Fish Seekers
Sharing's Caring

The Best Marine GPS Chartplotters for the Money

If you spend a considerable amount of time in the water, you know there are many reasons why one needs a chartplotter. -  it helps you map lakes, rivers, and other water bodies, which makes it easy to detect fish activity.

While marine chartplotters do offer extensive capabilities, ​they are not created equal. They often provide inadequate data, depending on the weather conditions. However, they have the necessary features to plan routes. You can subdivide routes into waypoints and tracks.

The best thing about ​chartplotters is that they make fishing trips and sailing safer by notifying you when your vessel veers off course. This makes it easier to find safe fishing spots and avoid strong currents.

Factors to Consider When Buying a ​GPS Chartplotter

Power and Transducer

The power and transducer determines the accuracy and depth capabilities of a GPS chartplotter, and your choice of transducer plays a huge role. Units rated at 100 watts to 300 watts are cheaper and are ideal for fishing in depths of less than 200 feet. However, if you need to reach the bottom of deeper lakes, a more powerful unit will punch through.

A larger transducer lends a more focused beam that penetrates deeper. Quadrupling the output power has the same effects as doubling the diameter of the transducer’s crystal. For instance, a 1200-watt unit with a 1” transducer offers the same view as a 300-watt chartplotter with a 4” transducer. Unfortunately, you don’t always get to choose what transducer comes with a particular unit. The good news is that you can upgrade the transducer.

Screen size, resolution and visibility

An important factor to consider is the screen size of a chartplotter, mainly because it determines how well you can see the data. It also affects how squeezed information appears when using split screen. Go for units with a 5” screen at the minimum. Smaller screens will make it difficult to use the zoom function. The resolution will tell you how much detail a unit can provide. Steer away from ​prodcuts with less than 480x480 resolution.

Another screen feature to look out for is visibility, particularly when wearing polarized sunglasses. Some screens fade when viewed from an angle. Test out your unit in the store by hitting it with light and see if you can see the screen when leaning off to one side. Be sure to bring along your sunglasses.

Navigation and Data

Chartplotters come with pre-installed navigation software, which should be updated regularly for optimal function. Charts are sometimes supplied, with some units tying you to one chart provider.

All chartplotters, except for those marketed as handheld units, are compatible with the National Marine Electroinics Association (NMEA). They can interpret inputs like wind direction, depth, boat speed and wind speed. You need the newer NMEA-2000 protocol for power cruisers and other data sources like engine hours, fuel and water tank levels, rudder angle, battery levels, oil temperature, etc.

Each of the above inputs requires sensors, which can be connected with cables or wirelessly. Common options include VHF, AIS, autopilot or radar sensors.

Remote control

Almost every plotter system allows for remote control and readout. Remote controls are simple but compelling devices with a waterproof and rugged design.

With some chartplotters, downloadable apps provide full-featured route planning as well as second-screen services. Others offer the ability to interact with online services that offer live weather data and navigation warnings in real time.

​The Best Chartplotters Compared

Top Pick
Simrad Go7 Xse Chartplotter With Med/High/Downscan T/M 000-12672-001
Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter (010-00864-01)
Humminbird 410230-1 Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder
Lowrance 000-12916-001 HDS-12 Gen3 with StructureScan 3D Bundle
Raymarine Axiom 9 Fish Finder with Built in GPS, WiFi, Chirp Sonar and RealVision 3D with Transducer and Navionics+
Touchscreen
Screen Size
7-inch
2.6-inch
5-inch
12-inch
9-inch
Navigation
Full-featured chartplotter with wide cartography support e.g. Navionics, Insight, Insight Genesis, C-Map etc
2000 waypoints, 200 tracks, 10,000 track points, 200 tracks
AutoChart Live, built-in Anima cartography
Preloaded C-Map US Enhanced Charts, compatibility with an expansive selection of cartography
Navionics+ charts
Extra Features
HDI skimmer transducer, CHIRP Sonar, Down Imaging, GoFree WiFi, TripIntel technology, customizable Interface
Triaxial compass, barometric altimeter, geocaching, Garmin HotFix
CHIRP Side Imaging/Down Imaging, DualBeam Plus SwitchFire Sonar
StructureScan 3D, CHIRP Sonar, Lowrance SmartSteer, 10 Hz GPS/GLONASS antenna
RealVision 3D Sonar, LightHouse 3D Operating System, built-in WiFi, Quad Core processor
Cost
$
$
$
$$$
$$
Top Pick
Simrad Go7 Xse Chartplotter With Med/High/Downscan T/M 000-12672-001
Touchscreen
Screen Size
7-inch
Navigation
Full-featured chartplotter with wide cartography support e.g. Navionics, Insight, Insight Genesis, C-Map etc
Extra Features
HDI skimmer transducer, CHIRP Sonar, Down Imaging, GoFree WiFi, TripIntel technology, customizable Interface
Cost
$
Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter (010-00864-01)
Touchscreen
Screen Size
2.6-inch
Navigation
2000 waypoints, 200 tracks, 10,000 track points, 200 tracks
Extra Features
Triaxial compass, barometric altimeter, geocaching, Garmin HotFix
Cost
$
Humminbird 410230-1 Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder
Touchscreen
Screen Size
5-inch
Navigation
AutoChart Live, built-in Anima cartography
Extra Features
CHIRP Side Imaging/Down Imaging, DualBeam Plus SwitchFire Sonar
Cost
$
Lowrance 000-12916-001 HDS-12 Gen3 with StructureScan 3D Bundle
Touchscreen
Screen Size
12-inch
Navigation
Preloaded C-Map US Enhanced Charts, compatibility with an expansive selection of cartography
Extra Features
StructureScan 3D, CHIRP Sonar, Lowrance SmartSteer, 10 Hz GPS/GLONASS antenna
Cost
$$$
Raymarine Axiom 9 Fish Finder with Built in GPS, WiFi, Chirp Sonar and RealVision 3D with Transducer and Navionics+
Touchscreen
Screen Size
9-inch
Navigation
Navionics+ charts
Extra Features
RealVision 3D Sonar, LightHouse 3D Operating System, built-in WiFi, Quad Core processor
Cost
$$

Simrad Go7 Xse Chartplotter With Med/High/Downscan T/M 000-12672-001

Simrad Go7 Xse

With Med/High/Downscan T/M 000-12672-001

Top Pick


The Simrad Go7 XSE boasts a crystal 7-inch display. It has intuitive touchscreen controls that mobile device users will find instantly familiar. All you have to do is pinch to zoom and tap to create and select waypoints. The icons are large and clearly captioned for easy recognition.

​The Simrad Go7 XSE supports a wide variety of cartography options ranging from Insight, Insight Genesis and Navionics to C-Map, Max-N, and NV Digital Charts. There is plenty of flexibility to choose charts that best suit your needs and navigate confidently.

You can set and record destinations with waypoint management, as well as mark waypoints with a touch.

The interface can be customized with wallpaper and shortcuts on the home screen. Customized panel layouts and split-screen views allow you to see everything you need on screen simultaneously.

What We Like

  • Multi-function with extensive cartography support
  • check-circle
    TripIntel Technology tracks and displays crucial information for safe planning
  • check-circle
    Built-in GoFree WiFi
  • check-circle
    Bright backlit display with touchscreen capabilities
  • check-circle
    Includes HDI Skimmer transducer, Chirp sonar and DownScan Imaging

What We Don't Like

  • No cover

Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter (010-00864-01)

Garmin GPSMAP 78S

Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter


Designed as an update to the GPSMAP handheld line, the Garmin GSMAO 78S offers the ability to add custom maps, paperless geocaching, and aerial imagery.

The 2.6” TFT LCD screen boasts greater pixel density and a resolution of 160x240 pixels. This means that while bright, less light is reflected back to the user. Visibility is good in a wide range of conditions.

Garmin did a great job improving on Oregon’s interface and making it work on this non-touchscreen navigator. Navigating the main menu is easier than ever before. Pressing the Page or Quit buttons gives you access to the Page Ribbon menu. You can use the buttons to advance or reverse through the pages in forwarding or backward order. The items and order of Page Ribbon can be customized. Additionally, you can eliminate the Page Ribbon by setting your unit to classic style menu.

This ​product is designed to be compatible with a wide range of inland and coastal charts. You can add just about any custom maps and aerial imagery. The latter is possible with an annual subscription of Garmin’s BirdsEye Aerial Imagery program.

The Tria-Axial Compass eliminates the need to hold the unit while navigating. 

What We Like

  • Plenty of room for customization
  • check-circle
    Menu setup offers quick access to features
  • check-circle
    Ability to load custom maps and aerial imagery
  • check-circle
    Chipset firmware is mature and provides highly accurate trackpoints
  • check-circle
    Paperless geocaching and tri-axial compass

What We Don't Like

  • Text entry is more difficult than on a touchscreen
  • times-circle
    Bulky and doesn’t work with standard mounts

Humminbird 410230-1 Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder

Humminbird 410230-1

Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder


Humminbird pulls out all the stops when it comes to navigation. This unit is compatible with AutoChart Live, which allows users to paint depth contours onto their boat as they sail. You can improve detail and create maps where are none.

AutoChart Live also records hardness readings using the Bottom Hardness Layer feature. A Vegetation Layer records the presence of vegetation and displays the data as its own layer. AutoChart Live allows up to 8 hours of records, which can be increased with a Zero Lines card.

An integrated GPS provides accurate locks, and the basic UniMap Charts cover the US coastline, rivers, and lakes.

The Selective Fish ID+ function is available in 2D mode. It shows fish arches in the form of fish symbols and displays their depth. It also features a Fish Alarm, which has three settings for Large, Large/Medium and All fish targets. SwitchFire filters noise, allowing an utterly clutter-free view or a view with full sonar information.

The Circular Flasher sonar view is great for stationary and ice fishing, mainly because it indicates intensity and depth of sonar returns in a circular layout. It has a Jigging Mode that refines sonar returns to help you keep better track of jig.

What We Like

  • Upgradable internal software
  • check-circle
    Depth capability of up to 1500 feet
  • check-circle
    Down Imaging, Side Imaging and Chirp sonar technology
  • check-circle
    Multiple sonar functions
  • check-circle
    Extensive navigation features
  • check-circle
    Powerful transducer

What We Don't Like

  • Lacks a unit cover

Lowrance 000-12916-001 HDS-12 Gen3 with StructureScan 3D Bundle

Lowrance 000-12916-001

HDS-12 Gen3 with StructureScan 3D Bundle


The Lowrance HDS-12 Gen 3 revolutionizes chartplotting and fish finding by combining the best features of different models in a compact unit. While expensive, the Lowrance the innovative design and technology are worth every penny.

Highlights include a 12-inch LCD LED-backlit display that has a 1280x800 pixel resolution. You can operate it using the touchscreen or navigation buttons. The backlight can be switched on/off to compensate for glare or nighttime fishing. Spotted fish are shown in the form of fish icons, and the screen has a 16:9 display ratio.

Given the high cost of this unit, it stands to reason that anglers would expect the best regarding transducer and sonar. The TotalScan transducer has a StructureScan feature, which offers a 180-degree view of what’s going on underneath the boat. It has maximum depth capability of 750-feet and works well in all weather conditions, hence ideal for ice fishing. The Chirp Sonar works on a dual frequency of 455/800 kHz.

This unit comes with pre-loaded Insight USA charts and maps. They contain familiar fishing locations in and around the US coastal areas and can be upgraded. The powerful antenna allows you to calculate your position plot 200 routes with 5000 waypoints. You can view the locations in 3D and overlay logs from the StructureScan feature.

What We Like

  • Ability to create custom maps with the Insight Genesis feature
  • check-circle
    Includes the Lowrance SmartSteer feature
  • check-circle
    Large, clear and stylish display
  • check-circle
    Backed by 1-year limited warranty
  • check-circle
    Internet connectivity and GoFree app

What We Don't Like

  • Only available bundled
  • times-circle
    Upgrades have to be purchased on the app

Raymarine Axiom 9 Fish Finder with Built in GPS, WiFi, Chirp Sonar and RealVision 3D with Transducer and Navionics+

Raymarine Axiom 9

Built in GPS, Wifi, CHIRP Sonar and RealVision 3D with Transducer and Navionics+


The Raymarine Axiom 9 shares many similarities with other models in the Axiom Series, the main difference being its 9” screen. It comes in multiple chart and transducer combinations.

The Axiom 9 utilizes the RealVision 3D sonar to provide a three-dimensional view of underwater creatures and structures. The sonar is very flexible and versatile and can be rotated however you want to get a better understanding of underwater contour and target position. It uses a transducer with a 180-degree beam to provide coverage. Also included is a 2D sonar, which uses a dual frequency of 200/50 kHz. Its included sonar uses a 25-degree beam. The RealVision 3D sonar is ideal for maximum depths of 300’ while the 2D sonar scans to a depth of 900’.

The RV-100 transducer included supports sonar applications and works well with SideVision, DownVision and High Chirp Sonar. This eliminates the need to purchase a new transducer when using an external sonar unit.

It also has 26’ of cable, a water temperature sensor and transom mount. Gyro stabilization compensates for boat movement, ensuring the high-quality imagery.

The  Axiom 9 is equipped with the Navionics Nav+ US and Canada charts. They offer useful information like SonarChart Live, fishing range, deep watercolor, tide information and correction, and depth shading. They cover more than 20,000 lakes, rivers and other water bodies in the two countries.

The GPS/GLONASS module is operated at 10 Hz, hence capable of updating your position accurately ten times each second. Being a 72-channel GPS helps speed up satellite acquisition. It also improves sensitivity in uncertain terrain, reduces the risk of losing a 3D fix and decreases power consumption. You can record up to 150 routes with 250 waypoints per route and 16 tracks with 10,000 track points per track.

What We Like

  • Multifunction unit with 9” 800x480 pixel touchscreen display
  • check-circle
    Powered by LightHouse 3 Operating System with user-friendly interface
  • check-circle
    RealVision 3D sonar and 2D traditional sonar
  • check-circle
    Includes multiple navigation features
  • check-circle
    Fast and accurate 10 Hz GPS/GLONASS receiver with 72 channels

What We Don't Like

  • Depth capability of RealVision 3D sonar is low

Wrap Up

There you have it – everything you need to know about shopping for marine GPS chartplotters.

A good chartplotter will enhance your ability to navigate the waters in any weather, warn you of obstacles and hazards, help you locate fish and more. It is just as important as an emergency radio is to homeowners.

We hope you found the above reviews helpful in identifying a high-performance chartplotter suitable for your needs.

Leave a Comment: