Man operating a GPS Chart-plotter

The Best Marine GPS Chartplotter 2021. Navigate With Confidence!

(Last Updated On: February 19, 2021)

The marine GPS Chartplotter has become vastly populated with a range of systems available.

These include small 5 inch displays to interactive 24-inch screens with a variety of features to play around with and suited to different types of boating.

The best marine GPS Chartplotter is the Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Chartplotter, which features autopilot compatibility, and radar support.

In terms of the different types of marine Chartplotters available, they can be dedicated to certain types of boating.

These include coastal power cruising, coastal sail cruising, racing, sport fishing and much more.

Best Marine GPS Chartplotters

Marine GPS ChartplotterPreviewWireless
Simrad Cruise 9No
Garmin GPSMAP 78scYes
Garmin Striker Plus 5cvYes
Lawrence HOOK2 9
No
Humminbird HELIX 5No

The majority of marine GPS Chartplotters feature a range of additional features.

These include fishfinder GPS combos, along with wireless connectivity for saving and sharing your data over smartphones.

However, depending upon the budget that you have set aside will decide on the number of features that your device will have.

The display is the main feature and comes in a range of sizes, resolutions and touchscreen functionalities.

The latest Chartplotters mostly all have touchscreen functionality and this has transformed the way in which we use these devices today.

For large vessels, these devices are essential and allow you to navigate with confidence.

Below is a list fo the best marine GPS Chartplotters that provide precision Chartplotting and a range of other features.

Simrad Cruise-9 Chartplotter

Simrad Cruise brings the user a high level of intuitiveness and a complete list of features. It can display charts, navigation, and sonar in a split-screen view, or a separate view.

The menu navigation is made as easy as possible with a rotary dial and keypad controls.

You can easily create routes while keeping an eye on the temperatures, speed, depth, and battery voltage.

Simrad Cruise will enhance your experience on the water by simply making all the necessary charts available to you.

It comes with a pre-loaded US coastal map and a worldwide base map.

In terms of the features of the Simrad Cruise 9 device, they include:

  • simple menus plus easy-to-use rotary dial and keypad controls
  • Pre-loaded US coastal map
  • Supports a wide range of enhanced charts from C-MAP® and Navionics®
  • Pre-selected split screens to keep important data in view
  • Display depth, position, battery voltage
  • Sunlight viewable display

Overall, it is the best Simrad Chartplotter for the money. You will not be disappointed as you’ll find it very easy to use and reliable.

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Garmin GPSMAP 78sc

The Garmin GPSMAP 78sc is another great Chartplotter from Garmin that finds its way on our list.

It is a sailing navigator that comes with a color TFT display with 2.6-inch screen size, features that make it suitable for boating, kayaking and any other water activities that involve navigation.

It features a built-in 3-axis electronic compass, a barometric altimeter, and weather display.

It allows you to mark your waypoints and enter coordinates manually if you can’t find your fishing spot on the preloaded maps.

More charts can be downloaded on the device later on, for extra costs, but they are really worth it since they cover areas all around the world.

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The device is a great pick but you’ll have to use the lanyard which comes with it to mount it on your boat. 

Overall, it is one of the best you can choose for the number of features it has, the only drawbacks being that it cannot show the depth and it might be difficult to see the display when exposed in the sun.

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Garmin Striker Plus 5cv

The Garmin Striker Plus 5cv fishfinder has a bright 5inch display along with a built-in GPS that features Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar.

Use the GPS to create and mark waypoints, create routes and you can also view your boat’s speed at the same time.

The built-in, high-sensitivity GPS finds and maintains your position anywhere you are on the water. 

One of the great things about the Garmin is you don’t need to have an advanced degree in anything to be able to use the Quickdraw Contours mapping software to create HD fishing maps.

This function allows you to toll the shorelines and the depths and map at the same time.

The Garmin Striker Plus 5v with Transducer features:

  • CHIRP ClearVu scanning sonar
  • Built-in Quickdraw contour mapping
  • Can create and store up to 2 million acres of maps
  • Five-inch screen
  • Bright, sunlight-readable screen
  • Intuitive user interface 

The Garmin high-sensitivity GPS finds and maintains your position anywhere that you go on the water. You will be able to mark waypoints for different locations to be able to return to that spot with ease.

With the large and sun-light readable screen you will have the advantage of seeing what is happening beneath your boat. The intuitive user interface makes it a simple thing to navigate between features.

Garmin CHIRP technology, in addition to the Garmin ClearVu scanning sonar, gives you a nearly photographic, wide image so that you can see structure, submerged objects, and fish. You will be able to catch more fish with this easy-to-use Garmin Striker Plus. 

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Lawrence HOOK2 9

The standard Lawrence HOOK2 9 unit brings an inbuilt GPS with maps, sonar with CHIRP, StructureScan, and DownScan.

The installation is simplified because Lawrence HOOK2 9 only runs one transducer.

The mounting itself is easy, especially if you have the experience of installing this type of units over time.

Navigating the menu might feel a bit awkward at first but once you figure it out it will seem very simple.

You can go with the standard settings but you might soon want to adjust the level of contrast and sensitivity so you can match the outside conditions.

From a fisherman point of view, this unit offers everything you need in a sounder: map, sonar, StructureScan, and DownScan.

It shows the fish and identifies structure.

Features that can be found in the Lawrence HOOK2 9 include:

  • Auto-tuning sonar and phone-like menus
  • Wide-angle CHIRP sonar cone
  • A single transducer
  • TripleShot transducer with SideScan and Downscan
  • Preloaded US and CA mapping

Overall, the Lawrence HOOK2 9 is a complete option for any fisherman out there and it’s not going to break the bank.

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Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5

The Hummingbird imaging sonar and mapmaking power of the Auto Chart Live


Hummingbird is the most popular marine GPS chartplotter on the market and one of the cheapest too.

It features a 800 x 480 5 inch display with a backlight and micro SD card slot for saving of waypoints and adding optional maps.

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In terms of the features, the Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 includes:

  • Internal GPS Chartplotting with built-in UniMap cartography
  • Auto Chart Live technology
  • 4000 watts PTP power output
  • Dual Beam Plus Switchfire sonar technology
  • Slimline construction
  • Upgradable software

The Hummingbird imaging sonar and the mapmaking power of the Auto Chart Live are the desirable features.

Considering that its an affordable marine GPS chart plotter, it certainly matches the advanced features of the expensive alternatives.

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Marine GPS Chartplotter Buying Guide

For any avid boater, a marine GPS Chartplotter is an essential tool that you need to have on your boat.

A GPS Chartplotter helps you plan a safe course to follow while you’re out on the water.

When selecting a GPS Chartplotter, there are many things to consider.

Chartplotters have become very advanced over the past several years, with a variety of unique features.

Here’s what to look at when shopping for a GPS Chartplotter.

What Navigation Data Access Does a Marine GPS Chartplotter Provides?

The most important thing to consider when shopping for your marine GPS device is what kind of navigation data it can give you.

Many devices nowadays are able to connect into a larger database to display location data.

They will also connect to sensors that are placed elsewhere on the boat to provide a variety of other metrics.

Many devices now even offer an autopilot function, which is very helpful for plotting charts quickly.

However, it’s important that the software stay updated for the device to function at its best.

Some smaller chart plotters do require location data to be put in manually, so it’s important to check this before you make a purchase.

Marine GPS Chartplotter Racing Features

If you want to use your Chartplotter for racing, it’s helpful to have a device that’s designed with this in mind.

Many GPS devices now come with racing specific features to help you keep track of your time and speed while out on the water.

They also have wind calculation tools to help you make smarter decisions and move faster in the water.

Alternatively, if you’re not interested in racing, you may not need a Chartplotter with all these bells and whistles, and would instead want to look for something simpler that suits your needs.

Marine GPS Chartplotter Fishing Features

If you are an avid fisher, you will want to look for a Chartplotter that has handy features to help you fish successfully.

Many chart plotters now come with sonar and other fish-finding tools, which are incredibly useful, particularly for professional fishermen.

Some options even allow you to draw customized seabed maps to help you locate and relocate your favorite fishing spots.

Many popular brands of marine GPS tools now offer at least one option that’s designed for fishing.

It’s important to note that sonar features can be very costly and complex to install, so they’re not for the faint of heart.

Marine GPS Chartplotter Display Size

Chartplotters come in many different sizes now, and it’s helpful to have a large Chartplotter so you can see all the relevant navigational details up close.

A bigger screen allows for better functionality, so you’ll be able to really make the most out of the device.

You’ll also want to consider how much brightness the screen offers since you’ll likely be using it at night or in dim spaces at least some of the time.

A bright, colorful screen is most useful for navigational purposes.

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Touchscreen vs Buttons

The overall design of the GPS Chartplotter is a big consideration when making your purchase.

Many chart plotters now have a touchscreen option, which is very intuitive to use.

However, touchscreens can be difficult to use when dealing with the elements, as they don’t always work well in damp or salty environments.

Alternatively, buttons are more reliable than a touchscreen, but they’re not necessarily the most intuitive, and they can take longer to use than a touchscreen.

Devices with buttons usually have a smaller screen as well. Which option you go for will really depend on your personal preference.

Marine GPS Chartplotter Remote Connectivity

Another very useful feature to look for in a marine Chartplotter is the ability to connect to other devices, such as your smartphone or smartwatch.

Many chart plotters now offer apps that you can use to access data from your mobile phone.

Some chart plotters also come with handheld mobile devices that you can take with you to control the system as you move around.

Many chart plotters also offer wifi connectivity, which allows you to access a variety of helpful online services.

For example, these devices can now connect to live weather updates as well as location data from other boats, so you can stay more informed while you’re out on the water.

This is an extremely helpful feature to look for when shopping for a Chartplotter.

marine chartplotter

Ease of Installation and Use

Chartplotters have become incredibly complex over the past several years, offering an increased number of useful features that offer more detailed navigation.

However, these added features can make the Chartplotter difficult to install.

If you are sailing a small ship without complex navigation needs, this may not be the best fit for your needs.

When shopping, it’s helpful to consider how much extra wiring you’ll need to do to install the GPS module, as well as any accessories or sensors you’ll need.

If you can, it may also be helpful to test out a demo of the GPS device in-store to determine how intuitive it is.

Casual sailors may not need the full range of features that an advanced Chartplotter can offer and instead should opt for something that’s simple to learn and easy to use on a regular basis.

Small handheld units may be the best way to go for casual sailors because you can start using them quickly with only a small learning curve.

Even for more advanced sailors, it’s still important that the controls are manageable because otherwise, you’ll spend more time trying to figure out what all the metrics mean instead of getting helpful information out of it.

There’s so much to consider when buying a marine GPS Chartplotter, so it’s important to really take your time when shopping and look at all the relevant features before making a decision.

If you can, it’s very helpful to go into a boating store to look at the devices.

Many of them offer demos so you can see how they work and if they would be a good fit for your personal needs.

Finding the right Chartplotter is often exactly what you need to do more with your boat, whether you’re a casual sailor or a serious sportsman.

Conclusion

A marine GPS Chartplotter allows you to navigate your vessel with confidence with the advanced sonar and waypoint technologies.

They are expensive devices but once you have used one once, you will always be looking to upgrade to the latest.

All of our recommendations within this article cover a high and low budget with a range of features suitable to certain types of boating.

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