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What is the difference between Lowrance HDS Live and Elite Ti2?

Lowrance as a brand of marine electronis is well known to all anglers, but the differences within their range of different models seem to cause quite a few questions out there. Here we will try to outline the difference between Lowrance HDS Live (top end) and Lowrance Elite Ti2 (middle range).

Lowrance Elite Ti2 vs Lowrance HDS Live (photo; lowrance.com)

As usual, we will start with the tech and then try to translate those technical aspects to practical differences while out on the water.

Hardware - housing, screen and connections.

The screen and housing on Elite Ti2 is the same as on the previous Elite Ti, and again more or less the same as on HDS Gen 2 Touch. (The memorycard-door and mounting-bracket is different from HDS Gen 2 Touch.) This is by no means new stuff, and compared to the more advanced housing and screen on HDS Live, Elite Ti2 is starting to show its relative age. However, with that in mind it is worth noting that when looking at the competition, several of those have yet to start using touchscreens at all in the pricerange of Elite Ti2. 

Let us start by looking at screen-resolution of Elite Ti2 and HDS Live:

Screen-resolution of Elite Ti2 and Live

The resolution used on the HDS Live is among best, regardless of brand or model. Again, the age of the hardware on Elite Ti2 is showing, as it`s not just the resolution that is different, but the whole build-up of the screen as well, including how the touch-functionality works from a technical aspect. Elite Ti2 is still on TFT and plastic glued to plastic, HDS Live has moved on to IPS and glass glued to plastic.  

With Elite Ti2 some features can only be used (or adjusted) using touch, while for HDS Live you also have a full set of buttons for those days where you don`t want to take your mittens of. When in rough water, buttons are still easier to operate than touchscreens, simply because you don`t miss the buttons quite as easily as when trying to do the same on-screen.

HDS Live 12 left - Elite 12 Ti2 right (photo; lowrance.com)
HDS Live in 12 and 16 has four programmable buttons as well, these are not found on 7 and 9 though. 

Looking at the GPS-receiver both HDS Live and Elite Ti2 have a 10Hz-update, but the placement of the internal antenna is different. Elite Ti2 has the antennae placed vertically besides the screen, HDS Live has it placed horizontally on top of the screen. That might not sound like a big deal, but remember that GPS-accuracy is based on the angle between the satellites and the receiver in a line of clear view, and the placing of the antennae on HDS Live is simply a better alternative. Both have a 20m RMS accuracy with 16 channels and are compatible with Point-1 (and Precision-9) through NMEA2000. If you fish big open water or rely on hitting waypoints, adding a Point-1 is a very good upgrade for both units.


Lowrance Point-1
When looking at the chartplotter, both units are very much alike apart from HDS Live being slightly faster at chart-redraw when moving fast while zoomed in close on the map. They both accept Navionics Platinum and can use other sources for satelite-overlay, mosaics from sidescan, and are probably the units on the market today that accepts the most 3. party maps as well. Both are compatible with C-Map for both navigational mapping and C-Maps Genesis service, as well as your own homemade mapping done with Reefmaster etc. Both units are compatible with two types of live-mapping, Genesis Live and Navionics Sonarcharts Live.

Moving to the back, the connections for networking are very different. HDS Live is one of the most "networkable" units out there, while Elite Ti2 has quite a few limitations. 

Connections on HDS Live 12/16.
Connections on Elite Ti2 12
The big difference is ethernet, the yellow connectors on the HDS Live. Ethernet can be found in two forms, cable and WIFI. On HDS Live, the cabled ethernet allows sharing of sonar, StructureScan, radar and mapping as well as synchronizing waypoints. With Elite Ti2 the ethernet is only WIFI, and cannot share StructureScan nor be used for sharing between more then to Elite Ti2 units. With HDS, you can have numerous units and modules in your ethernet. (Keep in mind that WIFI in this case has nothing to do with Internet.) 

The networking between two Elite Ti2 is easy enough, as demonstrated by my teammate Lars in this video.


Both Elite Ti2 and HDS Live can use Bluetooth for some basic sharing of SMS and incoming calls from your smartphone to the unit. HDS Live 12 and 16 also has options for networking with a smartphone for screen sharing from the smartphone to the HDS, just in case you can`t miss the ballgame while out fishing. 

Before we leave the connectors of these units, it is worth looking at the connectors for transducers as well. Elite Ti2 has one connector, HDS Live has two. Both units have the so-called 9-pin XSonic connector, but can use transducers with the older blue plug called 7-pin with the correct adapter. (Typically item 000-13313-000)

7 to 9 adapter.
This means that Elite Ti2 is typically used with the Active Imaging 3 in 1 transducer, while HDS Live can use that and the Active Imaging 2 in 1 combined with a separate transducer for 2D. More on this topic as we move on to transducers:


Hardware - transducers.

As mentioned, Elite Ti2 can have one transducer connected, and share another over WIFI from another Elite Ti2. (It is worth noting that you cannot share transducers between Elite Ti and Elite Ti2, or any HDS to any Elite Ti/Ti2.) HDS Live can have two transducers directly connected and as many as you like connected through ethernet from other HDS-units or modules.

There is a Y-cable available for Elite Ti2 that allows the use of Active Imaging 2 in 1 and a separate 2D-transducer, as long as that 2D-transducer is from Lowrance (not Airmar). This can be a good option for Elite Ti2 owners who for some reason cannot use the Active Imaging 3 in 1. For more information on Active Imaging 2 in 1 versus Active Imaging 3 in 1, THIS article can be helpful. For a list of compatible transducers across the range of models, THIS Google Sheet can be helpful.

SideScan from 3 in 1 on Elite Ti2

Both Elite Ti2 and HDS Live supports Airmars XID (automatic transducer identification) and with it, Airmars range of powerful chirp-transducers like TM150M, TM165HW and TM185-series etc. The limitation for Elite Ti2 is that with one of those, you will not get StructureScan. Elite Ti2 cannot run dual band chirp-transducers like Airmar TM265 and TM275 either, but HDS Live is "true" dual channel chirp compatible.

HDS Live with Airmar TM185HW
Since HDS Live has ethernet-connections, you can use the StructureScan 3D bundle with module and transducer.

StructureScan 3D (photo; Atle Høidalen)
StructureScan 3D (photo; Atle Høidalen)

The discussion on what provides the better SideScan of Active Imaging (3 in 1 or 2 in 1) versus StructureScan 3D, is at times heated. My two cents is that Active Imaging is best on short range in shallow water, they are pretty similar on middle range, but SS 3D beats Active Imaging on long range and in saltwater. For those building mosaics from their sonarlogs, SS 3D is by far the best choice for such use as the sl3-data from SS 3D is consistently better.

SideScan from SS 3D as mosaic in Google Earth

Before we leave transducers, we have to spend a few words on the hottest offering Lowrance has these days, LiveSight.

LiveSight transducer on the Ghost trolling motor.
HDS Live is compatible with LiveSight, Elite Ti2 is not. Compared with Garmins LiveScope, Lowrance LiveSight has a more limited use, but especially for vertical fishing in relatively shallow water (0-20 meters / 0-60 feet) it does add considerable "fish-finding-potential" to your arsenal.


Software.

Those "extras" on HDS Live hardware and networking are off course supported with software. HDS Live has software for running modules through ethernet, Elite Ti2 does not. HDS Live has software supporting LiveSight, Elite Ti2 does not. HDS Live is "true" dual channel chirp, Elite Ti2 is not. HDS Live supports dual 2D when networked with ethernet, Elite Ti2 does not. Etc etc.

On the other side, their support for NMEA2000-devices is the same, they both support Airmar XID (allowing you to use their chirp-ready transducers) and they support the same mapping. Here is one of many differences between Elite Ti2 and the entry-level model Hook2, Hook2 has limitations on mapping. As an example, Hook2 does not support Navionics Platinum, only Navionics + etc.

While the WIFI-network on Elite Ti2 might sound better than on HDS Live with the option for two Elite Ti2s to share 2D-sonar and mapping over WIFI, the WIFI-networking on Elite Ti2 does not support sharing StructureScan and is limited to only two units in the network. And to be honest, while we have not experienced any issues with the WIFI-sharing between our two Elite Ti2s, using a cable will most likely be a more stable and give less sources for possible errors than WIFI in the long run.

Out on the water.

While fishing, all this tech can be narrowed down to these practical differences:

  • The IPS-type screen on HDS Live is significantly better, especially in direct sunlight. It is also viewable from the side, and with polarized lenses. 
  • The improved screen-resolution on HDS Live is noticeable when looking for targets close to cover/ structure, especially in deeper water (100+ feet).
  • The improved touch-functionality on HDS Live makes for less hassle, especially with cold fingers.
  • With HDS Live having both a full set of buttons and touch, it can be operated with gloves and/ or in very rough sea.
  • Dual 2D sonar when networked does give you an edge when fishing vertically, you can literally follow the fish as it moves back and forth under the boat.
  • If you intend to fish deep, dual channel chirp from HDS Live paired with Airmars transducers like TM265 etc is the best there is without using a module.
  • If you intend to fish VERY deep, HDS Live supports (Simrad) S5100, but you need a very expensive Airmar transducer to match.
  • With support for LiveSight, HDS Live has the edge over Elite Ti2 also in more shallow water, as long as the LiveSight-transducer is within your budget.
  • If you want radar, HDS Live supports that while Elite Ti2 does not.
In short, if you are happy with the limitations coming from Elite Ti2 being mid-range, it is a safe bet. But if you don`t want any limitations, maybe because you already have a more complicated network or because you plan to expand to one, HDS Live is the way to go.

Looking for the differences between the older Lowrance-units?

What is the difference between HDS and Elite Ti?
What is the difference between HDS Gen 3 and HDS Carbon?
What is the difference between HDS Carbon and HDS Live?

Elite Ti2 using 2D-sonar and Genesis Live.

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