In the November 2011 issue, we compared the chart-plotting features of four small-screen plotter-sounders from Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance, and Raymarine. In this article, we look at the fundamental sounder functions of five plotter-sounders, priced from $700 to $1,500. The high-end products in this test, the Raymarine A70D and the Garmin 740S, have larger, high-resolution screens, can handle 3D charts, and are designed to network with wind instruments and autopilots. The smaller units were the Lowrance Elite-5, the Humminbird 788ci, and the Humminbird 798ci SI, which has side-imaging capability; these are marketed mostly to anglers. Units were tested for screen visibility, sounding capabilities, and user-interface.
Sailors looking for a chartplotter who tend to stray from the beaten path or those who spend a fair amount of time fishing may want to consider a combination chartplotter-fishfinder. Our last look at plotter-sounders named the Garmin 545s the Practical Sailor Best Choice for combination chartplotter sounders. This review compares the Garmin to the new Raymarine A50D. Testers looked at display unit features, plotter features, and sounder features. The Raymarine unit uses Navionics cartography and can interface with AIS devices.
The test field includes devices with 5-inch display screens that provide chartplotting capabilities and information and show detailed bottom contours on a single display screen. These combination fishfinder-chartplotters are fitted with high-powered sounders. Practical Sailor tested units for day and night visibility. Each plotter was tested with live GPS fix information. Chartplotter user-interface was tested by examining actions such as creating waypoints, building routes, and changing map ranges. Units tested were the GarminGPSMAP 545s, which uses Garmin’s Bluechart g2; the Lowrance LMS-525C DF (a Navico brand), which has an NMEA 2000 GPS sensor, uses Navionics cartography, and is capable of interfacing with a Lowrance radar; the Raymarine A60/DSM25 combo; the SI-TEX Colormax SE; and the Standard Horizon CP180.