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What is the difference between Lowrance HDS and Lowrance Elite HDI

Ever since the Elite 7 HDI came on the market I have recived a lot of questions regarding the difference between the HDS-range and Elite HDI. In this article I will try to list most of the differences, seen from a keen anglers point of view. This also means looking at most of what Lowrance has to offer, but I'm sticking to models sold today and models I personally would recommend.

The three main model-series, plus the newcomer Elite CHIRP.

  • HDS Gen 2, true multi function displays (MFD) with button-operation and screensize from 5" to 10,4".
  • HDS Gen 2 Touch, true multi function displays (MFD) with touchscreens and screensize from 7" to 12".
  • Elite HDI, "stand alone", ie not ment for networking besides VHF and AIS. Button-operation and screensize from 4,3" to 7".
  • Elite CHIRP, as Elite HDI but with CHIRP-sonar and faster processor in adition. Screensize 5" and 7".


HDS Gen 2

Units from this series are seen while fishing in most of my reports on this blog. This is the second generation of HDS, you will find the Gen 1 versions on ebay and other places for used equipment. Gen 1 and Gen 2 are not worlds apart, but Gen 2 is faster, has slightly better auto-functions (requires less manual tuning), can share mapchips over ethernet between units and are still beeing updated through new software that you can download for free from Lowrance. Gen 1 and Gen 2 are compatible on most accounts, but they can not share one mapchip and Gen 1 can not be used with SpotLightscan (sonar that sees 360 degrees around the boat), GoFree WIFI or use maps from Insight Genesis.

HDS 5 Gen 2 and HDS 8 Gen 1 networked, but using seperate ducers for the occasion.

HDS Gen 2 are very good sonars and chartplotters for everyone that want "the best" and like to have a lot of options for other equipment networked together, but still don't want a touchscreen and are most interested in the traditional sonar in the unit. HDS Gen 2 has the normal format for screens used for sonar, ie 4:3.

With HDS (both generations) you can connect a module and special transeducer for scanning sonar, called StructureScan. Structurescan is the combined name for both downscan and sidescan. The next three images are examples of what this would look like on your HDS:

Branches/woodpile on 2D (left) and Sidescan (right)

Baitfish on 2D and sidescan

You may also use another module called SonarHub for CHIRP sonar. Put simply, the difference  between regular sonar (called fixed frequensy) and CHIRP are that CHIRP have better target seperation. Here are a few of my screenshots showing CHIRP sonar on HDS:

Shallow water trolling with CHIRP 2D and downscan
Trolling with downrigger and CHIRP 2D

If you read my reports (all in Norwegian, sorry.) you will see many screenshots from both HDS Gen 1 and Gen 2, with different modules and ducers connected to them. HDS is pretty close to a "dream-unit" for someone as interested in marine electronics as myself. I like the endless possibilities to do almost everything, without having constraints brought by lack of connectability or processing  power.


HDS Gen 2 Touch

Touchscreens are here to stay, also in marin electronics. I was a bit sceptical at first, but after having tried it myself and listened to a lot of users out there, even I have come to terms with touch having it's strong sides. The same goes for the widescreen format, this works really well when splitting the screen between different functions like sonar and chart at the same time. The Touch-units have the same functions as HDS Gen 2, but with buildt in StructureScan. As showed in the screenshots above, StructureScan is a high frequensy scanning sonar that gives extremely detailed images. The Sidescan half of StructureScan can be used to see what is on both sides of the boat.

Lowrance HDS Gen 2 Touch in action on my aft deck

HDS Gen 2 Touch are excellent sonars and chartplotters for someone who want "the best" and like to have a lot of options for networking different equipment together and want the easy to learn and use touch-interface and widescreen format, ie 16:9.

If you think touchscreen is the way to go, but still feel a bit sceptical, Simrad NSS and NSS Evo2 may be worth a look. These are very much like the HDS-series, but with a different interface combining touch with a rotary-knob and some buttons. NSS Evo2 has the SonarHub-module buildt in.

Elite HDI

Elite 4 HDI

Even these units are in frequent use on this blog. For the time beeing I have one Elite 4 HDI and one Elite 5 HDI, but I have used Elite 7 HDI for many hours both in my own boat in in other boats. Elite HDI has the same sonar as the mer expencive HDS, but simpler internal processor and less options for networking with other units. Elite HDI also lacks a few of the more advanced options for finetuning the sonar and has less options for maps. The two main advanced options that HDS has over Elite HDI is the possibilities to adjust pingspeed and scrollspeed for the sonar seperatly, and options for showing different layers in maps one at a time, like bottom composition or vegetationbelts. HDS also deals with pelagic fishing better, one example could be that you are in 300' of water but is only interested in the top 30' since that is where your target species of the day usually is. With HDS you can then set your depth range manually to 30' without the unit loosing bottom or having a lot of noise on the screen. By doing this you effectively improve the resolution of screensize versus watercoloumn by a factor of 10 with the depths in my example. You might also notice that the chartplotter in HDS updates the chart-image faster, simply because of the faster processor.

Elite 7 HDI

The smallest member in the Elite HDI series is Elite 4 HDI with a 4,3" screen and NMEA0183 that may be used to network it with VHF (two way radio) or AIS (recognizes identity of boats) for GPS-positioning to those units. If you are on a thight budget this is a very good choice, either as the Elite 4x HDI for pure sonar-duties or the Elite 4 HDI for a combination of sonar and chartplotter. The main difference against the 5 and 7 models are the screensize, so you get a lot of technology in that litle unit. Elite  7 HDI has a 7" screen with widescreen format wich is a good thing when running it in splittscreen mode with both sonar and chart, or maybe even with downscan in adition. The Elite 7 HDI also has a limited NMEA2000 network, making it even easier to connect to VHF or AIS, but also makes it possible to share waypoints between another Elite 7 HDI or HDS. NMEA2000 means you can use the external GPS-antenna Lowrance Point-1, a huge advantage if you intend to place the unit inside the cabin on your aluminium boat or if it is to be flushmounted in a consol of metal or in a place has other parts/ equipment on/in it that can obstruct the GPS-signal.


These units are the same as Elite 5 and 7 HDI, but with the addition of CHIRP-sonar. They use the same trancedusers as well, but with CHIRP you get even better target seperation. (Ability to show two fish close together as two echoes instead of one big, and better ability to separate fish from bottom.)

You can watch this film by Lowrance for a quick guide to the advantages of CHIRP:

If you can`t see the film, try this link; http://youtu.be/vekHn8XpQSg

What is with the "m" and "x" models?

In all series of models described above, you will find models that have the letters x or m after the number that tells you aproximate screensize. Examples could be Elite 7x HDI or HDS 7m. Models with the "x" are pure sonar-units, ie no GPS and no chartplotter, while the "m"-models are pure chartplotters without sonar. This means that you can not display a chart on HDS 5x or Elite 7x HDI, nor log data for making your own depthcharts. 

BUT since the HDS-units has ethernet, (grey cable with yellow endings) you can network units together so that they combined give you all the functions you look for. This way you may look at sonar on HDS 7m, as long as it is connected to another HDS with ethernetcable and that other unit is on. Elite HDI DOES NOT have the option of ethernet, and can therefore not be used in such a manner. Please think carefully before buying a unit that only has sonar, even if you think you will only use the sonar because that is what you are used to. A chartplotter is like all the other things in life you did not know you needed before you actually tried, sort of like cars, alcohol and all other things that are fun but expencive. :)  

So give it to me straight; what unit do I need?

To a large extent, this will come down to what YOU preferr, and offcourse your budget. If you generally find yourself to be pickey about electronics, it is likely that you will be more happy with the HDS 7 Touch then the Elite 7 HDI, even if your usage might emply that you only need the less expencive Elite 7 HDI. On the other hand I see a lot of people on the water with HDS-units, that could just as well be using Elite HDI. I will try to venture into the world of guesswork here with a few examples of users and units, but keep in mind that the issue of personal preferrence can be just as important as the actual use of the unit....
  • Used to high end, quick electronics? - HDS
  • Used to tweaking settings and flipping through menus? - HDS
  • Wanting to build a network with radar, VHF, AIS, stereo and such? - HDS
  • Generally pickey and impatient? - HDS
  • Pelagick trolling or other pelagick fishing? - HDS
  • Wanting autopilot for your outboard and/ or trollingmotor? - HDS
  • Want the whole package in due time, but are dealing with a tight budget now? - HDS x
  • Just want to find the fish and get back home safely? - Elite HDI
  • Just want to find the fish that others can't find and get back home safely - Elite CHIRP

With Lowrance HDS Gen 3 entering the market, I have written another article on the differences between Gen 3 and previous generations. You can find it here:


  1. Spelar båten någon roll när man väljer ekolod, om man fiskar på 60m djup kommer ekolodskonen att svepa över en väldigt stor yta om båten är liten och det går lite vågor?

  2. Hei Sams. Egentlig spiller ikke båten noen rolle, men på større båter har man gjerne mer utstyr som skal kobles i nettverk (slik som radar, VHF og AIS) og akkurat det bør spille en rolle ved valget så man velger et ekkolodd som kan kobles mot det man har fra før eller ønsker å anskaffe. Valg av ekkoloddgiver er avgjørende på større dyp, en giver med smalere ekkoloddkone og høyere følsomhet gir bedre resultat på større dyp enn standardgiverne. Givere som Airmar P66 og TM260 er eksempler på dette.

  3. Denne kommentaren har blitt fjernet av en bloggadministrator.

  4. Just in case you still follow this page, can i get sidescan or sructure scan on a Elite 7 HDI sonar?

    1. Hi. Structurescan is the name for both downscan and sidescan. On Elite HDI, Elite CHIRP and Hook you only have the option of downscan. The cheapest model with Sidescan as of now is Lowrance Elite Ti or Simrad GO XSE,


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