HDS, a major Lowrance refresh


Today Lowrance is announcing a new series of multifunction displays called HDS that I’m excited about seeing at the boat show (and trying when they ship in a few months). The acronym stands for High Definition System, and seems justified on several counts: all the plotter/fishfinders in the series have Lowrance Broadband Sounder technology built in; all have new and more detailed Lake Insight, Nautic Insight or at least an enhanced U.S. basemap built in, and can display every Navionics chart card, including HD Platinum Plus; and all, even the 5” combo model above, can also display Lowrance HD radar, via Ethernet. And there’s more…

All the HDS screens—which come in 5”, 6.4”, 8.4”, and 10” sizes—supposedly incorporate the “latest SolarMAX PLUS display enhancement” and the models with the two bigger screens have soft keys in addition to what’s termed “a newly designed menu system.” Notice the very neat looking soft key implementation on the HDS 10 below, and bigger here .
   All HDS models (except the sonar-only ones) will also be able to integrate with a new Sirius Satellite Weather and Audio receiver that Lowrance is introducing, and all include Lowrance’s already well developed NMEA 2000 abilities. In fact, I asked about AIS target display—which is not mentioned in the press releases that should come out any minute—and learned that HDS will support it via N2K (and thus the Navico NAIS-300). It seems to me that HDS, which will range from about $900 to $2,800, may be as useful on salt water as it is with Lowrance’s core freshwater fans. While I’ll report back after I visit Lowrance’s booth today, you also might want to check out www.hdsrevolution.com.


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

34 Responses

  1. Walleyed says:

    Thanks for posting this info!
    They look dang nice but I can’t wait to see them in action to see if they are worth the money.

  2. THis sounds great! Ben, do you know if they plan on offering a firmware upgrade for owners of previous generation gear? I have a 7300C HD, and I am most interested in AIS, and perhaps using Radar on two units at once via ethernet.

  3. Butch Davis says:

    I’ve read that the 2009 units are using a different operating system for the software. Linux (sp?) comes to mind. The talk is that for that reason the new (2009) features will not be available via a software update on the 2008 and earlier units.
    Disappointing but that’s the way it goes.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t know about the Linux part, though possible, but I’m pretty sure that HDS is a step change in Lowrance development. I’m told that no existing Lowrance features are missing, but there’s a heck of a lot that’s added or different.
    In fact, HDS is purportedly the first true Navico MFD, jointly developed by teams from all the Navico brands. I could literally see some of those influences during the demo I got in Fort Lauderdale. I’ll write more about that soon; HDS is looking to be a significant new series.
    (Chris, this doesn’t mean that your Lowrance won’t get upgrades, but I don’t think it will be HDS code, and realistically development of the current Lowrance line may slow down to a crawl. That’s the unfortunate side of a step change. But HDS is plug compatible with existing Lowrances, so it’s going to be easy to swap units, aside from the cost ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    From someone at Navico, somewhere on the planet:
    Yes, it uses Linux. We will release under GPL 2.
    We use QT for a lot of our software. See http://www.trolltech.com
    The software is not backwards compatible with older software. In other words you can not update old h/w with the new s/w.
    It is plug compatible.
    It is developed with all the people from the different brands. It’s a huge undertaking and a major achievement for any company. The team, in essence develops 24 hours a day, 6 days a week.
    Expect more software, for other brands, by Navico based on this design. Expect the UI to be different per brand.
    We are one company, with multiple unique brands.

  6. Ken Lahr says:

    Does anyone know if the current radars LR4000/LR5000 will work with the HDS units?

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I don’t know for sure, Ken, but I’d guess “yes” based on how careful Lowrance was make HDS plug compatible with existing head units.
    On the other hand, I spent part of the day interviewing a Lowrance product manager about Broadband Radar, and it’s sounding to me like a very compelling upgrade. In about a month, I’ll hopefully get to see HDS and Broadband Radar in action, and will of course report on it here.

  8. Ken says:

    Thanks Ben,
    I would have upgraded but I was able to jump on a CME deal on a LR4000 for $999, without the display.
    I also just missed a LR5000 for $650, CME had it listed at that price for 24 hours. I made the mistake of asking if it was right, the answer was “NO” and they changed it to $999. I plan to install 2 10 inch displays and a BB ducer. I will either go with a 113 and a HDS or two HDS units. I hope to be able to use the HDS display head so I can take advantage of the other advances, like weather overlays etc… Thanks for the post.

  9. Stenn says:

    I just got a shock while helping a friend research the new Lowrance HDS models for her “new” (1984) sailboat….every single one of the new HDS models have INTERNAL antennas!!! That SUCKS !! That will force sailboat installers to shell out the almost $300 extra for the external GPS antenna, or be forced to cut a hole in their cockpit bulkheads to do an external installation (unless you’re doing a pedestal/wheel-steering installation out in the cockpit), just so the stupid internal antenna can get a signal ! What a great step backwards! My GREAT LMS-525c came WITH it’s LGC-3000 antenna, for an extremely affordable $650, so these stupid new HDS packages are going to create a hot “underground” market for the old LMS models, because, in these hard times…people aren’t going to have the over-$1000 it’s now going to cost to get the same installation-performance they had with last year’s models! I guess Navico/Lowrance have decided they want to rub shoulders with the snob-brands like Furuno and Raymarine!? Bad timing, to say the least! ๐Ÿ™

  10. Dan (b393capt) says:

    I disagree. I see no problem having the GPS integated … lowers installation costs, and the chartplotter (if you only have one) belongs at the helm.
    I have dual chartplotters in my 39 foot sailboat, both at the helm and at the nav table.
    Having both … I find the one at the nav table is not only seldom used … but almost never used when underway, unless I need to use both. (e.g. I will go down below to program a route in a narrow water way, so that my wife can use the chartplotter at the helm to stay in deep water, even then, shame on me for not programming the route ahead of time)
    If I only could have had one … it would be a no brainer to install at the helm only.

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I also disagree. For one thing I very much doubt that the internal GPS contributes much to the overall cost of an HDS. Plus adding an external GPS will be easy given Lowrance’s excellent support of NMEA 2000, and relatively inexpensive given the growing competition amongst N2K GPS sensors.
    But, Stenn, did you check if the HDS internal GPS works in the sailboat cabin? It’s quite possible given how sensitive GPS receivers are getting.
    Finally, an LMS-525c has nowhere near the features and horsepower of an HDS, so price comparisons are faulty.

  12. stenn says:

    We all don’t have 39′ boats with wheel-steering and a pedestal mount to install these units on at the helm (read my first comment more closely)….some of us are using the “old fashioned” tiller steering. Yes, those are usually much smaller boats, and I would suggest those owners have much smaller budgets to match, not like you rich guys that don’t mind an extra $300 here, and an extra $300 there for one of these installations.
    In many tiller-steered sailboats I’ve seen, the skipper mounts one of these units on a pivoting arm on the inside of the cockpit bulkhead, then pivots it out into the companionway for visibility and access while underway, rather than cutting a hole in the cockpit bulkhead and mounting it “permanently” outside. This sort of installation involves the expense of only one unit, and also allows access and use in the relative comfort of the cabin while not underway, but inside would usually cut off the GPS signal if the antenna were built-in.
    Before I purchased, I read a LOT of complaints from owners of units with internal antennas from various brands, not just Lowrance, that complained they lost signal-lock frequently, or that it took forever to lock enough signals from enough satelites (you can’t just use one you know!), even in open-cockpit fishing boats. GPS is a low-power line-of-sight frequency, so I wasn’t surprised to read these complaints, and so went with the externally-mounted, NMEA2k-connected LGC-3000 antenna INCLUDED with my LMS-525c. This obviously allows installing the GPS receiver/antenna in an optimum location on the boat, where the signal will never be obstructed. My stern-mounted LGC-3000 has NEVER lost a signal, no matter how bad the weather. I would not want to risk signal-loss with an internal antenna…but then maybe the new model’s receivers are so incredibly better, that internal antennas won’t ever be a problem…I’ll be eager to hear reports from new users on that.
    I never suggested the internal receiver of the new HDS models “contributed to cost” of their production. I’m saying now those who do NOT have an external, wheel-steering pedestal to mount these on, and who do NOT want to cut a hole in their cockpit bulkhead to do an installation of that sort, will have to buy the GPS receiver separately, for another ~$300, as compared to previous packages where the LGC-3000 was INCLUDED in the box, for the extremely affordable price of around $650, TOTAL!
    So now, thanks to the internal-only design of these new models, with no option for an external model package where the receiver is included in the box. like they used to have, you can now automatically tack on an extra ~$300 for the external receiver with ANY of these new HDS models.
    In this global economic crisis, where thousands are receiving pink-slips every week, it’s just bad timing on Navico/Lowrance’s part to be making their new stuff more expensive, almost as expensive as going with a Raymarine or a Furuno…that’s all I’m talking about.
    Having “more horsepower” does not mean it has to be more expensive…the state-of-the-art in LCD screens, or a built-in 3D map, doesn’t mean it automatically has to cost more. I’m IN the electronics manufacturing industry. When there’s an advance in the manufacturing engineering state-of-the-art, such as in LCD’s, it usually includes a REDUCTION in the actual cost of producing that new level of technology, not an increase. We, as users, are just so ecstatic about the new “horsepower” and features, that those to whom money is no object gladly fork over however much more money mfg’s ask for, because we’re busy comparing it to the old stuff, and saying “sure, that’s worth it.”
    So, where a relatively state-of-the-art Lowrance installation used to cost a total of $650, now we can plan on about $1200.
    Sound good to you?

  13. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill, Stenn, and being rude about it to boot. You’re not the only person on this planet who cares about value, and the electronics manufacturers–who work in a very competitive environment–know that.
    BTW, where did you get $300 for the cost of a GPS sensor? And, besides, did you actually try the HDS internal GPS in that sailboat’s cabin? GPS sensors are not what they used to be even six months ago, so old issue reports don’t necessarily count. GPS is a technology that has gotten significantly better, smaller, and cheaper…thanks largely to huge mobile and automobile markets.

  14. stenn says:

    Yeah, you’re right Ben, twice the price is just a mole-hill. And OK, I’m quoting the $300 List Price for the external receiver…more like $240 street-price, while it used to be included. I think you guys that live and breath this hardware are used to the $1200-$2000 (or worse) price-tags, but people just installing for the first time are definitely going to get sticker-shock, now that Lowrance has stepped up into the Raymarine/Furuno/Garmin price-range, and the “golden days” of the $650 installation are gone. For a lot of people, even $650 is a huge amount to save, especially these days.
    I hope you’re right about the improved performance, but the fact remains internal antenna models are for those with pedestal mounts out at their steering helm in the cockpit, or the typical open-cockpit fishing boat, or for those willing to cut a mounting-hole in their cockpit bulkhead, which a lot of people would rather not do, particularly when that bulkhead is only 4 or 5 inches thick, leaving the guts of the unit hanging out in the air inside the cabin. And that bulkhead installation presumes the antenna is around the bezel of the LCD screen, and not back inside the case that’s inside the bulkhead. Unless there’s been some incredible new advances in GPS, that bulkhead installation is going to cut off a lot of signal.

  15. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Look here, Jeff:
    If the cabin you’re mounting a GPS in is not steel, you really ought to try it before you presume that it won’t work.

  16. stenn says:

    RE: new GPS performance of the Garmin 4000 and 5000 series….
    You mean like this Garmin 4000-series?…
    GPSMAPยฎ 4010 Multi-Function Display Chartplotter
    10.4″ SVGA display
    GPS 17x NMEA 2000 antenna
    Item #: 257011
    Manufacturer: GARMIN
    Model #: 010-00690-00
    Shipping Weight: 9.25 Lbs.
    MAP Price: $2199.99
    Isn’t that the bottom-of-the-line in the 4000 series?
    $2200 !!! ?
    ….must be nice to be able to afford something like that, or Raymarine, etc., but that’s nobody I know. And last year’s Lowrance showed us it doesn’t have to be that kind of money to get fantastic performance.
    Around here, we’re in the “Good Old Boat” family, not the “Cruising World” $150,000 “pocket day-sailer” crowd. The woman I’m helping out by doing this tech-research before purchase is a teacher buying her first sailboat, for $4500. Those 4000 and 5000-series Garmins are half the price of the boat. Sailors are not all rich, retired stock brokers and CEO’s. You could even say that “true” sailors are the antithesis of this.
    Rude? Look around this entire planet, and tell me why we need to be polite to the rich? We’ll all probably end up living on our boats, with no other roofs over our heads, before this mess is done! Just leave the foreclosed house behind… Let’s see the banks catch us! ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Lowrance used to “have the back” of the “everyman” boater, but I guess not anymore. That must be what happens when you go big-time international corporate, a.k.a. Navico, when your hometown used to be in Oklahoma?
    We’ll have to settle for the crumbs under the table I guess.

  17. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    No, Stenn, that’s not what I meant. The Garmin 17x NMEA 2000 GPS sensor is available for under $300 and would probably work fine with a Lowrance HDS unit, as it does with current Lowrance plotters:
    But the real point of my original link about the Garmin GPS is that it works very well through a cored fiberglass deck. I haven’t gotten to test an HDS yet, but wouldn’t be surprised to find that its GPS also works fine through a fiberglass deck or cabin top.
    Which would mean that all your whining was for naught. If you really want to help your teacher friend–a worthy goal, I think–you might try more facts and less attitude.

  18. norse says:

    My guess, from my experience, is that the GPS performance will be just fine. If there’s any doubt, it’s easy enough to check with a handheld GPS.
    I found this info on Lowrance websites (they give more info in some countries than others): The internal GPS of the HDS series uses the Sirf Star III chipset.
    With a built-in, high-sensitivity 16-channel GPS+WAAS antenna HDS is a superior solution for both bracket mount, and in-dash installs with the convenience of front mounting.
    You can Google Sirf Star III — the word is that it has excellent sensitivity.
    Lowrance states that the HDS internal GPS does waas, egnos, and msas. Lowrance says their LGC-4000 N2K GPS “antenna” also has the Sirf Star III GPS chipset, and that it has a 5 Hz position update rate. But oddly enough, they only say it does waas and msas. What happened to egnos? It’s about $300. It looks like there is just one HDS unit without a built-in GPS (HDS-5x), but it’s not listed as a chartplotter.
    What does the HDS system do if an external GPS is connected? Can the user select which one is used? or use both?

  19. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Norse, I haven’t used an HDS yet, but if it’s like the LCX I have in the lab, you can definitely choose GPS sensors, at least N2K ones, and you can even have the unit automatically and constantly choose the best of several, based on the sensor’s accuracy readings.
    Thanks for the research into the HDS chip set. Maybe Stenn will learn something, like:
    “SiRF star III Chipset High Sensitivity
    The SiRF star III chipset is reportedly better at holding a signal in low signal areas, like under dense tree cover or where you canโ€™t see a lot of the sky clearly, like when you are traveling in a downtown area where there are a lot of sky scrapers. SiRF cites that the chipset can track signals down to -159 dBm, and has 200,000 correlators, which by comparison some other chipsets had only a few thousand.”
    But, incidentally, testing a GPS location with a handheld won’t necessarily work unless maybe the handheld also has a Sirf III chipset.

  20. mpilchuck says:

    Could anyone tell me if you can share two HDS-8 with one LRA-1800 HD radar dome

  21. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I’ll guess that an LRA-1800 will work with an HDS-8, because Lowrance apparently tried hard to make it easy to upgrade existing systems to HDS. But I don’t think the LRA-1800 uses Ethernet, and don’t know if an HDS will bridge its output onto Ethernet. So I’m not at all sure about sharing that radar, but will be on the water with HDS in about 10 days, and will ask.

  22. Ken Lahr says:

    I exchanged emails with a rep at Lowrance. I was told that none of the legacy radar systems will work with the HDS units. I have an LRA 4000 and was told it will NOT work with any HDS unit, I had to either upgrade to a digital radar, or seek out one of the LCX Radar capable units. Unfortunate.

  23. bill fite says:

    Guys, I’ve just bought the Lowrance HDS 10.4. Does anyone have an opinion on the better transducer mount option, external on the transom or high speed thru the hull version?

  24. Ken Lahr says:

    I am having two HDS10’s and the HD radar installed. I sea test it 6 May for the second time. I decided on a temporary transom mount P66. I went through the pain trying to fit two different through hulls into the boat, but there was just NO way to do it. The boat is a 282 Grady White Sailfish, on a custom Loadmaster bunk trailer. I am waiting for the 1kw AIRMAR transom ducer to come out and I’ll step up to that.
    Here is a Question
    I cannot get the radar to overlay the plotter? Did they forget that option? I cannot even find a reference to that capability in the documentation. I have queried Lowrance, but no replys yet…
    From what I have seen, I am very impressed with the HDS10. A season in the NE Canyons will tell the story!

  25. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Ken, I recently got an HDS 10 and was bench testing it today. Darn impressive (and I’ll write about it tomorrow)!
    Lowrance did not have radar overlay operational when they showed the HDS and Broadband Radar at the Miami Boat Show, but they said it was in the pipeline. Maybe it still is.

  26. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Ken, Lowrance tells me that they’re planning a HDS software update for release on May 15 that “will include radar overlay for HD Digital Radars and Broadband Radar among other cool new features.” How did your sea trials go?

  27. Dale Stempel says:

    I bought the HDS 5 and the unit looks great. Haven’t tried the unit out. If you own a boat over twenty feet make sure you buy the extension cable for the transom mount transducer. Good luck in finding the cables.

  28. AaronH says:

    Does the HDS “basemap” include standard “paper chart” data such as depth contours and navaids? Do you need to step up to the Insight or a Navionics card or can you get by without it?
    I tried calling support – but they are “closed for a company meeting”

  29. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Aaron, I don’t think any “basemap” includes all the soundings and navaid detail that’s on small area paper chats. But the Insight charts included in HDS try to cover all that detail (and more) for U.S. Coasts, and they do a pretty good job of it. Some of my testing here:

  30. michael says:

    hi there could you guys please clarify something for me.. i am a complete FRESHER to fishing. boating sailing etc.. so i have been informed that i should aquire the LOWRENCE HDS 10 – 10 50/200KHZ in the hope that this will enable me in the Med waters surrounding Cyprus.. to fish etc..
    they have said the machine DETECTS/SONAR/GPS/WAAS will i need to buy anything for this to work as i seem to be getting no response and the info on the Lowrance website isnt too great ( as i need laymans terms at the moment). Will i need a transducer? does that come with the system and what should i use for my basemap in these water is there anything i can buy like a navionics card.. PLEASE HELP ..

  31. norse says:

    Confirming what Kees said today in a new post, the HDS Gen-1 series is discontinued and is now listed under “Legacy Products” on the Lowrance web site. That makes it less than five years from announcement to End of Life. End of production is not a big deal; end of support (bug fixes) is.

  32. Andreas says:

    I completely agree.. I bought mine in 2010.. two years after it came out. Barely 3 years old.. already discontinued.. Until last year it was still well supported.. as soon as Gen 2 came out, they totally dropped support.. not impressed..

  33. Andreas says:

    The HDS-7m Gen2 is listed as legacy.. That just came out last year.. I bet the folks who bought that are no impressed.

  34. Anonymous says:

    HDS-7m Gen2 is not legacy, just not sold in the USA as far as I understand.
    It is still available in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

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