REVIEW: Lowrance HDS Gen3

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A school of rat kings round up baitfish on Sydney’s Pittwater.
A school of rat kings round up baitfish on Sydney’s Pittwater.

OFF the water I consider myself reasonably tech savvy. I enjoy playing with iPhones, cameras, computers and technology in general. On the water, however, I prefer to concentrate on the job at hand – fishing. For this reason I like my marine electronics to be user friendly and intuitive. Like most family blokes with a busy job, my fishing time is limited. I just don’t have time to spend hours on the water scrolling through menus or undertaking complicated procedures to get the screen images I need.

During my time in the fishing media, I’ve noted that American marine electronics company Lowrance has not only been a leader in developing top quality electronics, but has focused on producing products that are easy to operate and don’t require a degree in computer science to use. All the Lowrances I’ve used required only a few quick sessions spent learning the basics. After getting a handle on the technology, the units did what all good marine electronics should: complement your fishing and help catch you more fish.

The latest Sonar/Chartplotter from Lowrance is the HDS Gen3 family, comprising seven, nine and 12-inch screens. I had the previous Gen2 seven-inch unit fitted to my Scout centre console and found it an essential fishing item on my boat while chasing all sorts of fresh and saltwater species in a range of locations. The touch screen controls were simple to use and the crystal clear readings, both on traditional sonar and StructureScan, were easy to define. Knowing it was onto a good thing, Lowrance released the HDS Gen3 earlier this year, which included a few additions to make the unit even better.

Opening the box of the test HDS7 Gen 3, the first thing I noticed was a slightly different button layout compared with the Gen2. Lowrance has recognised not everyone wants the touch screen capability all the time and so has increased the button controls. This gives users the option of touch screen or full keypad control. Personally I love touch screen, but with wet hands and in rough water, it’s often not practical. Being able to switch between touch and manual control is a good idea.

After firing up the unit and using it for a day, the immediate difference between the Gen2 and Gen3 was the speed of loading pages and the crystal clear resolution. The Gen2 was pretty good in this regard but Lowrance has made it even better with the Gen3. There’s nothing worse than lengthy lag times when loading a page and the Gen3’s enhanced processor is certainly speedy. The screen itself is also brighter and features better resolution, meaning glare won’t get in the way of viewing the unit.

The Gen3 also comes with built-in CHIRP sonar and broadband StructureScan. CHIRP gives the sonar extra clarity when searching for bait and fish in all depths. Identifying bait and fish holding structure around Sydney Harbour has become a whole lot easier with CHIRP and broadband StructureScan. I often use a combination of Sonar/Sidescan and often sonar/DownScan/SideScan, so no stone is left unturned. The image on this page shows a tightly packed school of kingfish rounding up bait in Sydney’s Pittwater. The fish were spotted on the CHIRP Sonar and become visible a minute later busting up bait on the surface. It’s pretty cool when the screen image transforms to real life fish in front of your eyes!

Another feature of the HDS Gen3 is full integration with other parts of the boat. With compliable products, Lowrance has made it possible to steer the boat via the outboard and electric motor. With the help of NMEA 2000, all readings including speed, fuel and engine data are available through the HDS interface. Most of my focus has been on the Sonar and StructureScan, but the HDS Gen3 features a capable chartplotter with the option of several maps including Lowrance’s own Insight Genesis mapping software.

Add to that Lowrance’s GoFree wireless feature which allows instant downloads of Insight Genesis updates including user generated maps. GoFree also opens up integration with smartphones and leaves the door open for plug-in updates as Lowrance improves its technology. Don’t let the simple user operation fool you – with its HDS Gen3, Lowrance has built a technologically advanced unit with all the features you’d expect from a high end sounder.

More information including the entire range of marine electronics can be found on the Lowrance website

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