared to more traditional sonar imaging like the standard panoptix.
The forward and down models of the livescope system are included in the same transducer, giving you the option to use either one. The forward sonar allows you to scan out in front of your boat with a cone that extends to 135 degrees of forward facing angle and 20 degrees from left to right with a maximum sonar distance of 200 feet, allowing you to see a considerable distance down and to the front of your boat.
This is exceptional when following the edge of submerged weeds, or if you’re anchored within casting distance to a particular spot like a rock pile or submerged timber, cribs or brush for precision fishing. Livescope down is just the downward variation of the forward mode. And keeps the same degrees of angle as the forward mode, but facing down. The same distance or in this case depth also applies in terms of sonar reach, coming in at 200 feet of depth.
Perspective mode is another mode which is available on the livescope transducer, but does require a special bracket in order to be used. Perspective mode was designed for shallow water sonar applications and directs the sonar cone at a forward and down angle, essentially an in between mode of the forward and down modes, but with the ability to illuminate shallower waters 200 feet out with a 20 degree vertical field. This mode will illuminate the shallow surroundings in a sweeping radius of 150 degrees. And almost gives the angler massive insight to the shallower bottom makeup or any roving schools of fish in areas like flats.
Garmin Panoptix Compatible Units
The standard Panoptix is compatible with every GPS/sonar unit Garmin has on the market today as it is now their standard sonar. Livescope is compatible with all but a select few units, we will include a chart of compatibility for the livescope below.
Garmin Livescope Compatible Units
Below you’ll find a list of livescope compatible units. There are a number of viable units within each series, but read the descriptions carefully before buying to make sure you’re getting a compatible unit.
Or, if you don’t want to worry about making sure that you get a compatible unit, you can always purchase a bundle with everything included. This is the easiest route if you don’t want to bother matching up unit numbers.
GPSMAP® 8400/8600 SERIES
GPSMAP 702/902/1202 PLUS SERIES
GPSMAP 7400/7600 SERIES
GPSMAP 1202/1202XSV TOUCH SERIES
GPSMAP 1002/1202 SERIES
GPSMAP 702/902 SERIES
GPSMAP 701/800/1000 SERIES*
GPSMAP 8000 SERIES CHARTPLOTTERS*
ECHOMAP™ UHD 70/90 SERIES CHARTPLOTTER/SONAR COMBO
ECHOMAP ULTRA SERIES CHARTPLOTTER/SONAR COMBO
ECHOMAP PLUS 70CV/70SV/90SV SERIES CHARTPLOTTER/SONAR COMBO
ECHOMAP CHIRP 70CV/70SV/90SV SERIES CHARTPLOTTER/SONAR COMBO
Need a little help choosing the right unit? In the next section, we cover some of the most popular Garmin units for different styles of fishing and give our recommendations for which units to buy for your new livescope or panoptix setup!
Popular Garmin Units and Our Recommended Setups
Some of the most popular units Garmin has on the market today consist of units that have been tailored specifically for the ice fishing market. These units consist of carrying cases that make them incredibly portable while still giving anglers the options for livescope.
These units are the ECHOMAP Plus 93sv and ECHOMAP Plus 73cv. For anglers fishing from boats, which is more common than ice anglers, you have the option of any unit that Garmin makes, and it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your style of fishing and boat. Some popular units for boats are the GPSMAP 1242xsv and ECHOMAP Ultra 106sv.
Best Garmin Unit For Livescope
The 1242xsv comes with both LakeVü HD inland waters mapping and BlueChart g2 coastal charts covering the coastal U.S. This unit also features a bright, beautiful, and responsive screen which makes it a joy to use.
Now, while the livescope is much more detailed than the panoptix, some anglers prefer to stay with the panoptix setup. Take into consideration cost, the livescope definitely costs quite a bit more than the standard panoptix, but in my opinion, if you have the extra cash it is most certainly worth it.
The details that you see make a huge difference, being able to actually see the species of submerged vegetation such as milfoil or broad leaf cabbage for example is huge if your targeting a species that prefers one over the other, or for that matter in many instances being able to determine fish species you see on the sonar beneath you.
PS. Interested in seeing how garmin stacks up against other popular units? Check out our Lowrance vs Simrad vs Garmin article!