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Humminbird HELIX 12 CHIRP SI GPS

ProductDisplay SizeSonarDepthGPSCartography
Check Discounted Price
12.1"CHIRP 2D,
DualBeam Plus,
1500' standard,
150' SI / DI
AutoChart Live

The HELIX 12 CHIRP SI GPS is the top unit of the HELIX group. It’s the best unit from Humminbird for 2016, at least so far. It offers just about everything the other HELIX units have, including Side Imaging, Down Imaging, GPS, ContourXD maps, AutoChart etc. And on top of all these, it also features CHIRP sonar technology.

Technical Details and Specifications

  • Screen: 12.1″ diagonal, 65,000 color TFT, 1280H x 800V pixel resolution, 16:9 aspect ratio, with backlight
  • Sonar: Broadband CHIRP, Dual Beam Plus, HD Side Imaging, HD Down Imaging
  • Depth Capability:
    • 150 feet (45 m) for Side Imaging and Down Imaging
    • 1500 feet (457 m) on DualBeam Plus
  • Frequency and Coverage:
    • DualBeam Plus: 200 kHz / 20° and 83 kHz / 60°
    • Down Imaging: 455 kHz / Narrow, Medium and Wide fan-shaped cone
    • Side Imaging: 455 kHz / 86° (x2), and 800 kHz / 55°, 480 ft. side-to-side coverage
  • Transducer: Transom XHS 9 HDSI 180 T
  • Max. Power Output: 1,000 Watts (RMS)
  • Power Input: 10-20 VDC
  • GPS: Internal, Precision
  • Maps: ContourXD (built-in)
  • Routes, Waypoints, Tracks: 47; 2,500; 50 (20,000 points each)

Sonar and transducer

Like all the other HELIX units, the HELIX 12 CHIRP SI GPS comes with a transducer. The transducer supplied is the XHS 9 HD SI 180 T. It’s an HD transducer, meaning that the imaging offered by side sonar and down sonar are clearer. This transducer integrates a temperature sensor, so the unit will be able to read the top water temperature and display its variations via the Temperature Graph function. It comes with a transom mount and features 20′ (6 m) of cable.

Humminbird Side Imaging View

Humminbird Side Imaging View

When it comes to the unit’s sonar capabilities, there’s one important aspect to be clarified, as its name is a bit misleading. This HELIX 12 unit can only use CHIRP technology for its 2D sonar, and not for Side Imaging and Down Imaging. Also, since this transducer is supplied with other units such as the HELIX 10 SI GPS, you’re probably wondering if it’s CHIRP capable. With this transducer, the HELIX 12 SI CHIRP GPS unit can modulate pulse for its 2D sonar between 75-95 kHz and 175-225 kHz. In other words, it can use two CHIRP modes: Medium CHIRP and High CHIRP. On the other hand, with a more powerful CHIRP transducer, this unit can cover wider frequency spectrum, being able to modulate pulse between 28 kHz and 250 kHz, offering the possibility to scan at depths up to 3,500 ft (1066 m). With the current transducer, the fish finder’s depth capability is approx. 1,500 ft (457) for 2D and 150 ft (45 m) for SI and DI. Needless to say, using CHIRP you will benefit from a better target separation, better definition on target fish, and less clutter on screen.

Nonetheless, this unit is capable of 50/83/200 kHz frequencies for 2D. Thus, in case you don’t want to use CHIRP, you can use the standard sonar modes. For that, the transducer will use conical beams, at angles of 20° for 200 kHz, and 60° for 83 kHz. Since it’s DualBeam Plus sonar (dual-frequency sonar), both beams can be run at the same time, and the returns viewed and compared in split-screen. The unit is also capable of 50 kHz frequencies, but in order to use this frequency, you will need a 50/200 kHz transducer.

For Side Imaging, the unit can use both 455/800 kHz frequencies with the given transducer. The beams used are thin, fan-shaped not cone-shaped as for 2D. For 455 kHz, the side beams feature 86° angles, each beam covering an area up 240 ft (73 m) on its side, with a total side-to-side coverage of 480 ft (146 m). For 800 kHz beams are narrower, with angles of 55°, the side-to-side and depth capability being also reduced, so that the imaging to gain more clarity.

The Down Imaging mode offered by this HELIX 12 unit isn’t as great as for the HELIX 12 CHIRP DI GPS. That’s because with the supplied transducer, the unit actually creates the down beam based on its side beams. Thus, depth capability won’t go over 150 ft (45 m). Beams used for DI are also thin, just as for SI, but they scan directly under the boat. There are three options for DI: narrow, medium and wide.

Evidently, just as the other Humminbird HELIX SI units, the HELIX 12 one also offers several sonar functions that should be mentioned. These are Fish ID+, Real Time Sonar, Bottom Lock, SwitchFire and various alarms. Sonar Recording is quite a useful also included with this unit, which makes a great combo with AutoChart live. As its name suggests, it allows you to record sonar and also rewind the sonar feed, in order to review a certain spot and even to mark waypoints on the recording.

Fish ID+ View

Fish ID+ View

One last aspect to be mentioned here regards the vessel’s speed required for optimal sonar imaging. Even though this unit and sonar combo should be able to maintain a bottom reading at speeds up to 35 MPH, the optimal clarity is achieved when sailing at speeds between 3-7 MPH.

GPS and navigation

One of the top navigation features offered by this unit is AutoChart Live. This feature makes available the mapping of any body of water, as you sail. Maps made with AutoChart can be overlayed with Navionics or LakeMaster charts, for new details and for maximum awareness, or with recorded Side Imaging sonar. All charts made with AutoChart are compatible with i-Pilot Link. This means you can follow your newly created depth contours on autopilot if you use a Minn Kota motor. And finally, the unit has a memory that can hold up to 8 hours of recording time.

As the unit’s name suggests, it’s a GPS unit, featuring a quick and accurate internal GPS/GLONASS module. It has the built-in ContourXD charts as navigation support.

ContourXD Chart View

ContourXD Chart View

These charts, although not the most detailed, they do cover 3,000+ U.S. lakes with contour lines, also providing other information, such as drops, channels, or lights, markers, major roads, and interstates. The unit is capable of storing up to 2,500 waypoints within its internal memory, 47 routes (50 waypoints per route). It also features a trail recording function, being able to record and save up to 50 trails (20,000 points per trail). Needless to say, there’s the possibility of converting a trail into a route, in order to re-trace, add waypoints to it etc.

Control unit features and functions

One of the major aspects regarding the control unit itself, require mentioning first. This is the processor superiority to the older 1100 series. This HELIX unit features a processor 25% faster than the older units, thus scrolling through maps, or menus is quite swift, while sonar features a smoother refresh rate.

To avoid any confusion regarding its wireless control, the unit doesn’t have Wi-Fi and does not connect to the web. Also, its interface cannot be controlled with your phone or other Bluetooth devices, such as the Lowrance Elite-7 Ti for example.

The HELIX 12 units including this one, have the biggest display of the HELIX series. They have a 12.1″ diagonal display, with a pixel matrix of 1280 x 800, offering sharp imaging, and great detail. The display is LED backlit, and glass bonded, features that considerably increase readability even in direct sunlight. It’s also IPX7 waterproof, with compact sealing, being able to withstand splashes, rain and even immersions, with no problem.

When it comes to connectivity, this unit offers NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 possibilities, along with an Ethernet port. It also integrates a dual microSD card reader.

The mount included with the unit is the Humminbird Gimbal mount. The box also includes a unit cover.

Upgrade Possibilities

To begin with, the unit’s internal software is upgradable. All upgrades are free, and whenever there’s one available, you can download it at MyHumminbird, and upload it to your unit via SD card or wire connection.

As we’ve mentioned above, this unit can use various other transducers, including 50/200 kHz ones for scanning at greater depths and being capable of Low CHIRP frequencies. It’s also 360 Imaging capable and can use an apposite transducer for this sonar technology.

For navigation, this unit can support i-Pilot Link for Minn Kota Ulterra, PowerDrive V2 and Terrova motors, along with AIS and HD RADAR. And finally, charts can be upgraded as well, this unit being compatible with Navionics Platinum+, Navionics Gold/HotMaps, and LakeMaster Charts.

Last but not least, this is a wireless control unit. It can be operated via a Bluetooth remote control, featuring 7 buttons, each button with long and short press functions. This remote control allows you to operate quite many functions of the unit from distance, wirelessly, a feature which can be extremely helpful on a bigger boat. A remote control is not included though.

The Pros

  • 2D CHIRP sonar, offering superior target separation and definition and less clutter on screen;
  • DualBeam Plus sonar technology – allowing the use of both 2D beams simultaneously;
  • Side Imaging and Down Imaging technology;
  • Various useful sonar functions, such as Bottom Lock, SwitchFire, RTS, Fish ID+ etc;
  • High-definition transducer (XHS 9 HDSI 180 T), temperature capable, included;
  • Wide 12.1″ display, 1280 x 800 resolution, offering a lot of screen space for multiple applications;
  • Bright display, glare-free;
  • 25% faster processor than previous 1100 series units;
  • Wireless control;
  • Sonar recording and Screen Snapshot functions;
  • AutoChart Live included;
  • High-precision, internal GPS included;
  • Built-in ContourXD charts;
  • Multiple connectivity options such as Ethernet, NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000;
  • Dual SD card reader;
  • Navionics and LakeMaster capable;
  • AIS, RADAR, iPilot Link compatible;
  • 360 Imaging compatible;
  • Gimbal mount and cover also included.

The Cons

  • Depth capability of SI and DI is not that great, only 150 ft (45 m);
  • It’s a high-tech unit, may take a while until you master it completely.


The Humminbird HELIX 12 CHIRP SI GPS is one of the most complete units of the HELIX group. It offers CHIRP sonar technology which makes it great for off-shore fishing, but also has HD Side Imaging and HD Down Imaging for the best sonar detail in freshwater, or basically in any body of water with depths up to 150 ft. It’s also quite a complete navigation unit, with a fast GPS, excellent charts capabilities and AutoChart Live. Due to its size, it may not be the best choice for a small kayak, but beginning with bass boats, this unit can serve as an excellent fishing and navigation tool. Considering its size, sonar and navigation capabilities, connectivity options and the fact that it comes with a transducer, it’s pretty safe to say that its price matches its value.


  1. I need an extra length for the transducer, which one do I need?

    • I think it’s the 720096-2 (EC M30) cable.

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