Having a great fish finder and depth finder at your disposal can really up your fishing game. Though, even if you’re not a professional angler, there are plenty of reasons to pick up one of these devices.
For starters, if your on the hunt for bait, then you could use it to help locate bait fish which are a little further from the surface, giving you the opportunity to reel in a nice haul. A depth finder is also ideal for finding exactly the right terrain to target specific species.
Many of these fish finders also have some other really handy tricks up their sleeves as well, but with so many choices on the market, how do you know which one you should get? In this article, we’ll be comparing three of the top fish finder/depth finder/GPS brands to help you out.
We’ll be digging deep and doing a complete comparison for Lowrance vs Simrad vs Garmin. These products will be rated based on features, price, compatibility with other devices and value. We’ve tried to choose products that are in similar price ranges.
The first product on our list is the Lowrance HDS-7, and the great thing about this unit is that it performs equally well in both saltwater and freshwater. So, if you like to do a bit of both this is likely the unit that you’ll want to go with, because they provide full inland and coastal maps for you to use.
This unit also features a highly responsive touchscreen, while Garmin’s unit relies solely on button control, which can be tedious at times. Plus, Lowrance has some native integrations which allow you to control Powerpole anchors and Motorguide trolling motors if you have either of those.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of a 3 in 1 transducer to get crystal clear images from the unit, and you’ll also be able to take advantage of split-screening thanks to the impressive quad core processor in this device. This might be useful if you, for example, wanted to see a more detailed map, while still also having a zoomed out full map open at the same time.
This unit even allows you to connect it to another HDS Live unit if you’d like, which allows you to share sonar. You might do this if you had a boat with a console and a bow unit installed, allowing you to share information between them which is quite nice.
We also like how easily this unit integrates into the Motorguide trolling motors, allowing you to perform autopilot functions on your center console. It’s pretty cool, and it’s more convenient than fumbling for the remote if you have one of these trolling motors.
It’s tough to find a negative review for a Lowrance, and on most of their units, anglers are over the moon when it comes to their quality and imaging capabilities. They’re highly versatile, reliable, and often a great choice for boats in a number of different size and use categories.
Though some anglers have reported a bit of a learning curve initially with the units, and their documentation is not the best in the world. You also need to download them online, as they aren’t included in the box typically.
- 1,000 ft. maximum depth
- Crystal clear imaging
- Connects to smart phone
- Full inland and coastal maps
- Fresh or saltwater
- Powerpole anchor controls
- Works with MortorGuide
- Highly accurate maps
- Automatic route planning
- Connect two units to share sonar
- Can use Navionics maps
- Transducer is included
- Detailed maps are extra
- Bad user manuals
- Bit of a learning curve to use it
Which Lowrance do I need?
Simrad offers a staggering number of features in their units, and while that’s welcome, if you’re fishing from a smaller boat it may be overkill. A unit like this is really intended for a larger off shore vessel, and you may be better served going with a Garmin or Lowrance in a smaller boats, especially if you like to fish lakes and rivers.
As far as maps go though, Simrad has an especially nice offering. Their basic maps will supply you with a clear path in most locations, even outside the United States, but if you want more detailed maps then you’ll have to pay more for those once you venture into international waters.
Be warned though, if you’re not very tech savvy, then you may have issues setting up this unit. Many anglers have expressed frustration with the operation of the device, but customer service is often quite helpful if you’re a little lost.
Other than that, in pretty much every case, the Simrad is an amazing piece of equipment. It’s up to nearly any challenge that you can throw at it, and it will deliver a nauseating amount of information to you, including
However, while Simrad is made by the same company that makes the Lowrance products, it seems to be lacking some key features. Namely, you can’t use the Simrad devices with Motorguide and Powerpole, but you can with Lowrance depth finders. So, this may be a negative for you if you have or plan to purchase either of those items.
In short, Simrad and Lowrance are quite similar, but Lowrance has some key features which we think makes it win out over the Simrad units.
- Full-featured chart plotter
- Maximum depth of 1000 ft
- Every feature you could want
- Fresh or Saltwater
- 2 year warranty
- Highly accurate maps
- Use Navionics charts
- bright, easy to read screen
- Powerful processor
- Access maps on phone or tablet
- Transducer usually not included
- Detailed maps are extra
- More difficult to set up
- No trolling motor integrations
- No Powerpole integration
Which Simrad do I need?
Any of the Go series devices that we reviews in this article would be a solid choice. They offer loads of great features, and are overall highly rated by fishermen and boating enthusiasts of all kinds.
The Echomap 94sv is Garmin’s offshore fishing unit, and it does what you’d expect of any decent depth finder unit. However, it’s not quite in the same class as the Lowrance or the Simrad, who offer far more robust features.
You’ll also only have access to the coastal maps. That’s because Garmin sells another unit, the 93sv, which is for inshore fishing, and it contains over 17,000 maps for lakes and rivers. However, that’s a definite con if you like to fish both, and if you do we’d recommend the Lowrance instead, which performs equally well in both.
However, the Garmin unit does have some merits. If you have or are interested in acquiring a Minn Kota trolling motor, then you can use this unit with the trolling motor’s built-in transducer with the use of an adapter.
They also have an interesting feature called “Active Captain”, and any Wi-Fi enabled Garmin, like this one, can tap into it. What this gives you is access to a plethora of community features, which include community charts for you to use.
While the other choices on our list do have apps that allow you to view some of your plotter’s information on mobile devices and tablets, they don’t offer quite as much as Garmin does. You can get notifications, texts, and calls on your Garmin Echo, and you’ll be have access to a huge boating community which can give you recommendations on things like marinas, attractions in your location and more, which is pretty cool.
However, you should be warned that Garmin are big on “up sells”, and features which often are standard with other units, like Humminbird, will cost you extra with them. After a few upgrades, you may find that a Garmin is not as affordable as you thought, fair warning.
Though to be fair they do offer some pretty great up sells that you might want, including their Panoptix sonar transducer which allows you to see all around your boat in 360 degrees, which is pretty cool. This gives you live, highly detailed images of fish, structures, and obstacles 200 feet around your boat.
- Pre-loaded coastal charts
- Panoptix compatible
- Instant quick draw mapping
- Transducer is included
- Sunlight readable
- 9 inch LCD screen
- Compatible with Panoptix
- Built-in Wifi
- Community maps and charts
- Access to boater’s community
- Phone push notifications
- Many upgrades to buy
- Touch screen for plus unit only
- Not all maps are included
- Saltwater maps only
- Lower quality hardware
- Only 1 year warranty
- Less accurate maps
- Can’t use Navionics charts
Which Garmin do I need?
If you do opt for this unit, then you may also want the Panoptix sonar transducer so you can see 360 degrees around your boat in vivid detail. It’s a pricey add-on, but oh so worth it when you see it.
Winner: Lowrance HDS-7
Our top pick is for the Lowrance HDS. These models have a slew of amazing features, crystal clear imaging, and highly reliable maps. They don’t nickel and dime you for everything like Garmin, and they offer basic maps of all kinds for free.
They offer a 2 year warranty on their products, and if your fish finder fails within the first 5 years, then you’re guaranteed the ability to upgrade to a new unit at a discounted price.
While when compared to the Simrad, the units are pretty close, especially seeing as they’re made by the same company, the Lowrance offers a little more for the price. If you go with the Simrad you’ll be missing out on some key features like the Motorguide and Powerpole integrations.
You can often get great prices on these units online, and you can easily compare different models here. Just make sure to read the description carefully, as many of the units look similar.