2024 Sonar Brand Battle: Lowrance vs Garmin

Find out why Lowrance wins this fish finder battle of the brands

Lowrance and Garmin are both top competitors in the Sonar fish finder industry.

These brands are actually quite different when it comes to their offerings and models available to fishermen.

Let’s compare these two brands and their features to see which one comes out on top.

Lowrance vs Garmin Models Reviewed

Reputation

Lowrance

Lowrance is very popular among the recreational and tournament fishing community.

Its ease of use, intuitive UI, and a plethora of features is the reason why the Lowrance brand is popular among some anglers, and it comes with all an angler could need when out on the water.

Features like Chartplotting and accurate GPS mapping software, down scan and side scan, featuring a crystal clear high definition display and incredibly accurate sonar readings at a decent price range for multiple budgets are all major reasons the recreational angling communities purchase Lowrance fish finders.

The reviews of anglers who use Lowrance are, therefore, generally very positive.

Garmin

Users who become familiar with Garmin Sonar products are likewise very pleased with them. They are on the cutting edge and the innovators of certain sonar technologies like panoptix and livescope.

While the UI and display, along with settings, can be a little more on the complex side compared to brands like Lowrance, once an angler becomes proficient with using a Garmin fish finder, it becomes become priceless tool when it comes to finding fish and potential fishing spots.

They also have units in multiple price ranges to suit most anglers’ budgets.

Features

Lowrance

Seeing how Lowrance is tailored towards recreational fishing, fishing guides, and tournament anglers, it lacks some of the high-tech radar systems for weather and navigation features that are required when fishing far out from the land on the open seas, except for their top-end units.

The GPS software used in the Lowrance units is still more than capable of aiding the vast majority of anglers in fishing situations, with the ability to drop waypoints on specific spots, chart and map waters as well as having the ability to use aftermarket map chips from Navionics to illuminate the contours and depths of a particular body of water, or in some cases all major and popular waterways in a particular state or province with map packs for Wisconsin waters for example.

The Down Imaging and Side Imaging quality is very comparable between Lowrance and other units on the market and gives a sharp and clear picture of what’s below.

Garmin

Garmin also has most, if not all, major modern sonar unit features, including down imaging, GPS, and Side imaging, But Garmin has pioneered a few features onto the market in its own right and has, in many ways, set the standard for some features that other brands have been working to catch up on.

This is no more evident than in their panoptix and livescope transducers. The chartplotting and scanning are very accurate, and the map display is highly detailed, giving anglers a plethora of information.

Technological Innovations

Lowrance

Lowrance has some of the most detailed and crisp imaging displays in the sonar industry, allowing you to see structure in incredibly fine detail, from individual branches, stumps, and sunken trees to individual fish in a school in the right conditions.

This scanning technology really helps anglers see what’s going on below the surface compared to the older units of years past that showed colored blobs with very little detail other than that there was indeed something under your boat and the varying colors showing size and density.

Like Garmin and other brands, Side scan, down scan, and GPS are available depending on the unit model as well. Some Lowrance units also have their amazing FishReveal technology; FishReveal minimizes weaker signals and sonar returns and boosts solid and more dense returns to give crystal clear separation for fish in schools in great detail with very little “fuzz”.

Another capability that can be included or sold in certain units is the LiveSight technology. LiveSight Sonar gives anglers the ability to track their own lures or fish movement in real-time with great coverage area and at greater distances than sonar units of the past.

This will allow you to see any presentation or pinpoint a specific fish or school, whether they are in open water or hugging the bottom; this feature works great in jigging situations.

Garmin

Garmin’s Panoptix features the standard down imaging but also has forward imaging. Panoptix forward directs its sonar beam horizontally from the boat, allowing you to see fish moving either towards or away from you and the structure from a side view that is not directly beneath the boat, out to 100 feet away.

Try to picture a come with the tip at the front of your boat, expanding forward and down. Using the REALVU and FRONTVU modes, you can see a complex mapping of the area in front of the boat in a 3D view, which also shows you the structure and fish and almost looks like it’s from a video game allowing incredible viewing of the terrain.

Garmin Livescope has 3 different modes to choose from. Forward, Down, and perspective modes. Down and Forward modes are essentially the same as with other units on the market, with few differences.

The detail that livescope brings to the table is, at times, jaw-dropping. You will have the ability depending on the depth and fish size, to actually see the fin movement of fish in sharp, crisp detail, as well as individual fish in bait schools.

Individual branches from sunken trees or brush and other structures with high resolution and detail compared to more traditional sonar imaging.

Mapping System

Lowrance

The Mapping on the Lowrance line mainly consists of different C-MAP packages depending on the state, province, or region.

Along with C-MAP, you can also purchase the Navionics SD card of maps for your region separately for incredibly detailed bathymetric mapping of your favorite bodies of water.

Navionics is the best choice between the two, and we recommend all anglers purchase Navionics cards at some point; the difference in accuracy can be very significant.

Garmin

Garmin uses the industry-leading BlueChart mapping system but is not the only bathymetric or mapping software available for Garmin units.

There are also Navionics cards for Garmin and their other mapping software called LakeVu.

LakeVu U.S. and LakeVu Canada are their latest installment of maps and feature incredibly detailed bathymetric maps of lakes, reservoirs, and rivers throughout the United States and Canada.

User Interface

Lowrance

While there are easier-to-use units on the market today, the Lowrance user interface, display, and settings are pretty easy to learn and use.

Some aspects might be a little complicated to figure out initially, but once you get it dialed in and learn your way around, it’s pretty effortless.

The software allows users to easily switch between sonar and GPS with the push of a button or run up to 2 to 4 separate split screens on display, giving you all your information at once, as well as structure scan and CHIRP sonar.

Garmin

Garmin, like Lowrance, is also very easy to learn and use.

Some units have simple and point touch screen buttons allowing you to select anything with one touch, including a safety feature, an SOS button, in the event you become stranded or get stuck in bad weather or other dangerous situations.

Popular Models

Lowrance

Hook Reveal
Hook Reveal
Hook Reveal
Our Score

The Hook Reveal is Lowrance’s entry-level range sonar unit, but in saying that, it's still packed with features.

With the Triple Shot model, you get conventional sonar, structure downscan and side imaging.

The Split Shot models have conventional sonar and downscan but lack the side imaging sonar feature.

This model also has Lowrance’s FishReveal technology, which applies the coloured fish arches to the downscan images.

This is a game changer for units in this price range and arguably is most important in these starter models.

The FishReveal technology helps entry-level anglers identify fish signatures on sonar easier when downscan would give a more subtle image that beginner users might miss.

Elite Ti2 Series
Elite Ti2 Series
Elite Ti2 Series
Our Score

The Elite Ti2 series line is for the avid anglers who want the most out of a unit without spending the money on the top-priced units, such as anglers that fish up to multiple times a week and are focused on success.

It’s a professional-grade fish finder for a mid-range price and offers detailed images and some great features and value.

The Elite Ti2 is a significant step up from the Hook Reveal series as it offers touch-screen technology and wifi connectivity, allowing you to connect to your phone, share waypoints with others, and link up multiple units without the need for cables.

The Elite Ti2 uses Lowrance’s Active Imaging transducer to produce high-definition, crystal-clear, detailed images.

HDS Live Series
HDS Live Series
HDS Live Series
Our Score

The HDS is Lowrance’s professional grade line with a touchscreen, Active Imaging transducer, the highest level of wireless and wired connectivity, and great performance.

It also offers Lowrance’s LiveSight technology – which offers a real-time view of the water and structure below, including real-time fish movement, and even allows you to view your presentations, your lure depth, fish reactions to it, and more so that you can adjust accordingly.

It’s another valuable tool for your fishing arsenal that helps set Lowrance apart from the competition.

Garmin

Striker Series
Striker Series
Striker Series
Our Score

The Striker series is the entry to mid-level units featured by Garmin.

The strikers can come from small basic 4-inch screens to 9-inch screens and have great sonar readings and GPS.

They also feature the quickdraw charting software on some units, so you can chart out the lake yourself if there aren't any maps for it on the original or aftermarket chips.

ECHOMAP Series
ECHOMAP Series
ECHOMAP Series
Our Score

ECHOMAP units range from mid-price to higher-end and have all the features discussed in this article.

Excellent mapping, sonar, and chartplotting are all featured.

The only differences between many models are whether they are compatible with the panoptix or livescope transducers.

Some come with the livescope at a higher price while others feature the most standard panoptix, so be sure to consider that when purchasing, or purchase both transducers to swap out when needed.

Winner

For the basic or average angler in almost all circumstances, the Lowrance takes the cake.

It’s easier to learn, and the interface allows anglers to become proficient much quicker than some of the Garmin units, and that really helps in the grand scheme of things.

While Garmin does have some pretty awesome technology available, it can be daunting for anglers not used to that level of technology to figure out.

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AUTHOR
Shawn Chapin is an experienced fishing writer and guide based in Wisconsin, where he loves targeting muskie and a range of other species. Shawn's fished extensively for pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth and panfish species. He's developing a passion for chasing trout on the fly rod.