What Is The Cheapest Fish Finder With Side Imaging? (2023 Buyer’s Guide)
UPDATED 03 NOVEMBER 2023
by Robert Ceran
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Are you looking to buy a cheap side imaging fish finder that won’t break the bank?
In that case you’ll probably want to know what the best budget side imaging fish finders are, how much they cost, and what their key features are.
For this article, my team and I tested the cheapest side imaging fish finders on the market, and evaluated each of them on display size, resolution, mapping, price, and overall performance.
Based on our testing, here is our pick of the best cheap side imaging fish finder in 2023:
- Cheapest overall: Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot (GPS only)
- Runner up cheapest: Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv
- Cheapest with MEGA imaging: Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G4
- Cheapest with mapping: Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot (with maps)
- Cheapest with MEGA imaging & Navionics: Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS G3
Cheapest side imaging fish finders (2023 review)
The table above compares the most important specs of the cheapest side imaging fish finders that we tested.
Now let’s dive into the details and take a closer look at each of these models, to get a better understanding of their key strengths and weaknesses.
1. Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot (GPS only)
Retailing at a very competitive price point, the Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot is currently one of the cheapest fish finders with side imaging on the market.
In addition to side imaging, it comes with Fish Reveal functionality, which is a big plus (especially for beginners).
During our testing we found that Fish Reveal technology is one of the key strengths of the HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot (and is a technology only available from Lowrance), providing an additional advantage over the competition.
Fish Reveal functionality overlays fish arches from traditional 2D sonar on top of down imaging sonar, thereby combining the best of both types of sonar.
In previous years, the Lowrance HOOK2 7 TripleShot used to be the cheapest side imaging depth finder on the market, but this unit is currently being phased out by Lowrance, and replaced by the HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot.
This unit comes with GPS, allowing you to mark waypoints and draw your own contour lines, but it does not have the ability to upload lake maps.
Also, keep in mind that you need to choose a TripleShot version of the HOOK Reveal 7 if you want to have side imaging, since the other versions of HOOK Reveal don’t include side imaging functionality.
- High quality Lowrance side scan sonar
- Fishreveal technology
- 3 in 1 TripleShot transducer included
2. Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv
The Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv is the runner up cheapest fish finder with side imaging on the market.
It comes with a powerful array of sonar technologies, including 2D traditional sonar, CHIRP, SideVu, and DownVu.
In case you’re wondering, SideVu is Garmin’s version of side imaging, while DownVu is their version of down imaging.
In other words the Striker Vivid 7sv provides you with both side imaging and down imaging functionality.
If you’re planning to build a boat with a Garmin electronics network, and are looking for the best entry level unit to start with, then the Striker Vivid 7sv is definitely a great option.
During our testing we found that it provides you with a full array of the main sonar technologies made by Garmin, allowing you to get your feet wet before you move on to more advanced units.
The Striker Vivid 7sv comes with Garmin’s Vivid color technology, which allows you to choose from 7 different color options to get the most out of your sonar data.
Finally, in addition to its high quality sonar, the Striker Vivid 7sv also comes with GPS functionality allowing you to mark waypoints, as well as Quickdraw Contours mapping, which you can use to create your own custom lake maps.
- CHIRP SideVu and DownVu
- Quickdraw Contours
- 3 in 1 GT52 transducer included
Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G4
The Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G4 is slightly more expensive than the two previous models, but come with the advantage that it is the cheapest fish finder with MEGA side imaging.
MEGA imaging is a Humminbird sonar technology that uses wavelengths in the megahertz range to generate incredibly high resolution sonar images.
Until recently, most Humminbird fish finders with MEGA imaging cost well over a thousand dollars, but the Helix 7 CIRP MSI GPS G4 retails at just under 700 dollars, thus providing very high end sonar at an affordable price.
Also, in addition to MEGA side imaging, it comes with MEGA down imaging and dual spectrum CHIRP, which means you get access to all major sonar imaging technologies in this unit.
Another key strength of the Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G4 is that it is a gen 4 Helix unit, which means that its display has full HD resolution with 1024 x 600 pixels.
While testing it we found that this is significantly higher resolution than the other fish finders covered in this review, and helps to get the most out of high quality sonar data on a relatively small 7 inch display.
- Humminbird Basemap
- HD display
Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot (With C-Map)
The Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot with C-Map is the cheapest side imaging fish finder that includes mapping functionality, and comes with C-Map lake maps covering the USA and Canada.
Currently retailing at a highly competitive price point, this makes it one of the best value fish finders on the market, period.
C-Map covers 8,900 lakes and inland waters in the US and Canada, and also comes in a second version that covers coastal waters.
When we put it to the test we found that in addition to these maps you can also create your own custom maps with the Genesis Live functionality.
The HOOK Reveal series was designed by Lowrance to offer an ideal out-of-the-box solution for beginners, and one feature that really helps with this is its “Autotuning” sonar functionality.
Autotuning basically allows you to use the factory presettings of the HOOK Reveal to get high quality sonar data without having to mess around with adjustments.
- Autotuning sonar
- C-Maps lake maps
- All-in-one TripleShot transducer included
Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS G3
The Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS G3 is the cheapest fish finder with MEGA side imaging and Navionics maps.
This unit thus combines the high end sonar technologies of the Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G4 with advanced preloaded maps, and when we put it to the test, we that this means you get both sonar and mapping functionalities at a very high level.
The Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS G3 retails at just over 1000 dollars, thus providing high end sonar plus Navionics maps at a relatively affordable price.
Finally, the Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS G3 not only comes with a built-in Humminbird basemap, and is compatible with LakeMaster in addition to Navionics lake maps, which you can upload with a chip.
If you combine this with the AutoChart Live functionality, this gives you access to world class mapping capabilities at a very affordable price.
- MEGA side imaging and down imaging
- Dual Spectrum CHIRP
- Preloaded Navionics maps
- LakeMaster compatible
What is the cheapest side view fish finder?
The cheapest side view fish finder is currently the Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot (without mapping).
Previously, the Lowrance HOOK2 7 TripleShot was the cheapest side imaging depth finder, but Lowrance has recently replaced this unit with the HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot, which is slightly more expensive.
Is side imaging worth the extra money?
Yes, side imaging is absolutely worth the extra money, as it allows you to scan large areas up to 200 feet to either side of your boat, in order to find promising structure that you can then investigate more closely with 2D sonar and down imaging, to see if there are any fish worth targeting.
With that being said, you can get away with just using traditional 2D sonar, though it will take you longer to find the ideal fishing spots that way.
In other words, side imaging sonar saves you a lot of time searching for fish, which means you can spend more time fishing.
How to choose a side imaging fish finder
When choosing a side imaging fish finder you need to decide on two key questions: what features do you need, and how much do you want to spend?
Most fish finders with side imaging nowadays also come with 2D sonar and down imaging sonar, and pretty much all of them have CHIRP sonar.
During our testing we found that even a basic side imaging fish finder will give you access to all the most important sonar technologies used for recreational fishing (with the exception of live sonar).
So if that has got you covered, then you’ll be fine with the least expensive unit, such as the Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv.
However, if you want to get access to more advanced features, such as mapping, Fish Reveal technology, or megahertz imaging, then you should consider the more expensive units.
And while they are slightly more expensive, they’ll provide you with a complete package that’s likely to cover both your sonar and mapping needs.
Finally, if you’re currently debating whether to go for a Humminbird or Garmin unit, check out our article on Humminbird side imaging vs Garmin SideVu (which is better?).
Gear and methods used for testing
For consistent testing results, we tested all of fish finder units reviewed above with their respective transducers transom mounted on a Ranger Z520R bass boat. We tested all fish finders on the same day on Lake Tarpon, to make sure we could compare their performance next to each other under similar conditions. Testing was performed by imaging schools of bass and panfish relating to structure in 4 to 19 feet of water.