Definitive Definition

Tested: Lowrance HDS 10 Sounder/Plotter

LOWRANCE’S newly released flagship range of sounders and sounder/plotters carry the moniker “HDS”. This stands for “High Definition System”. Most readers would be familiar with “high definition”. It’s a term used as a marketing tool on modern TVs, video cameras, computers and other electronic devices. Loosely translated, high definition means that screen images have passed through a digital filter to maximise clarity.

Take a look at the screen of a hi-def TV and then compare it to a standard model and you’ll see a significant difference in regards to image quality. The same is apparent with sounders, with Lowrance’s HDS models offering much improved signal return and clarity when compared against non-HDS models. This is because the signal from the transducer is run through internal broadband digital processing software. This software produces a cleaner, more defined and less cluttered screen image. On the water this means that fish and structure are more clearly defined – you can more easily interpret the markings on your screen and use that info to fish more effectively. The hi-def software also maximises transducer efficiency, which is important in deep water fishing situations.

Lowrance introduced this digital filtering software a couple of years back but the big difference with the HDS is that the technology comes inside the unit, not as a separate “black box” which you connect to your head unit. Fisho ran a piece on Lowrance’s standalone broadband box in the August 2008 issue. In that story we detailed how we connected the black box to an LCX 37C – the difference between the standard screen image and the digitally enhanced image was significant, as was the deep water performance. Thanks to the broadband enhancement I managed to get good bottom readings in depths of more than 200 fathoms with a standard 600kW Skimmer transducer, doubling previous performance.

But there’s more to the HDS range – which incorporates 5, 7, 8 and 10 inch models – than nice, clear screen images and improved power. This is a totally new package from Lowrance, with a high-tech new look and a range of very useful and innovative features.

Fisho has been running a thru-mounted HDS 10 on our Stabicraft 659SC project boat for the past six months. The unit is teamed with a dual frequency 600kW Skimmer transducer and a dual frequency 1 Watt transducer with charts provided by a Navonics Platinum + card. After running Lowrance LCX 25 and 37 colour units for some years, the HDS presented some initial user issues. Its operating platform and controls were totally different to the LCXs I was used to. On the first trip out I found it quite challenging to get the unit to do what I wanted to. But after reading the manual (always a good idea!) and spending some time pushing buttons and scrolling through screens I realised the HDS is actually quite intuitive and easy to use. The fact is that most of us rarely if ever utilise electronics to their full capacity. My mobile phone, for instance, can do all sorts of things but I only ever use it to make calls and send text messages. It’s the same with marine electronics, especially high-end gear like the HDS 10. I mainly use it as a sounder/plotter combo. But it’s far more than that. The unit can be linked in with one of Lowrance’s new broadband radar domes, it can use NMEA 2000 interfaces to display a full range of engine data and it can also support the flash new StructureScan technology to give awesome, almost video quality side and up/down displays. In the Americas, the HDS also links in with SIRIUS weather satellites to provide up-to-the-second weather and radio services.

As a sounder, the HDS 10 is right up there as a serious bit of kit. The whopper 10.4-inch (26.4cm) Super VGA screen is super sharp thanks to the Solar-MAX PLUS display, which allows for clear vision in all light conditions and most viewing angles. There’s a host of stuff you can do to finetune this unit to your personal requirements. However, I can honestly say that it works fine out of the box. I’ve fished the HDS in muddy little creeks chasing flatties and out in 300 fathoms deep dropping for gemfish and hapuka.

Performance in both extremes is excellent. It holds a clear bottom reading blasting along at 40 knots and quickly adjusts to cope with sudden increases/decreases in depth. The screen image is uniformly detailed and uncluttered by junk markings. There are various screen colours you can use but I’ve stuck with the bottom being a brown colour and any weed/growth being green. Fish show up as red. It has been quite easy to differentiate between fish and bottom structure, including reef, snags and deep weed beds. On a recent deep water fishing trip out past the shelf we were marking schools of gemfish and frost fish in 250 fathoms and watching our heavily weighted rigs dropping down amongst the fish. Many kingie jigging sessions out from my home waters of Jervis bay and up at Coffs Harbour have recorded the same sort of results. Watching your jig drop down amid a bunch of markings that you think are kings, and then getting a hit and pulling up a king, certainly does a lot for your confidence when using this sort of technology!

Zooming in to check out habitat or interesting marks is a simple matter of pushing in the Zoom key on the right of the screen. Command soft keys along the bottom of the unit allow quick and easy movement between pages and functions. And a fly wheel above the zoom keys makes moving the cursor around easy.

Like most offshore fishos, I spend as much time watching the plotter screen as I do watching the sounder. The charts on the HDS 10 are detailed and highly accurate. Recent snapper forays to Coffs Harbour have revealed just how important a good GPS unit is to a serious angler. I found you could zero in on a mark far more effectively with the HDS than on my previous LCX 37 (which I have to say was a great unit regardless). This level of accuracy over sometimes very small patches of reef allowed for maximum success when setting up drifts with soft plastics. I particularly like the fact that you just push and hold the Zoom button to get the desired zoom rate. No more tapping away to zoom in or out. Naming and accessing waypoints is easy. Because the Stabi has a hard top the HDS’s internal GPS antenna can take a while to get a fix. This is something to consider if you run a cabin boat – it should be ok with a fibreglass roof but aluminium or steel definitely seems to limit the power of the antenna. Fitting an external Lowrance LCG-4000 antenna should provide perfect coverage.

All up, the test Lowrance HDS 10 has proven an interesting and powerful fish-catching tool. There’s a lot more to be done with it – I’ve so far only scratched the surface!

By Jim Harnwell

For more info on HDS, check out an array of informative online videos and displays at Details of your closest Lowrance dealer are also available on the site.

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