The Humminbird 597ci HD DI is a combination chartplotter, with onboard cartography, and a dual source fishfinder. Not only does it pack a standard look-down sounder but also uses a sophisticated high-frequency transducer to produce finely detailed images of what is down below. Humminbird calls this last feature Down Imaging.
This chartplotter fishfinder combo features a very high-resolution 5-inch display screen, an internal 50-channel GPS receiver, 300-watts of sonar output power, and Humminbird UniMap covering U.S. coastal and inland lakes.
All the other units in the 59x-series feature the same high resolution 5-inch display screen while other units in the 500-series use a variety of smaller color or monochrome screens. This small screen series is available in several configurations including sonar-only, combo, and portable models.
The Humminbird 597ci HD DI package ships with the display unit, a two-directional quick-release mounting bracket, power cable, operations manual on CD, quick start guide, installation guide, and a tri-frequency transom mount transducer.
I mounted the display unit to my test rig using accompanying bracket. The quick-release bracket allows easy removal of the display for safe storage off the boat. The bracket rotates and tilts to optimize the display viewing angle. Flush mounting this display unit in a panel requires the purchase of an optional kit.
The back panel of the display has connectors for the XNT 9 DI T transducer, a power cable, and a for an optional cable that will let the 597ci interface with other NMEA 0183 devices. All the cables run through the inside of the mounting bracket making for a clean looking installation.
The display has a front panel footprint that measures approximately 6.8-inches wide and 5.4-inches high. Overall depth is 3.8-inches. A single SD card slot on the front panel is protected from weather and water by a gasketed cover.
Screen Size and Viewability
The 597ci screen uses a square layout that measures 3.5-inches high and wide. This yields a 5-inch screen size when measured on the diagonal with a very respectable pixel count of 640 by 640.
I found the 597ci display screen to be bright when viewed in daylight conditions. Details appear sharp and there was little to no reflectivity evident. As expected the screen darkens somewhat when viewed through polarized sunglasses. It was readable even from steep side angles with or without my polarized sunglasses in place. Overall this high-resolution screen shows some very fine detail when viewed in chart or sonar modes. I rated the Humminbird excellent for daytime viewability. No screen fogging was apparent in the display at anytime during our review.
Like other Humminbird chartplotter fishfinders I’ve reviewed the Humminbird 597ci HD DI allows the user to select from one of three background color palettes, white, blue, and black.
In chart view choosing white background will show water in white and land areas in a pale yellow, switching to the blue palette changes water to blue and land to brown, while picking black leaves land areas brown but changes water to black.
In my opinion, choosing the white background enhances daylight viewing while selecting black improves the night view. On any normal sonar view the background color selection you make, whether white, blue, or black, is the color the water will appear onscreen. You can also choose from several other color options in both sonar and down imaging views if you wish.
Screen brightness is adjusted by using the on/off button and the cursor pad. A quick press of on/off brings up a graphic with a 10-position slider which you would set as desired with the right/left cursor pad arrows.
In a dark environment, with lights set low at the helm, you would very likely need to change to one of the two dark color palettes for optimal viewing since the screen brightness, even at its lowest setting, is still fairly bright. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind if you operate often at night.
The Humminbird 597ci HD DI has 9 pushbuttons and a 4-way cursor pad on the front panel to control unit functions. Individual pages are scrolled through in a order using the View key. The Exit key can be used to scroll through pages in reverse order.
A tab in the main menu lets you control the page views you want in this selection loop. There are 15 preset page views which can be either hidden or visible.
You will find full screen views of the chart, standard 2D sonar, and Down Imaging. In addition, several combinations and a few diagnostic views are available.
The chart views include a 2D chart page with a basic map, a 3D Bird’s Eye view page, and a several combo chart/sounder pages. This unit comes with only a basic map installed and that is how it was equipped for my review.
To get detailed cartography and associated services, port information and the like requires purchase of a Navionics chart card.
Sounder views include a full screen 2D sonar, full screen Down Imaging view, 2D sonar and Down Imaging split screen, dual frequency, split screen zoom, full screen with big digit data overlay, and flasher. You can make any page visible or not as you see fit.
Creating and navigating to a waypoint from the chart page is very easy. Just place the cursor over the place you want to go, press Mark, then press GoTo. This creates the waypoint, names it, draws a course line to the point, and adds additional data boxes containing navigation data at the bottom of the screen.
To navigate to a saved waypoint displayed onscreen you would place the cursor over the desired waypoint, then press the GoTo button, and navigation to the point will begin. To stop navigation you press Menu and select Cancel Navigation.
One thing it seems many chartplotters forgo is a restart navigation function and this one it no exception, it does not have this function. This is a very handy function when you need to veer of course for some reason and then want to continue on the previously selected waypoint.
To modify a waypoint displayed on the chart place the cursor over it, press Menu, select the point from a short list of items, and then choose Edit. From the Edit page you can change the internally generated number to an alphanumeric name up to 11 characters long. You can choose from a variety of onscreen icons here too and adjust the position data as desired. The Humminbird 597ci can store up to 3000 user waypoints.
An easy way to create a route from the chart page while underway is to begin navigating to your first point. Then you simply place the cursor over the next spot you wish to turn into a waypoint and press GoTo. This adds the point as your next destination after you reach your first waypoint. You can continue to add more point as desired in this fashion.
You can create a route in the Humminbird 597ci by using the Routes menu. From here you name the route, then select waypoints, order them as desired, and save the new route. Various menu options let you review the route information, travel the route forward or in reverse, and move or skip a waypoint. The Humminbird 597ci will store up to 50 routes.
Humminbird 597ci HD DI—Odds and Ends
The Check button will display whatever information is available for the area or item under the cursor point. If you place the cursor in open water only the latitude and longitude of the cursor will be displayed. Even with only the base map and no chart card in the slot placing the cursor over a navigation marker will get you some basic information about that particular navigational marker.
The Humminbird 597ci HD DIis rated waterproof to IPX7 standards, which means it could be submerged to a depth of 1-meter for up to 30 minutes and survive undamaged. The unit carries a 1-year warranty.
The Humminbird 597ci HD DI combo is capable of producing up to 300 watts of output power from its integral sonar and capable of displaying both traditional 2D sonar images as well as Humminbird’s exclusive Down Imaging views. For my testing, I used the supplied multi-frequency transom mount transducer.
Sounder preset page views include a full screen 2D sonar view, full screen Down Imaging view, 2D and DI split screen, split zoom, dual frequency, full screen with data overlay, split screen with a chart, Down Imaging with a chart, and flasher. On the full screen 2D sounder view you can display A-scope, which Humminbird refers to as RTS, in two different modes. Zoom can be set to 2x, 4x, 6x, or 8x using the plus/minus keys and viewed in three different size windows. Bottom lock is selected from the zoom menu and once turned on you can adjust the bottom range from 10 to 60 feet.
Commonly changed sounder settings for each preset page are brought onscreen with a single press of the Menu button. Humminbird calls this the X-Press menu. You’ll find things like sensitivity (gain), depth range, and chart speed. A second press of the Menu button brings up the main menu, to further adjust sonar settings you’d tab to sonar and then select an item you wish to adjust. You will be able to adjust a wide range of setting from here including the transducer frequency, surface clutter, Fish ID, RTS, and SwitchFire mode.
SwitchFire is a Humminbird exclusive feature designed to clean up the screen view in shallow water. In depths over about 10 feet you should leave this set to max mode to avoid missing targets, however in shallow water the SwitchFire clear mode automatically reduces the unit sensitivity and cleans up the screen view.
One feature you don’t often see on a sounder these days is the ability to record and playback images, but this unit will do just that when you have a blank SD memory card installed.
Another out of the ordinary fishfinder feature found on the Humminbird 597ci HD DI is the ability to set the manual depth range one foot at time. This allows you to maximize your screen space by setting the machine to closely match the actual water depth.
In my opinion this fishfinder has plenty of features including a number of useful preset page views, was easy to operate, and worked well presenting bottom and fish during our review.
I rated the Humminbird 597ci sounder good for presentation and good for ease of use. In my opinion, because of the frequencies and output power available on this unit I see it best suited for bass anglers, bay, and saltwater coastal anglers who operate and fish in depths of less than 200 or so feet of water. This has fishfinder has an operating depth range sweet spot of 1 to 200 feet.
The unit has a bright sharp display screen with lots of pixels combined with a very distinctive sonar package make this unit most desirable inland lakes and coastal anglers looking ot replace an old unit with a new chartplotter fishfinder combo.