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Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 Review

The Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 features an internal Broadband Sounder ™, internal high-sensitivity GPS receiver, and compatibility with the latest black box add-on StuctureScan ™ HD sonar imaging system.

This advanced version of the HDS-5 ships with the display unit, mounting bracket, dual-frequency transom-mount transducer, operations manual, installation manual, quick start guide, and a combination NMEA0183 data/power cable.

Alternatively, the HDS-5 Gen2 can be purchased as either a standalone chartplotter or plotter/sounder combo unit. The standalone chartplotter version is designated the HDS-5m Gen2.

lowrance hds5 gen2 gps chartplotter fishfinder

Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2

Cartography options include Nautic Insight (coastal), Lake Insight (inland lakes), or a Navionics world base map. The Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 has a single chart-card slot and can use Navionics Gold and Platinum+ charts as well as any Navionics inland lakes cards. Our test unit shipped with Nautic Insight coastal cartography.

We measured the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 case at 5.8-inches high by 7.3-inches wide and just under 4-inches deep.

Flush mounting the display unit is easily accomplished by using the supplied paper template to cut and appropriate size hole in the panel where the unit is to be placed and then following in the instructions on how to remove the front panel bezel. Doing so will provide access to mounting holes that can be used to secure the display using #6 screws 1.5-inches long. I used the accompanying gimbal bracket to mount the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 unit to my portable test rig.


When connected to the appropriate optional accessories using the correct cabling the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 is capable of showing pulse or broadband radar data, data bridging between units, Sirius weather, VHF radio and engine information.

The display unit does contain an internal GPS sensor, however the unit can be connected to an optional external GPS sensor if needed or desired. I used the internal antenna for this review.

Supported interfacing includes a NMEA 0183 capability with data transfer rates of up to 38,400 baud, NMEA 2000, and the Navico Ethernet network.

Screen Size and Viewability

The HDS-5 Gen2 shares the same display screen as earlier HDS units. It measures 3.6-inch wide by 3.6-inch high which equates to 5-inches on the diagonal. Screen resolution is 480 by 480 pixels.

lowrance hds5 gen2 gps chartplotter fishfinder

Here the display is set to show both he chart and sonar page. The red outline on the chart lets you know it is the active page. Sonar is in the full auto mode here.

Under certain settings and conditions, especially when lots of chart detail are displayed or when multiple windows are open you will need to get up close to the screen to properly view important details.

Screen brightness is maintained steady when viewing from straight-on even when the user is wearing polarized sunglasses. Viewing the screen from steep side angles did not adversely affect the screen brightness or readability. This is the same sharp easy to read display screen pioneered in the original HDS-5.

I am rating this the Lowrance Gen2 excellent for daylight viewability. No screen fogging was apparent in the display at any time.

The Lowrance HDS-5 has both a day and night color palette. The night palette changes numbers and letters being displayed onscreen to a darker color for easier night viewing. On the sounder page, colors invert for enhanced low-light viewing.

For example, we had the sounder set to show water as white so when we went to the night palette water showed black. On the chart page the night palette changes little.

Daylight brightness can be set to one of ten levels using the keypad and switched to one of four levels using the light/power button. Even with the brightness set to minimum the screen maintains an intensity level, which in my opinion, is too bright for a dark night and/or dark cockpit. Using the standby mode sets the screen to black and while keeping the unit ready for immediate use. A single press the power button bring the machine back to life in an instant.


The Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 chartplotter fishfinder uses eight pushbuttons and a four-way keypad to manipulate onscreen menus and control functions. Initial startup of the HDS-5 Gen2 takes almost 30 seconds. Once done, you will then need to accept the warning screen by pressing the Enter button to continue on to the last selected page.

Page screens and page combinations are set using the Pages key, keypad, and Enter key. The user can select from one of five main pages, Chart, Sonar, Steer, Waypoints, and Info. Each page has subpage selections available to be displayed in multiple windows. Adding the StructureScan HD black box adds another page the menu.

Combined pages can be shown in two windows. Control is switched from one window to the next by holding the Pages key.

I found the page menu very intuitive and easy to use without any prior reference to the owner’s manual.

When the menu button is pressed once, the corresponding operations menu for that page will appear onscreen and give the user a number of commonly used page specific options. A second press of the menu button brings the main menu onscreen.


Like the operation of its predecessors, a waypoint is built at the boat or cursor position easily with a double press of the waypoint key. Once you create a waypoint you can then select that on the chart page by moving the cursor over the point and pressing enter.

lowrance hds5 gen2 gps chartplotter fishfinder

Selecting the chart plus steering pages gives you all the navigation data you will need.

From here you will be able to edit the waypoint name, position information, symbol, and color as well as add a comment or description, record the depth, and set an alarm radius around the point. The additional waypoint details will come in very handy for both cruisers and anglers.

Navigating to a waypoint is accomplished by first selecting it from the chart page using the cursor or by choosing it off the waypoint list. Executing a GoTo command will draw a line to the waypoint onscreen and populate data and steering directions in the unit.

My preference when navigating to a waypoint was to select the chart page in one window and steering data in the other window. Doing so presents both numerical and graphical directions to the point.

Waypoints are identified with one of 70 symbols and one of 7 colors. The HDS-5 Gen2 can store up to 5000 individual waypoints and 200 routes with as many as 250 waypoints in each route.

Odds and Ends

The increased processing power of the Gen2 unit makes chart ranging virtually instantaneous. When ranging the chart out numerous ranges very rapidly by holding down the range out key you will see the onscreen chart shrink in size by step with details filling in an instant after button release.

lowrance hds5 gen2 gps chartplotter fishfinder

One nice bonus feature in the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 is the trip calculator with options for a variety of uses.

When ranging in the chart grows quickly by step and then fills details immediately upon release of the range in button. I’m rating the redraw speed as very fast.

Likewise, when using the cursor to move off the currently displayed area of the chart there is no flickering or loss of view and as soon as the panning stops all chart details fill instantly. Cursor placement seems a bit more precise too in the Gen2 compared with the earlier versions.

You will find the same three chart orientation options on the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 chart menu as in earlier versions of this unit, North Up, Course Up, and Heading Up.

Locating services, tide data, or other information is done by placing the cursor over the object of interest, then hitting the enter key. You can also use the find function to locate a specific object of interest.


The Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 has an internal sounder that uses Lowrance broadband digital signal processing to enhance sounder viewing. Output power is not a viable metric when comparing a Broadband Sounder to a conventional analog unit since the sensitivity of the broadband sounder is so high it uses significantly less output power.

As with the earlier HDS-5 this test unit is capable of a maximum of 31 watts of output power when coupled to either a 50/200 kHz or 83/200 kHz transducer.

Standard sonar features include auto and manual depth ranging, zoom, and bottom lock. The unit will also display water temperature when connected to a transducer with these capabilities. This unit has the ability to save sonar data to a memory card for later display using the log mode. Sounder data can be displayed full screen or in a variety of split screen combinations.

Hitting the Menu button from the sonar page lets you adjust the sensitivity, depth range, frequency, and ping speed. Going to the main sonar menu lets you select a depth line, color palette, zoom options, and A-scope.

Overall I’d am rating the Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 sounder good for both presentation and ease of use. Normally the best return will be found by using some manual inputs to sensitivity, noise rejection, and surface clutter.

Final Thoughts

The Lowrance HDS-5 Gen2 package can be purchased in a number of configurations and with a variety of cartography and transducer options, make the right choice before you buy.

Buy the HDS-5 Gen2 with coastal cartography and a 50/200KHz transducer here.

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