In the offer hierarchy of Lowrance fish finder, the HDS Carbon Series 2 is in the high-end range, which means: what is technically feasible and opportune at the moment, is in this fish finder family.
Whoever enters here has checked his petty cash carefully and rather does not have a 7″ device on his mind.
Well, the answer is simple and obvious: anyone who needs a combination device with higher demand in mobile use or want to equip a small boat or such users who need an additional solution on the boat in the outdoor area.
This predestines the 7″ variant for the demanding user who does not have to turn over every penny when buying.
We took a look at the Lowrance HDS-7 Carbon in practice, also to clarify the question of what value you get.
The answer is equally interesting for the larger models of the Carbon family, in the 1:1 implementation (except for the larger screen) directly for the 9″ edition as well.
Equipment and operating comfort of the Lowrance HDS-7 Carbon
The excellent SolarMax HD display catches the eye right from the first steps. It has a good resolution of 1024×600 pixels in 7″ and clearly outperforms the competitors, even from our own company, in terms of clarity, brightness and color reproduction.
The effective anti-reflective coating of the screen supports a wide viewing angle of almost 180°, but also predestines the TFT for an unobstructed view through polarizing sun protection glasses.
Unlike the old HDS series, the Carbon models are equipped with a dual core high-performance processor, which visibly speeds up the processes. No more waiting times during overlay-heavy card building.
The screen scrolling, the update imports and the fish finder processes such as Chirp Sonar, Structure Scan and StructureMap™ including screen splitting run quickly and smoothly. There appears to be sufficient hardware reserves for future upgrades as well.
The HDS-7 Carbon can be operated via touchscreen and keyboard. This puts an end to any discussion of which is the better alternative. An intuitively designed interface facilitates the familiarization and is very comfortable in the processes.
Each app can be controlled directly without having to go through numerous submenus. For network integration, there are NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 interfaces, as well as Ethernet connections and two card slots for microSD cards, which are operated from the front.
In addition, you can also work wirelessly. The Lowrance GoFree app opens via wifi, for example, software updates, chart purchase or access to the cloud database where Inside Genesis user charts are stored. Bluetooth is also available.
Two diagnostic tools are available for easy handling and support. While the Network Analyser can check the network for drivers and updates, the Service Assistant can be used to request technical problem solutions via the Navico server.
Plug and Play is the name of the game in the marine network, and there is nothing to stop the connection of expansion modules such as broadband radar, marine audio, video view, etc. In stand-alone as well as in a network, the HDS-7 Carbon is multi-transducer capable, even if one of the transducers should be hooked up. What more could you want?
Navigation and nautical charts
The built-in chartplotter is equipped with a 10 Hz GPS module. It finds existing satellites quickly and reliably and ensures accurate positioning of the vehicle on the nautical chart even at slow boat speeds.
5000 waypoints, 200 routes and 100 trails (each with 10000 waypoints) can be stored and integrated into the active navigation at any time. A comprehensive icon list facilitates an individualization of routes via meaningful representations of waypoints on the map.
In general, marking waypoints with “Touch” shows how easy it is and how quickly you can create reproducible hotspot tracks on a single fishing day. As far as the use of nautical charts is concerned, the HDS-7 Carbon chartplotter offers a wide range of options.
In addition to the “own mapping” of “mapless” waters via C-Map Genesis, the possibilities to refine existing map material, map series of the major suppliers Navionics and Jeppesen (C-Map) can be used in various editions.
We tried Navionics Platinum+ Norway Plus and C-Map MaxN+ North Sea and Denmark and were impressed. The possibilities to find possible hotspots with the bathymetric maps (fishing maps) integrated in both systems and to build drag tracks in the run-up to a fishing trip excited us just as much as the 3-D possibilities of the map display. Safe route suggestions to the selected destination were also gladly used.
Overall, we liked the Navionic charts a bit better, as they are more detailed than the C-Map competition. For example, Navionic’s fishing charts show underwater conditions more vividly.
This is mainly due to the denser depth contours, but is also supported by the selected shading. However, C- Map N+ are a good alternative, which can sometimes be obtained cheaply as a promotion with a device purchase. Another extremely useful function comes from the device itself.
StruktureMap offers the possibility to overlay the side scan image with your own maps. This makes it clear which underwater structures are around the current boat position. Overall, there is nothing to criticize about the plotter itself and its possibilities. All functions are well developed, easy to handle and safe to use. Even upscale demands should be met.
Echosounder function and Lowrance Total Scan transducer
In the high-end class of fish finder fishing, we find, in addition to the traditional 2-D sonar with chirp function, the structure scan possibilities again, which are already part of the sonar equipment in the mid-range (eg Elite Ti, Simrad Go).
However, the HDS-7 Carbon can do even more, as can be seen impressively in pictures of the Strukture Scan 3D. To use these possibilities, however, a separate transducer is required and also an additional expansion module for the 3D technology. An additional transducer is also required to use the Spotlight technology.
The Spotlight Scan feature pairs with the trolling motor to show structure and fish in front of and around the boat before fishing that area.
In its basic configuration, the device operates with three possible fixed frequencies (50/83/200 Mhz) in the traditional 2-D method and with 455/800 Mhz frequencies in the structure scan range.
The included Total Scan transducer supports 83 and 200 Mhz as fixed frequency in 2D, but covers the specified structure scan range. It is very similar to the previous LSS-2 transducer from the Lowrance portfolio.
The HDS-7 Carbon also pulses chirp in the 2-D range. The manufacturer refers to Mid Chirp and High Chirp ranges based on the specified 83/200 Mhz fixed frequencies. The included Total Scan transducer can modulate the sound waves around these corner points, providing a certain range of frequencies instead of a single one.
The chirp technique provides higher selectivity for detected objects, suppresses interference better and ensures clean and clear images on the display. In our experience, however, the possibilities of the Totalscan are limited. A real chirp transducer from Airmar, e.g. a TM150, which is compatible with the HDS-7 Carbon (adapter cable required), produces better images.
This may be due to the wider frequency range of the Airmar transducer, but it may also be due to the sonar technology itself, since the Total Scan transducer is a fixed frequency type and has not been modified for chirping. Nevertheless, the chirp possibilities with the Total Scan transducer are not bad.
In the split method, both chirp techniques (High and Med Chirp) can be used simultaneously. On the one hand, this has the advantage of displaying details on a small scale (High Chirp), and on the other hand, it allows the use of the large scan area in the Med Chirp method. With this, you can possibly even do more when fishing than is possible with a single chirp range and higher resolution.
With the Total Scan transducer, the Lowrance HDS-7 Carbon has sidescan and downscan capabilities in the Structure Scan section, which can be displayed individually in full screen, in split screen together, or with other functions from 2-D or the charts.
In the sidescan range, scan widths to the left and right of the boat are possible up to 90 m (455Khz) individually or simultaneously. Depth soundings reach down to around 100 m in the structure scan range. With traditional 2-D chirp it goes down to 300 m, which should be sufficient for most applications.
In practice, the fish sonar images in quality and scope also depends on the boat speed, which in our experience is optimal in the range 5-7 mph. Depth sounding with display of the baseline, however, the device still provides at higher speeds up to over 30 mph.
However, this requires optimal transducer mounting and a boat type that is not prone to strong turbulence in the tail area.
The sonar quality of the HDS-7 Carbon with the Totalscan transducer differs only slightly from the mid-range Elite Ti and Simrad Go7xse fish finder models, except for the additional features. This is hardly surprising, since the same technology and the same transducer are used.
Basically, the scan results are very good in the structure scan area with slight advantages over the competition in the same price sector, but fall off depending on the competitor in the 2-D chirp images, as long as only the total scan transducer is used.
Otherwise, a HDS-7 Carbon of course masters all standard functions of the current sonar technology. These are, for example, possibilities of sonar recording and playback (incl. rewind), which are very useful if you want to navigate through areas again.
It can also be used to generate your own map records via C-Map Genesis. Very helpful is also the Fish ID function with and without depth indication. Here fish symbols are used instead of fish arcs.
The ultimate echolocation guide!
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Useful for those for whom the fish arches leave too much room for interpretation and who expect help from the fish finder as to what is ultimately there on the screen.
Also in terms of power, the sonar module with 500 W RMS does not differ from an Elite Ti or Simrad Go device. It only gets interesting when using the 3D structure scan technology and a real chirp transducer.
However, both raise the question of the extent to which it is still possible to work comfortably with several transducers and an additional module. The transducer upgrade seems to make more sense in a marine network with several devices, since all options can be used together. In this way, the costs also pay off better.
The normal user will be satisfied with the Lowrance HDS-7 Carbon with the TotalScan transducer. In this configuration, the price is manageable at around 1250.00 €. In a competitive comparison, you get your money’s worth.
One acquires an advanced modern-designed high-performance device with 2D chirp and structure scan function, a well-equipped chartplotter, powerful hardware and an excellent screen. The network capabilities are diverse and the wireless communication capabilities are well developed.
The device is suitable for both freshwater and saltwater applications, is excellently manufactured and comes with all the necessary accessories (bracket, mounting frame, cover) required for daily use.
The Total Scan transducer is a viable compromise in performance and ease of use. One can live with the fish finder performance even if the 2-D chirp range is only average and the 3-D capable StructureScan and other features are not available with this transducer.
The complete equipment with additional Strukture Scan 3D is now worth considering at around 1680€.
Which are the best fish finders? Find out the answer in our in-depth fish finder review.
This brings us to the end of our detailed test-review of this fish finder and chartplotter from the Lowrance HDS series. If you have any questions, additions or comments, please let us know – we are looking forward to your feedback – or have a look at the other fish finder reviews in our extensive fish finder test (including the newest models of all important fish finder manufacturers like Garmin, Lowrance, Humminbird or Raymarine). Have fun on your next fishing trip and “Petri Heil”! – Martin and Jens.