Lowrance Elite-5 CHIRP
CHIRP is a great sonar technology to have in a fish finder, as it offers superior target separation, less cluttered imaging, and of course, a better vision of the underwater environment at higher depths. If a few years back this sonar technology was pretty expensive, nowadays it can be found in affordable units. Therefore, if you’re looking for a fish finder / GPS unit, for a price under $400, the Elite-5 CHIRP from Lowrance is one to put on your list.
There are actually several Elite-5 CHIRP units, sold with or without transducer, or various mapping cards. Therefore, to avoid any confusions before proceeding with the in-depth description of this particular unit, we must specify that this is the 000-11655-001 model, the one that comes with CHIRP sonar, DownScan, GPS and basic maps, and the HDI Skimmer that supports both types of sonar. So, let’s have a look at all its features and functions.
- Screen: 5″ diagonal, 480H x 480V pixel matrix, 256-color TFT, with LED backlight
- Sonar: Broadband Sounder and DownScan Imaging
- Depth Capability: 1,000 ft (305 m) for Broadband Sounder, 300 ft. (91 m) for DownScan
- Frequency and Coverage:
- 200 kHz (11°) / 83 kHz (60°) for broadband
- 455 kHz for DownScan, fore to aft. 2.8°, port to starboard 56°
- 800 kHz for DownScan fore to aft 1.6°, port to starboard 32°
- Transducer: Transom, Hybrid Dual (HDI), number 000-10976-001
- Power Output: 500 Watts (RMS)
- Power Input: 10-17 VDC
- GPS: 16-Channel Internal GPS Antenna
- Maps: Basemap
- Routes, Waypoints, Tracks: 100, 3000, 100 (10,000 points each)
Sonar features and functions
First of all, this unit comes with the 000-10976-001 transducer, also known as the Lowrance HDI skimmer transducer. This particular transducer can support four frequencies – 83/200/455/800 – thus it does support DownScan imaging. It’s capable of scanning depths up to 1,000 ft (305 m) for 2D sonar and 300 ft (91 m) for DownScan. Of course, these are the maximum possible depths, as transducer reading strictly depends on bottom composition, water and weather conditions, installation and other factors. But as a general idea, it has a pretty decent range and can be used offshore with no problem. The transducer also has a temperature probe incorporated, therefore the control unit can track water temperature.
This transducer uses 4 distinctive sonar beams for each frequency. For 2D CHIRP, it uses two conical beams of 11° for 200 kHz, for a more focused view and better detail, and of 60° for 83 kHz, for a better coverage. For DownScan also uses two beams, but these are very thin fore to aft wise. From side to side, the angle used for 455 kHz is 56°, and for 800 kHz is 32°.
Now, the built-in CHIRP sonar can actually use 3 scanning modes: Low CHIRP, Med CHIRP, and High CHIRP. But since the supplied transducer is capable only of 83/200 kHz, you will only be able to use the High and Med modes. The 2D CHIRP standard is great for identifying targets, especially due to the superior target separation.
DownScan, on the other hand, operates at higher frequencies, and it’s best to use in shallow water, especially to determine the shape and consistency of structure and bottom, or understanding vegetation better. Fish don’t typically don’t appear as arches on DownScan (DSI), but as bright white dots. Of course, this type of sonar is great as well at detecting fish, but it’s much better for observing structure, thus the terminology “StructureScan”.
This Lowrance fish finder also provides several sonar-related functions, such as TrackBack, DownScan Overlay, Flasher View and Fish ID.
TrackBack is a function that actually allows you to record sonar, and to scroll back through the sonar log, in order to review a specific spot you’ve passed over. It actually requires a data microSD card to be inserted into the unit. This also stands for saving screenshots.
Fish ID is a function that turns the fish arches into fish icons. It’s available only for the 2D sonar. Evidently, some of the returns that are assigned a fish icon may not be fish, but debris. However, this is a function great to have if you’re new to sonar, or simply don’t like the traditional 2D view. In Fish ID mode, the depth of each fish is displayed above the fish icon though.
When it comes to flashers, there are actually two functions of this type: Circular Flasher and Vertical Flasher. The Circular Flasher is used by most anglers for ice fishing, as it’s best to use in stationary mode. The vertical flasher (or Amplitude Scope as it’s called), is a function that gives you the most recent sonar echo and can be viewed in conjunction with a 2D view.
DownScan Overlay is a function specific to Lowrance units, a sonar function that allows you to blend the 2D sonar with the DownScan sonar. Now, since the 2D is better at distinguishing between fish, and DownScan is better for structure, blending the two views together can help you make a better difference in some cases, between fish and vegetation.
Last but not least, when it comes to sonar, this unit provides quite several Fishing Mode Options, such as Shallow Water, Fresh Water, Deep Water, Clear Water, Slow or Fast Trolling, and others.
Navigation features and functions
Although the name of the unit doesn’t specify it, the Elite-5 CHIRP does have GPS. It actually has a 16-channel GPS internal antenna, with WAAS/EGNOS/MSAS correction. It offers fast and accurate locks, and updates every second. When it comes to mapping, this unit doesn’t feature any superior charts pack but does come with the world reference basemap. In other words, it covers over 3,000 enhanced lake maps, providing depth contour, coastal depth contour and shoreline details, and spot depth soundings up to 1,000 ft (305 m).
The unit can save up to 100 trails and up to 10,000 points per trail. It can also save 100 routes, and up to 3,000 waypoints.
Control unit features and functions
The Elite-5 CHIRP unit features a square display, with a 480 X 480 pixel resolution, and as the name suggests, 5-inch in diagonal. It’s a bright color screen, 256 color TFT, full VGA. It also has LED backlight for better visibility in direct sunlight and at night. The unit is not full-waterproof, but has an IPX7 water rating, which means it can survive incidental water exposure, or even immersions up to 1 m, for up to 30 min. This stands only for freshwater though. Saltwater can actually do serious damage to the connectors.
The control head features an NMEA 0183 port, for superior connection options, and also has one microSD card slot for map upgrades, data transfer or sonar recording.
An important aspect to mention regarding the data microSD cards for this unit, is the fact that the maximum it can accept, are cards up to 32GB. Therefore, if you’re going to record sonar, save screenshots etc, make sure you make the right selection for a data card.
One of the best aspects regarding many of the Lowrance units is the fact that they leave quite some room for upgrades. So, to begin with, the unit can work with quite a selection of transducers from Airmar and Lowrance. To be more specific, it can also function with the 000-10977-001 transducer for low frequency and deepwater use.
When it comes to maps, this unit is compatible with Lowrance Lake Insight, Nautic Insight PRO and HD, Fishing HotSpots PRO, C-MAP Max-N by Jeppessen, and Navionics Gold/HotMaps. It can also work with Insight Genesis modified maps, and conversely, you can use recorded sonar from this unit to customize your own maps via the online software Insight Genesis.
The Elite-5 CHIRP is also upgradable with an external GPS antenna.
There isn’t much to be said when it comes to any drawbacks regarding this unit. It’s pretty much a 5-star fishfinder / GPS combo. However, the lack of an additional microSD card may be an inconvenience, if you want to save screenshots and record sonar, but also have an optional charts chip. This way you’ll have to swap cards. Also, it’s not compatible with NMEA 2000.
The Lowrance Elite-5 CHIRP quite a complete small unit, with superior sonar technologies and precise GPS. For a price lower than $400 you get CHIRP 2D sonar, DownScan, and the transducer to support these types of sonar technology. GPS and basemap are also included. It’s an excellent combo for a small boat. It’s pretty easy to install and operate, will definitely increase your chances to catch fish and the situational awareness when on the water.