The Lowrance HDS-7 multi-function display we tested was equipped with an internal broadband sounder and internal GPS sensor. The package shipped with an 83/200 kHz transom-mount transducer.
It also came preloaded with Lowrance Nautic Insight U.S. Coastal cartography. Other gear included is mounting bracket, operations manual, installation manual, quick start guide, and a combination NMEA0183 data/power cable.
The HDS-7 can be purchased as a standalone chartplotter or standalone fishfinder. The HDS-7 display unit measures 6.4-inches high by 8.8-inches wide and with a depth of 3.5-inches. A removable front bezel allows for flush panel mounting without any additional hardware needed, other than mounting screws.
When connected to the appropriate sensors the HDS-7 can also display radar data, Sirius weather and radio, and even engine gauges. It also works with the new Lowrance StructureScan system.
A single cable that fastens to the case back with a twist lock connector supplies power and NMEA0183 data through individual branches.
Even though the MFD itself has a GPS sensor, the unit can still use an optional external GPS antenna if needed or desired. We used the internal antenna for this review.
NMEA0183 supports the high-speed data transfer rates of up to 38,400 baud that are needed to interface with most modern AIS units. This MFD can also interface with a NMEA2000 or Navico Ethernet network, each has its own connector on the unit back.
The Lowrance HDS-7 has a single chart card slot and can use a Navionics Platinum or Platinum+ chart card if desired.
Screen Size and Viewability
The HDS-7 displays data using a 5.1-inch wide by 3.8-inch high display screen. The screen measures 6.4-inches on the diagonal and carries 640 by 480 pixels of resolution.
The Lowrance HDS-7 is display screen is bright, sharp, and easy to read. When viewed straight-on the display screen maintains its brightness whether or not the user is wearing polarized sunglasses.
Even at steep side angles I noted no darkening or reduction in readability. No screen fogging was apparent in the display at anytime during my testing. I rated the Lowrance HDS-7 excellent for daylight viewability.
The HDS-7 has two color palettes, day and night. Night palette darkens onscreen numbers and letters for easier night viewing. When viewing the sounder page with night palette youll find colors invert.
Screen brightness levels can be set to one of ten positions using the arrow keypad. You can also switch between four levels of brightness using the light/power button.
The Lowrance HDS-7 chartplotter fishfinder uses eight front-panel pushbuttons and an arrow keypad to manipulate onscreen menus and control functions.
Page screens and page combinations are set using the page key, arrow keypad, and enter key. The user can select from one of seven main pages, Radar, Chart, Sonar, Structure, Steer, Waypoints, and Info.
Combined pages can be shown in up to a maximum of two windows. The active window is selected by holding the page key for a second. Page selection options are shown both graphically and with text page names. This made the page interface easy to use.
Page specific menus are available for a number of pages including the Chart, Sonar, StructureScan, and Radar. When you press the menu button once, the appropriate menu appears onscreen. A second press of the menu button brings the main menu up.
The Lowrance HDS-7 was reviewed with software version 2.5 installed from the factory.
A double press of the waypoint key will put a waypoint at the current boat or cursor position. Waypoint name, position data, symbol, and color are easy to edit. You can also add a comment, record the depth, and set an alarm radius around any waypoint.
I like being able to add specific information about a waypoint beyond its name, it all comes in very handy for little used but important points.
You can navigate to a waypoint from a number of pages but I preferred a combination Chart and Steer page view because it gave me both numerical and graphical navigational information.
Waypoints are identified with one of 70 symbols and one of 7 colors. The HDS-7 can store up to 5000 individual waypoints.
Routes are easy to build from the chart page. Waypoints can be added simply by placing the cursor and hitting the enter key. Pressing the exit button when youre finished prompts you to save the route. I found it easy to build a multi-point route fairly quickly.
Routes are listed on their own page with each point on the route showing bearings and distances from and to the surrounding points.
The HDS-7 can store up to 200 routes with as many as 250 waypoints in each one.
Odds and Ends
You activate the man overboard function of the HDS-7 by pressing both zoom keys simultaneously. The unit then switches to a zoomed full screen chart page, saves the MOB position in memory, and displays that position in the lower left corner of the screen with a return bearing and distance. I think the single action MOB function of the HDS-7 works very well. In my opinion, it provides adequate navigation data for all but the greenest helmsmen to return to the MOB position quickly and precisely.
When ranging the chart view out quickly youll see the onscreen chart shrink in size then after a second or two everything redraws. When ranging in the chart grows then rescales. When using only onboard cartography I found redraws on the HDS-7 to be adequately fast. I did not test the unit with a map card installed.
Precise cursor placement with the arrow keypad can be a bit clumsy initially but after a bit of practice things worked better.
This Lowrance chartplotter has three chart orientation options, North Up, Course Up, and Heading Up.
Locating marine services, finding tide data, or looking up other information is done by placing the cursor over the object of interest and then hitting the enter key. The find function will also locate a specific object of interest.
The Lowrance HDS-7 uses broadband sonar technology to enhance fishfinder functionality. Standard features include auto and manual depth ranging, zoom, and bottom lock. The sonar menu lets you adjust the sensitivity, depth range, frequency, and ping speed. The main sonar menu adds adjustments for a depth line, color palette, various zoom options, and A-scope. Zoom can be turned off or set from 2x to 8x in single increments. Both the HDS-5 and HDS-7 units provide similar sonar functionality. You can read about how the sounder performs in our HDS-5 review.
Like all the others in the HDS lineup the HDS-7 can be purchased in a number of configurations with a variety of cartography and transducer options. Choose right before you buy.