HDS-9 LIVE Fish Finder Review

4.5/5

OVERALL RATING

IMAGING

DESIGN

QUALITY

PRICE

We really liked the HDS Carbon series, so when we heard Lowrance was back with the next generation, we were quite excited. After all, fish finding technology is improving at a rapid clip, and Lowrance is known as one of the leading innovators in this space, owing in part to their ownership by Navico. It’s fair to say the HDS-9 LIVE has lived up to and even exceeded our somewhat lofty expectations; the gorgeous HD display we’ve come to expect from the series is here, along with an incredible interface, great compatibility with transducers and other marine technologies, and a ton of great fish finding features. Enthusiast anglers are the target market here, and for good reason: this thing will help you catch a lot of fish.

PROS

-Waterproof
-Dual Channel CHIRP Sonar
-Active Imaging 3-in-1
-LiveSight Compatible
-Fantastic Resolution
-Fast (Dual Core Processor)
-Clear, Bright, Backlit Display
-Top of the Line Networking (Wireless, Bluetooth)
-High Precision Internal GPS
-Works in Salt/Fresh/Brackish Water, Deep or Shallow
-Easy-to-Adjust Gimbal Mount
-Loaded with Features

CONS

-A bit less range than comparable fish finders
-A bit pricey (it’s for enthusiasts)

We’re always impressed with how many features Lowrance is able to pack into fish finders of this size. They manage to program in these many features, a GPS, and as much processing power as they have with this little space. Quite an impressive feat! We recommend you purchase the HDS-9 LIVE with the Active Imaging 3-in-1 transducer; the specs that we list below assume that you have:

Technical Specifications and Details

Model

HDS-9 Live

Sonar-Depth

1000 ft.

Imaging-Range

150 ft. Down/Per Side (800 kHz)

300 ft. Down/Per Side (455 kHz)

GPS

Internal, High Precision

Operating Frequencies Supported

Medium and High CHIRP 83/200kHz + 455/800kHz 

Transducer

Active Imaging 3-in-1

Screen

9”, 1280H x 720V pixel resolution, WVGA, LED backlit  

Maps Included

C-MAP® US Enhanced Inland and Coastal

Memory Card Slots

Dual Micro SD

Max Waypoints, Routes, Tracks/Points

3000, 100, 100/10000

Display and Interface

HDS stands for High Definition Systems. With a name like that, you’d better have a good display - your advertising is banking on it. As you can probably guess if you’ve used the Carbon series, the HDS-9 LIVE absolutely delivers on this front. This series has the best screens on the market right now.

The screen on the HDS-9 is SolarMAX - a high definition screen that’s backlit so it can be used in all kinds of different weather. Fog, rain, nighttime, anytime -  we’ve used the HDS-9 in all kinds of conditions and we find the screen is still easy to read. 

An actual high definition screen is a real delight on fish finders. There are a lot of features that allow you to take full advantage of the clarity you get, and we’ll dive into those in our next sections. This screen is probably as good as your TV’s (though it’s much smaller), and it comes with a lot of customizability. You can change contrast, colour, sharpness, zoom, and more on the fly so that the screen can suit the conditions out on the water and help you with accuracy and target separation.

Let’s talk about the size of the screen. At 9”, this finder won’t fit in every setup on the planet, but it’s more versatile than its larger cousins. 9” is enough to clearly see what’s happening on screen. You can look at the HDS-9 from a lot of different angles and the information will always be easy to read. That’s great when you have a few different people fishing in your boat who all want to look at the finder.

9” also means you’ve got enough space on screen to really take advantage of the split screen. Split screen is becoming more common in these GPS/fish finder combos because you can look at a map while finding fish, or you can use a couple of different fish finding views simultaneously. As we get further into the review, you’ll see that there are a lot of really cool ways to use the split screen and it’s a lot of fun.

Okay, so the screen is phenomenal, you get the point, but this section is called display and interface, and to be honest, it’s the interface part that we’re most excited about. Lowrance has done something pretty innovative here - they’ve created a combination interface that uses both a keypad and a touchscreen. Touchscreens alone can be tricky because when they get wet, you can’t use them properly. This can make them tough to use in certain conditions. Keypads alone, on the other hand, give you limited navigation options - you can only go left/right/up/down, rather than just selecting the option you want from the screen. Putting the two together eliminates both problems.

The interface here is a dream to navigate. You can tell that Lowrance put a lot of effort into UX design and they probably studied the big smartphone/tablet players thoroughly in order to develop what they came up with. The icons have recognizable graphics and are colour-coded, so you know what you’re pressing without thinking about it. The menus are relatively simple to navigate owing to a good layout and the touchscreen. It’s a shame you can’t find this kind of interface on less pricey fish finders because it would probably turn weekend warriors into enthusiasts. Having such easy navigation makes the sheer number of features on this thing a lot less daunting.

CHIRP Sonar

Sonar has been getting better and better. The actual concept is kind of simple: you send out a frequency, that frequency bounces off of an object, it comes back to your transducer, and the results are interpreted to form shapes on your fish finder. There’s a lot of physics to account for in order to get an accurate interpretation, though, and that means there are some useful adaptations that can be made to get a more accurate picture of what’s happening underwater.

One of the adaptations we’ve seen recently is Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse (CHIRP) sonar. To understand that, you’ve got to understand a tiny bit of the science behind sonar. Most sonar sends out a single frequency, say, 180 kHz. CHIRP acts a bit differently: it sends out a pulse that covers multiple frequencies. For example, you might start at a base of 140 kHz and move up to 180 kHz. That means more information is coming back to the transducer, and that extra information gives you two advantages - you can see targets closer to your boat, and your target separation is improved.

Here’s another thing you want to know - how frequencies affect range and clarity. This is pretty straightforward. Lower frequencies give you more range, but less clarity. That means when you’re using CHIRP, you’re kind of getting the best of both worlds because with the Active Imaging 3-in-1 transducer, you can get frequencies as low as 83 kHz, providing you with a 1000 ft max range. In our experience, that’s more than enough for most bodies of water you’ll be fishing on.

Mapping

Let’s take a second to talk about 2-in-1. Not everything that’s 2-in-1 is actually a good value proposition. A 2-in-1 conditioner, for example, is actually pretty bad. A lot of anglers already have some kind of GPS device - that means if you’re getting a fish finder/GPS combo, it better offer you some features that you couldn’t get by having both of those devices as standalones. With the HDS-9, we’re happy to report that you get more than the sum of its parts.

That brings us to one of our favorite HDS-9 features - C-Map Genesis Live. The name is a bit of a mouthful, but what it does tastes so good! In essence, Genesis Live uses your transducer in tandem with your GPS in order to create a complete map of what’s happening underwater. That means 1-foot contour lines as well as an accurate reading of things like bottom hardness and vegetation. The more you know about what’s happening underwater, the better your fishing will be. And, you can come back to the maps you make again and again!

With our personal experiences and those of other anglers, we’ve found we have a few things in common. One is that most of us have a real sense of adventure - we love going into uncharted waters and finding the perfect, secluded fishing spot. Another is that we tend to be pretty social - we want to share our secret spots with our friends, and we want to help other anglers improve their game. One of Genesis’ features appeals to both of those instincts because you can upload the maps that you make on their SocialMaps website. Go on there now and you’ll probably see some user-submitted maps in your area.If you don’t, that means you can be the first to go chart the waters!

When you first go out on the water with your HDS-9, you won’t have any maps you’ve charted yourself, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have no help at all. The device comes with a map containing 4000 US inland lakes. You can purchase other maps from C-Map and you can check out the SocialMaps to see if there is already charting that’s been done for an area near you.

There are a couple of other things that you can use your GPS for, but they depend on having other devices. That’s good news for us, because (almost as if by design), we’re heading into the networking section now, where we can talk about those very devices!

Networking

The world is interconnected! Now, finally, your fish finder can be too. We’ve been wanting the big manufacturers to improve the connectivity of their devices for ages now, and we’re starting to make a lot of headway. The networking on the HDS LIVE series is pretty remarkable; for one, every device has Bluetooth and wireless connectivity.

Lowrance, being the crafty manufacturer they are, realized that everybody owns a smartphone, and that with Bluetooth and wireless connectivity, they could connect smartphones with their fish finders. That brings us to a feature we love: smartphone notifications. You’re feeling a bit sleepy, you’re dozing off, then suddenly your phone vibrates - it’s not your spouse texting you to see how long you’ll be out on the water, it’s your HDS-9 telling you there are fish around your boat!

Alright, so you can connect to your smartphone... what other fun things can you do? Well, for one, you can connect with other fish finders, with your laptop or PC. You can also hook up to some specialty equipment - Power Pole anchors can be controlled through your HDS-9, as can certain MotorGuide trolling motors and other devices.

The HDS-9 LIVE is also NMEA2000 compatible. Those who aren’t in the know about the standard should click that link for more info. In essence, it means that the HDS-9 is compatible with a wide variety of different marine technology - radars and so on. You can get a pretty complex bridge going if you have a lot of these devices, and trust us - that’s fun.

Active Imaging

The Active Imaging 3-in-1 sonar we’ve been talking about has, as you can probably guess, 3 different views: the CHIRP sonar we looked at above, and two Imaging options, DownScan and SideScan. Imaging is a really nifty feature that will definitely improve your fishing game. If you haven’t tried it out, you should.

As we discussed in the CHIRP sonar section, higher frequencies give you more accurate images - that principle is at the heart of imaging technology. Using 800 kHz frequencies, the HDS-9 provides really crisp images. You can see structure and bottom in startling clarity, and we’re really impressed with how that’s upped our fishing. This frequency gives you 150 ft per side and down. You can use 455 kHz to get 300 feet side and down, and though the images are less clear, they’re still quite good.

There are a few other nifty things you can do with Active Imaging, and we’ll get into them in our next section: our favorite features on this fish finder

Other Features

Our favorite feature on this device has got to be FishReveal. More often than not, when you’re using a fish finder’s DownScan or SideScan technology, you’ll need two screens - one for the imaging, so you can see structure and bottom clearly, and the other for traditional sonar, so you can watch moving fish. With FishReveal, you don’t need to worry about that. You get the data from the CHIRP sonar overlaid on the DownScan, so you can see the fish and the structure. That allows you to use your split screen for other reasons as you might have a map along with your DownScan, or DownScan and SideScan simultaneously.

You could also use the split screen in order to use your DownScan with a different transducer, like the StructureScan 3D. This device allows you to see the underwater environment in 3D so you know exactly where structure is in relation to your boat.

Yet another nifty transducer you can hook up with your HDS-9 is called LiveSight. The LiveSight transducer is pretty much the closest thing to a video camera you can get; you can watch fish move around in real time. We love it for jigging because we can watch them react to the jig and adjust appropriately.

Conclusion

This is one great fish finder! Honestly, this whole series is fantastic and we can’t say enough good stuff about it. We love the display, we love all the features, we love the user interface. Going up a size in the LIVE series will net you more powerful processing and a couple of other features, but if you want a fish finder that will fit in most setups, or you’re looking for a very high quality fish finder that’s not quite as pricey as some of its more expensive cousins, the HDS-9 Live is for you.

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