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Lowrance Elite-4 HDI, a whole lot of tech for a little dough

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Lowrance_Elite-4_HDI.jpgWhile I don't normally follow the small-size displays closely, the new Lowrance Elite-4 HDI models seems to sport a remarkable ratio of dedicated marine electronics to cost. Their bright 4.3-inch LED-backlit screens, for instance, are substantially bigger than the Elite-4 models they replace. The plain Lowrance Elite-4 HDI, with a suggested $299 retail price, not only offers both regular fishfinding and high-frequency narrow beam downscanning -- each with a shallow/deep frequency choice built into the included transom transducer -- but also includes GPS, a bundle of lake and coastal cartography and support for all sorts of chart card types...

Lowrance Elite-4m HD Gold which includes an SD card of Navionics Gold detailed charts for the U.S., Canada, and Bahamas while losing the fishfinding and $30 of suggested retail. There's also a $199 Lowrance Elite-4x HDI that's fishfinder only and an Lowrance Elite-4 HDI Gold that includes everything mentioned for $369.
Don't I remember proprietary memory cards containing small regions of relatively crude digital charts that cost as much as all this hard and software? I know that the beloved trend of consumer electronics is more for less, but it often seems less evident in the much smaller world of marine electronics. I suppose it's the relatively high numbers of small fishing boats that largely make this high level of boat gear value possible, but isn't it also a reminder of how far and fast we've come?

Lowrance_Elite_HDI_DownScan_Overlay_cPanbo.jpgPlus, the Elite Hybrid Dual Imaging models offer a Downscan Overlay feature that seems valuable. I don't have an image of it working on the new Elite-4 display. The idea is that laying the more detailed structure-oriented grayscale downscan imagery over the blobbier, but more sensitive and color-coded Broadband Sonar, can reveal fish even when they're otherwise nearly hidden in the structure. I have not yet seen this feature live (that may happen this January in tropical waters ;-), but I suspect that it's another reason why fishermen who already have a finder and even curious cruisers may be interested in the new generation of sonar. Note that Lowrance has Humminbird competition in this same size/price range, and if you're looking for a somewhat bigger plotter with advanced sonar, you should also check out Garmin's latest and Raymarine's latest.

Finally, check out the free Insight Genesis custom online chart of Camden Harbor that I was able to create with just the DownScan data I can record with the StructureScan unit. I can use it to watch the downscan video anywhere along my recorded track, so I've seen enough versions of the unusual structure shown below to be sure it's the outlet of my town's wastewater treatment plant! If I had an Elite-4 or many other Lowrance dual imaging setups, I could also view the simultaneously captured sonar and if I purchased an Insight Genesis subscription, I could adjust the map for tide, view bottom types and even download a chart I could take back to the MFD. The bottom line, so to speak, is that you can create maps like this with just a small boat and less than $300 worth of electronics.