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Gear Guide: Chartplotters & Sounders

When updating your navigation and fish-finding tech onboard it can be essential to do your research. You may have only relied on apps on your tablet or smartphone, or perhaps never updated your trusty handheld device before but for those that have; know that it can help you get the most out of your time on the water. Whatever you decide, it is up to you to find what suits your setup and needs best, which isn’t always easy. Below are some of the top-rated GPS chartplotters that are currently on the market today that should cover most boaters across disciplines from the low to high-end units.


Top 5 Best Rated GPS Chartplotters


Garmin GPS MAP 78sc

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc product image

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This compact and portable Garmin is one of the best handheld GPS units produced.

The ergonomic bottom display with the top controls was an idea opted by one of the founders of Garmin in the 1990s. After holding his shaver, he noticed where the controls were and by moving the buttons nearest the thumb at the top allowed single-hand use while still being able to view the screen. The screen albeit small at 2.6”, displays crisp colour mapping in daylight and packs a punch in terms of features with waypoint and coordinate plotting controls. If you happen to drop it in the water, it’s IPX7 waterproof rated and floats too so you can rescue it without any damage. Inside there is a high sensitivity GPS receiver, three-axis tilt compass, barometric altimeter and weather display. A worldwide basemap is also built-in with a micro SD slot for adding additional maps and has a supposed 20-hour battery life.  

Key Features

  • Portable & fitting size for kayaks and Jet Skis
  • IPX7 waterproof and floats
  • Operates on AA batteries with up to 20 hours
  • Easy to read screen in direct sunlight


Humminbird Helix 5 G2

Helix 5 product image

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The Humminbird Helix 5 is a popular choice amongst anglers with enough fish finding capabilities for an affordable price, being one of the smallest in their range.

Being the Helix 5, the screen is a 5-inch display, manageable for those in kayaks, jet skis or small fishing boats but has enough features to be more than capable for larger vessels too. The four models available include one that is portable, one has down imaging, and the most expensive has both down and side imaging sonar. The display needs to be high resolution for these charts with 16 bit TFT 256 colours and a 400W PTP power output. All G2 models have CHIRP with DualBeam, which allows you to focus the beam acutely narrow for higher clarity or more obtuse for broader coverage but less definition. The GPS has live mapping capabilities with 8 hours of recording time to map the water as you survey your favourite spots, with bottom hardness, depth contours and vegetation imagery. These devices are Navionics compatible and can hold up to 2,500 waypoints, 45 routes with a card reader for additional maps and upgradeable software.

Key Features

  • Dual Beam Sonar
  • 1500ft depth 
  • Autochart live
  • Ultrabright display
  • Great value for features


Simrad Cruise 7

Simrad Cruise 7 product image

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The cruise series is supposed to be the most intuitive and user-friendly console Simrad offers. 

They stripped it back and tried not to overload users with too much information and options, which can be all too common with even the most ‘entry-level’ navigation equipment. The cruise breaks down charts, sonar and navigation with split screens on a 7” sunlight display to easily view all charts simultaneously or individually. The Cruise range supports both Navionics and C-MAP with Easy routing on C-MAP charts. Easy routing automatically routes for you, with a preview mode and the legs are colour coded green, yellow and red in order of safe to unsafe legs. The easy to use controls have been made exclusively on the keypad and rotary dial after criticism for touchpads often being difficult to use while cruising at speeds, particularly in rough sea. Physical controls is a popular decision and well-suited for owners of RIBs and cabin cruisers that are more open to the elements with less stability at the helm. This unit is a great option when looking for a no-nonsense GPS Chartplotter and sounder combination. 

Key Features

  • Affordability for capabilities
  • Ease of use and simple installation
  • Well suited for open boats
  • Easy to view auto depth, speed, position, battery & more 


B&G Vulcan 7

B&G Vulcan 7 product image

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Now for the sailors. Brookes & Gatehouse are known for their exclusive sailing features and their 7" touchscreen chartplotter, the Vulcan 7 has it all to get the very most out of your time on the water.  

The touchscreen controls are supposed to be reliable and easy to use, even in direct sunlight and rough conditions. Single taps on the screen create waypoints, and auto-routing does the rest providing safe directions to your destinations. Up to 6000 waypoints and 500 routes can be stored. The Vulcan range includes all dedicated sailing features. SailSteer allows you to view wind, speed, tidal and waypoint information easily on one screen. Layline navigation offers more exact routes with true wind information, accurate estimated time of legs and tack points for the most efficient and safe course. The Racing features will give the club racers the edge on the fleet with timers for the best possible start and planning options for all what ifs? Everything a sailboat should need with easy integration for just over £800.

Key Features

  • Familiar, easy to navigate multi-touch display
  • All dedicated sailing features included
  • Integrated WiFi, Broadband Radar & ForwardScan
  • Range of mounting options and easy to integrate to existing system
Simrad Go 7
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The Simrad Go 7 XSR is the updated version of the popular XSE.

This all-in-one widescreen unit now has radar capabilities and more RAM, making it faster at loading multiple functions at the same time in a sleeker looking package. In terms of sonar, you can have the 3 in 1 Active imaging transducer giving both downscan and sidescan imaging perfect for details of wrecks and drop-offs. Compatible with a wide range of custom charts and is fully customizable to display what you use most. The Go range can also connect to your other devices allowing you to move around the boat, which can control your onboard entertainment system, monitor your engine’s performance and connect to your autopilot system. It’s an excellent choice for a range of boat sizes and for what it offers is good value for money. 

Key Features

  • High-end Active Imaging CHIRP Side & DownScan
  • Compatible with a large range of maps
  • Connect and display on your devices to move freely
  • HALO 360-degree radar compatible
  • Easy to install and customise to your uses
Boats and Outboards Team
Published on 2020-05-05