Humminbird ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live Fish Finder Bundle Review

Humminbird ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live Fish Finder Bundle
Reviewed by: John Baltes
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Humminbird ICE HELIX 9 Review

Humminbird ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live Fish Finder Bundle
USAngler Rating: 

The strongest selling point of the ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live is that it can be used on open water as well, and is just as capable on your boat as it is sitting on the hard water.

Humminbird’s impressive line of fish-finding electronics includes the powerful Humminbird APEX 13 MEGA SI+ Fish Finder/GPS Chartplotter, a real piece of tech wizardry.

But what about their FFS system for the ice?

The ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live is built around the HELIX 9, a capable unit to be sure. Its nine-inch screen is bright, providing really nice image quality. Humminbird’s screens are typically very good, and the HELIX is easily readable in everything but direct sunlight.

Unfortunately, Humminbird is the worst of the “Big Three” in terms of its user interface, and getting this unit to function for you is going to take some careful study of the manual and plenty of practice.

And unlike the Garmin, some assembly is required. When we tried, we found it frustrating, slow, and tedious, but we eventually got it together.

Humminbird includes the XI 9 19 ice transducer with this package, but the magic happens through the pole-mounted MEGA Live transducer.

ICE HELIX 9 bracket

This unit offers forward and down modes, as well as a 2D flasher mode that makes use of the standard ice transducer.

As you’d expect from Humminbird, the image quality of the FFS is great, though the real-world range is roughly on par with the Lowrance, but not quite as good once you reach its limits. It still provides plenty of fish finding capability, and in conjunction with a solid plan and the on-board maps, you won’t struggle to find the fish and drill the holes you need to catch them.

I’d say that the strongest selling point of the ICE HELIX 9 MSI+ GPS G4N MEGA Live is that it can be used on open water as well and is just as capable on your boat as it is sitting on the hard water.

Humminbird pre-loads Humminbird Basemaps, giving you a huge library of pre-made maps, and of course, you have access to not one, but two micro-SD card slots. That, plus its powerful AutoChart Live ICE, means that the Humminbird probably bests the Garmin and Lowrance for mapping, with GPS functions that are neck and neck with its competitors.

Humminbird has chosen to add a “jig charging” feature that makes the screen shine brightly to get your glowing jigs lit up, but in practice, it’s a huge drain on your battery.

There’s a lot to like about the Humminbird as a year-round option, but the lack of a carrying case, the worst real-world range of the three options on our shortlist, and a pretty uncompetitive price have us looking elsewhere.

Pros
  • Awesome image quality from the MEGA Live system
  • Great mapping and GPS tech
  • Easily converts to use on your boat
Cons
  • Confusing UI
  • Less real-world range than the Garmin
  • No carrying case to allow hands-free toting out on the ice

Specifications

Weight: ?
Display size: 9”
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Frequencies: 1050 kHz
Maximum range and depth: 150 feet
GPS: Yes
Maps: Yes
Data card compatibility: 2 microSD card; 32 GB maximum size

How We Tested: What to Look for in a Great FFS Fish Finder for the Ice

Image quality

Live, moving images have changed how anglers use fish-finding tech.

Now you can watch fish, studying how your technique, presentation, and lure affect their interest, enabling you to adjust your jigging in real time to better lure fish in for a strike.

Garmin, Lowrance, and Humminbird offer roughly equivalent image quality via powerful transducers that transmit ultra-high frequencies. These quickly oscillating sound waves carry more data than lower frequencies, allowing their black boxes to translate raw information into vivid, real-time, moving images.

The downside to this awesome tech is that high frequencies just don’t penetrate the water column very well, and that doesn’t change when you aim them horizontally, as FFS does.

In our testing, Garmin and Humminbird provided slightly better image quality than Lowrance, as some skipping and lagging was evident with the latter unit.

Range

FFS manufacturers make some pretty boil claims about the range of their products.

These numbers may well be accurate under ideal circumstances, but in the real world, they’re not even close.

Expect roughly half of the stated number in usable range.

In our testing, the Garmin was the best of the three, followed closely by Lowrance and Humminbird, in that order.

Ease of operation

If there’s one thing that most anglers can agree about, it’s that the user interface on a fish finder needs to be simple, inuitive, and easy to master.

Garmin is the clear leader on this front, and their UI is the best by a mile.

Lowrance and Humminbird lag behind, and it’ll take careful attention to the user’s manual and slime practice on dry land to learn to use all the features on offer.

Battery life

Frigid temperatures devour battery life like a hungry dog.

Each of these units comes with a typical battery that’s good for 6 to 10 hours, depending on your use and the ambient temp.

BUt keep in mind that none of these fish finders is rated to work below 5 F. If it’s really cold, you’ll need to be in shelter and keep your fish finder and battery warm.

Portability

Weight matters, and the Garmin is hefty.

Ideally, an FFS comes with a backpack that allows you to tote it out onto the ice and leave your hands free. 

Fortunately, Garmin and Lowrance realize this.

Unfortunately, Humminbird doesn’t.

About The Author
John Baltes
If it has fins, John has probably tried to catch it from a kayak. A native of Louisiana, he now lives in Sarajevo, where he's adjusting to life in the mountains. From the rivers of Bosnia to the coast of Croatia, you can find him fishing when he's not camping, hiking, or hunting.
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