What Is The Difference Between Garmin Echomap And Humminbird Helix Fish Finder Series?
UPDATED 14 MAY 2023
by Robert Ceran
This article may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
The Garmin Echomap and Humminbird Helix series are among the most popular fish finders in their size class on the market.
Both series are designed as mid-size fish finders with advanced sonar as well as some mapping/chartplotting capabilities, and have a lot of features in common.
For this article my team and I tested the Garmin Echomap vs Humminbird Helix series and compared them side by side. We’ll walk you through our findings and their most important differences, to help you choose the best model for your purposes.
Garmin Echomap vs Humminbird Helix series compared side by side
The table above compares the key specs of the most popular Garmin Echomap UHD units with Humminbird Helix units of comparable size and with similar features that we tested.
Before we discuss their differences, let’s start by going over what they have in common. Both series come with an impressive array of sonar capabilities, including CHIRP 2D sonar, down imaging, and side imaging.
In addition, both series have built-in GPS, WiFi/Bluetooth functionality, a MicroSD card slot, and both come with preloaded maps (though their maps are of different quality – see below).
Bottom line: Based on our testing, both the Garmin Echomap and Humminbird Helix series come with very similar high end sonar imaging capabilities, as well as GPS, networking, and mapping capabilities.
Now let’s take a look at the key differences between Garmin Echomap vs Humminbird Helix units:
Touchscreen functionality: While the Echomap UHD series has touchscreen functionality, the Helix series does not.
The Echomap units have both touchscreen functionality as well as menu keys, which can be used effectively in combination with each other. This makes it easier to customize the screen display, as well as zoom in on specific areas.
Bottom line: If touchscreen functionality is an important feature for you, then our testing showed that a Garmin Echomap unit is the right choice for you.
Preloaded maps: While Garmin Echomap units come with either LakeVu (inland) or BlueChart (coastal) maps preloaded, Humminbird Helix units come with the Humminbird basemap, which has much lower resolution.
LakeVu and BlueChart maps are built with Navionics data, and come with contour lines with up to 1’ resolution. In contrast to this, the Humminbird basemap only has contour lines with 10’ to 20’ resolution.
During our testing we found that this is a huge difference between the Echomap and Helix series, and reflects the fact that Garmin designed the Echomap UHD series to be used as chartplotters with sonar capabilities, while Humminbird designed the Helix series to be used as fish finder sonars with mapping capabilities.
Bottom line: If mapping is important to you, then our test results show that the Garmin Echomap units come with much better preloaded maps than the Helix units.
With that being said, keep in mind that all units in both series come with a MicroSD port, which means you can readily add LakeMaster or SmartStrike premium maps to your Helix unit after purchase.
Pricing: In general, smaller Humminbird Helix units of comparable size and with a similar set of features tend to be slightly cheaper than their Garmin Echomap counterparts.
However, this is reversed for the larger units, where Humminbird Helix units are usually more expensive than similarly sized Garmin Echomap units.
Garmin UHD vs Humminbird MEGA
Garmin Echomap UHD units come with UHD (or ultra high definition) sonar, which is an improved version of Garmin’s clearvu and sidevu sonar that generates even better target resolution, resulting in incredibly clear sonar images.
Similarly, Humminbird Helix units come with MEGA imaging, which is an improved version of Humminbird down and side imaging sonar technology, generating very high resolution images.
When we put them to the test, we found that Garmin UHD and Humminbird MEGA are very similar to each in terms of image quality, and so this is not a feature that should make a huge difference to your purchasing decision.
If you’re specifically interested in the side imaging capabilities of these fish finders, check out our article on Humminbird side imaging vs Garmin SideVu compared.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of the units listed in the chart above.
Garmin Echomap UHD 74sv review
The Garmin Echomap UHD 74sv combines three different powerful sonar technologies: CHIRP 2D sonar, UHD clearvu, and UHD sidevu.
In addition to this, it comes with high resolution preloaded maps, and a display with split screen functionality that allows you to view a combination of sonar and mapping data side by side.
Finally, Quickdraw Contours also allows you to create your own custom maps, which is a great feature if your location is not covered in with a lot of detail in existing maps.
- 800 x 400 pixels screen resolution
- IPX7 waterproof rating
- WVGA display
Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP Mega SI GPS G3 review
The Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP Mega SI comes with very similar sonar capabilities to the Echomap UHD 74sv, including traditional CHIRP, MEGA down imaging, and MEGA side imaging.
The latter two are enhanced with Humminbird Mega imaging technology, and when we put it to the test, we found that this produces incredibly detailed sonar images.
And while the preloaded maps of the Helix 7 don’t have high resolution, you can easily upgrade them with LakeMaster or SmartStrike maps, which are among the best available on the market.
- 800 x 480 pixels screen resolution
- Dual spectrum CHIRP
- Keypad control
Garmin Echomap UHD 94sv review
With a 9 inch display, the Garmin Echomap UHD 94sv comes with a more generous display size, which helps a lot if you want to use split screen functionality to view several sonar read outs (such as sidevu and downvu) as well as mapping data side by side.
Another great thing about the Echomap UHD 94sv is that it is compatible with the Garmin Panoptix LiveScope System, which means you can easily add live sonar to it later on.
In fact, if you buy this unit without a transducer, during our testing we found that it makes a great slave unit that can be used just to view LiveScope sonar data.
- 800 x 400 pixels screen resolution
- Quickdraw Contours
- Can network with compatible Garmin devices, including Garmin Force trolling motor
Humminbird Helix 9 CHIRP Mega SI+ GPS G4N review
The Humminbird Helix 9 CHIRP Mega SI+ comes with a generous 9 inch display size and when we tested it we found that this enables you to take full advantage of its advanced sonar capabilities.
It’s also compatible with MEGA 360 imaging, which you can add to it later on.
In addition to its impressive set of features, it can also network with Minn Kota trolling motors, as well as Talon or Raptor shallow water anchors, which means you can network all of your boat electronics if you stick with these brands.
- 1024 x 600 pixels resolution
- Dual spectrum CHIRP, MEGA down imaging, MEGA side imaging
- Can create custom maps with AutoChart Live
This concludes our review based on testing the Garmin Echomap vs Humminbird Helix series side by side.
Hopefully it will help you choose the right model for your purposes. Tight lines and see you on the water!
Gear and methods used for testing
For consistent testing results, we tested all fish finder units reviewed in this article with either a Garmin GT56UHD-TM transducer (for Echomap models) or a Humminbird XM 9 HW MSI transducer (for Helix models) transom mounted on a Ranger Z520R bass boat. We tested both series on the same day on Lake Tarpon, to ensure we could compare their performance under similar conditions side by side. We performed testing by imaging schools of bass, crappie, and panfish relating to structure in 5 to 20 feet of water.