The display on the Lowrance HDS 5 Gen2 is high resolution and definition. The 480 x 480 does well on the 5-inch screen and provides plenty of clarity while using all the different pages. A key to the screen performing well in bright conditions, and something that often troubles these types of units is the cold-cathode fluorescent backlighting. The operation of the unit is very straight forward and intuitive. The screen does quite well while using both the GPS and Sonar features, while using half the screen for each function. Overall the display is very robust and can handle being used in harsh conditions, which is why the HDS-5 Gen2 has been the choice of so many fishermen.
When choosing the mapping for the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 you have many options. The map pack compatible are Lake Insight maps, Nautic Insight maps, Insight Planner, Navionics and Fishing Hot Spots. All the map packs have their own areas of strengths and all are good choices, however, make sure that the body of water you plan to fish is part of the map pack you purchase. There is one SD slot, which is used for the optional cartography maps. The HDS-5 Gen2 is compatible with Navionics, Fishing Hotspots and lake and nautic insight. There are enough map packs to assure you that almost any body of water you wish to fish is mapped with contours. The GPS itself is built into the unit, which means that you don’t have to install an external GPS. The HDS-5 is also NMEA 2000 compatible, which allows auto pilots and other electronics to be integrated into the HDS-5 controls. I personally have my fishfinder hooked into my auto-pilot, which allows me to set courses and let the GPS takeover steering.
The Lowrance HDS-5 has three different operating frequency. The sonar used in shallow situations is the 200 kHz transducer, which is standard on all HDS-5 units. The other two frequencies are 83 and 50 kHz. When choosing the model best for you think about the type of fishing you do. The 83 kHz transducer produces a nice image in situations other than extreme depths. If fishing or boating takes you into deeper water the 50 kHz would be for you. The added wavelength of the 50 kHz helps get the sonar down into depths above 1,000 feet. The 83 kHz model would do well on inland lakes or shallower bays, and in those conditions would actually outperform the 50 kHz signal with a more detailed image. The available StructureScan HD (video below) allows the user to view images using sonar side scanning. Another option is the addition of Radar to the unit, which is a nice feature especially if you have to drive through the fog on a large lake.
Lowrance has made a very solid and dependable unit in the HDS-5. All the features perform well, the recent addition of the Structure Scan HD helps Lowrance compete with Humminbird side scanning. I find NMEA 2000 connectivity to be very useful and allows multiple electronics to be controlled at the fishfinder. Plotting courses on the GPS and using autopilot to complete them is a very helpful feature when using an autopilot. The GPS and fish finder use quality components in the internal antenna and the two choices of the transducer. We recommend the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 highly and use a fishfinder close to this one on one of our fishing boats!