Display Comparison

Lowrance Elite FS 9
HDS 12 Display Unit

At first glance, the Elite FS and the HDS Live are similar, especially in their displays. However, upon closer inspection and side by side comparison, there are quite a few noticeable differences. 

The Elite FS and HDS Live are touchscreens with multi-touch functionality for two-finger use. Both displays have buttons to operate the menus within the screens. The HDS Live has a complete set of them, and the Elite FS has a partial set. This allows the HDS to retain full functionality even when the touchscreen is inoperable. 

The HDS Live beats out the Elite FS by a large margin in screen resolution. The Elite FS 7 and 9 both have a screen resolution of 800×480. The HDS Live 7 and 9 have screen resolutions of 1024×600 and 1280×720 (respectively). That’s not even counting the HDS Live 12 and 16, which have resolutions at 1280×800 and 1920×1080 (respectively). 

The HDS Live screen has brighter colors than the Elite FS in a side-by-side comparison. In addition to this, the Elite FS with Active Target activated has a dark color pallet, while the HDS Live Screen with Liveright has a light-colored pallet to choose from. The HDS Live has the better screen of the two, but the Elite FS is still good and affordable as a mid-size unit. 

You can find a single memory card reader underneath the logo on the Elite FS. On the other hand, all HDS Live units have two memory card readers. Both fish finders have a top-mounted GPS receiver as well.

Networking Comparison

hds live back
Elite FS Back

For networking both the Elite FS and the HDS Live 7 have one ethernet port on the back of the display. However, the HDS Live 9/12/16 has two ethernet ports on the back. This is useful if you want to run more than two units with your original one. Both of these units also support wi-fi and Bluetooth connections.

Both units also have an NMEA2000 connection port, a type of marine network. This has become the standard in marine networking these days. There is also NMEA0183, which is supported by the HDS Live but not supported by the Elite FS.

The connection on both units is very good, you can even connect the Elite FS and the HDS Live through an ethernet cable. This makes the Elite FS a good secondary unit to go with the HDS Live, and could save you money. 

Transducer Options

HDS Live and Elite FS units both use the same transducers. However, Airmar dual-channel chirp-transducers are the distinction here. HDS Live can run these without a module, while the Elite FS need one to run them. The HDS Live can run two transducers simultaneously, while the Elite FS can only run one. 

Even though the HDS Live and the Elite FS use the same transducers, the former has an advantage over the latter. The HDS Live contains a more powerful processor than the Elite FS that displays more crisp and clear images.

2D Sonar Comparison

When it comes to 2D sonar, the HDS Live and Elite FS are almost the same. 2D sonar has been around for a long time while having very little room for improvement. There are some differences though. The HDS Live does have better coloring which helps you better identify the size of a fish, but this is a very specific use case. 

Down Imaging Comparison

Down imaging is in a similar boat to 2D sonar in that the quality of the image on the HDS Live and the Elite FS are very close to each other. To the naked eye, they are pretty much the same in quality. The HDS Live does have a slight edge though. With a closer look, you can see that the down imaging is crisper and more defined than the Elite FS. But for most anglers out there the difference is negligible. 

Side Imaging Comparison

Elite FS SideScan
Elite FS
hds live sidescan screenshot
HDS Live

The side imaging has the most difference between the two fish finders. The quality of the side imaging is far superior on the HDS Live. The scan in the HDS Live clearly defines fish, rock piles, bottom composition changes, and rock transitions. The side imaging within the Elite FS is still good, you can make out specific objects and fish, but it just doesn’t compare to the high quality that the HDS Live brings.

It also takes a lot of adjustment out of the box to get the Elite FS side imaging quality to that point as well. The HDS Live, straight out of the box, requires little to no adjustment to get a high-quality image. The side imaging looks even better on the HDS Live due to the higher resolution screen that the Elite FS lacks. If you want to mainly use side imaging the HDS Live is the way to go.

Final Verdict

In the end, the HDS Live is the better fish finder overall and it is the best Lowrance fish finder. The Elite FS is still a good fishfinder, especially for anglers with a tighter budget. While the 2D sonar and the down imaging are very similar between the two units, the HDS Live outperforms it in every other aspect. It has a higher screen resolution, better networking capabilities, dual transducer connections on the back, a more powerful processor, and incredible side imaging image quality.

If you are an angler just starting, the Elite FS is a good mid-range unit with capabilities that can compete with most other fish finders on the market. If you are an experienced angler and want a fish finder with premium features, the HDS Live is for you. You could also use both of them together if you need a second screen for your HDS.

Comparison Chart

hds live vs elite fs features comparison chart