Do you remember the story of the Titanic collision with an iceberg that was not visible on the sonar? Although that unfortunate event happened decades ago, one thing will remain for sure – safety while sailing. Fortunately, marine navigation technology is rapidly developing and so are the electronic sailing devices.
So if you are a keen sailor or fisherman, you will certainly like our best marine GPS Chartplotter guide to getting all the information you need to pick the right unit for your boat. Also, we have taken our time to select and write our reviews on marine GPS chart plotters carefully and to give you all their benefits along with the possible drawbacks you may experience.
And since we base our information on our personal experience and scientific facts, we hope that you will really enjoy everything that our team has prepared for you.
Best Marine GPS Chartplotters Comparison Chart
Garmin Striker 4 GPS
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Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS
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Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder
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Garmin Echomap Chirp 74Cv
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Humminbird GPS G2 Fish Finder
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Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS
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Elite-12 Ti2-12-inch Fish Finder
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BEST MARINE GPS CHARTPLOTTER (NEWEST MODELS)
This is the right place to acquaint yourself with some of the latest sailing navigation products on the market which we carefully handpicked for you. Our team has pointed out the essential features of the units as well as the possible drawbacks that you may experience with them.
1. Garmin Striker 4 GPS
The top feature of this chartplotter is definitely the so-called “Clear VÜ” scanning sonar. Thanks to this, Garmin ensures you will be able to track more objects around your boat. Not only that, the device is more thorough in tracking, its 3.5-inch display will also give you clearer images.
The depth readings that this unit gives are also invaluable because you will know when you enter the shallow water. Additionally, some other metrics that you will be informed of are:
- Time of day
Another advantage of the Garmin Striker 4 is the fact that it pretty much comes with everything needed for smooth operation. There is a transducer in the set together with a power cable. You may get a 12V battery so that you can use the product without a power outlet, but this will have to be purchased separately.
On the downside, if you go outside of the USA, the map won’t be visible. You can still use the GPS and fishfinder features even outside of the US.
- The cord length is pretty good – about 10 feet.
- The unit can be easily disconnected from the mount
- If you use a 7-amp 12V battery, the Garmin Striker 4 will work for over 12 hours. This is well above the average of 9 hours.
- The chartplotter has a downscan and a transducer
- No maps of other countries are included.
- You have to go online to get the full owner’s manual -(http://static.garmin.com/pumac/STRIKER_OM_EN.pdf)
2. Hummingbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS
This Hummingbird unit is all about informing you of everything surrounding your boat trip. The chartplotter features two main display modes – Max Mode and Clear Mode. The functions related to the search area are also two. You can decide between having more precision on a narrower beam, or you can broaden the spectrum but will lose some detail.
A little knock on the product is that it doesn’t come with a screen cover. You will have to be careful around it. However, you will be happy to find out that the chartplotter works with SD cards. Also, it’s transducer’s cable is about 20 feet long.
Getting information not only on the fish around you but also on the depth of the lake is pivotal. This product will let you know of both, even if you move at a speed of around 50 mph.
- This model will give you decent images of the bottom of the lake.
- The GPS function leaves “trails” on the map showing you where you have been.
- You get the product with everything you need to operate it. There’s the unit, the bracket to mount it, a 6-foot power cord, and the transducer.
- There is no side view scan feature on this model
- Not so many languages are included in the settings. For example, there is no Arabic.
3. Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder
This may be the unit with the largest screen on our list today. The Lowrance HOOK2 comes with a choice between a 5-,7-, or a 9-inch display. The best part is that it also has US inland lake maps. We are talking about more than 4000 lakes.
Bear in mind that coastal maps aren’t included. If you want to add more maps, you will have to purchase a Micro SD card separately.
When it comes to the GPS chartplotter’s features, you can add various waypoints, trails and to also see the position of the boat on the chart page. If you wish to use the device on your kayak or any other boat that doesn’t have power, you have to get a 12V battery.
Needless to say, the set includes a power cord and a transducer as well. The product can be installed on a 24-foot pontoon without any issues, although many people use it mainly for smaller boats. The most significant advantage according to us, is the presence of the sidefinder function. Only the Triple Shot model has it. If you get the Split Shot one, the feature will not be there.
- The unit supports a split-screen function.
- It has a Micro SD card slot. You can add more maps to it.
- Broader sonar coverage in comparison to previous models
- The transducer in your trolling motor is not guaranteed to work with this sonar. You have to contact the manufacturer for confirmation.
- There is no screen cover included
4. Garmin Echomap Chirp 74Cv
A GPS chart plotter is a sailor’s best friend, and this model is no exception. The Garmin Echomap is equipped with a high-frequency sonar, which alerts you to dangers and objects in your path. It is equally suitable for giving you a read of surrounding fish and moving objects, updating its position 5 times per second. A pre-loaded chart of US coastal areas is included, but other maps outside the US will need to be additionally uploaded manually. The device comes with all necessary accessories, and the 7-inch LCD is easy to navigate. Even when driving your boat at higher speeds, the transducer will keep up with the pace. You will receive a 90-day refund option with your purchase.
- Operates well at high speeds
- Compact size and easy to carry
- You have to purchase and add lake maps additionally
- No batteries included
- No side view
5. Humminbird GPS G2 Fish Finder
This product has all the essential features for your safe sailing and good fishing. The Hummingbird’ GPS Chartplotter comes with a 5-inch display, keypad control, internal GPS receiver, and a built-in base map. But these are just the basics since this product has so much more to offer you. You will be able to use the Chirp digital sonar at a frequency of 83 kHz without upgrading the transducer.
Moreover, this unit can record at a maximum of 1500 ft depth and has 4000watts PTP power input with 2.5 inches target separation. Also, the product’s GPS function can save your tracking, and it will tell you the depth of the subsurface even when you are sailing with more than 1 or 2 mph. And since we have mention speed, this unit can read both mph and kph. But like any other additional feature, extra maps should be purchased separately. At least their installation is easy – just use the micro SD card slot which is also a tremendous addition to this unit.
- Transom mount transducer
- Helix 5 Chirp fish finder
- AutoChart Live
- 256 color display with backlit
- You have to buy the inline fuse holder
- No side view scan
6. Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS
Another great Chartplotter from Garmin sets its place in our reviews. This handheld sailing navigator comes with a color TFT display and a 2.6-inch screen size which makes it a perfect fit for your boating, kayaking and any other water sport activities. The product has a built-in 3-axis electronic compass, a barometric altimeter for heading and shows the weather as well.
You can also mark your waypoints and manually enter coordinates in case your favorite fishing spot is not shown in the preloaded maps. As for the other options that you will get with this unit, there are plenty of other charts available to be easily downloaded on your device, but you will have to buy them separately.
Nevertheless, these extra maps are exact and cover areas all over the world. But there is one thing you may not like that much – the package does not include a GPS mount or a clip so you will have to use the lanyard which comes with the unit to secure it on your boat.
- 20 hours of battery life
- High-sensitivity GPS receiver
- Waterproof by PPX7 standards
- Preloaded worldwide charts
- Cannot show the depth
- Difficult to see the screen under heavy sunlight conditions
7. Elite-12 Ti2-12-inch Fish Finder
Lowrance’s sonar mapping tool is a great adaptation for keen anglers, giving you a detailed map of the surrounding waters when at sea or lake. It has a down-scan imaging mechanism, with a wide 12-inch SolarMAX display. Wireless technology allows you to use it easily on the go without connecting it to a cable. The product includes free US and Canada Navionics, a mapping card, a 3-in-1 transducer, and a 20-inch cable. Easy to use and install, just follow the manual instructions.
- Touch screen and button functions
- Wireless technology
- Maps outside US/Can will have to be manually added.
8. Simrad Go7 SXR Chartplotter/Fishfinder
Our next product is rather expensive, but you will see that it will prove its worth. The Simrad Go7 SXR comes with an LCD 7-inch touch screen which will give you ultimate colors and all the functions that you use on your smartphone like click-and-drag and pinch-to-zoom.
Also, this product has a C-MAP easy routing and Avionics charts which will show you not only the shortest course to your waypoint but also which way to go to avoid any potential dangers like landmass or shoals. But the navigational hazards feature is not pre-installed so you will have to buy some new charts for this. Yet, the GO7 SXR has a radar input and thanks to the NMEA 2000, you can take control of your vessel’s motor, check the fuel level, flow meters and many more. And the best thing is that you can do this via your phone, using the Go Free controller app.
- Pre-loaded USA charts
- CHIRP, Side-DownScan and forward-looking sonar
- TotalScan transducer
- built-in WiFi and Bluetooth
- No Canada charts
- Some of the most practical features have to be purchased separately
Marine Chartplotters – Are They That Good?
After reading our reviews, you are definitely aware that sailing navigation systems are a must for every boat-owner. They offer so many features, they come in so many sizes and models, and therefore you may even forget what you need for your sea adventures. This is why we sorted out all the advantages and disadvantages of using a marine Chartplotter for your vessel – to remind you that all types have the same general application in the open seas. Moreover, with guiding electronic devices in the sea you will be faced with identical challenges, so scroll down to learn more.
- You can quickly and easily find and store your favorite waypoints.
- Get detailed maps of any water surface in the world, including lakes, rivers, and channels, and install them in your device via an SD card.
- Connect your chart plotter to your phone to get the advantage of more high-tech features.
- Can plot the shortest and safest course based on your vessel’s specifications.
- Fish Finder features to aid your fishing activities.
- It can show relevant information on the screen like water temperature, air temperature, speed, and depth.
- May come with radars, transducers, and sonar to help you with the fishing.
- Ability to show a side view and down imaging.
- Designed to be water-resistant, durable and light.
- Some models do not come with SD slot cards.
- All detailed maps, except for the basic in-built one, should be purchased.
- There are limited mounting options, especially if your boat’s dashboard is curved. Also, the quality of the material may not come to your expectations.
- Sometimes your preferred language is not listed in the language menu settings.
- If you are using a network Chartplotter, there might be a time lag between what your device is showing you and what you actually see in front of your boat.
Do not miss out to visit our marine accessories home page for more information and practical advice on everything you need to know and get ready for safe and successful sailing.
A Few Words About The Types That You Really Need To Know
Unless you are a compass pro, then you definitely need a Chartplotter to help you navigate in the open sea. But what does it make this device so useful and helpful? Well, imagine you have only a GPS system in your boat – you will see the coordinates of the place you want to go, but they will be shown in numbers. s
And if you have skipped Geography classes, the latitude and longitude coordinates will not be familiar to you at all. So, here comes the pivotal role of the Chartplotter. This unit is an excellent combination of a GPS system and an optical device through which you can actually see where you are positioned on the map shown on the chart plotter’s screen.
Hence, you can no longer be lost in numbers or coordinates because they are going to be accurately plotted on your device so that you can easily read them and go sailing with confidence.
However, chartplotters come in different types, and this is perhaps what will make you feel confused when considering buying one. For this reason, our team has compiled a list with the basic models that you may come across on the market as well as their main features and characteristics. And remember that the more advanced the technology is, the bigger the price you will pay for such sailing electronics.
1. Handheld Chartplotters
This type of device for marine navigation has the option to be placed anywhere, and as their name gives it away, you can hold them in your hand. They come with internal GPS and are small in size which makes them very compact to use while sailing or doing watersports. Handheld Chartplotter has all the essential functions which will be enough for you to determine your position on the map and mark your waypoints. In addition, these units are equipped with integrated maps although not that detailed as you may wish for.
Still, all handheld chart plotters’ manufacturers offer a wide variety of lake or sea maps to be downloaded or bought separately as an add-on to your unit. And one more thing – since the screen of such products is small, you need to pick a handheld Chartplotter with very bright colors and screen protection from direct sunlight.
2. GPS Marine Chartplotters
The second type is also basically like the handhelds, but the difference is that its screen is bigger than the former’s. Therefore you will not find it very comfortable to hold it or mount it on your kayak, so such guiding navigation is more suitable for bigger boats and not intended for water sports. However, GPS Marine sailing electronics may come with so many features such as additional maps, options to save waypoints and routes, a barometric altimeter and a built-in compass. In short, this is all you need for a weekend sailing.
3. GPS Chartplotter With Built-in Fish Finder
Now, this is what every fisherman would like to have in their boats. This type of device has the same characteristics as the basic GPS Chartplotter, but there is a built-in fish finder. You will definitely like this extra since it sends sound waves into the subsurface and then turns the signal into a picture to be shown on the screen of your chart plotter. This way you will easily find the perfect fishing spot without wasting your time and your boat’s fuel. Another thing is that you can upgrade such steering navigation with a sounder when you buy an additional antenna for the weather or radar. Also, some models come with a transducer, but if this is not the case with your chosen model, you can always purchase such separately.
4. Network Chartplotters
As the name suggests, this is a high-tech navigation device designed to provide you with the most accurate information of the sea bottom as well as give you full control of your boat. Usually, network chart plotters have built-in internet connectivity so that you can use your marina’s Wi-Fi or tether it to your smartphone. This way you will get not only an accurate picture of your target place and your route, but also be alerted of possible dangers under the water. Also, the operation systems of network chart plotters are exclusively user-friendly and very advanced, so you will really like all the extras it has to offer like controlling your boat motors, water temperature feature, free Cloud services and even listening to music.
5. Network Chartplotters With Built-in Fish Finder
These types of marine navigation systems are again aimed to aid fishermen, but since it is cutting-edge technology, you will undoubtedly enjoy the 2-dimensional image of the sea bottom on the screen. This way, your fishing trips will become even more productive and satisfying.
What To Look For In A Marine Chartplotter
In this section, we are going to list some of the features that may come with your Chartplotter or be purchased separately to boost your navigation device’s performance. We have included some basic information on each one’s purpose and functions as well. This way, you will no longer hesitate what the most useful feature for you and your sailing activities is.
Some marine chart plotters are sold with a transducer while others are not. But in either situation, you need to know why a transducer is so important and what type you need.
Transducers actually serve as an antenna for your boat sonar’s system. The electrical signal that comes from the sonar is turned into a high-frequency sound which is then sent into the water’s subsurface and when it reaches the bottom or any other object like rocks, for example, the signal returns. At this very moment, the transducer receives the incoming signal and turns into a frequency that can be read by the sonar. And this is how you get the image of what is under your boat.
The transducers that come with chart plotters will be efficient because you will not waste your time and money in searching for any additional devices. Also, this tool for converting electrical signals will help you when you go fishing or when sailing in unknown waters.
2. Chirp Sonar
This feature is excellent for giving you an accurate image of the sea bottom in terms of depth and resolution. And thanks to the fact that this type of sonar transmits and receives signals in more than one frequency, you can quickly tell apart big fish from smaller ones for instance.
Also, if your marine Chartplotter is equipped with Chirp sonar, then the chances of you receiving misleading information from the sea bottom are minimal. The reason for this is the ability of the sonar to tell the difference between true sonar echo and disturbances.
In addition, there are different frequency ranges for the Chirp sonar that can be exceptionally functional depending on where you sail. And this is crucial when you want to cast your anchor successfully. So, do not miss out on our best boat anchors thorough guide along with our top picks to help you choose the right device for mooring your vessel.
· Low Chirp Frequency
Here the signal is transmitted at 25-80 kHz or 50 kHz, which means that such signal will be excellent for sailing in really deep waters – more than 196 feet.
· Medium CHIRP Frequency
When the frequency is between 80-160 kHz or 83 kHz, then you can easily find great fishing spots in shallow waters.
· High CHIRP Frequency
At high frequency like 160-800 kHz or 200 kHz, you will definitely get the highest resolution. Moreover, if your vessel is sailing fast, the high chirp frequency will be able to show you whether there is fish or other objects under the water. Also, such a frequency range is most suitable for water depths of up to 196 feet.
No matter whether you are sailing in the sea or fishing in a lake, you need to know your exact whereabouts. This is why maps are of great importance, and all chart plotters come with preloaded ones. However, the in-built maps are usually too general, and very often you will not find your preferred fishing spot there. Or, if sea adventures are your thing, then all of the places you have never been to will not be installed in your steering navigation system. But this does not mean that you cannot get the map you want, it is just that you are expected to buy anything extra from the manufacturer.
So, when picking a marine Chartplotter, make sure to get all the details about the preloaded maps and all the charts that do not come in the package.
4. Mounting Hardware
Although not a feature of the chart plotters’ electronic characteristics, positioning your device the right and safe way is vital. We advise you to check your boat’s dashboard and think how to mount the Chartplotter since some vessels ‘panels with controls are not conventional.
Also, make sure to research the material of the mounting bracket. If plastic is mainly used, then you will have to buy a new product for securing your Chartplotter as this material is not durable at all.
5. Screen Brightness Display
When choosing your perfect device for marine navigation, do not forget to check whether there is protection against direct sunlight. It is also essential to pick a product with extremely bright color options to get a clear view of the images on your sailing electronic device regardless of the weather conditions.
Marine Chartplotter Installation Tips
In case you wonder how to put your marine Chartplotter into use on your boat’s dashboard, here are some pieces of advice to help you with the installation. However, remember that different models may require some adjustment to fit in. Also, not all electronic devices come with the mounting hardware and what is more, if the transducer is included in the package, you will have to fix it, too.
Here we will give you a step-by-step guide to installing a basic model navigating device.
- Choose the place where you will mount the Chartplotter and make sure it will fit. Sometimes this is a challenge, especially when you have to consider the protection of the device as well as the viewing angles.
- After deciding on the most appropriate place, drill the 4 holes for the mounting studs. You should make a hole in each corner to match the device’s chassis.
- Run the cables for the chart plotter before you actually position it.
- Then you have to reach in behind to fix the thumb nuts to secure the unit.
- Place the helm panel and after that turn on the device for testing.
- Insert the chart data card (if you have such), and your Chartplotter is ready to navigate.
Finally, do not forget to read the manufacturer’s installation guide for more specific details on your marine steering device.
Maintaining Your Marine Chartplotter
Any device needs proper care, and the same goes to chart plotters. And given the fact that you will use this device in any kind of weather conditions and in a variety of situations, you need to know how to keep it safe. So, here are some hot tips about maintaining your fishfinder.
Taking care of the visible parts is a must. And the screen is the most important here. Make sure that:
- You clean it with a soft cloth or a PC screen cleaner
- The back of the chart plotter is sealed against the pod; otherwise, the device will not be water-resistant.
- You do not use abrasive or solvent-based cleaners.
2. Software Updates
Updating your marine navigating device is essential because it can give you the latest information about the weather, currents, tides and many more. Make sure to call a technician or contact the manufacturer if any problems occur when the image is blurred on the screen, for example.
3. Replacing instruments
Sometimes you will need to make some changes to your Chartplotter device either due to upgrades or any troubleshooting features. In these situations, it is crucial to take into consideration the following tips.
- In case your display has been cracked, or your transducer is not working, and you have to replace them, remember to contact the same device’s manufacturers.
- If you cannot find a replacement for your Chartplotter model because your navigation system type is no longer in stores, then you still have some options.
A- If the part that you need is a stand-alone instrument and it is not connected to any network, then it is going to be easy as any piece can fit.
B- If the part is networked with others, then you will have to check whether your device is equipped with a standard NMEA output. Remember that your new instrument must use the same protocol to make it work but make sure you get some extra cables, just in case. Also, a data combiner will be a great idea since some NMEA protocols have a limit to the number of instruments.
Marine Chartplotter Safety Tips
Buying and installing your electronic navigation system is just the beginning of your sea adventures. But if you are not aware of the possible dangers or do not know how to work with your Chartplotter, then any voyage will turn into a nightmare. This is the reason why we have prepared some essential tips to ensure safe sailing.
- Navigation systems are essential, but they are made to assist you, so do not rely only on your Chartplotter. You really need to have some basic navigation knowledge and know your boat.
- If you are going to use a map that is on an SD card, make sure that the map is up-to-date. This way you will have the latest information about all the possible dangers that you may come across.
- It is vital to study and understand all the symbols that you will see on your device’s screen.
- When plotting your course remember to check what is standing between you and your destination because your Chartplotter will show you the shortest way but not the hazards you may come across.
- Make sure you plan your route carefully and understand where exactly you are going. You can get an excellent helper when looking at what is in front of your vessel in the far distance if you have binoculars. So, do not forget to check out our best marine binoculars top picks and extensive buying guide to aid your navigation.
- Some models for marine sailing navigation will let you zoom in and out. Although this is a helpful feature, you really need to use the largest scale zoom possible so that no functions are lost during this option.
This is the end of our guide but surely the beginning of your safe sailing adventures. We hope that after reading everything written in our best marine GPS Chartplotter guide, the only question you will have is “Where to?” And in case you still doubt which device to buy for your boat, make sure to read once again our marine GPS Chartplotter reviews.
Thank you for picking us to be your guide and feel free to comment and give us your feedback. And if this guide helped you with your choice, don’t forget to share it with your friends or online. Thanks for reading and as always – stay put!