7 Best Marine GPS Systems of 2017

Home » Outdoors

It’s no exaggeration to say that the nautical GPS or, as it’s commonly known, the marine GPS has changed boating forever and in numerous ways much in the way the hunting GPS has changed that activity. The marine GPS today can help guide boats flawlessly across the largest oceans, enable fishermen to locate fish and paint an accurate picture of the underwater terrain so that vessels navigating close to shore don’t wind up on the rocks. Navigational skills that used to take years to master are becoming – dare we say – obsolete as a position accurate to within a couple of feet is now available at the push of a button 24/7/365 from anywhere in the world. Many marine GPS devices today also feature fish finder GPS which takes much of the mystery and luck out of locating the best fishing grounds while others ceaselessly scan the ocean, harbor, lake or river floor and alert you to dangers.

Best Marine GPS (Our Picks 2017):

As we move into this brave new world of GPS marine navigation, charting, fishing and more the only relevant question becomes “Who makes the best marine GPS device?” Below we’re going to answer that question by fixing the spotlight on what we consider to be the 7 best marine GPS devices available today. You’ll notice the list seems a bit Garmin heavy but that’s not because anyone here has a stake in Garmin. It’s because they currently dominate the industry the way google dominates search. That said, let’s get started.

Garmin Marine Striker 4 with Built-in Marine GPS

Garmin Marine Striker 4

The Striker 4 marine GPS and fishfinder from Garmin features built in GPS and the company’s CHIRP transducer for a noticeably higher level of clarity when it comes to denoting schools of fish large or small as well as delineating underwater structural anomalies. As such any boat owner whether engaged in fishing or any other activity that may require moving outside normal channels would do well to have one of these on board at all times. The underwater realm is the last great frontier. Unlock its secrets with the Garmin Striker 4 marine GPS.

Pros
  • CHIRP technology allows for greater detail regardless of your line of interest.
  • Identify fish, mark them and return later.
  • 3.5 inch diagonal color display is one of the larger out there.
  • Simple keypad operation does not require steep learning curve.
  • Attractive price point.
Cons
  • Info is accurate but graphics are decidedly lo-res.

The high performance CHIRP fishfinder/marine GPS combo allows you to identify your potential catch and mark it with a high degree of accuracy for later reference. The ability of the 77/200 kHz transducer to accurately record underwater structures both natural and manmade allows you to navigate safely under all conditions regardless of location. It can also be of enormous value when navigating in heavy fog. While the graphics as we noted above are 2005 all the way they nonetheless accurately pinpoint areas of danger or interest so your trip can be both more profitable and safer. That’s because CHIRP continuously sweeps a full range of frequencies and performs a comprehensive analysis in microseconds continuously returning an array actionable data for your consideration. (CHIRP can also be easily upgraded.) The whole unit is held firmly in place via a suction cup mount. Whether you’re sport fisherman, commercial fisherman, treasure hunter or ferry operator you’ll be glad you invited the Striker 4 marine GPS on board.

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof

The Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS features a clean, easy to use design, a 2.6 inch LCD color screen and amazingly it will float if dropped in the water with no ill effects. That waterproof design is a big plus but not the only one on display with the GPSMAP 78sc marine GPS. It also features a dedicated man overboard button that instantly marks the spot of the incident allowing you to relay it immediately to the Coast Guard and other nearby vessels. There’s also a barometric altimeter, an electronic compass and a full array of preloaded charts covering the US coast.

Pros
  • A full complement of detailed charts of US coastal regions.
  • 8 logically laid out navigation buttons including ‘page’, ‘menu’, ‘find’ and ‘man overboard or MOB.
  • Triple access electronic compass built in.
  • Waypoints, routes and more can be automatically shared from this handheld marine GPS with compatible devices.
  • Powered by 2 AA batteries (included).
Cons
  • 160 x 240 pixel screen resolution means bring your reading glasses.

The 78sc marine GPS from Garmin is both user and marine friendly (save the screen size) and is an invaluable navigational tool for commercial vessels or private yachts, sailboats and family fishing boats. The ability to instantaneously share your waypoints, routes and even geocaches means the days of simply disappearing at sea are effectively over. Someone will know where you are and the route you’ve take to get there should troubles arise and they can share that information with the Coast Guard and others. While the high sensitivity GPS for boats tells you where you are the built in 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter will allow you to plot a timely and accurate course back to safety or back to that special fishing ground you discovered on your last excursion. Should waves crash over the bow and your 78sc marine GPS wind up sloshing about on the deck it’s no problem as the unit is completely waterproof. And in the event one of those waves should take someone overboard with it there’s the dedicated man over board button that allows you to mark the exact spot where it occurred. No more navigating in circles with the 78sc marine GPS from Garmin.

Garmin GPSMAP 78 2.6-Inch Marine GPS Navigator

Garmin GPSMAP 78 2.6-Inch

Like its big brother the 78sc the Garmin Marine GPSMAP 78 marine GPS navigator is full of useful features and boasts a clean, easy to use design that allows you to safely and effectively find your way either in the open ocean or the inlet near your home. Like the 78sc it’s also completely waterproof and will float. Those who worry that a floating marine GPS device may still work afterward but the SD card will be ruined worry in vain because the microSD card for the 78 is tucked neatly into the waterproof battery compartment. Between preloaded maps and the optional BirdsEye Satellite imagery you’ll have the world covered with the Garmin 78 marine GPS.

Pros
  • Fully waterproof and floats in water.
  • 1.7 GB of built in memory to store maps.
  • Transflective display screen.
  • WAAS enabled GPS.
Cons
  • Resolution is lost when zooming in.
  • Comes with only the base map built in.

The Garmin 78 Marine GPS Navigator with 2.6 inch screen is the precursor to the 78sc marine GPS and is a fine GPS marine navigation unit in its own right. Responsive, versatile and able to take a hit from the weather you’ll find your way through the deepest water or unfamiliar shallows using the high performance GPS, tri-axial compass and the plethora of maps available for download. If you really want to win the gold medal for best prepared subscribe to the BirdsEye Satellite Imagery service and have the world at your fingertips. If you don’t currently have a marine GPS device on your vessel or you’re sporting an older model it’s time to move up to the 78 series marine GPS from Garmin and make the most of each outing.

Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP Marine GPS

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP

The 5 inch WVGA display of the Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP marine GPS is a welcome respite from some of the smaller displays that are often part and parcel of marine GPS devices like this. But that’s just the start of the units many incredible features. The CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse) broadband sonar represents a huge step forward in plotting and understanding what’s beneath the surface. While above the waves the high sensitivity GPS for boats keeps track of your movements within a few feet even on the rolling sea.

Pros
  • A full 5 inch WVGA display panel.
  • CHIRP broadband sonar emits high intensity pulse for more accurate rendering.
  • SD card located in the waterproof battery compartment, protected from the elements.
  • Built in Anima Cartography allows you to make the most of the GPS data.
  • Max depth 2500 feet.
Cons
  • Can entail a bit of a learning curve.
  • Lacks standby mode that would allow you to save battery power.

With its comparatively large display you’ll be able to locate fish, scan the depths and navigate unfamiliar waters easier and faster than you ever thought possible. The Helix 5 marine GPS comes ready to go with its internal GPS chart plotting and its ability to move seamlessly from GPS to fish finder and back again. If you wish you can display both features side by side. The Humminbird Helix 5 marine GPS also features something it calls “Clear Mode” which eliminates clutter, allowing you to home in on the bigger individual fish and “Max Mode” which ramps up fish identification to even more effective degrees and is likely what you’ll want to use to identify schools. All in all the Helix 5 marine GPS and fish finder from Humminbird is easy to use and effective and will help ensure you don’t return from your fishing venture empty handed or get lost in the process.

garmin chartplotter sonar

Garmin GPSMAP 840xs

After a brief stopover on Humminbird land we’re back to Garmin and this time with their outstanding GPSMAP 840xs Chartplotter-Sonar marine GPS unit. This is no hand-held unit. It’s meant to be screwed down into a place of prominence where its 8 inch SVGA display can be easily seen and the device can be easily utilized to provide you the clear, concise navigational assistance you need. The 840xs marine GPS features 2 kinds of CHIRP technology along with HD-ID sonar so you’ll know exactly what’s going on both above and below the surface at all times.

Pros
  • The unit comes preloaded with LakeVu HD and Bluechart G2 US coastal maps.
  • The high sensitivity marine GPS receiver accesses both the GPS and GLONASS earth positioning systems.
  • The unit is Garmin Radar compatible.
  • NMEA 2000 allows the device to be connected to autopilot for sure navigation.
  • Built in down imaging and optional side imaging.
Cons
  • Easily the most expensive marine GPS on our list but worth the stretch.

Without a doubt the 840xs marine GPS is a professional grade marine GPS navigation device with copious redundancies and a nice big 8 inch SVGA screen so you can clearly see and interpret what the device is trying to tell you. Preloaded LakeVu program features 17,000 cartographic maps of US lakes in case you’re more of a freshwater person. The 500W, 77/200 kHz transducer supports CHIRP, the company’s DownVu as well as traditional broadband sonar. Throw in the fact that the system gleans data from both the US GPS system and the Russian GLONASS system with a robust GPS refresh rate of 10 kHz and you have all the data you’ll need presented in virtually real time. Regardless of the size or function of your vessel and whether it’s river or lake-bound or seagoing it will benefit from installing the 840sx marine GPS on the bridge.

Garmin Marine Echomap Chirp 43Cv

Garmin Marine Echomap Chirp 43Cv

The Garmin Marine EchoMap CHIRP 43cv is one of the company’s newest marine GPS systems. Although it’s technically an upgrade of their 43dv system the 2 are practically identical and that’s fine since the 43dv was/is a fine marine GPS unit. The new 43cv is a chartplotter with a 5Hz GPS that refreshes every 1/5 of a second. One result of that is that it does a pretty good job displaying the speed of your vessel as well as its precise location. The 43cv can hold up to 50,000 track points and as many as 50 tracks. In this sense it’s on par with some large marine GPS units. It also comes preloaded with thousands of LakeVu cartographic charts, a big boost for freshwater boaters.

Pros
  • Provides accurate details of the waters near your boat.
  • Comes with comprehensive maps, G2 charts and more.
  • GPS location is updated every 0.2 seconds ensuring accurate data.
  • Preloaded with thousands of LakeVü cartographic maps.
  • Full screen marine GPS capability.
Cons
  • Instruction manual is not device specific which can make for confusion.

The EchoMap CHIRP 43cv from Garmin is a relatively inexpensive yet highly sophisticated marine GPS device that provides users with best in class sonar reading via the CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse) broadband system. You’ll see everything around your vessel including fish, wrecks, large debris and of course naturally occurring features and anomalies. There are built in maps including LakeVu cartographic maps, US Bluechart G2 charts and Canada LakeVu as well. From the impressive 5 Hz GPS that updates 5 times a second to the ability to create depth contours of your own using the Quickdraw contour system and the affordable price can you really afford not to have this type of marine GPS system on your boat?

Raymarine Dragonfly 5M Navionics and Marine GPS

Raymarine Dragonfly 5M

We finish up this look at the 7 best marine GPS systems available today with the Dragonfly 5M Navionics and GPS from Raymarine. With the Dragonfly marine GPS you get a user friendly interface, 50 channel high sensitivity GPS and a decent processor that won’t have you taking a nap while you wait for your maps to load. And when those maps do load you can pan and zoom as much as you need to get your bearings and chart your course.

Pros
  • Comparatively large 5” LCD screen on this nautical GPS reads nice and sharp even in sunlight.
  • CHIRP high intensity radar is an element of underwater scanning others can’t match.
  • 50 channel marine GPS sensor.
  • Store up to 10,000 track points, 3,000 way points and 150 routes.
  • Tilt and swivel capability via the ball and socket mount.
Cons
  • The stripped down control array takes some getting used to.

The Dragonfly sets up in no time and utilizes a ball and socket system that allows you to see your information regardless of where you’re sitting or standing relative to the device. There’s optical bonding built into the LCD display which is something they only recently decided to give to their more affordable marine GPS models. As a result you’ll find the screen crisp and clear regardless of environmental conditions. The Dragonfly marine GPS by Raymarine doesn’t get the kind of press its competitors over at Garmin do but it should. It’s a first class affordable marine GPS system that provides you a wealth of relevant information regarding everything from underwater hazards to your position relative to the dock. With its Wi-Fi capabilities it can also be connected directly to your smartphone.

Conclusion

The marine GPS today is a marvel of modern technology that sweeps hundreds of years of development in analog navigational devices off the table. They’ll enhance your ability to navigate to any destination in any weather, help you locate fish, warn you of underwater hazards and obstacles and alert others to your route and last known location should anything unfortunate transpire. Just as homeowners should always have an emergency radio handy anyone who owns a decent size vessel of any kind should have a marine GPS device front and center on the bridge. The marine GPS will make your life simpler, easier and more profitable.

We hope you found the above reviews of the best fixed/best handheld marine GPS and fish finder GPS reviews helpful in determining which one of these high performance products is right for you. Remember to bookmark us and stop back often for new product reviews and comparisons from gearhungry.com.