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Author Topic:   Sonar: FF vs DS
jimh posted 06-22-2001 10:54 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
I need a new sonar. I don't really fish much. I have been thinking about just getting a Depth Sounder instead of a Fish-Finder.

The DS has the following advantages:
--big display
--keel offset
--change units to feet/fathoms/meters
--NMEA output
--compact display size

For about the same price range I can get a Fish-finder, which shows depth, and has these advantages:
--graphic display of bottom
--finds fish...maybe
--temperature of water (w/ 2nd Xducer)
--speed (w/ 2nd Xducer)
--distance (w/ 2nd Xducer)
--log (w/ 2nd Xducer)

By the way the 2nd transducer is free this month, too.

Coming from a sailing background, I am used to just looking at a DS, but I do confess I find the FF display helpful. It often shows bottom conditions, weeds, etc.

The NMEA output would be for future use; nothing needed right away.

Which should I get?
Any comments?

--jimh

Jim Bennett posted 06-22-2001 11:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jim Bennett  Send Email to Jim Bennett     
Jimh,
Have 3 boats equipped with the following:
(1)2000 Four Winns 248 Vista Cruiser
- Hummingbird digital DS
- Furuno GP1650DF color
differential GPS plotter with sounder(FF)
(2)1997 Aquasport 175 Center Console
- Lowrance 350A GPS/FF
(3)1968 BW Sakonnet
- Eagle Accura 240 FF
Just installed this unit myself last month. Have only checked it out once since installing but am quite pleased with resolution and sensitivity. Total cost including transducer for depth, speed, temp, distance log was ~$400. It obviously doesn't have bells and whistles that Lowrance and Furuno units have for much higher costs but for what you want I would highly recommend the Eagle. The Hummingbird depthsounder on my cruiser is almost ignored because of superior capability of Furuno.
Tom W Clark posted 06-23-2001 01:39 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
jimh,

The wonderful guy whose site this is has made a point of explaining how this site is a Whaler site and how he likes true content relating to Whalers. Then you come along and post some general query about fish finders? Jeez....

But seriously, of the five advantages you list in favor of the DS, only one of them is in fact valid. Most FF's offer a big display, keel offset, your choice of units and NMEA output. But no good FF will have a small display. You forgot to mention that a DS will most likely be less money too.

You are obviously looking at a few specific models in the same price range so we will not consider price here. Here are some of my random thoughts:

DS's find fish too, don't discount this ability just because it's not called a "fish finder".

I don't put much faith in tranducer mounted paddle wheel speed sensors or temputature gauges. My experience is that they are horribly inaccurate!

Everybody likes gadgets and I suspect you do too; fancy FF's are more entertaining.

I myself have a Lowrance 350A with the GPS module and I love it! I've bought two of them in fact. It's a great FF, a good GPS, and an adequate track plotter. You can configure the diplay any way you like and mine have been 100% reliable over the five or so years I've owned them.

jimh posted 06-23-2001 08:27 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I know, I know... It was a moment of weakness when I posted this question! Mea culpa.

I have had a preference for LOWRANCE sonars, myelf, but I was worried about them when they were going to be taken over by COBRA electronics. I think of COBRA as a maker of cheap CB sets with little plastic snakes on them. That takeover fell through, which I think will ultimately be better for LOWRANCE. The association with the COBRA brand would not have been good.

So that news, which I just heard yesterday, put the LOWRANCE units back in the running.

The plain DS costs about $240. In that range you can get a FF like a Lowrance X65.

The change in units to meters would be nice since the Canadians are using that on most of their new charts, and we like to cruise in Canadian water in the North Channel.

Does the Lowrance X65 FF change units to meters? I can't find any info on this in their specs.

--jimh

bigz posted 06-23-2001 09:48 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigz    
JimH, a fast way to check out Lowrance products is to download the manual for the X65 here -- [url]http://www.lowrance.com/manuals/marine.asp[url]

stagalv posted 06-23-2001 10:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for stagalv  Send Email to stagalv     
What about Garmin? I put a Garmin FF and GPS on my Montauk and love both. Good features, display and overall are easy to use.
My father just got a new 21' Maverick which comes with a Lowrance combo FF/GPS. He changed it out to two separate Garmin units because the Lowrance screen was too confusing and hard to read.
jimh posted 06-23-2001 10:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
bigz,

That was a good idea. I read the manual and the X65 does convert units, have alarms, etc.

Then I noticed the copyright date on the manual was 1996. Yikes--that's five year old technology.

That is probably why it does not have the NMEA output. Darn it! Otherwise it is the perfect unit.

bmacauto posted 06-24-2001 12:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for bmacauto  Send Email to bmacauto     
I have a old Lowrance x-5, does anyone know how this older model compairs to somthing new? Any advantage in upgrading?
Brian
84' Outrage 18
kamml posted 06-24-2001 01:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for kamml  Send Email to kamml     
jimh
Years back I had the Eagle FF/Loran, it was an excellent unit, large displays, good plotter and spit screen so you could watch depth and stay on course plot. I imagine FF/GPS would offer the same advantages. Currently I have a separate GPS and a Humminbird TX300 with Temp/Speed/Depth/Tri-transducer for left-right and center fish location. Yeah its silly capability but it may come in handy one of these days. Anyway go for a combined unit if you need GPS as well. It will take up less console space and give you the larger screen.
Ken
Jim Bennett posted 06-24-2001 06:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jim Bennett  Send Email to Jim Bennett     
jimh,
Agree with T Clark and kamml that if you are thinking of GPS also then go for combo and would also strongly recommend Lowrance 350A. It is more readable than my much more expensive color Furuno(which does however have chart of west coast of FL). 350A will run $600 + transducer. My Aquasport with L3530 was bought used; previous owner bought new 21' Century with GarminGPS/FF and said he wished he had his old 350A back; didn't like the Garmin. You said DS or FF so,as I said above Eagle Accura 240 (also made by Lowrance) was my pick. Screen seems sharper than Garmin or Hummingbird units. To each his own!!
jimh posted 06-25-2001 07:20 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I'm moving slowly toward a decision...

Got the old FF off the boat yesterday. It was a fancy SiTex, a large unit from the 1980's.

I removed its transducer and temperature probe, so now there are 11 holes in the transom to be filled. The transom had bottom paint, making things a bit messy.

Since I don't know exactly where the new transducer(s) will be mounted, I cleaned the bottom paint off a wide area of the transom. That was a project itself!

I'll have to repair the holes (West System epoxy) next weekend, and by then I should have the new sonar and be ready to mount its transducer.

alan posted 06-25-2001 08:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for alan  Send Email to alan     
When I upgraded last year I decided on a combo unit on my '82 Outrage 18'6". Did a lot of research and it all came down to either the Garmin 168 or the Lowrance 350A. Garmin and Lowrance bounce back a forth with their technology. Right now Garmin leads the pack in this low/midrange category of combo units Hard decision between them both as they are great units. I chose the Garmin based on user friendliness, which is a main concern when your on the water and want ease of use. Had it a year and love it. Upgrade software online/PC interface and easier than my buddies 185 and any of the Lowrance units I've seen. Downside is the chartography is not nearly as good as the G-Charts.
alan posted 06-25-2001 08:17 AM ET (US)     Profile for alan  Send Email to alan     
When I upgraded last year I decided on a combo unit on my '82 Outrage 18'6". Did a lot of research and it all came down to either the Garmin 168 or the Lowrance 350A. Garmin and Lowrance bounce back a forth with their technology. Right now Garmin leads the pack in this low/midrange category of combo units Hard decision between them both as they are great units. I chose the Garmin based on user friendliness, which is a main concern when your on the water and want ease of use. Had it a year and love it. Upgrade software online/PC interface and easier than my buddies 185 and any of the Lowrance units I've seen. Downside is the chartography is not nearly as good as the G-Charts.
Peter posted 06-25-2001 09:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Jimh

Sounds like you're going FF but just in case you're still on the fence, I would vote for FF over DS, particularly if you can get the other sensors for free right now at the same price as DS. My Revenge came with a Humminbird 3D unit the extra speed and temperature sender. I think its more of a toy than a real good FF, but I don't fish at a level where it would make any difference. However, it is fun to look at the bottom contours. Now days I think you can set up the FF to display whatever information you like in the form of the typical display on a DS, i.e., large numbers.

As Tom, says, the entertainment value of the FF is much higher than that of the DS. I disagree with Tom's statement regarding accuracy of the paddle wheel. They can be quite accurate up to certain reasonably high speeds if the wheel is mounted correctly. In fact my FF's displayed speed is quite consistent with the GPS displayed VOG taking currents into account. This was also true with my former Outrage up to the point that the Outrage was moving so fast that there wasn't much of the paddle wheel water.

Hope this info helps.

Whaletosh posted 06-25-2001 11:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whaletosh    
Jim,

The Garmin FFs have NMEA output. I just finalized the instalation of a Garmin 240 on my Dauntless. I used Lowrance/Eagle FFs on the 3 boats prior to this one. the Garmin is a better bargain. I got mine for $299 and it included speed and temp at that price. The pciture is better than the Lowrance X-75.

I checked all of the manuals for the Garmin FFs. All of them offer keel adjustment, metric units, and large numbers. The bracket eev hasa camming action to it to allow flush mounting. The Garmin 100 is $150 at Boat/US.

The Hummin Bird 100SX is $99.

Other than the larger dispaly I think a FF makes more sense. I use it to keep track of the bottom as it rises up. It is far easier to stay out of trouble when you can see the water getting shallower as a picture than as numbers. Good charts and paying attention are the best practice, but a FF is a valuable asset as well.

Sean


Whaletosh posted 06-25-2001 03:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Whaletosh    
I should ad that I agree with Peter. I am fascinated with watching the bottom structure. Like the time I was in the mouth of the St. Mary's river at Detour, MI. It was amazing to see the bottom fall off from 30 feet to 300 so quickly. A visual graph was more inpressive than merely watching a set of numbers change.

Sean

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