A chartplotter is an essential tool in modern boating as it’s usually used pretty heavily. If you are considering to make a purchase for one, there are some things to consider. Chartplotters have become more sophisticated over the years and come loaded with so many features that it has become difficult to select the right device. Lots of units go beyond the basic mapping and have more elaborate interfaces and big touch screen displays that provide so much information that can be overwhelming for beginners. Some of the things that you have to take into account are:
1. Screen size
Having a small skiff usually means that free dash or console space is an issue so just by considering this you can eliminate almost all the chartplotters with large displays. They will most likely simply not fit. Smaller displays also have the advantage that they tend to be self-contained. Components like antennas are built-in right into the display head. This doesn’t mean that units with bigger screens aren’t recommended. If you have enough space to accommodate them, they will definitely provide a more rewarding experience. Seeing details in the charts will become difficult and frustrating with a small screen. If you wish to avoid having to constantly zoom in and out just to find out where you are, then by all means, go for a larger screen size. You might also be interested in our articles about the best walkie talkies and the best cell phone signal boosters.
All chartplotters provide some nautical charts but they can vary from unit to unit so be sure to look for a device that has the right charts for your needs. It’s also good to look at the available optional charts.
Any chartplotter worth its cost also offers road and trail maps because lots of boaters like the outdoors in more ways than just fishing. Detailed maps for hiking, bike and auto touring can add some good value for any chartplotter.
If the unit has a sonar on board it’s nice to be also able to accessorize it properly. Some advanced units come with Wi-Fi capabilities to display sonar on smartphones and tablets.
So there you have it, these the are the most important features that you have to keep an eye out for when you go hunting for a chartplotter. To simplify your buying process even further, this article presents the best products that you can rely on when you go on a marine adventure. They are all extremely well-balanced when analyzing the cost relative to their features. Some of them are better suited for those with lower budgets and others will be very appreciated by the seasoned veterans who want something more advanced.
Best Marine Chartplotter
If you wish to get more out of every day on the water, the Simrad GO7 XSE represents the perfect fit for many dayboats and compact sports boats. Behind its shiny touchscreen, you’ll discover a capable chartplotter with a built-in GPS receiver and Wi-Fi connectivity to get the latest charts and updates.
Ease-of-use is an important factor to consider for any chartplotter and this model offers some of the most intuitive touchscreen controls that will seem very familiar for lots of smartphone and tablet users. Simply tap to create or select waypoints or tap and drag to pan across charts effortlessly. Accessing all functions quickly can be done with the help of the home screen and menu layouts that present all the options with clearly-captioned icons large enough to recognize at a glance.
What’s nice about the interface is that it’s so customizable. The user can add shortcuts for the most used features on the home screen and personalize it with a wallpaper. There are split-screen views that can be adjusted as well as customisable panel layouts which deliver the most relevant information you need on-screen at once.
In terms of navigation, this unit offers support for a vast range of cartography options including Navionics, Insight, Insight Genesis, MAX-N, and many more. This is a flexible device allowing you to navigate with confidence to various destinations no matter how close or far are and according to your particular needs and location.
Due to practical waypoint management, you can set and record your preferred destination more conveniently. Mark the waypoints with a simple touch and to remember them better you can also assign meaningful names so that you can find the desired destination even if you’ve mapped out hundreds of places.
This unit can exceed your expectations as it has some great potential for a chartplotter. The simplicity of use coupled with the powerful technologies incorporated in such a compact device definitely makes the Simrad GO7 XSE a winner in the industry. Considering also how straightforward the installation process goes, this is a product that’s fully worth the cost.
- Wide cartography support (Insight, Navionics, CMAP)
- Easy to use multi-touch interface
- GoFree Wi-Fi
- 7-inch flush or bracket mount display
- Includes TotalScan transducer
Best GPS Chartplotter
Garmin is a powerful player on the market for chartplotters and their echoMAP CHIRP combo series is incredibly successful. This model is part of this series and it offers built-in CHIRP ClearVU and CHIRP traditional sonar. The price is more reasonable than other models but without making compromises on performance so this one is worth taking a look at.
The CHIRP sonar found in this unit uses some of the most advanced technology available to the public for fishing and boating. It provides very clear target separation and extra definition thanks to the fact that it concentrates more energy onto the target compared to conventional sonars. A sonar-recording capability is included and can be helpful to retrieve digital information for later playback on a computer.
The ClearVu scanning sonar from Garmin delivers an almost photographic image of whatever passes below your boat. Submerged objects and the structure can be observed and of course, you can also spot the fish. The preloaded LakeVu HD maps include more than 17000 US lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. The details of underwater features are truly stunning and thanks to the Shallow Water Shading feature, you can designate a minimum depth. It’s nice that you can also view general roads and bridges, interstates, highways and many more.
If you would like to create your own HD maps, you can do that without too much hassle and personalize them with 1-foot contours tailoring them to suit your needs. The internal 5 Hz GPS updates position and heading five times per second. Another feature worth mentioning is the convenient and effortless install or removal process. Cords plug directly into the mount so you can install and remove the device more quickly. You can take it with you when you’re off waters without having to mess with plugging and unplugging lots of wires.
Simple to install and to deal with the set-up process, the Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 53cv provides an outstanding experience during your boating expeditions. The charts offers excellent guidance for the waypoint of your choice and the unit enables you to almost see each fish and tree right under your boat. Taking into account the balanced price, this chartplotter is recommended for anyone who wants a high-quality device that works like a charm.
- CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar
- 500 W CHIRP traditional sonar
- Maps and charts
- Internal 5 Hz GPS
- Garmin Quickdraw Contours software feature
Best Sailing Chartplotter
The Echomap Chirp 44Cv is another reliable Garmin chartplotter which offers built-in maps and charts, a clearer scanning sonar over the previous generation, and an internal 5 Hz GPS that’s considered the best for its class. In terms of cost, the good news don’t stop as the unit is relatively inexpensive for what it can do.
This model offers the BlueChart charts that include most of US coastlines including the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. Tidal and current stations are included, as well as depth contours, fishing charts, and IALA nav symbols. The sonar gives you a wide image of what’s below your boat and the quality is nearly photographic. Fish can be observed very clearly.
The CHIRP sonar found in this device is extremely sophisticated providing better target separation and solid definition. It has recording capabilities coordinating the timing of the boat’s position with the sonar return and saving the digital data to be analyzed on a computer. This can be done with the help of HomePort planning software and the included user data sharing cable is pretty handy if you want to share waypoints and routes with other devices.
A single microSD card slot enables you to expand the available memory of the chartplotter for accessory map purchases. Some of the best ones are LakeVu HD Ultra or BlueChart g2 Vision HD that come with many extra features like Garmin’s patented Auto Guidance function among others. In case you have in your possession waypoints, routes or tracks that are stored on a GPS product from another manufacturer, or on some old Garmin handheld unit, there’s the possibility to transfer them on your new Garmin chartplotter. The industry-standard GPX software formatting should easily handle this task.
Considering that this model works as advertised and functions perfectly for a wide range of boats, the Garmin Echomap Chirp 44Cv is highly recommended. The transducer sometimes has slight issues with the connectivity and the installation instructions are not very intuitive, but overall this chartplotter is worth the money.
- Clear scanning sonar
- Garmin QuickDraw contours software feature
- Chirp sonar
- Maps and charts
- Internal 5 Hz GPS
Due to the fact that it has a generous 10-inch display and a very sensitive GPS, the Garmin 010-01184-01 is a greatly appreciated chartplotter and sonar combo. There are lots of features to be excited about in this model including the preloaded coastal and inland waters maps, wireless connectivity, and NMEA 2000 support.
The internal GPS antenna of this model provides accurate trails and smooth chart performance. It delivers position and heading updates ten times per second as well as fluidly displaying the on-screen location.
The mapping options are pretty extensive, the unit includes built-in USA charts for US waters, both coastal and inland. Garmin added thousands of freshwater maps (LakeVü HD) with plenty of detailed underwater features. Thanks to the Shallow Water Shading feature, you can designate a minimum depth, fishing areas, and other points of interests like boat ramps, docks, and campgrounds.
A flexible unit, it has been designed for those that own a transducer already and it can play well with a variety of compatible CHIRP transducers. It’s capable of displaying crystal-clear sonar images that detail fishing hot spots, diving locations, or ship wreckage.
Garmin made some serious improvements to the CHIRP technology as it offers incredible target separation and high-resolution even at deeper depths. The sonar can dial into specific frequencies if you want to target certain fish species. No need to worry about degraded visibility during speedy runs as this chartplotter makes no compromises when it displays bottom contours. Signal noise is well suppressed at greater depths for a better understanding of what’s below.
This is the kind of unit that will take some time to fully master but it can deliver a rewarding experience in the end. As it’s able to flawlessly tackle any fishing and navigating job, the Garmin 010-01184-01 is worth considering if you’re in the market for a premium chartplotter.
- 10-inch color SVGA display
- High-sensitivity 10 Hz GPS/GLONASS receiver
- NMEA 2000 Support
- Garmin CHIRP, and DownVu sonar
- LakeVu HD and Blue Chart g2 coastal maps
Best Chartplotter Fishfinder
The Garmin Striker 4 is a revolutionary step forward for the marine electronics industry as it provides lots of high-quality features for the price. It comes with a built-in CHIRP/Structure Scan Sonar and a high-sensitivity GPS. The interface of this model is incredibly easy to navigate through, giving you intuitive control functions accessible by using a keypad with dedicated buttons.
This model comes with a CHIRP transducer that offers a solid level of clarity to spot fish and structure with more details. The CHIRP is capable of sending more than just a single frequency. It can send a continuous range of frequencies from low to high and can interpret each one of them upon their return. The reason why this is a useful thing is that certain frequencies offer more information and as a consequence, you can obtain a greater target separation.
A powerful GPS has been included in this series of devices and it will provide your position in relation to the marked waypoints. There’s a waypoint map included which can be handy to see locations like docks, brush piles or stumps and conveniently mark and navigate to them. Finding your way back to the boat ramp is another problem that can be solved by using this tool.
To make sure you’re going at the right speed for the lure, this unit displays the speed of your boat. It can be especially useful if you hunt a particular fish species but it’s also a great way to tell if you go over the allowed speed in wake-controlled areas.
For protecting the device, Garmin provides a portable kit that can be used to carry the device. This means that you can go ice fishing or with a kayak or canoe without worrying about damaging the unit. The kit also comes with a sealed rechargeable battery charger and it has built-in transducer cable management and storage.
Figuring this unit out will need a bit of research, but it can pay off in the end. It has lots of solid features that any chartplotter should have to be able to deliver a quality boating experience. The price makes this one a very affordable and it will definitely make a very good investment in the long run. The Garmin Striker 4 is one of the top recommendations on this list.
- ClearVü scanning sonar
- Keyed interface with dedicated buttons
- Easy to use and to install
- 3.5-inch color display
- CHIRP (77/200 kHz) sonar transducer
- High-sensitivity GPS
Garmin is a very appreciated maker of chartplotters and the last unit worth looking at is the GPSMAP 78 which is suitable for those with more limited budgets that still want a quality device. It’s not as reliable compared to other devices on this list and the 2.6-inch display is not exactly optimal for looking at the charts, but it does have some interesting features worth exploring.
Due to a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, this device will locate your precise position very quickly. Even during those times when you find yourself in heavy cover and deep canyons, it should be able to maintain an accurate GPS location.
When it comes to the maps it’s important to mention that the base model has no sensors or charts and you might want to look into it and decide which is the right version for you. The microSD card makes it easy to add detailed marine as well as road and topographic maps. If you’re worried about water getting into the card slot, it should be noted that it’s located inside the waterproof battery compartment.
This device comes with support for BirdsEye Satellite Imagery though it requires a subscription. It lets you download images that are captured from satellites directly to your device and integrate them with the maps. Additionally, this chartplotter is fully compatible with Custom Maps, a free software that turns any paper and electronic maps into ones you can download to your device.
Another interesting aspect regarding this chartplotter is the geocaching support for the GPX files, downloading geocaches directly to the unit. In this device, you can store and display key information like location, descriptions, and terrain. The times when you had to manually enter coordinates and use paper are now long gone as you can simply upload the GPX file to the chartplotter and go looking for caches more efficiently.
With solid functions overall and portable enough for a variety of outdoor pursuits, this Garmin model is especially recommended for those who need a more compact unit that’s also less costly. The lack of pre-loaded marine charts in the base model can be a problem as you will have to spend more for the version that includes them but the price is still pretty reasonable. It may not be a perfect device but it seems to accomplish its purpose without any glaring flaws so it’s recommended.
- 2.6-Inch 65K color TFT display
- MicroSD card slot
- High-sensitivity GPS
- Waterproof IPX7
- Supports geocaching GPX files