HELIX 10 G3 Fish Finder Review
A Masterpiece of Fish Finding Technology
The third generation of legendary fish finder manufacturer Humminbird’s HELIX series is here, and it’s truly incredible. Featuring a plethora of options for fishers of all stripes, the HELIX 10 provides an incredible display, top-of-the-line imaging, best-in-class sonar technology, a full suite of networking options, and nifty features you can’t find anywhere else. For enthusiast fishers, the HELIX 10 is one of the best fish finders on the market.
-Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar
-Down Imaging +
-Side Imaging +
-Clear, Bright Display
-Fast and Responsive
-Tons of Networking Options
-Works in Saltwater, Freshwater, Brackish Water
-Easy-to-Adjust Gimbal Mount
-Tons of Features
-Pricey (but worth it for enthusiasts)
-Complex (because of all it’s features)
Humminbird have really outdone themselves with the HELIX 10. There are three different versions that we’re going to talk about here, each with different imaging features. The basic model comes with CHIRP sonar; for an upgrade, you can get Down Imaging+ or Side Imaging+. There’s a lot to go over (this is one powerful fish finder), so we’ll start with the specifications for the three models, we’ll review what each model has in common, and we’ll get into the advantages of upgrading.
Technical Specifications and Details
Display and Interface
No matter what HELIX 10 model you purchase, you’re getting an incredible display that makes it easy to read vital information. The pixel grid is one of the best on the market, making it easy to distinguish between schools of bait fish, structures, thermoclines, and your could-be trophy catch.
The HELIX 10 has a killer feature; split screens with multiple views. You can, for example, have a split screen with sonar on one side, and a map on the other. You can do the same with Down Imaging and Side Imaging (more on that later). There are over 20 different views that come standard with the HELIX 10, and you can customize what information you want the screen to display.
All of the standard display options you might expect are here. You can up the contrast in order to better distinguish between strong and weak readouts; you can also change sharpness. You can increase or decrease the screen’s brightness, depending on the time of day. You can change the display colour. You can zoom in or out. This thing has at least as many display settings as your TV, if not more; it’s incredibly customizable.
The interface is a fairly standard keypad setup; buttons for navigating up, down, and side to side through menus, buttons for selecting, and buttons for going back. The interface features shortcut keys; these allow you to toggle to a preset view, so if you have a split screen you particularly like, you can save it to a shortcut.
One potential point against the HELIX 10 is that it does not have a touchscreen, but whether or not this is a good or bad thing largely depends on how you feel about touchscreens. They’re a pain to use when they get wet, but they can be useful for navigation.
CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse) sonar is one of the most important changes to sonar technology in recent memory. To understand why it’s so incredible, you have to understand a bit about sonar.
With regular sonar, your transducer will “ping” at a particular frequency; say, 200 kHz. That frequency will bounce off of solid objects and return to the transducer; it then interprets this information. CHIRP works a bit differently; rather than sending off a single ping, the transmission might start at a frequency of 140 kHz, and end at a frequency of 200 kHz.
This longer, more varied transmission provides a few key advantages. Greater depth penetration, better target separation, a better signal to noise ratio, and clearer imaging are all provided by CHIRP sonar. The HELIX 10 provides you will all of this, and more; we’re on the third generation model, which provides us with something called “low-Q” technology.
Transducers cannot ring and receive information at the same time. Low-Q transducers, like the one included with the HELIX 10, ring out at a wide frequency range for less time than the old high-Q transducers. That means you’re getting information back faster, with more easily distinguishable elements, than the generation two models.
The CHIRP Sonar included with the HELIX 10 provides you with three different modes: narrow, wide, and full. The narrow mode (180-240 kHz) is perfect for when you need as much detail as possible; while it doesn’t go as far or as deep as wide mode, the higher frequencies provide more accurate information and clearer readouts.
Wide mode (140-200 kHz) is perfect for when you want to get as much information as possible; it lets you search as wide and deep as possible with CHIRP sonar.
Full mode (150-220 kHz) provides the biggest spectrum of frequencies; it’s a compromise between the accuracy of narrow mode, and the range of wide mode.
The Wide Mode allows you to penetrate depths of up to 1200 feet with startling clarity. The HELIX 10 has the capacity to read out depths of up to 3500 feet, should you purchase a transducer with 50 kHz transmissions.
In short, CHIRP is giving you better targeting, better depth penetration, clearer images, and a wider variety of options; it’s a must have for fishers who want the best technology on the market.
Back in the day, fish finders were good for finding fish, and that was pretty much it. Today, fish finders like the HELIX 10 double as chart plotters, and that means you need sophisticated mapping technologies. This starts with the HELIX 10’s internal, high precision GPS. The GPS lets you know exactly where you are, so you can set waypoints and route; this allows you to prefish lakes, or return to old favorite fishing spots. With 2500 waypoints, 47 routes, and 50/20000 tracks/points, you’ll never be wanting for more mapping options with this fish finder.
One of the coolest things about GPS/fishfinder combos is the ability to use your transducer and your GPS in tandem. Humminbird has an incredible technology on their HELIX series, AutoChart Live. This feature allows you to chart depth contours, bottom hardness, and vegetation, allowing you to create personalized, comprehensive fishing maps. The extensive networking features on the HELIX 10 mean you can share these maps between devices, so you never lose your maps.
The HELIX 10 comes with the Humminbird Basemap pack; this pack includes detailed maps of over 10000 U.S. Lakes, and complete U.S. Coastal Coverage. You can purchase other map packs from Humminbird; their Lakemaster series is regularly updated, giving fishers the most detailed maps available. You don’t have to buy these maps, though; after all, AutoChart Live lets you create your own!
The HELIX 10 is also compatible with Humminbird’s incredible SmartStrike series. SmartStrike allows you to input a wide variety of factors, like the time of day, the weather, or the season into your fish finder; then, it helps you find fish based on those factors.
There’s a variety of other mapping features available that we’ll talk about in the next sections; the HELIX 10 is packed with some pretty incredible navigation features when you have it networked with other devices.
Every model of the HELIX 10 is equipped with incredible networking capabilities; networking your fish finder with other devices, you can do some truly incredible things. You can network with radar, share maps between devices, and link multiple fish finders to the same transducer, so each of them are performing a specific function. You can more or less create a high-tech bridge with unparalleled sophistication.
Here’s a great example: the HELIX 10 can network with the Minn Kota i-Pilot, allowing your boat to auto pilot through routes you’ve created, or to specific waypoints, taking the guesswork and human error out of piloting. The i-Pilot is also compatible with the aforementioned SmartStrike technology; bring that all together, and you’re bound to find some of the best fishing spots.
You can also link the HELIX 10 with 360 Imaging devices; these accessories allow you to see at all angles around your boat.
MEGA + Imaging
Now we’re going to get into the features that aren’t available on every HELIX 10. To get MEGA+ Imaging, you need the HELIX 10 DI or SI. MEGA+ Imaging is really incredible; let’s delve into the specifics.
You’ll remember from the sonar section of the review that higher frequency sonar provides sharper, clearer imaging. MEGA+ is, quite simply, one of the most interesting innovations in sonar we’ve seen; it allows the transducer to transmit in the mHz frequency. This is absolutely necessary, because the models that have MEGA+ Imaging don’t just show you sonar; they come with Down and Side Imaging. These images are so precise, it’s like you’re watching a video of what’s underneath and around your boat.
The second generation HELIX devices came with MEGA imaging; Humminbird’s new MEGA+ technology extends the range. As you know, the higher frequency the sonar is, the less it can extend outwards, but the new HELIX 10 has Down Imaging up to 200 feet (up from 125) and Side Imaging up to 400 feet (up from 250; that’s 200 feet on each side). That’s unprecedented range for Down and Side Imaging; you can see branches on trees, sunken ships, individual fish, and more. The technology is truly incredible.
For those who just want Down Imaging, the HELIX 10 DI is the best bet; if you want Down and Side Imaging, the HELIX 10 SI comes with both.
One really nifty feature of the HELIX 10 SI is its ability to create hybrid maps with AutoChart Live; you can overlay the Side Imaging onto the AutoChart Map, creating a complete picture of your fishing environment.
Those who haven’t used Down and Side Imaging technology are really missing out; you really do get unparalleled information about where and what you’re fishing.
You don’t have to use MEGA+ for your Down and Side Imaging; if you want to get a greater range of images, using 455 kHz will give you 400 feet of Down Imaging, and 800 feet of Side Imaging (400 feet on each side).
There are a couple of other nifty features on the HELIX 10 that every fisher should know about. The first is SwitchFire technology. With SwitchFire, you have the choice between two modes; MaxMode and ClearMode.
MaxMode shows you everything your sonar is reading; thermoclines, schools of bait fish, all kinds of structure. MaxMode is also fantastic for jigging, because you can watch your jig move, helping you guide it towards fish. This mode is great for information gathering, but it can be problematic for precision; because you’re getting so much information, it can be difficult to distinguish between what you need to know and what you don’t. Shallow water can also cause problems. Your sonar will be bouncing off of so many different items, the screen will become cluttered.
That’s where ClearMode comes into play. This mode uses an algorithm to reduce the appearance of weak returns, like silt and debris; that way, you only see information that’s relevant to you, helping you catch more fish.
There’s also a special jigging mode that you can toggle on when using Side Imaging. This mode will increase the readout of 2D sonar; it does make the Side Imaging less clear, but it allows you to more clearly track the movements of your jig.
No matter which of these models you get, you’re in for a treat. With best-in-class sonar, incredible imaging, a host of features, and an amazing display, the HELIX 10 is really a wonderful fish finder. There’s really very few folks who wouldn’t benefit for this fish finder; it might not be suitable for very small setups, but if you have a boat big enough to hold it, the HELIX 10 is a truly amazing device.