June 5, 2018

RANT: Why do marine electronics suck so bad?

I've bit my tongue for years, but now I'm going to say what's on everyone's mind.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why marine electronics are so expensive, but do so little, especially for the dollar.

I don't think I'm being out of line here.

Price Point

Consider an iPhone X: it's price point is a little over $1,000 and it can do way more things than any Lowrance/Humminbird/Garmin going for twice as much can.

It's absolutely mind-boggling to me.

I've done my research and have yet to find what goes into a graph that makes it so hard to manufacture, besides lack of volume.

It's certainly not more advanced. (if I'm wrong, correct me!)


If you're reading this, chances are you own a smartphone. Hell, you're probably reading this on one!

So there's no need for me to explain what a smartphone can do: anything a leading name-brand graph can.

Except for sonar. Really good sonar, that is.

But even then, it's a matter of time before Elon Musk decides to prank the recreational fishing industry with a Bluetooth-connectable transducer capable of 2D, down and side imaging sonar.

Then it's over!


I've been spending the last week trying to get my Humminbird recordings to render on my Macbook and Windows laptop, and it has been an absolute nightmare.

Why the hell doesn't this thing work?

And have you tried networking multiple units? It's not rocket science, and some (like the HDS) are easier than others, but how in the heck have these not become Bluetooth-compatible with each other?

I. Am. Tired. Of. Run-ning. Ca-bles.

Screen Resolution

Again, I can watch movies on my iPhone 7, I could never do that on my Helix.  The Helix 7 barely renders images as well as it could.

This is because the iPhone rocks a way more advanced screen, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels

The Helix 7? 800 x 480.

That's just....sad.


Look, I am ranting, just blowing off a little steam. But this is also a cry in the wilderness, "What the heck is going on?!?"

And a part of me is hoping one of you, with more experience in the electronics industry, could reach out to me and tell me why.

Otherwise that annoying little voice in the back of my head is concocting a conspiracy theory as to why the leading name-brands are sandbagging on electronics performance.

So please, comment below!

Tight lines, y'all!

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a former fishing guide and lifelong inshore angler. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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  • I agree with you. I have had my boat for ten years and during that time it has had a hummingbird matrix 97, two 600 series, one 800 series side imaging, one matrix 7 side imaging, and now it has a 94s series side imaging Garmin. the garmin mapping and sonar is superior in my view. considering the cost it should be. in view of the navy seals mantra of one spare is none, my boat has the matrix 7 up front by the trolling motor, the 600 series and the garmin are on the console. the helix 7 will plug into the cables for the 600 series if needed.
    I am also in the process of installing a marine radio, for safety sake,

  • You are completely right. Marine Technology has lagged behind the industry and pricing is totally out of line. I just went from Garmin 740s to HDS 9 Gen 2 Touch. There should be a portable device that has the size and brains of 10″ Ipad that we cab snap on dashboard and enjoy navigation/sonar/ hell even social media while out on the water. Can you imagine what the costs of dual large screens – radar – weather alerts – sonar – plus whatever other items we install on our boat? Now if we only had Apple or Flir or Nest or insert your favorite vendor here developing this hardware. In reality I’d love to have a google maps like app that allowed me quickly to show history of coastline over the years. Easily readable. touch screen. Connected to satellites and cell service. talk to every device on boat (sonar/engine/radar/radio) – be voice activated like Alexa, etc. Hopefully next 10 years show some advancement like the last 10. (Standard Mapping 2011 e-cards)

  • and there you have it. Since meeting and following you and LAFB I have made certain upgrades based on recommends I have found here and elsewhere. I recently purchased the HDS for the Whaler and have it running alongside an older Garmin 470s (discontinued) unit. I spent nearly three weeks building a satellite map to run on the HDS, and found a reasonably priced map for the Garmin unit (only to find it was incompatible). I managed to get a route loaded from BSM to the Long Rocks that I built with LAFB help but all the waypoints and various safe passages I had built along the way using the knowledge you passed along using G Earth are nowhere to be found and the satellite image is to dark to be able for me to see when on the water. It looks good in the boat when it is in the garage.

    I’m no ludite, I have Microsoft certifications and a number of years worth of experience in IT having worked for the major utility company here in N.O.

    I found the HDS does offer some utility, quite a bit actually but mapping is an issue. The built in maps supplied by Lowrance or Navionics are great I am sure for open water. For the marshes it’s hit and miss, mostly miss making the Standard mapping or Satellite imagery a must. I am better off using a tablet or my huge ass Android cell but for the fact it doesn’t “track”.

    The marketing for any and all of these devices works! Everything is pretty, pretty, pretty up until the time we get on the water and it is less so. It reminds me of shopping for a flat screen at the major box stores and all the sets are running the “demo”. Lot’s of bright colors, crystal clear imaging.

    I am an Old Water Dog, and used to running deep water off the coast of So Cal, this shallow water kind of freaks me out. I am comfortable on the water but remain so very cautious about where me, my boat, and usually a family member tread. I really just want safe routes through the marshes as I’m not headed to the gulf anytime soon. I know snot grass when I see it, I just need to get in there safely with the tides and such.

    It’s great being able to pull up 3D on the HDS, if only I could accomodate a 21″ unit so these tired old fkn eys could see shiT!
    I think you are right. The next gen (within 3-5 years) we will see an app for that. It’ll all be USB or Bluetooth compatible/wireless devices and there’ll be an app for that that you can use to run it on your cell or phablet. Those devices have come a long way and have a long way to go.

    I’ve got one more weekend in June coming up that I can get the Whaler on the water. I’m going to go spend some more $’s and pony up for Standard mapping. Now the question is a matter of which version to buy , mild, spicy or extra hot?

    Why wait for Elon Musk? We could build that app and the security needed to keep others from peeking.

    Tight Lines and Semper Fi!

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