Lowrance HDS Live Review: The Best Fish Finder Yet?

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Lowrance HDS Live Review: The Best Fish Finder Yet?

Updated on:

When it comes to marine electronics, Lowrance is one of the most well known names in the industry. Founded in 1957, their fish finders and other marine electronics quickly rose to the top of the North American market. Over time, they expanded their distribution line of fish finders and marine electronics into more than 100 different countries worldwide.

By 2008, Lowrance introduced their High Definition System (HDS) multifunction display which took the marine electronics world by storm. Offering some of the best sonar and digital mapping for fish finding on both pleasure crafts and commercial fishing vessels, Lowrance is a highly trusted name in the fishing electronics category.

This review will take a closer look at some of the HDS models of fish finders and how they compare to each other. If you’re in the market for a premium quality fish finder, one of these high-quality active imaging Lowrance HDS models should definitely fit the bill.

Lowrance HDS Live Reviews: By Model

Lowrance HDS Live 7 Review

Lowrance HDS Live 7

Lowrance HDS Live 7

Lowrance HDS Live 7
Our Score

Created as an entry-level into the HDS category, this is one of the smallest high definition fish finder systems Lowrance offers. With a screen measuring just 7 inches, it’s small and perfect for more casual boating and fishing applications.

It features a SolarMAX HD touchscreen that includes 3 in 1 transducer compatibility for detailed active imaging. In addition, you’ll find both a live marine network and live network sonar with a downscan and sidescan working at 800 Khz each on a dual core processor. 

If that wasn’t enough, this Lowrance HDS sonar is real-time LiveSight giving you an outstanding view of your surroundings with CHIRP 2D traditional sonar as well as StructureScan 3D sonar. 

  • 7 Inch Screen Size Touchscreen
  • 3-in-1 Transducer
  • C-Map Pro Chartplotting

Lowrance HDS Live 9 Review

Lowrance HDS Live 9

Lowrance HDS Live 9

Lowrance HDS Live 9
Our Score

Being one step up from the Live 7, the Lowrance HDS Live 9 features a touchscreen that gives you two more inches of viewing area than its predecessor. While it’s not a large screen as active imaging goes, it still provides a detailed view of your surroundings which is great for mounting on a smaller fishing vessel.

It includes all the features you can find in the Lowrance HDS Live 7 model including the 800 Khz downscan, 800 Khz sidescan, and CHIRP 2D traditional sonar. You’ll also be able to get a much more detailed view of underwater structures and vegetation with the StructureScan 3D live fish finder and active imaging.

The larger 9 inch screen gives you the opportunity to use the split screen feature which makes this a very worthwhile investment for intermediate anglers looking to take their fishing to the next level.

  • 9 Inch Screen Size Touchscreen
  • Real Time Active Imaging
  • Chartplotter with Navionics

Lowrance HDS Live 12 Review

Lowrance HDS Live 12

Lowrance HDS Live 12

Lowrance HDS Live 12
Our Score

Getting into the more premium levels of the HDS models, the Live 12 offers an extremely detailed 12 inch display touchscreen that also offers a 6-fold splitscreen feature. Whether you are connecting to the Lowrance HDS live network sonar or chartplotting with Navionics, the large and easy to view screen will make it easy to see your next destination.

When it comes to popularity, the Live 12 is the most popular of the HDS model lineup, and for good reason. It brings all of the features of the previous two models, as well as a number of customizable options and upgrades you can consider including a quad core processor and wireless connectivity.

In addition, the Bluetooth compatibility means you can easily connect this live fish finder to your smartphone and use a range of compatible apps including C-Map Genesis for your chartplotting needs. The HDS 12 live is an exceptional fish finder for the price, and is one of the most popular models in the Lowrance HDS live line.

  • 6-fold Splitscreen Capable 12” Touchscreen
  • HDMI and USB Ports with Bluetooth Connectivity
  • Compatible with 3-in-1 Transducers

Lowrance HDS Live 16 Review

Lowrance HDS Live 16

Lowrance HDS Live 16

Lowrance HDS Live 16
Our Score

If you’re looking for the best of the best in the HDS lineup, the Live 16 is the catch of the day. It features an extremely large 16 inch touchscreen that offers a highly detailed active imaging display for your CHIRP sonar and active imaging.

 With the wide viewing angle on the more spacious screen, boat owners will be able to see underwater structures, bottom contours, and single fish with incredible detail thanks to the 800/455 Khz downscan and sidescan, as well as the LiveSight real time sconar.

In addition, the Live 16 offers StructureScan 3D in conjunction with traditional 2D CHIRP sonar to give you a range of viewing options when you need them most. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll also get the LiveSight real time sonar and a combination touchscreen to make a huge difference when it comes to being user friendly and versatile.

While this HDS model shares the same features as the 12 inch model, the extra 4 inches of screen can make a world of difference when chartplotting and viewing active imaging scans of your surroundings.

  • Massive 16 Inch Touchscreen
  • Live-Sight Real Time Sonar
  • C-Map Navionics

Key Lowrance HDS Live Features and Terminology

Lowrance HDS Live has FishReveal combination scanner which combines FishID technology with the HD downscan imagery for a very detailed look at fish arches.

SolarMAX HD Touchscreen

The high definition SolarMAX touchscreens in the HDS line are extremely impressive when it comes to clarity of the image, even on a small screen. The wide angle viewing option and crisp backlit display makes viewing in any weather conditions easy. It doesn’t matter if the sky is sunny, dark, foggy, or not, the automatic brightness adjustment will help you view the screen with ease.

You’ll also love the easy-to-access interface that makes using the touchscreen easy. However, if you’re an angler that isn’t fond of touchscreens, the combination keypad gives you the option to use whichever input you are comfortable with. In fact, you can use them both at the same time or switch between them whenever you want with no hassle whatsoever.

In addition to having a keypad, the larger models also have a touch screen that offers a range of customizable keys. Whether you only want the bare minimum shown for easy routing, or you want to have access to all the bells and whistles, being able to customize the keys can be a total game changer.

6-Fold Splitscreen

With the two larger HDS models, the 12 and 16 inch, you’ll notice the inclusion of a 6-fold split SolarMax screen. This gives you the option to have a range of readouts on the display all at once. Instead of having to choose between viewing your downscan or your sidescan, you can have both of those on the screen together, along with your 3D sonar and GPS as well. 

Only the higher end models will offer this option, as the smaller units will offer a more traditional split screen. While the split screen can be quite useful as well, being able to have more information on the screen at once can limit the amount of times you need to access the keypad or touchscreen when fishing.

Active Imaging with 3-in-1 Transducer

Having active imaging in your fish finder transducer can provide you with exceptional details from the deeper water you are fishing in. Obviously, the main purpose of a fish finder is to find fish, and having active imaging makes it much easier for you.

In addition to being able to show you the fish themselves in open water, the active imaging can also show you underwater structures and heavy cover areas where fish might be hiding. This information lets you make educated guesses on the best locations to drop your line and hope for a trophy fish to grab it.

FishReveal

One of the more popular features of the Lowrance HDS Live is the FishReveal combination scanner. It combines the FishID technology along with the high definition downscan imagery to give you a very detailed look at fish arches on the screen.

Instead of having to do some guesswork on each little blip on the screen from regular sonar, you will instead be presented with a very clean image of the actual fish. In fact, you can pair this with the StructureScan 3D feature to determine exactly which species of fish you are looking at, as well as the cover areas they are lurking in.

Downscan Imaging

If you’ve ever had a fish finder in the past, you’re no doubt familiar with downscan imaging. It’s one of the most common sonar types you can find in other devices. Making use of CHIRP sonar, the downscan imaging will give you a good view of what is directly below your boat.

With the Lowrance HDS Live 3-in-1 LiveSight transducer compatibility, and the high definition system they offer, you’ll get a clear view of fish arches, underwater structures, clumps of vegetation, and much more.

Sidescan Imaging

In addition to downscan imaging, sidescan is another very common and pretty standard feature you will see in most fish finders on the market. Instead of looking below your boat, sidescan sonar will focus on the areas on either side of your boat at a distance of 100 feet or more.

Sidescan is great for getting a clear view of the shore topography and whether or not there may be prime fishing opportunities there. In addition, it can help you determine whether you should cast a lure into a distant pocket of vegetation or not, without risking your boat in that area.

Structure Scan

One of the optional features you can have on your Lowrance HDS Live is the Structure Scan 3D sonar. This extra addition really brings the word “investment” to mind, since you will need to invest in a separate transducer for the Structure Scan to operate properly. 

However, if you decide to shell out the extra cash, having Structure Scan can give you an incredibly detailed view of the entire cone-shaped area below the boat. How this differs from downscan is that it’s done in real time, so you can easily track the exact movements of fish and follow them if needed.

Chartplotter, GPS, Navionics

All HDS Live models include NMEA 2000 compatibility which makes it easy to connect fish finders to handheld devices and other fish finders on your boat.

Each of the models in the HDS Live line are network compatible giving you the freedom to connect them to your smartphone or other Bluetooth device and access a host of other data. This data can include live radar, lake and waterway charts, various additional fish finding features, live cameras, assorted media, and more directly on your user interface.

You’ll also notice a very accurate GPS which not only helps with your general chart plotting and navigating, but can serve as an important feature in case of emergencies. When used with the C-Map Genesis mapping feature, the accurate GPS allows you to make exact adjustments on your C-Map to get you from A to B without any mishaps along the way.

If that wasn’t enough, the included Navionics data can include hundreds of thousands of detailed nautical charts of lakes, ponds, coastal shorelines, and other assorted waterways in North America. This gives you an incredible amount of highly detailed navigating freedom when it comes to planning your next fishing destination on a C-Map or general waterway chartplotter.

Live Compatibility

All of the HDS Live models include NMEA 2000 compatibility which makes it easy for you to connect your fish finders to smartphones, handheld devices, tablets, laptops, and other fish finders on your boat. The dual core processors of the HDS 9 Live allow you to even receive chartplotting notifications on your phone with the problem free smartphone integration.

The HDS 12 and 16 offer an ethernet port giving you the freedom to connect them to a laptop and other fish finding units so you can import and export data between them freely. Whether you are looking for preloaded contour maps from C-Map US, autopilot features, or simply want to be able to control your trolling motor from the touchscreen, you’ll be able to do so with the smartphone integration.

Lowrance LiveSight

If you’re still not satisfied with what the Lowrance HDS Live line has to offer, this very special feature may be just what you are looking for. As another additional purchase, Lowrance HDS Live offers the LiveSight imaging on the higher end HDS Live series that offers visuals so clear and detailed, you may as well be looking at an underwater camera.

You won’t just be able to see the fish around your boat, you will also be able to see your lure and tiny baitfish or other prey items nearby. This gives you a birds eye view in real-time of what the fish are doing and how they may be reacting to your lure.

Final Thoughts on the Lowrance HDS Live

When it comes to packing a lot of marine network technology in a small package, Lowrance HDS knows exactly how to get things done. The HDS Live series includes four of the most advanced fish finders on the market today.

While the initial investment may be quite painful for some to consider, especially if you decide to add on the extra features and an additional sonar and the Lowrance HDS LiveSight transducer, these premium level electronics can give you the underwater insight needed to land that next world record trophy fish.

If you’re simply looking for a fish finder that gets the job done with very few pre-loaded addons, the Lowrance HDS Live line may be a bit more than what you need. But if you’re a serious angler looking for a top of the line fish finder with a whole range of customizable options, the HDS 12 is probably one of the best options for you and should definitely be considered over other transducers on the market.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village.