- Durable and waterproof build
- Large crystal clear HD display
- Excellent easy sonar technology features
If you’re looking for a serious fish finder for your center console or sport fisher, then the Lowrance HDS Gen 3 might be the fish finder you have been looking for.
The Lowrance HDS Gen 3 models go beyond just being a depth sounder and include maps, GPS, wi-fi, boat networking, autopilot, radar, 3D structure scan plus a whole lot more.
With a Lowrance HDS Gen 3 at the helm, you’ll be able to drive your boat from the Bahamas, through the Panama Canal, and around to Baja if you want to, and see all the fish you go past on the way on the HD display.
Join me in this Lowrance HDS review as we take a deep dive into the HDS and all it has to offer.
In this article...
Things To Consider Before Buying a Lowrance HDS Gen 3
The Lowrance HDS Gen 3 fish finder takes the ambiguity out of being on the water.
No longer will you wonder where you are, where you’re going, what fish are under you, and the top way to navigate from A to B.
The HDS Gen 3 fish finder tells you, it’ll even drive your boat for you. but, before you go ahead and click ‘add to cart’ there are some good questions to ask about the Lowrance HDS Gen 3.
How deep can the sonar read?
The units can go to a maximum of 3000 feet which is more than enough for any lake or offshore ocean fishing you might be intending.
Does it come with SideScan?
Yes, all the device models come with the SideScan sonar feature that lets you know if fish are holding on either side of your boat.
StructureScan is a sonar feature on the device that uses side, CHIRP, and DownScan simultaneously to give you a StructureScan 3D sonar image of what’s around your boat.
It’s ideal for use over a potential fish-holding structure such as a wreck and will give you picture quality images of exactly where fish might be sitting around it.
How accurate is the GPS and time to connect?
The GPS is accurate to within 20 meters and thanks to its excellent satellite coverage takes 30 seconds to get a fix on your position.
Once fixed you can create 3000 Waypoints, 100 Routes, and 100 Trails with up to 10,000 points per trail while navigating to, from, and marking the excellent fishing spots you find.
What maps work with the unit and are any included?
Every device model comes from the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen 3 upwards comes with C-MAP US Enhanced charts with1ft bottom contours, hazards, buoys, and more, for freshwater and coastal regions in the US.
You can also use other map manufacturers like Navionics and Insight if you prefer them.
Who should buy a Lowrance HDS Gen 3 fish finder and who Should Not?
Being a high-end unit, the HDS Gen 3 suits anyone who owns a center console boat and above such as sport fishers as these vessels will have the space and power to run the units.
So, if you own one of these, then these fish finders were made for you.
If you don’t own a vessel with onboard power and a center console to mount it on to, then this isn’t the unit for you as it’s a little overkill.
You’d be better off at looking at smaller fish finders like the Garmin Striker or Humminbird Helix series.
Lowrance HDS Gen 3 Overview
These fish finders are top of the line and with features like Autopilot, Radar, Maps, GPS, Wifi, Networking, StructureScan Sonar, and more, you can go anywhere in the world if you have one on your boat, and find all the fish on your way too.
There are the perfect fish finders for anyone who owns a center console vessel or larger with onboard power and fishes or large lakes, rivers, and the ocean, where finding fish isn’t so easy.
- Large crystal clear HD display that is easy to read in all conditions
- Durable and waterproof build
- Easy to use the touchscreen for navigating through the features
- Excellent easy sonar technology features for finding fish with
- Can provide 3D sonar images to honing in on a target fish/area
- Wireless and Bluetooth for controlling the unit for your smartphone
- Ability to connect to radar, autopilot, weather updates, and more
- Comes with C-Map charts preloaded
- Superfast processor for quick one-touch responses
- This is not an affordable unit by any means but in the world of fish finders it is still not expensive, all those features come at a cost
- You still have to buy upgrades to fully open up all the features like upgrading maps, imagery, or the transducer
- A little technical for beginner anglers/users with so many features
Models and the Differences?
These fish finders come in 3 models, HDS-7 Gen 3, HDS-9 Gen 3, and the HDS 12 Gen.
There are only two things that are different across each model; price and screen size, and here are the pros and cons.
HDS-7 Gen 3
The Lowrance HDS-7 Gen 3 model comes with a 7-inch screen and is the most affordable of them all.
- It’s more affordable than all the others saving you some cash
- A 7-inch screen is big enough to see things clearly on
- A smaller screen takes up less space on your vessel when mounted
- Bigger screens are always easier to see and read
HDS-9 Gen 3
The HDS-9 Gen 3 comes with a 9-inch screen and is half the price of the 12 and twice the price of the 7.
- A 9-inch screen is a little easier to see/read than a 7-inch screen
- A 9-inch screen is still small enough not to take up too much space when mounted
- It’s half the price of the HDS-12
- You’re paying twice the price for an extra 2 inches of screen which isn’t worth it in my eyes
HDS-12 Gen 3
The HDS-12 Gen 3 comes with a 12-inch screen and is twice the price of the 9 and 4 four times the price of the 7.
- A 12-inch screen is much clearer than a 7 or 9-inch screen, especially when split into multiple screens
- It’s extremely expensive
- It’ll take up a lot of space when mounted
Overall Top Model?
In my eyes, the Lowrance HDS 7 is the clear winner based on function, capability, features, and sonar technology vs price.
It does everything the other models do, so why pay twice or four times as much for a few extra inches of the touchscreen?
Features & Benefits
Display Clarity & Easy to Use
The display on the fish finder is top draw. It is made from glass for enhanced clarity and it comes with a resolution of 800 x 480 with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
It also has an exceptionally bright LED backlight that ensures you can read it in direct sunlight, even with polarized glasses on.
You can also use split-screen mode to provide a means of seeing multiple features at once. You can split into up to 4 views a watch for example your CHIRP sonar, StructureScan, DownScan, and charts all at once.
Ease Of Use
In terms of ease of use, the display is excellent.
It has both a touchscreen and keyboard buttons, essentially making it as easy to use as a tablet but with the option to use a keypad as well.
The touchscreen is also multi-directional allowing you to use two fingers at once for on-screen zooming just like on an iPad.
Waterproofing & Durability
The display is waterproofed to IPX7 with the SD card door closed, meaning it will handle splash, rain, and even being submerged to 1 meter for 30 minutes.
It’s also shock-absorbing to protect it from engine vibrations.
What Sonar Technology comes with the device and what will it show you?
All advanced fish finders today come with CHIRP as standard and it’s the top technology for seeing all the details of the entire water column you’re fishing in.
CHIRP is the top sounder feature for trolling and prospecting as it works at high speeds and doesn’t miss a trick. It works by sending out many multiple frequency waves, both high and low, simultaneously.
By using high and low-frequency waves, CHIRP penetrates every part of the water column, collecting as much detail as possible so you get to see exactly what is sitting between the bottom and the hull of your boat on your display.
You’ll see fish, fish-holding structure, what depth they are at, and more, allowing you to adjust your fishing tactics accordingly.
DownScan is another advanced technology that finds the devil in the detail when it comes to seeing what’s under your vessel.
It’s a step up from CHIRP when it comes to detail but it doesn’t penetrate as deep as it only uses high-frequency waves that get absorbed by water before they hit the bottom.
The DownScan feature is perfect for taking a closer look at something interesting you might have spotted like a wreck, pinnacle, or fallen tree.
When in use it will show you where the fish are sitting in relation to any features and depth, how many are there, and even what size they are.
The SideScan feature uses the same advanced technology as DownScan but instead of scanning beneath your vessel, it scans to the side showing you if there are any large fish or shoals of baitfish that are worth targeting.
It’s particularly useful for anglers as it is one of the only features that scans water yet to be disturbed by lures or the engines, so you can plan a stealth approach if there are any fish worth catching.
StructureScan 3D is about as advanced as sounder technology can get.
StructureScan works by using all the sounder features at the same time scanning down, and to the side simultaneously to provide a means to see a 3D image of any fish, the bottom, and underwater features on the display.
So rather than using a split-screen to watch Down and SideScan simultaneously on the device display, you can turn on StructureScan with one touch and have them overlaid onto one 3D image.
StructureScan will even show you the shape of the weeds growing on the bottom, exactly where fish are sitting on a wreck, and more, giving you all the power to get your fishing tactics exactly right.
The Lowrance HDS 7 fish finder models and above also come with a broadband sounder that uses similar advanced technology to HD televisions.
It works by cleaning up the many details that the transducer picks up, enhancing the image clarity and giving it more definition.
It makes it easy to work out what you’re looking at. You’ll easily be able to tell what’s a fish and what’s not, making sure you get the most out of what you’re seeing.
Transducer Device Options
You have 3 transducer options when it comes to the Lowrance HDS 7 model and above. If you already have a compatible transducer, you can opt to just buy the fish finder control head by itself.
Chances are you don’t though, and if that’s the case you can choose between either a TotalScan transducer or a StructureScan 3D bundle to come with your fish finder.
The TotalScan transducer gives you access to all the sonar features we mentioned above and is perfect for smaller vessels that don’t have much room at the back for two transducers.
The StructureScan transducer only gives you access to the Down, Side, and StructureScan features and misses out the 2D CHIRP.
This is a more affordable option, and ideal if you already have a 2D CHIRP transducer, if not it’s better to go for the TotalScan or by a separate 2D transducer, as without CHIRP you won’t get a holistic view of the water column for use while trolling or finding fishy areas with.
GPS & Mapping
Every Lowrance HDS 7 fish finder model and above comes with an accurate GPS and is preloaded with C-Map US charts that cover lakes, rivers, and coastal regions of the US.
The charts will show 1ft bottom contours, hazards, shallow areas, buoys, marinas, and more.
Using them together, you can navigate around wherever you want in the US while creating many routes, tracks, and waypoints, marking good fishing spots as your go.
It makes getting from A to B easy and will show you your heading, position, speed, and more.
You can also use other maps with the Lowrance HDS fish finder such as Navionics and Insight if you prefer them.
Insight Genesis gives you the power to use your sonar data to create charts of the areas you fish in.
Insight Genesis works by using advanced mapping tech to overlay your sounders data to the charts you’re using via the Wifi connection on the fish finder.
Over time you’ll end up with the most advanced and detailed charts you could want of the fishing areas you frequent, giving you an incredible insight into the underwater terrain you fish around.
When it comes to networking, the Lowrance HDS 7 fish finder and above is one of the top ones around.
There are so many ways to connect to this fish finder and it makes it incredibly easy to create a one vessel network so you can see and control everything you want from the fish finder.
There are NMEA ports for engine data and hooking up an Autopilot.
You can use the Ethernet ports to link two Lowrance HDS’ together, and add a weather and/or radar module.
Plus there is wifi to link the fish finder to your tablet or smartphone where you can mirror the fishfinder display and even control it (tablet only).
The Wifi also connects you to the Lowrance app making it easy to download any new software updates you want, new charts, and it’s the link to Insight Genesis as I mentioned above.
How do I update the Lowrance HDS GEN 3?
The easiest way to update the device software is over Wifi. Firstly, make sure there is an 32 GB SDcard in the slot for it to save to and then connect to wifi.
Once connected the device will prompt you asking if you’d like to update your software and to do so hit download.
The device will begin downloading, and to check your progress press the page button, then scroll to files, and then press the transfers icon to watch the download progress.
Once the software is downloaded, the device will prompt you to choose to restart the device and boot up with the new software, hit restart to continue. Now wait and let the unit install the update.
Here’s a quick video that shows the update procedure…
Once installed, it’ll ask you if you’d like to delete the old update files, hit yes as this will save some space on the SD card.
How do I use the Lowrance HDS 7?
Ease of use is one of the top things about these fish finders.
- Once installed and hooked up to power, the transducer, with a MicroSD card in one of the two slots you’ll need to configure your settings.
- Once on, the unit will give you a settings menu on the left, a view menu on the right, and the main options in the middle including charts, sonar, structure, steer, and info.
- Go to the left, hit settings, select sonar and then transducer, and then pick the transducer you’re using.
- Now go back to the main screen, and you can pick to look at charts, sonar, StructureScan, and info as you please. Or, select the view option from the right-hand menu that shows you the combination of views you’re after, for example, CHIRP and charts.
You can also create your own custom view combo if you’d like.
Once you have the right view you can get to fishing but to do some of the more complicated things, like Autopilot and DownScan, you’re best to read the manual and watch some youtube videos in order to learn how to do them before you’re out on the water.
How to Network Lowrance HDS units?
There are 3 ways to network depending on what info you want to see.
You can run NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association) cables from the display to your engines for data on RPM (revolutions per minute), fuel consumption, and to control trolling motors from the display.
You can use Ethernet cables to connect to radar modules and weather modules.
And use the Wifi to download software, maps, upload and download Insight genesis data.
You can also use the Wifi to connect the fish finder to your tablet or phone so you can view it (phone and tablet) and control it remotely (tablet only) via the GoFree app.
How to Link Lowrance HDS Units?
Linking two HDS fish finders together couldn’t be easier.
Simply plug-in an ethernet cable into the ethernet out port on your primary unit, and plug it into the ethernet in port on your secondary unit.
Once connected they will mirror each other, share and save waypoints, map cards, and more.
Check the video below to see the linking process.
What’s the difference between a Lowrance Elite and HDS?
There is a big difference when comparing the HDS to the Elite.
The Elite is an entry-level product and has a slower processor overall, is a lot more affordable, but is missing these features.
- SideScan interface
- Autopilot, Radar, and Sonic Hub integration
- Bottom lock in the sonar
- NMEA 2000 fuel/engine management compatibility with Evinrude, Suzuki, or Yamaha
- Doesn’t work with the Navionics Platinum maps option
How to find the thermocline on a Lowrance HDS?
Fish will always sit above the thermocline as below it there isn’t enough oxygen for the fish to hang out in.
Finding the thermocline on your sounder is super handy as it tells you the maximum depth fish will be hanging around in.
Where to look
The thermocline is obvious on a 2D CHIRP sonar image when the sonar sensitivity is turned up to up to 90%.
To turn this up, just click off auto sonar, and then click the sensitivity and turn it up.
You’ll now see the thermocline as a consistent dark line on the sonar image between the bottom and the surface, usually closer to the bottom, and you’ll know exactly what depth to fish above.
Lowrance HDS 7 Review: What Others Think
The best way to know if one of these finders is the right one for you and is reliable is by looking at the reviews left by other anglers who already own them.
I have spent a few hours trawling through a lot of reviews, and 90% of anglers running one of these finders loves them.
Here are some of the reviews I’ve found left by happy anglers.
Are there better finders for the money?
It never hurts to do a little market research to see if what you’re buying really is the best around for the money.
Worst case you find something better, and best case you’ll be even more excited to use it once it arrives. Below we compare the HDS to its competition to see how it stacks up.
The Striker Vivid 7sv is a more affordable option but comes with quite a few fewer functions, here are the differences:
- No compatibility with any charts
- No NMEA networking for engine data
- No option to add Autopilot, radar, or weather modules
- No touchscreen
If you’re looking to spend a little less and are happy to forgo the options to network your boat, add upgrades to things like Autopilot, and not use any maps whatsoever, bar the ones you create on the Striker, then it might suit you better.
In the similar price range and has sonar and charts features but it’s missing the networking side of things.
The Helix 7 MSI goes pound for pound with the Lowrance HDS 7 in the sonar and charts department plus it is a similar price but it’s missing the networking side of things.
Here are the differences.
- There is no wifi, Bluetooth, NMEA, or ethernet networking capabilities.
- There is no touch screen
The Helix 7 is limited in terms of networking features and for the same price, it’s worth sticking with the Lowrance so you at least have the choice to network if you want to.
Garmin’s answer to the Lowrance HDS 7 and they are almost the same aside from the price.
The Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 74SV is Garmin’s answer to the Lowrance HDS 7 and they are almost the same bar a few hundred dollars (the Garmin is more expensive).
Here are the differences
- You can save 5000 waypoints on the Garmin instead of 3000 on the Lowrance
- The Garmin is more expensive new
If you’re used to how Garmin fish finders work, then it’s probably better to stick with them as learning the Lowrance system will take a while.
If not, then save a few bucks and go with the Lowrance.
Thanks for reading my Lowrance HDS review, I hope you enjoyed it and have made a decision as to whether it’s the new finder for you.
It truly is an advanced high-end option that’s awesome for any anglers looking to upgrade to something with more capability than a basic unit.
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