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Which generation Lowrance HDS

This is an ever returning question on forums and Facebookgroups. "Which generation HDS do I have?" "Is this HDS Gen 1 or 2, or what?" "The seller claims it is a Gen 3, but what gen is it?" etc etc. 

This article will not focus on the technical differences between the generations, but links to such articles can be found at the end. When technical differences are mentioned in this article, it is only to help tell the generations apart.

Let us start with the correct order of the generations, with the available sizes:

  1. HDS Gen 1 (5,7,8,10)
  2. HDS Gen 2 (5,7,8,10)
  3. HDS Gen 2 Touch (7,9,12)
  4. HDS Gen 3 (7,9,12)
  5. HDS Carbon (7,9,12,16)
  6. HDS Live (7,9,12,16)
The sizes listed are what Lowrance calls them, and that might differ slightly from actual screensize. As an example HDS 8 is actually 8,4 while HDS 12 is 12,1.

The "About"-menu.

The best way to tell them apart is by looking in the "About"-menu on the unit, and if you are looking at buying a used unit I would strongly recommend having the seller send a screenshot of that to you. Here is an example from a HDS 5 Gen 2 (in Norwegian):
About-screenshot from HDS 5 Gen 2

Lowrance HDS Gen 1 and Gen 2.

HDS Gen 1 and Gen 2 are both button-only, no touchscreen. They both have the exact same screens, but the colour of the housing differs slightly. The easiest way to tell them apart is by the colour of the text on the memorycardreaders door. Gen 1 has blue text, while Gen 2 has white text.  

These are Gen 2 - and have white letters on the memorycarddoors.
In most cases also the Lowrance-logo above the screen itself is different.
Notice the colour of the letters, HDS 8 Gen 1 and HDS 5 Gen 2. 
You might see claims made that only HDS Gen 2 has the buttons below the screen of the 8 and 10 sizes. But this is not correct, both generations has these.

At the back, the connections on HDS Gen 1 and Gen 2 are the same across all sizes: Power/ NMEA0183, Ethernet, NMEA2000, 7-pin transducer.

When looking for these units, keep in mind that all sizes where available in three versions:

  • Combo
  • M-model
  • X-model
Combo is the version that has it all, M-models only have chartplotters (no sonar) and X-models only have sonar (no chartplotter). If an M-model is connected with ethernet to a combo-model, x-model or sonar-module, it will display sonar just like if it was a combo-model. This made the M-models very popular as an additional unit, since they where less expensive. The X-models can however not display any mapping, regardless of networking.
Lowrance HDS Gen 2 M-model displaying 2D-sonar.


Lowrance HDS Gen 2 Touch.

The next generation to follow was HDS Gen 2 Touch. With HDS Gen 2 Touch we saw Lowrances first unit with a touchscreen, and the StructureScan-functionality became buildt-in (while Gen 1 and Gen 2 requires a module for StructureScan). Add to this the new screen-orientation called widescreen (verses the portrait-format of Gen 1 and 2) and HDS Gen 2 Touch is easy to tell apart from the two previous generations. The image below shows you the lineup of HDS Gen 2 on top, and HDS Gen 2 Touch at the bottom:
HDS Gen 2 vs HDS Gen 2 Touch (photo: Navico)
As the image shows, HDS Gen 2 Touch came in 7, 9 and 12 and they where all widescreen. If in doubt, the "About"-menu should clear that as well. Please note that this does not state the actual generation, but since it is the only HDS-generation NOT doing so it is still easy to identify:
About-menu HDS Gen 2 Touch (Photo; Ron Dombrowski)


You might see claims made that HDS Gen 2 Touch has the same features as Gen 2, only with the added touchscreen, but this is not correct. They are separate generations with different hardware and software.

At the back, the connections on HDS Gen 2 Touch are Power/ NMEA0183, Ethernet, NMEA2000, 7-pin transducer and 9-pin transducer on all sizes but 9 and 12 has two ethernetports while 7 only has one ethernetport.

When looking for these units, keep in mind that all sizes where available in two versions:

  • Combo
  • M-model

Combo is the version that has it all, M-models only have chartplotters (no sonar). If an M-model is connected with ethernet to a combo-model, x-model or sonar-module, it will display sonar just like if it was a combo-model. This made the M-models very popular as an additional unit, since they where less expensive. 
Lowrance HDS Gen 2 Touch M-model displaying 2D-sonar.


HDS Gen 3

HDS Gen 2 Touch was a massive success for Lowrance, and was followed by HDS Gen 3. With Gen 3 we saw the buttons returning while we still kept the touchscreen, but also the touchscreen itself was improved and 2D-chirp as well as WIFI became buildt-in. In order to make room for the added buttons the housing changed again making HDS Gen 3 physically distinguishable from HDS Gen 2 Touch as well as Gen 1/ Gen 2.
Lowrance HDS Gen 3

In the About-menu HDS Gen 3 is called "HDS3" followed by a dash and screensize like you see here:
About-menu HDS Gen 3

HDS Gen 3 where only available as combo-models, the M- and X-models of the past where not continued after HDS Gen 2 Touch. 

HDS Carbon

HDS Carbon was the first Lowrance to get the IPS-screens (in fact one of the first in the industry) with much improved resolution on the 7 and 9, and the first HDS to have true dual 2D-sonar. Like the name hints to, HDS Carbon has very dark housing, and a "carbon-like" pattern where the screensize is written.
Lowrance HDS Carbon

The About-menu will as always be your best source for information, really not possible to misunderstand this: 
About-menu on HDS Carbon


HDS Live

At the time of writing this, HDS Live is the latest & greatest of the HDS-generations. It might have many things in Common with HDS Carbon, like the fantastic IPS-screen, but it boosts better RAM and processors, buildt in LiveSight-compatibility, a "glass-brigde"-look and Active Imaging. (AI was brought to HDS Carbon as well with a software-update.)

HDS Live - 12 and 16 has quick access buttons
HDS Live in 12 and 16 are easily set apart from the pack due to the quick access buttons seen in the photo above. But all sizes are easily set apart from previous generations by lloking at the Pages-button, which is top right on HDS Live.
HDS 9 Live left, and its main rival Garmin 8410 xsv right.

The About-menu leaves no doubt:
About-menu on HDS Live

If you are looking for more in-depth technical information that sets the generations apart, these links might be of interest:

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