The Best Fishfinders Under $500 For 2014

Finding a new sonar unit that fits your budget is no easy task.  Most of the new models that have come out this year include a price tag well over $700.  It’s just simply not necessary to pay that much for a quality sonar unit that offers the same performance.  The marine electronics manufacturers promote their higher priced models as if they are superior, but you are really just paying for extra bells and whistles that don’t offer the best value.  We know how difficult and how important a decision for purchasing your next fishfinder is.  For this reason, we put together a quick guide of the best fishfinders available for under $500.  For this price, you can get a unit that has all the features you want, but you are usually limited by screen size.  We feel that these units offer a superior value compared to the higher priced models.  Unfortunately, the major manufacturers usually jump up the price on units with a display over 5″.  The 3 units that I feel offer the best value and are the best fishfinders under $500 are the Lowrance Elite-5X HDI, the Garmin Echo 551DV, and the Humminbird 678c HD/DI.

Lowrance Elite-5X HDI

This unit delivers big time performance into a small compact unit.  This particular model doesn’t include the chartplotter, but it’s hard to beat this price for a quality screen with both a dual frequncy transducer that also includes HD Down Imaging.  One of the nice features is that the what Lowrance calls Hybrid Dual Imaging.  The two different sonar settings (Broadband Sonar and DownScan) can be viewed separately or overlayed on top of another all on the same screen.  The resolution is 480×480 and the screensize is 5″.  If you have an older Lowrance model, you will happy to find out that same power connector will work with the model which makes upgrading very convenient.  This unit is a great value at a $499 price tag.

Garmin Echo 551DV w/ DownVü

This unit is strikingly similar to the Lowrance Elite-5x, but with a Garmin twist.  The Screen is the same size at 5″ but boasts a slightly higher resolution at 640×480 and it provides a very nice crisp image that can be easily seen day or night.  I would consider this to be the most easilly readible screen of the 3 models I have chosen for this list.  It may not be a huge difference, but it’s important enough to include in the review.  The 551DV offers 2 different frequency sonars which includes the base dual frequency and also the DownVu HD Imaging.  The Down Imaging on Garmin units is very comparable to those of both Lowrance and Humminbird.  Essentially, it gives you a much more clear and detailed version of the bottom compared to traditional dual frequency readings.  Many anglers are loyal fans of Garmin and it’s easy to see why.  They offer reliability, great customer service, and an overall long lasting product.  If you like Garmin products, you won’t be disappointed with this model.

Humminbird 678c HD DI

This is the newest model reviewed in this comparison, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the best value.  Much like the other 2 models, this unit offers both regular Dual Beam sonar along with Down Imaging.  The screen resolution matches the Garmin Echo 551Dv at 640×480 and a 5″ display.  Humminbird has been making increasing better units over the years and this helps keep them right on that path.  This unit offers the full performance of much higher priced items at a great value making it the perfect fit for a wide variety of boat sizes.  Humminbird units are now the most reliable on the market and you know that you are getting a unit of high quality backed by an improved manufacturer warranty.  The only complaint that I have with this model is that if you are fishing deep water (100 ft +) regularly, you will need to purchase a more expensive version of the model that includes 50khz.  Overall it’s a great unit for the price and will deliver everything you need from a 5″ sonar unit.

 

New 2014 Humminbird Products

New Humminbird Products For 2014

Now that spring is getting close, the major fishing electronics manufacturers are introducing upgrades and new models to ready anglers.  While it’s impossible for me to give an honest review of these products considering some lines haven’t been brought to market yet, I would like to give you a preview of what will be available.  Buying a model the first year gives you an advantage because it’s going to have more bells and whistles, but they usually come at a larger price and an unproven product.  That being said, the overall quality of fishfinders has increased over the past 3-5 years, and I would expect a reliable unit from the major players in the industry especially Humminbird.

I just spent a few hours browsing Humminbird’s main website and talking to a few trusted captains sponsored by Humminbird, and I was very impressed with their new products for 2014.  Many anglers and charter captains have switched to larger screen Humminbird units over the past 2 years in the Great Lakes and I expect the trend to continue with quality products and better customer service than Lowrance.

What New Technology Did Humminbird Introduce?

Cross Touch

With the advancement in screen technologies, Humminbird figured that they needed to keep pace and have introduced “Cross-Touch” which is really just a fancy word for touchscreen.  You will now have the convenience of a touch screen to navigate through your display pages and a digital keyboard to name and enter waypoints easier among other things.  Humminbird will keep the regular type-pad for those who prefer it and also for rough weather where the touch screen may become difficult to use.  A very cool feature and this will come standard on their new ONIX and ION series electronics.

SmartStrike

Another very cool technology Humminbird has introduced is the SmartStrike Map Cards.  The cards come with a software package by LakeMaster and can help you pinpoint areas based on location you know catch fish or find new areas using the included algorithm.  It can help you find fish by entering lake conditions, time of year, etc. and it will give a few new areas to try.  I will definitely be keeping my eyes on this product.  It is available for their new ONIX and ION series electronics.

What New Models Is Humminbird Introducing in 2014?

Onix Series – The ONIX series is Humminbird’s latest model.  If offers all of their new features in either a 8.4″ screen or 10.4″ screen.  Obviously, the main selling point for the both the new ONIX series is the new and improved display.  In addition to this new display, the ONIX models also use 360 imaging, down imaging, and trifuel (access to multiple chart software).

Ion Series – The ION series of Humminbird electronics is their top tier line and they call it their “blue water” line.  Essentially it is their best and most expensive models that integrate all of the best features Humminbird has to offer.  Once again, the main selling point is the new and improved user display.  The Ion series offers all the same features that their new ONIX has but it also larger and higher resolution screens along with Ethernet based expandable networking and a built in web browser.  The web browser allows you to access the internet, monitor weather conditions, and everything in-between.  The networking expandability allows you to add radar, autopilot, remote cameras, and more if you like even more angling technology seamlessly integrated with your system.

Raymarine DragonFly Review

If you are looking for an ideal tool which you can use to improve your fishing success even within unfamiliar waters, the Raymarine Dragonfly is something you might want to consider getting. Combining the features of a GPS device and a fish finder, this gadget can make all the difference between a successful fishing trip and a failed one. Packed with a ton of useful features, you would think that this fish finder would cost over a thousand bucks. But no, priced at just over $700 by most sellers, it’s very affordable considering its quality and the features it contains. Anglers will appreciate its revolutionary sonar feature. An angler can take a good look at areas where fish may be hiding by using the gadget’s DownVision technology. This feature basically delivers clear and crisp images on the device’s 5.7-inch screen. Additionally, the gadget’s GPS capabilities are of the highest quality. It’s fairly fast in picking up signals and it can connect to a huge library of information about inland and coastal waters in the U.S.

What New Technology Does The Raymarine DragonFly Offer?

716F-0R3TIL._SL1500_Dragonfly has also introduced a new technology called CHIRP on its system. What this technology does is allow anglers to make use of a range of frequencies all at the same time. This is a huge improvement considering the fact that most fish finders only make use of single or double frequencies. Now being referred to as the future of sonar fish finders, the CHIRP is an acronym for Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse.  The fish finder’s screen is also something that’s worth noting. It’s a bit larger than the traditional size and it features a high resolution level. Even with the sun directly hitting the screen, you can still clearly see the images on it.

How Does DragonFly Match-Up Against The Competition?

People often compare the Dragonfly with devices from the Lowrance HDS Series. They all have similar functions and they can be bought within the same price bracket. However, the Dragonfly has an edge when it comes to the screen size. The Dragonfly has 5.7-inch screen compared to the 5-inch screen that its competitors have. Fish finders in the Garmin series are slightly better when it comes to GPS capabilities bu the general consensus is that the Raymarine remains to be the better option when it comes to performance.

Considering its price point, the Dragonfly Raymarine is as good as they come. It’s without a doubt one of the best fish finders with GPS capabilities in the market today. This is not to mention the fact that it has one of the biggest screen sizes at 5.7 inches. It’s a fish finder model that has a price tag lower than most of its high-end competitors. This lower price shouldn’t trick you into thinking that the gadget fails when it comes to its fish finding core. It works very well making it the preferred device among thousands of anglers. In short, the Dragonfly Raymarine has everything you need for better and more successful fishing trips. It gives you your money’s worth. So the ultimate question is “Is it worth your investment?” The answer to that would be “absolutely yes”.