What Is The Difference Between Lowrance HDS And Elite? (3 Things You Need To Know)
UPDATED 20 JULY 2022
by Robert Ceran
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Are you undecided between getting a Lowrance HDS or Elite fish finder unit?
In that case you’re probably wondering what are the differences between the Lowrance Elite vs HDS lineups, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
In this article we’ll walk you through the key differences between the current generation of Lowrance HDS vs Elite series, to help you decide which one is best for your purposes.
What is the difference between Lowrance Elite and HDS?
The main difference between the Lowrance HDS and Elite series is that the HDS comes with a higher resolution screen plus additional ports for transducer, SD card and ethernet cable, while the strength of the Elite is that it provides many similar features to the HDS series, but at a significantly lower cost.
In other words, while the HDS series is intended to be Lowrance’s flagship lineup of fish finders, and comes with the best technology that Lowrance can make, the Elite series is intended to be a mid-range fish finder lineup that provides great value for money.
Key features of Lowrance HDS and Elite series compared
The table above lists the main differences between the Lowrance Elite FS and HDS Live series.
We chose to compare Elite FS with HDS Live because these are the latest versions produced by Lowrance at the time of writing.
However, we’ll also compare the Elite Ti2 vs FS, and the HDS Carbon vs Live series further down the article for your reference.
Now let’s take a closer look at the key differences of the HDS and Elite lineups, so you can decide which one is right for you.
Display sizes: While the Elite FS only comes in 2 sizes (7” and 9”), the HDS Live comes in 4 sizes (7”, 9”, 12” and 16”).
This makes sense, given that the Elite FS is intended by Lowrance as a mid-range fish finder series, while the HDS Live is designed as a high-end fish finder series.
Screen resolution: While the screen resolution of the Elite FS isn’t shabby at 800 x 40 pixels (for both 7” and 9” models), the resolution of the HDS Live is phenomenal, and provides some of the highest fish finder screen resolution available on the market.
In fact, the 16” HDS Live comes with a 2K screen boasting 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution.
The higher resolution of HDS Live models (including the smaller 7” and 9” units) allows you to view a lot more detail on your screen, which is extremely helpful when using split screen views to see multiple types of sonar at the same time.
Transducer ports: While the Elite FS only has a single transducer port, the HDS Live comes with two.
This means you can plug in and use two transducers in parallel on the HDS Live, which would allow you to mix and match two transducers (such as an Airmar with an Active Imaging 2 in 1).
Since the Elite FS only has 1 transducer port, the only way to use all 3 types of sonar, is to use it with an Active Imaging 3 in 1 transducer.
SD card slots: While the Elite FS only has one SD card slot, the HDS Live has two. The additional card slot of the HDS Live allows you to load more than one chart at a time, or to use a second SD card to store waypoints and routes.
Ethernet ports: While the Elite FS only has one ethernet port, the HDS Live somes with two ethernet ports.
The extra ethernet port of the HDS Live makes it easier to network with other Lowrance units on your boat, and this is clearly what the HDS Live is intended for: running a boat with a full Lowrance network.
The Elite FS on the other hand, is intended more for use as a stand alone unit, or for a small network.
Built-in sonar: Both series are identical in this regard, with CHIRP, 2D, and Active Imaging SideScan and DownScan.
Ability to use CHIRP and SideScan at the same time: While the HDS Live can run both CHIRP sonar and SideScan at the same time, the Elite FS can only run one of these at a time.
This is due the capacitor architecture of the HDS Live, which can sustain a higher sustained sonar energy output than the Elite FS.
However, the Elite FS can run 2D sonar and SideScan at the same time (just not CHIRP).
Compatibility with Livesight and Active Target: Both series are identical in this regard, and are compatible with Lowrance Livesight or Active Target live sonar transducers, by plugging the module that comes with these transducers into the ethernet port of the fish finder.
SolarMax HD screen: While the HDS Live has a screen with SolarMax HD technology, the Elite FS does not. This results in a brighter screen that can be viewed even when there is a lot of reflection due to sunlight.
What does Lowrance HDS stand for?
Lowrance HDS stands for High Definition System, and represents their most high-end fish finders designed to be Lowrance’s flagship sonar lineup.
As such, all HDS units come with state of the art Lowrance technology intended to compete with the best sonars on the market.
What is the difference between HDS Live and HDS Carbon?
The main difference between HDS Live and HDS Carbon is that HDS Live is designed for use with the Active Imaging 3 in 1 transducer, while the HDS Carbon is intended to be used with a TotalScan or LSS-2 transducer.
In addition, HDS Live is compatible with Active Target or LiveSight live sonar straight out of the box, and this compatibility with Lowrance live sonar probably accounts for the “Live” in HDS Live.
But you can also use an HDS Carbon with either of these live sonars if you get a software update for your unit.
Also, the 12” and 16” version of HDS Live come with 4 additional programmable buttons on the front, as well as a port for connecting with a smartphone on the back.
Finally, all transducer ports on the HDS Live have been changed from 7-pin to 9-pin connectors (though you can still use old transducer versions with an adapter).
When did Lowrance HDS Live come out?
Lowrance HDS Live came out in late 2018, and replaced HDS Carbon, which was the high-end fish finder HDS lineup of Lowrance up to that point.
What does HDS Live do?
The most important feature of HDS Live is that it is designed to work with Active Imaging (which includes CHIRP sonar, SideScan, and DownScan), as well as LiveSight or Active Target live sonars.
In other words, HDS Live is built to work with all the most advanced sonar technologies built by Lowrance.
In addition to its state of the art sonar functionalities, HDS Live also has advanced GPS mapping and chartplotting capabilities, and comes with preloaded C-Maps covering inland and coastal waters of North America.
Does HDS Live have 3D?
While HDS Live doesn’t come with 3D sonar, it is compatible with StructureScan 3D if you use a sonar module that comes with the StructureScan transducer.
You can plug the module into one of the ethernet pots, plus one or two additional transducers into the transducer ports, giving you access to an impressive array of sonar technologies at once.
What transducer comes with HDS Live?
The Active Imaging 3 in 1 transducer comes with HDS Live units. This gives you access to 2D sonar, CHIRP, SideScan, and DownScan functionality right out of the box.
What is the difference between Lowrance Elite Ti2 and Elite FS?
The main difference between Elite Ti2 and Elite FS is that the Elite FS comes with pinch-to-zoom touchscreen functionality, an additional programmable button, as well as an ethernet port.
Out of the added features on the Elite FS, the ethernet port is the most important addition, as it allows the Elite FS to be used with Active Target, which is Lowrance’s flagship live sonar technology released in 2020.
When did Elite FS come out?
The Elite FS series was released in 2020, and replaced the Elite Ti2 series, which had been the mid-range fish finder lineup of Lowrance up to that point.
It’s no coincidence that the release date of the Elite FS is close to that of Active Target, as one of the main changes that Lowrance added to the Elite FS is the ability to be used with Active Target.
What does Elite FS do?
The Elite FS comes with many similar functionalities as the HDS Live series, but as a simplified version in a streamlined package, and at a significantly lower cost.
Similar to HDS Live, Elite FS is built to function with Active Imaging (which includes 2D sonar, CHIRP, DownScan, and SideScan), as well as Active Target or LiveSight live sonar transducers.
In addition to this, the Elite FS series also comes with state of the art GPS chartplotting and mapping functionalities, which can be combined with its advanced sonar capabilities.
What transducer comes with Elite FS?
The Elite FS is sold together with the Active Imaging 3 in 1 transducer, which includes traditional sonar, CHIRP, SideScan, and DownScan functionalities.
What is the difference between HDS Live and Elite FS?
The main difference between the HDS Live and Elite FS series is that HDS Live comes with 2 transducer ports, SD card slots, and ethernet ports, while the Elite FS only has one of each.
In addition, the HDS Live units come with much higher screen resolution, as well as SolarMax HD technology, which counteracts glare from bright sunlight.
Finally, the HDS Live series can also sustain a higher sonar energy output, and as a result is able to run CHIRP sonar and SideScan at the same time, while the Elite FS can only run 2D sonar and SideScan at the same time, but not CHIRP.