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Author Topic:   Lowrance HDS-8M vs. Elite 5 DSI
CY posted 07-24-2011 05:56 PM ET (US)   Profile for CY   Send Email to CY  
Behind the curve on chart plotters and the Lowrance differences are blurring. Read the past posts here and the 8M appears to be a popular choice, but now the smaller Elite 5 DSI wins the Icast award.

Upgrading from a Humminbird one Hundred on a V-20 so anything will be better. Coastal Maine with navigation more important than finding fish; needs to be happy with a S-H GX2150 radio. Don't think I am ready for the 'pick one of each' approach just yet.

Right now I am using (carefully) OpenCPN 2.3.1 with NOAA RNC, but there must be a better way - though I do like the NOAA charts.

Thanks for any suggestions.

jimh posted 07-24-2011 08:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
What is the 8M? I don't recall hearing about that model.
CY posted 07-24-2011 09:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for CY  Send Email to CY     
That shows my problem with all the choices.

Lowrance HDS-8m Multifunction GPS Chartplotter

Lowrance HDS-8 Fishfinder/GPS Chartplotter

It appears the 8M doesn't do depth/sonar so I should be asking the functional difference, other than size, between HDS-8 and the Elite 5 DSI.


jimh posted 07-24-2011 10:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The HDS-8 is more comparable to the Elite 5 DSI in that they are both GPS receivers, chart plotters, and SONAR devices. The HDS-8 supports more expansion and accessories.

Interfacing to a Standard Horizon GX2150 will have to be done via NMEA-0183.

jimh posted 07-25-2011 07:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The NOAA digital charts are generally excellent, and if you are boating in an area which is shown on a NOAA chart, you probably can't get too much better chart data than that. The problem in using a NOAA digital chart on a boat usually comes down to the display visibility in sunlight. From what I can tell of the prices at the moment, a generic computer display that has enough brightness and contrast to be easily seen in sunlight is still a very expensive item, probably a $1,000 or more cost. Also, the method of interacting with the chart plotter software which was designed to be operated by a mouse interface is difficult to set-up and use on a small boat. Computer chart plotters and NOAA free charts are better for larger boats with an enclosed pilot house and enough room for a full keyboard, mouse, and large monitor.

If you visit LOWRANCE.COM you will see their products listed. To compare the HDS-8 to the ELITE-5 DSI, open two windows with their specifications. Here are the links: HDS-8-FishfinderGPS-Chartplotter/Specifications/ Specifications/

Review all the specifications, and note any differences. I tried this just briefly and noticed a huge difference: there is no NMEA-2000 in the ELITE-5 DSI.

There are many more differences. There is a substantial difference in price, so it seems reasonable that there will be some features or capabilities available in the HDS-8 that are not in the ELITE-5 DSI.

Lil Whaler Lover posted 07-25-2011 08:01 AM ET (US)     Profile for Lil Whaler Lover  Send Email to Lil Whaler Lover     
My understanding is that the Lowrance ELITE series are stand alone units that provide 3 capabilities: 1. GPS, 2. fishfinder, and 3. interface with VHF for DSC capability.

The HDS series (5, 7 8 and 10" units) are fully network capable units that you can interface through NMEA to include engine management, video camera, sirius weather, radar, GPS, fishfinder, structure scan imaging or basically anything you want to or can afford to purchase.

Do not let the term "Elite" deceive you. It is a good basic unit if it meets your needs.

jimh posted 07-25-2011 08:36 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The HDS-8 is sold in several forms. There are options for included digital charts and for transducers. For about a $100 up-charge you can get charts for the entire U.S. coastal areas and Great Lakes built into the device. The transducer options are a choice of none, an 83 and 200 kHz transom mount, a 50 and 200 kHz transom mount. There are many other transducer options not sold as a bundle. You can also use other manufacturer's transducers with the HDS-8, and many serious fishermen elect that option.

With the ELITE 5 DSI you must use the included transom mount transducer, as far as I know.

CY posted 07-25-2011 09:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for CY  Send Email to CY     
Not into serious fishing and I do want a stern mount transducer. Lots of rocks and ledges here plus an 8-11 foot tide, so I am interested in what is under me at an overnight anchorage and working my way through mid tide passages.

The HDS-8 larger screen size is very tempting. I have been looking at the specs but some of them don't mean much to me yet. Time for some more reading, thanks for the suggestions.

tmann45 posted 07-25-2011 11:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for tmann45  Send Email to tmann45     
CY, I highly recommend you look at the units you are interested in side by side. I just went thru this trying to decide HDS-5 or HDS-7, there is a world of difference in their displays. The specs for display size are close, especially the height (3." vs. 3.8"), but the 7 appears much larger (it is 1.6" wider). The brightness and resolution also make for a much better display on the HDS-7.
Phil T posted 07-26-2011 09:30 AM ET (US)     Profile for Phil T  Send Email to Phil T     

If you are in Maine, Hamilton Marine has a decent selection on display and carry many more.

With the demise of Boaters's World, the only other option is West Marine or a Boat dealer's marine store.

I have had transom mounted transducers on 2 hulls for 8+ years in coastal Maine and never had a problem..

If you don't need a sounder, consider a basic depth finder with transducer. I had one on my Montauk and it was great for exploring tidal areas and not grounding out.

CY posted 07-26-2011 03:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for CY  Send Email to CY     
Thanks, I would like a screen big enough that I don't need my reading glasses. I like Rockland Hamilton Marine but they don't appear to carry Lowrance. May have to go the online route.
sblack posted 08-02-2011 01:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for sblack  Send Email to sblack     
CY, What Ever you do. DO NOT, buy the unit with their "upgraded insight charts"

I purchased an HDS 7 for my 25 Whaler here in So. Cal. two years ago and was sold that their upgraded charts would provide the detailed bottom contour lines etc. but I was mislead.

I paid the extra $250 or so for it and ended up purchasing the Navionics Gold Fish-n-Chips chip that it is so much better with much more detail.

If I could do it again, I would buy the basic unit and upgrade with a Navionics Chip which takes some easy computer work.

RobP posted 08-02-2011 07:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for RobP  Send Email to RobP     
OK, here is what I see as the difference that have note been mentioned here yet.

The Elite uses the Downscan technology 455/800 kHz for the transducer. This is the same that is used in the Structure Scan module that Lowrance/Simrad offer you just don't get the left/right side scanning feature. This unit has a depth limitation of 250ft. Your tradition sonar units use the 50/200 of 83/200 kHz transducers. If your just looking out for the bottom so you know how shallow it is it really does not make a difference.

The Elite can't load the Navionics Platinum chips, only the Gold Chips.

I suspect that the NEMA interface on Elite it only one way - GPS data out. If I remember correctly the GX2150 is capable of two way transmission of vessel AIS data. So it set up correctly it will show vessels transmitting AIS data.

Keep in mind that the Icast award is from fishing trade organization, not an electronics trade group. The Elite is a great unit for small boats that will mostly fishing and are looking for a low priced unit that has some of the features of the Structure Scan with mapping and visibility/size being secondary.

Given the information you have said I would be looking at the HDS units, you will really like the larger size. Go the biggest your dash and pocket can handle.
With the Platinum Chips you can access a lot of data including aerial photos shown under the charts. You could go the HDS 8M with a separate sounder only module but I suspect that by the time your done you will be out around the same amount of cash.

As far a Insight vs base, I have the Insight but never use the features as I use the chip a lot. The Insight is not bad and does have some neat features that are not on the P+ chip, including some road information. Actually I purchased a Base model when I first got my unit but at one point I had to return the unit to WM for an exchange (get the 2year in store warranty - walk in walk out) and they did not have the base so they gave me the Insight.

The HSD will allow better interface with your radio, a good sonar, NMEA 2000 network, Navionics Platinum Plus compatible plus a lot of other features. Yes it is more money but it is worth it.

CY posted 08-02-2011 12:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for CY  Send Email to CY     
Thanks Rob. I am dropping the Elite because of its limitations. Been wondering about Simrad but it doesn't seem to have as many fans as the HDS series, need to find one to check it out.

Size is still being debated, the 10" screens are tempting but I am not sure they are worth the increase in price.

Thanks again for the suggestions.

RobP posted 08-02-2011 02:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for RobP  Send Email to RobP     
Simrad - Lowrance on steroids. Faster, more powerful able to leaP buildings... Well maybe not that. If your got the cash it is a great machine. I think you don't hear as much about it since it is outside most recreational boater price point.

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