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Posted by on Mar 27, 2012 in Boat Equipment, Fishing, Marine Electronics, Top Picks, US |

Top 3 Fishfinders Under $300: Humminbird vs. Lowrance vs. Garmin

Here are our top choices for inexpensive fishfinders, as well as some info on units that cost under $100.

Looking for a fishfinder that costs less than $300? Chances are Humminbird, Lowrance, and Garmin are all on your radar screen. But, which of these units is right for you, and why? Let’s check out our top picks.

Humminbird vs. Lowrance vs. Garmin: which is your best fishfinder pick?

Humminbird vs. Lowrance vs. Garmin: which is your best fishfinder pick?

Humminbird has several offerings in this price category, including the entire PiranhaMAX series which starts with the amazingly inexpensive $80 PiranhaMAX 150. Our top contender under $300 is the Humminbird 728. Although this is a black and white unit (and there are some less-expensive color units to choose from) this one has a whopping 640 x 320 pixels presented on a five-inch, 16 level grayscale LCD screen. All of those pixels ensure high detail and target separation down to 2.5 inches. Plus, it comes with a dual-beam 200/83 kHZ transducer and 500 watts of power, so you can use this unit in much deeper water than some other inexpensive units.

Lowrance also starts the bidding wars at around $80 with its X-4. But our top pick of their offerings under $300 is the Elite-4. Although it has a relatively small screen size at four inches, and less detail with 320 x 240 pixels, it offers an LED-backlighted color screen and a built-in chartplotter. Both a fishfinder and a chartplotter, for less than $300 bucks? You bet—and it also has that dual 200/83 kHZ transducer. Plus, this unit is rated waterproof to IPX-7 standards, so you know it’ll last even on the helm of a small, open boat.

Garmin gets into the game with the Echo 100, a unit that’s similar to the X-4 and the PiranhaMAX 150, and which costs—you guessed it—about $80. The Echo 300C, however, comes in at $220, and it offers a lot of bang for the buck with a 3.5 inch color 320 x 240 pixel screen and the same dual-frequency abilities of its competitors. Yes, the screen is smaller and no, it doesn’t have GPS, but it also costs a lot less than those other units.

So, which one of these is the best for you? If you need a chartplotter to go along with the fishfinder, that Lowrance X-4 is a hands-down winner. If you don’t need help navigating, having a color screen is important to you, and you like the idea of saving a few extra bucks, go for the Garmin Echo 300C. And if screen size and target separation trump color and GPS, the Humminbird 728 should be your top pick.

And if you can spend a bit more cash to get a higher quality unit, here are five tips you should always consider when choosing fishfinders (and chartplotters) with a bigger budget.
Lenny Rudow