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HDS-8 with stock transducer or Garmin 740s with Airmar B60-20 ?
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Random Quote: whatever it is...... the details make the difference
I think you would be better off with the 50/200 transducer, especially if you are bottom fishing in 250' water. The 83/200 is better suited in 150' or less according to everything I have seen. As for sounders, I presonally feel the Lowrance offers a better sounder than Garmin when it comes to the entry level to mid level units. That is one of the reasons I pulled my 740S out and replaced it with the HDS-10 Gen2. This however is not the case if you are willing to spend the $$$ on one of Garmin's network plotters that can accept the new GSD26. From what I have read Garmin has a nice unit here but sadly it is just out of my price range and much more that I need.
Don't get me wrong, the 740S is a nice plotter an I DO like Garmin's maps alot however it's weakness in my opinion is that it is not networkable and upgrades are limited.
I advised Lowrance because it seemed that's what you really wanted but were afraid the OEM transducer was not cutting it. Using it with the B60 is a significant upgrade, and then you no longer needed to choose between the preferred display unit and the better transducer.
I personally feel the sonar capabilities of the Lowrance are better than the Garmin, when using comparable transducers.
I've got an HDS-8 with the stock 50/200. I only go to the 50 when it is > 350' or I want to search a larger area (but now I use side scan for that).
I get great bottom with 200 (just narrower footprint) in well over 200'. Offshore, I even like the 200 ( > 1,500') since I'm not looking for bottom, but detail in the 50-150' range.
I've compared it to my friends Garmin. Both are nice. My HDS has a better sonar (maybe I know how to use it better), his overall unit may be a little easier and has better charting. I also like that the HDS has the sounder built into the unit; no need for another black box.
Adding the side-scan and radar was very easy. Sounds like you may have some of that already.
Side question - is the Garmin a touch screen? If so, how do you keep the screen clean? Fingerprints always bug me. I asked the Simrad guy about it and he said it can get dirty. Fixable, but I like my buttons, particularly when it is cold and I've got gloves on.
What do you guys think about the Raymarine A57D or A70D against these two units. It was suggested by a knowledgeable forum member. Is anyone using this Raymarine "digital" sonar? How well do you think it would perform connected to the B60?
For a standard sonar using the same transducer, among your brands, I'd choose Raymarine>Lowrance>Garmin.
Of course, you're buying a combo unit so how it performs as a chartplotter, what peripherals or black boxes are available to expand its capabilities, etc are also considerations. If you wanted just a great stand-alone sonar to pair with your B-60, I'd throw the Furuno FCV620 in your list. It's the old faithful for a standard sonar... you're not going to do better out of the box, IMHO, unless you upgrade to a black-box unit and spend a lot more money.
I really like my HDS unit alot. I don't have a problem with a touch screen but for me it is easier to use the arrow keys to navigate around the screen versus dragging my finger. I have not used it yet but I think I am going to love the Structurescan especially with the type of fishing I will be doing. I will be fishing fresh water, inshore, as well as several offshore reefs and wrecks. In fact the reason I bought a smaller boat was to allow me to more easily travel from place to place compared to having my bigger boat at the outer banks only.