The pride of Eufaula, Alabama, Humminbird is now a name synonymous with high-end angling electronics. Offering some of the most full-featured units money can buy, you can count legions of pros on the tournament circuit and full-time fishing skippers as fans.
But with a startling array of fish finders on offer, which one is the right pick for you?
We’re here to help, and below, you’ll find reviews of some of our favorites, as well as a complete buying guide.
Quick glance at the best Humminbird fish finders:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Humminbird offers three series of fish finders and numerous variations within those lines. And very soon, the professional-level Apex will join their team.
Display Size: 12.1”
Resolution: 1280 X 800
Frequencies: Dual Spectrum CHIRP, MEGA Down Imaging+, MEGA Side Imaging+; Full Mode (28-75 kHz), Narrow Mode (75-155 kHz), Optional Deepwater (28-250 kHz), Wide Mode (130-250 kHz
Side Scanning: Yes (up to 200’)
Maximum Depth: 200’ MEGA Down Imaging+; 1,200’ CHIRP (3,500’ with an optional 50 kHz transducer)
Transducer Angles: 20°, 42°, 60°, (2) 86° & (2) 55° @ -10dB
Target Separation: no greater than 2.5”
Once, the Helix was the king of the hill. Then, the SOLIX dethroned the Helix. Now, the Apex (coming soon, Humminbird promises!) has ascended, unseating the SOLIX.
One thing anyone can agree on: Humminbird offers a startling (even confusingly) deep roster of high-end angling electronics.
Another that’s almost a sure thing: the SOLIX 12 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G3 is an amazing piece of fishing tech.
While probably slipping just behind the awesome Lowrance HDS-12 Live in terms of overall performance, the SOLIX series sees no other serious rivals beyond other even more expensive options from Humminbird like the Apex.
Sporting a 12.1-inch screen with excellent resolution, the SOLIX 12 makes the most of its sophisticated sonar system and electronic wizardry with what can only be described as legendary image quality, even in full sun. And while a larger screen is available, we’re not sure it’s worth the upgrade given what the 12 has to offer in full HD.
Images are crisp and clear in all conditions, and even the Lowrance might be edged out by the SOLIX here unless you’re wearing polarized sunglasses, in which case the Lowrance’s screen is the clear winner.
As plenty of anglers can attest, the SOLIX’s images are ridiculously clear with the MEGA upgrades, which provide fine-grained, very high-frequency detail at the cost of some range. We’re talking about seeing individual fish stalking prey and details on structure like branches and leaves!
That’s a trade well worth making, given that you’re still talking about 200 feet of range with any MEGA-equipped feature.
This SOLIX takes this already impressive tech a step further with even greater clarity, indicated by the SI+ abbreviation. Other manufacturers offer similar tech, but to my eye, Humminbird simply can’t be equaled.
Take a look and make up your own mind:
The incredible XM 14 HW MSI T transducer is among the best in the business, producing broadcast angles that are varied and specific to its applications, including a sweeping feature called “Mega 360” that provides side-scanning in 360 degrees while sitting still! That’s simply amazing tech with clear utility.
Count me as blown away!
Powered by an excellent CHIRP system as well as standard sonar, the SOLIX 12 gives fish nowhere to hide. At the push of a button, you can switch viewing modes, giving you the information you want without the distractions of things you don’t.
For professional anglers who earn their bread on the water, this fish finder is a very good choice.
The user interface is actuated by a touch screen and backup buttons. But like most Humminbird offerings, it can get a little complicated at times, and you need to spend some effort getting familiar with your options.
But doing so rewards you with some of the most powerful tech in the industry.
This SOLIX comes with charts of more than 10,000 lakes and the coasts of the U.S. With two SD slots, it’s easy to add even more. Its powerful GPS system allows for chart plotting as well as marking points of interest like honey holes, so this fish finder has you covered from the beginning to the end of your angling adventure.
And the powerful AutoChart Live system lets you map the bottom, accounting for everything from hardness to cover and structure - and then upload and share these maps with other anglers.
That’s a powerful mapping feature that we expect on high-end units, but here, Lowrance just offers better tech. Their amazing C-Map and Genesis Live features are simply the best in the business.
The Solix 12 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G3 also offers amazing networking options, mating with Minn Kota and Cannon products to allow sophisticated navigation options as well as control of multiple fish finders on your boat.
Overall, while the APEX is a worthy successor to the SOLIX series, anglers on the tournament trail and professional captains alike will appreciate the power, utility, and options provided by this fish finder.
Clearly, it’s an amazing system - well worth what you pay for it. But be aware that this full-featured fish finder can be a handful to learn.
Display Size: 10.1”
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Frequencies: CHIRP Full Mode (150-220 kHz), Narrow Mode (180-240 kHz), Wide Mode (140-200 kHz; soA Downar 50/83/200/455/800 kHz and 1.2 MHz)
Side Scanning: 800 ft. (455 kHz), 250 ft. (800 kHz), and 400 ft. (MEGA) (up to 800’)
Down Imaging: Yes; MEGA Down Imaging+
Maximum Depth: 1,200’ (3,500’ with an optional 50 kHz transducer)
Transducer Angle: 20°, 42°, 60°, (2) 86°, and (2) 55° @ -10dB
Target Separation: no less than 2.5”
Now eclipsed in truly high-end performance by the awesome power of the Solix and Apex series, Humminbird’s Helix is nevertheless excellent fishing tech and well worth the look for anglers content with mid-range tech.
Competitively priced, the Helix is perhaps the most capable fish finder in the sweet spot between bleeding-edge and budget performance, and for the vast majority of avid anglers and weekend fishermen, this unit will provide everything you’re looking for.
Let’s start with the screen. While a 10-inch diagonal isn’t the biggest on the market, Humminbird knows what it’s doing. Easy to read even in direct sunlight, thanks to 1500 nits of brightness, the Helix 10 offers superb resolution and the kind of detail that sets it apart from its competitors.
This is especially true for options like down and side imaging, and the image quality is simply game-changing. We’re talking leaves and branches on submerged trees! And to my eye, the Helix 10 sports imaging that’s as good as the Lowrance HDS Live for a fraction of the cost.
That’s a serious claim that you can test yourself:
The Helix 10’s down imaging is simply game-changing.
Powered by the incredible XM 9 HW MSI T transducer, the Helix 10 offers powerful CHIRP as well as down and side imaging. These are incredible options that offer superb imaging, and anyone who lives to fish is going to feel their heart skip a beat or two when they fire this fish finder up on the water.
I’m particularly impressed with the down imaging Humminbird brings to the table. It’s simply stunning in its detail. The standard fish finder view is excellent as well, as the CHIRP sonar provides plenty of target separation and detail.
A full-featured GPS and detailed maps are built-in as well, and of course, you’ll have access to AutoChart Live, allowing you to create and share your own contour maps. That’s a powerful feature that many anglers won’t fish without, and while this tech probably lags behind Lowrance’s awesome C-Map and Genesis Live, they’re still tournament-winning features.
The standard fish finder view is excellent for locating schooling bait as well as the predators that feed on them.
As with all advanced fish finders, you’ll want to spend some time with the manual learning the ins and outs of its abilities, and Humminbird isn’t known for the friendliest user interface.
Finally, as you’d expect from a unit that used to be the cream of the crop, the Helix 10 MEGA SI+ G4N offers robust networking options, including navigation and accessory units. While not every angler needs or wants these, if you run more than one control head or want the option to operate a compatible trolling motor from your fish finder, this is a very cost-effective way to get hold of these high-end features.
Display Size: 4.3”
Resolution: 272 X 480
Frequencies: Dual 200/455
Side Scanning: No
Maximum Depth: 320’ @ 455 kHz; 600’ @ 200 kHz
Transducer Angle: 28°, 16°, and 74°
Target Separation: 2.5”
Fish finders are no less useful for kayak and canoe anglers, but space is at a premium. For them, Humminbird offers the inexpensive PIRANHAMAX 4.3 DI. Once the best small fish finder on the market, we now feel that it’s eclipsed by the Garmin’s STRIKER Vivid 4cv in overall performance.
That comes as no real surprise to us, however. Garmin has positioned itself as the dominant name in low- and mid-range fish finder tech, occupying the sweet spot best described as “maximum bang for the buck.”
By contrast, Humminbird has doubled down on the high end, offering the Helix, Solix, and Apex series, a range of offerings that occupy the mid- to high-range of fish finder tech. They’ve all but neglected the low-end market, ceding that ground to the likes of Garmin.
Does that mean that the PIRANHAMAX isn’t a good buy?
No, but for the same money, you get a lot more tech from Garmin - and that company is now clearly the name to beat in small fish finders.
Let’s take a look at this unit to see if we can justify that claim.
The heart of this PIRANHAMAX is the capable XNT 9 DI T transducer, offering dual-frequency sonar at 200 and 455 kHz. This provides excellent overall depth and detail, and when paired with the 4.3-inch screen, it provides admirably sharp images. As the DI in the name suggests, this is a “down imaging” system that provides far greater detail than standard sonar.
And as you can witness with your own eyes, this is much more than a marketing gimmick.
Before the STRIKER Vivid 4cv, that was performance that was unbeatable. But Garmin now offers a fantastically bright, multi-color screen on their smallest Vivid, and the image quality is simply superior in every respect.
And it only gets worse from there.
The Vivid sports both CHIRP and GPS. Compare that to the otherwise capable PIRANHAMAX, and it’s left wanting: it can’t help you with waypointing, course charting, or GPS marking, and the 2D sonar is just leaps and bounds behind the Garmin STRIKER Vivid.
The user interface is relatively uncomplicated, but even here, we’d give the edge to Garmin.
Given that the price difference between these units is negligible, there’s very little reason to choose the Humminbird over the Garmin.
Sonar is just sound. It’s beyond the range of human hearing, but in principle, no different than any other noise.
Sound takes the form of a wave, with crests and troughs or peaks and valleys. Higher frequencies pack more of these oscillations into a given span of time than do lower frequencies.
Low frequencies penetrate water better than high frequencies. Fish finders with very low-frequency transducers can “see” through the water better, allowing them greater depth.
The weakness of low frequencies, however, is that every oscillation provides data, and with less crests and troughs per second, they can’t provide as much information as high frequencies.
Think about your mobile phone for a second. It works much the same way, which is why 4G can carry more information--more data per second--than 3G. Higher frequencies equal more information.
High frequencies offer greater detail, allowing your fish finder to “find” fish and tell you their size and location.
They can’t penetrate much water, however, and they can’t tell you much about the bottom, including details like structure and cover.
Most fish finders use dual frequencies, pairing a high and low frequency to provide the best features of both. For instance, when you see a fish finder that lists two frequencies, such as 77/200 kHz, that means that its transducer broadcasts at both 77 kHz and 200 kHz simultaneously.
The low-frequency signal reads the bottom, while the high frequency finds the fish.
The Red October’s sonar used “pings,” bursts or pulses of noise that it sent into the water, striking objects and returning to its transducer for analysis. When the sonar was active, it wasn’t constantly transmitting sound.
Most fish finders aren’t much different. They use dual frequencies in pulses: short “pings” like the one you heard in the video. These short pulses are transmitted together, providing enough data to give the fish finder’s electronics a picture of the bottom and anything suspended in the water column.
But military tech has advanced a long way from the Cold War, and modern sonar systems use something called CHIRP, or Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse.
CHIRP sonar uses much longer pulses than standard systems, starting at the low frequency and moving quickly to the high frequency. These longer bursts, and the range of frequencies between the lowest and highest, provide much more information than standard sonar systems.
As you can see, there are many more peaks and valleys in the CHIRP signal, and each and every one carries information. The military uses CHIRP sonar because it’s simply far more effective than dual frequency sonar, and the good news is that so can you!
Some fish finders now offer CHIRP sonar. It provides better imaging, greater accuracy, and more information.
This isn’t a marketing ploy--it’s real, it’s a fact, and in our opinion, it’s worth paying for.
Obviously, we prefer CHIRP sonar systems. But what else matters?
Target separation is simply a measure of how precise the fish finder’s sonar is at distinguishing individual fish from one another. Smaller numbers mean better performance.
Often a selling point, this is not nearly as important as marketing leads you to believe.
All other things being equal:
Wider angles let you see a greater area below your transducer.
But, and this is a big but, the “specified cone” isn’t the actual area the fish finder reads. Instead, it’s shaped more like this:
Moreover, for a specified beam width, the structure of the bottom can greatly affect performance. And the greater that width, the more likely this problem is.
As a general rule, the shallower the water you fish, the wider the transducer beam angle you want. Too much will create problems, and if you fish in deeper water, you want a tighter, more focused beam angle.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Some advanced fish finders offer specialized transducers that transmit and receive off the starboard and port sides of your boat. The result is a 2-D image of the water column to either side.
Some brands sport a range of as much as 800 feet in either direction!
Obviously, this can be incredibly useful for locating fish, and it’s an increasingly popular option. Be aware, however, that the depth of these side-facing transducers is limited. Side imaging sonar won’t be penetrating the water column very far, though it’s an awesome compliment to a traditional transducer.
You want a fish finder with good maximum depth, and you want to match this rating to your actual use. Especially if you fish deeper water, like the Great Lakes, or if you’re a saltwater angler, this is something to consider carefully.
Larger displays are easier to read and use, but of course, they cost more, too.
And bigger isn’t always better.
Resolution is a measure of how much detail a fish finder’s screen can provide, and a small screen with great resolution can be easier to read than a large screen with only average resolution.
We think these are now nearly essential considerations in a good fish finder.
From careful waypointing to honey-hole marking, GPS and maps add so much functionality that they’re almost a no-brainer.