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Author Topic:   GPS and SONAR: $750 Price Range
KDW posted 03-16-2007 09:01 AM ET (US)   Profile for KDW   Send Email to KDW  
Who makes the best GPS and fishfinder combo under $750? I'm in the hunt for a new GPS and fishfinder combo. Anyone have any recommendations on the best out there for the [money]? I really can't afford to pay over $750. I've heard that Lowrance makes the best fishfinder and Garmin has the best GPS. The fishfinder will be used more on my 1991, Outrage 17. Thanks in advance for any advice,


JMARTIN posted 03-16-2007 03:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
The Lowrance 337 CDF is what I got for about 650, but I had to buy a 100 buck chip so the GPS looked like a chart. I think they have improved on that, and there might be some downloads to upgrade the GPS portion. John
Oh yeah, the DF part is not needed for normal fishing.
KDW posted 03-16-2007 03:59 PM ET (US)     Profile for KDW  Send Email to KDW     

I checked out Boaters World and they've got a package for the Lowrance 337 CDF for $849.00, but it also includes the chart card, a fuel flow sensor, and 1 year extended warranty. The 337 CDF unit by itself is priced at $699.00. However, it looks like a real nice unit, with everything and more than I need.

Although, I wonder if this unit is any better than the LMS 522 IGPS or the Eagle equivalent? I noticed it has more pixels at 640 x 480, but is not dual frequency. Does dual frequency help any if I'm never going to be in any water over say 250' deep?

Thanks for your help,


wywhaler posted 03-16-2007 05:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for wywhaler  Send Email to wywhaler     
You might want to check out the refurbished units (PROFISH II) at SITEX. This company has been around a long time and has very good products. The Profish II Fishfinder/Trackplotter refurbished was $299 with brand new transducer, dual beam, temp and speed. Also includes new 18 channel WAAS Differential GPS. The customer service guy told me the units are from boat shows and have never been used on the water. They just replaced the casing. These units have the SITEX two year warranty. You can also get the PROFISH II Fishfinder/Chartplotter for $499, which includes the mapping function.

I have the Profish II and I'm looking forward you using it extensively. Love the plotter with highway function. Also the STRIKE function. Differential GPS seems to be very accurate. The ablilty to see the screen better the brighter the sun shines on it is really neat. Did not get the Chartplotter because I live in the Rock Mountain Area. Had a SITEX Recorder in 1980 in South Florida and was very happy with it. Those needing an inexpensive combo unit should check this out. I don't think you can beat this deal with a stick.


JMARTIN posted 03-16-2007 06:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for JMARTIN  Send Email to JMARTIN     
You do not need the dual frequency, heck can you even fish more than 200 feet? John

PS, I will take a look at the place where I got mine and check out thier price. I bought mine a couple of years ago. John

where2 posted 03-16-2007 08:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Dual frequency will allow you to determine the consistency of the bottom (hard or soft) and shoot deeper, but not everyone has the Gulf Stream in their back yard. I generally don't even visit the Gulf Stream with my single frequency unit.
davej14 posted 03-16-2007 09:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for davej14  Send Email to davej14     
I had very poor reception with last years Lowrance models with internal antenna. I actually returned it for the unit that uses the external antenna and I am now very happy with performance. The 2007 models may have an improved internal antenna but I have no experience with this year's models.
wywhaler posted 03-16-2007 09:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for wywhaler  Send Email to wywhaler     
By "dual beam" I meant the unit has a narrow 15 Deg. and a wide 40 Deg. beam.


jimh posted 03-17-2007 08:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Considering that NAVICO now owns

--MX Marine

the answer to your question, "Who makes the best..." is probably "Navico."

KDW posted 03-19-2007 06:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for KDW  Send Email to KDW     
Thanks to all for the input.

Looks like I have a little more investigating to do before I make a decision about what to buy. I'm interesting about the ProFish II refurbished units and 2 year warranty.

Also interesting about NAVICO. I had no idea they made all these brands. I've really only been looking at Lowrance and Eagle from this group, but will now dig a little deeper. Looks like the Eagle gives a tad more bang for the buck in similar models, but I just can't get by the grey casing (silly cosmetic hang-up I have, since all my other electronics are black.)

Thanks Again,


wywhaler posted 03-19-2007 04:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for wywhaler  Send Email to wywhaler     
KDW--Forgot to mention that my VHF radio hooks up to the COM port on the PROFISH II and the GPS (Lat/Long) info is passed along to the VHF so it can be transmitted via the emergency (CH 70) function. [Throws in recommendation for a brand of radio--but, hey, we're talking GPS and SONAR here--save the radio for another thread!--jimh]


jimh posted 03-20-2007 07:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re Eagle brand: I have not made a detailed study, but they do seem to be a sort of budget version of the Lowrance models. Maybe they are last year's Lowrance models with a different color plastic housing. As you observed, the Eagle brand units seem to be very good values.

I do not think there is any one device that is a clear leader in the market in term of best performance for under $750. If there were, the other five or six brands would suddenly be out of business. It is a very crowded field and no matter how often I look at the choices, there does not seem to be any one device that stands out as the really best deal.

One aspect of the price you will pay for a unit is the amount of digital chart cartography that it will include. It has become fairly common that when you buy a GPS and Chart Plotter that it comes with a lot of cartography included. You have to evaluate the unit and the cartography as a package. One unit may come with the equivalent of hundreds of dollars of chart data. You have to consider that when you make a judgement about the price and value.

Another factor is the type of cartography, and by that I mean what brand of digital chart data does a particular device use. Some brands of GPS and Chart Plotter use their own brand of cartography, and you are more or less captive to that brand. WIth other devices the electronics manufacturer uses a third party vendor for the chart cartography. An example of this might be C-Map. C-Map make digital cartography which can be used in many brands of chart plotter devices.

Another important consideration is the region in which you boat and if the device has good chart cartography for that area. If you happen to be in Miami, you can be sure there is good chart data for your water, but if you live in Utah, it may be harder to find good digital charts for a local lake. This varies with brand.

This topic--what is the best unit at a certain price point--is frequently discussed and comes up over and over. What usually happens is that people recommend the unit they have purchased. That is natural. It is a way to affirm their own choice as the correct choice. But I do not think that I have ever seen a really systematic analysis of the choices. It would be good to have a careful study of what each device offers.

If making a study, I would want to compare the following parameters:

DISPLAY: physical size, number of pixels, color or monochrome, visibility in sunlight

CHART DATA: format of data, amount of data included, quality of data, price of additional data, availability of additional data

OPERATING SYSTEM: layout of physical controls, organization of menus and their logic, speed of screen redraws, ability to plot or overlay other information such as Digital Selective Calling position polling from another vessel, data from other sources such as NMEA-2000 engine data, weather radio data, and even RADAR overlays.

GPS: this is funny but the GPS is more or less a commodity now and there is very little to differentiate one device from another. We just assume the GPS is fast, reliable, and accurate, and it has data outputs to connect with other devices.

SONAR: again, this is a completely separate topic, and there could be a world of difference in the performance of the SONAR portion of a combination GPS, Chart Plotter, and SONAR device, yet very little commentary is given to this by most anecdotal reviewers. It seems that the SONAR is more or less thrown into the deal and accepted as a commodity, not a decision-making criterion.

In my view, no one ever really provides substantive data about all of these possibilities. What typically happens is people recommend their favorite brands or a brand they have bought in the past. There are so many factors which affect the total package value it has become very difficult to sort them all out and determine a "best value" winner.

And, as you can see, we have so much to talk about in a GPS and SONAR combination device that it is crazy to open the discussion to "best value" VHF radio at the same time. Accordingly, I removed a recommendation to buy a certain brand and model of radio. That truly is a completely separate topic and should not be mixed into this discussion.

jimh posted 03-20-2007 08:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I'd like to throw this idea into the discussion: I know that combination units are the most popular these days, and this is mainly due to the cost savings which occurs when two devices can share a large color display. The large color display is the most expensive part of the overall electronics, so sharing it helps to lower the cost of both the SONAR and the GPS and Chart Plotter devices.

On the other hand, if you have two separate devices, you can get more screen display area for your money, I think. At the moment I have separate GPS and SONAR devices, and each has their own display. The effective display of these two devices when added together is quite large. It is the equivalent of perhaps an 8-inch display. I have been thinking about getting something new, and of course I was considering a combination unit, just like everyone else. Then it occurred to me that in order to really get more screen display area, I would have to get at least an 8-inch display. Anything smaller would be, in effect, a step backwards for me in terms of how much data I could display at one time in a split screen navigation and depth display.

Another consideration for me is my current inventory of chart data. I have a couple of C-Map chips for the waters in which I do most of my boating. This is an asset that I just do not want to discard when I get a new device. So the prior investment in digital cartography is influencing my decision on what new device to buy. This may be a factor for anyone who has purchased digital cartography on memory chips which can be used on a number of brands of devices.

Peter posted 03-20-2007 11:18 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Last week I bought a Garmin GPSMAP 498c internal antenna with dual frequency transducer for ~$630 delivered to my door one day after I made the purchase on-line. I installed it this weekend on my 18 Outrage and got to play with the unit although the Outrage is not in the water. After fiddling around with the different features, I concluded that this device seems to be of the same high quality as the Garmin 182c GPS chartplotter that I have been using for several years on my 27 Whaler.

What attracted me most to the 498c was my experience with a long line of Garmin GPS units over the years and almost immediate familiarity with this unit's operating system because the operating system of the 498c is almost identical to the operating system of the Garmin 182c. Thus, I did not need to learn yet another new operating system. I realize that Garmin is not known to have the best SONAR specifications but for my needs the familiarity with and ease of use of the Garmin operating system trumped any weakness on the SONAR specification side of the combination. Also, never having been a very lucky fisherman, I attached more value to the GPS function than the SONAR function of the combination. The decision to go with a combo unit rather than separate devices was driven by the desire to conserve console space.

The advantage with the new Garmin units, versus the older units, is that one does not have to buy a separate chip for the charts as I had to do with the Garmin 182c. Now they are built-in. A Garmin chip can still be purchased to provide more detail such as aerial photos of coastal features, etc. I doubt that I will buy such a thing as I've managed to get along all of these years without.

I think the 49Xc series of Garmin products, which are being phased out for a new product line, should be considered by those interested in a good quality combo GPS/SONAR at a reasonable price. With the intense competition in the marine electronics field these days, its quite likely that there are several other brands that will do just as good a job.

wywhaler posted 03-20-2007 03:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for wywhaler  Send Email to wywhaler     

Sorry about the radio thing. I just wanted the guy inquiring to know that the Sitex unit would hook up for the
CH 70 emerg. function. Told you before that I was big on that brand of radio because I believe it's bullet proof and it's one of the big three for ham radio. In fairness, Kenwood and Yaesu being the other two.

Yep, I'm pretty happy with the Sitex unit and don't mind saying so. My thinking is that if KDW can get a combo unit he likes, as much as I like mine for $299 bucks, then my post might be of assistance to him.

I've noticed that Sitex is rarely reviewed on this site and although I have no financial interest in the company, an older company this industry mainstream, with marine products such as Sonar, Radar, etc. deserves a look see.

Not really interested in going against the grain but I know good stuff when I see it and I'd like to point it out to others.


jimh posted 03-20-2007 04:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Ron--I agree that Sitex is a bit out the mainstream. You don't see their products on the shelf when you go to most big marine stores, but that is not to say that Sitex does not have good products. They seem to be a bit more innovative and cutting edge.

As I said, VHF Marine Band radios are an entirely different topic. Wax prolix on them in a new discussion.

Anything in marine electronics for $299 sounds like a bargain.

KDW posted 03-20-2007 05:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for KDW  Send Email to KDW     
Thanks Jim, Ron, and others for the discussion and insight.

Great points about the complexity of deciding any one unit is best given all the various mfrs and options offered.I guess it's almost like buying a new car, computer, or almost any other piece of high-tech equipment. Each individual has a planned use and preference to best fit their application and needs. Everyone holds different priorities and opinions about functionality, speed, styling, efficiency, and the like.

Looks like we need Consumer Reports to evaluate these GPS/Sounder combo units and rank like all their other stuff? The catagories Jim described would be nice. I think the individual GPS and FishFinder idea also has a lot of merit.

Anyhow, just reading everyone's comments has been well worth asking the question, even if it is probably too vague to specifically answer. I'm a real novice in the area of GPS and fishfinders. It's always interesting to learn from the experience and knowledge of others who know more about a subject than me. It can only help me make the best purchasing decision about my specific application.

Thanks again,


mikeshann posted 03-24-2007 08:16 AM ET (US)     Profile for mikeshann  Send Email to mikeshann     
Hi, i found a Garmin GPSMap 498C at West Marine for 499, plus 49 for the transducer. It is a 2006 model which is being phased out for a new model. I'm not sure how hard it is to install one of these and was wondering if any of you have advice based on your own installs. I have a 2000 17' Montauk. thanks for the assistance in advance. mikeshann
jimh posted 03-24-2007 10:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
If you need help with the installation of a specific device, please begin a separate discussion on that topic. This discussion is focused on recommendations for devices in a certain price range.

For advice on locations for a SONAR transducer, there are many prior discussions and REFERENCE articles available.

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