A live view fish finder, often referred to as “live sonar,” is a game-changer in the world of recreational and professional fishing. It provides a real-time view of underwater environment, allowing anglers to get a better understanding of fish movement, bait location, and underwater structures.
Garmin Livescope, Humminbird MEGA Live, and Lowrance ActiveTarget are the three leading live-view fish finders on the market. We have conducted a detailed comparison of these live sonars to provide a holistic view of their strengths and weaknesses. We will also recommend the best compatible units with each of these live-view fish finders at the end.
Here is the comparison table of the 3 best live-view fish finders:
|Feature||Livescope Plus||MEGA Live||ActiveTarget|
|Range (Max)||200 feet||150 feet||200 feet|
|Frequency Range||530 – 1100 kHz||550 – 1000 kHz||550 – 1100 kHz|
|Beam Angle||20 x 135 degrees||20 x 120 degrees||18 x 135 degrees|
Garmin Livescope Plus
Garmin is the pioneer of real-time live sonar technology. They introduced their LiveScope in 2018 before other notable competitors like Lowrance and Hummingbird launched their respective products. Being the first to introduce such technology often provides an edge in terms of market understanding and product refinement.
Garmin’s LVS34 transducer, which is part of the LiveScope Plus system, offers a beam size of 20 degrees by 135 degrees, placing it at a competitive advantage in terms of coverage. The frequency range is between 530 to 1100 kilohertz, which is on par or even superior to competitors. Moreover, the range of up to 200 feet sets a benchmark for others to compare against.
When it comes to the actual imaging, it provides the most detailed images in the real-time sonar market. This implies that users can expect clarity and precision when looking at underwater objects and fish in real-time.
The Livescope’s LVS34 is noted for its impressive performance, especially when it comes to its perspective mode. In comparison with the Lowrance Active Target’s scout mode, particularly in shallow water applications, the LVS34 excels. This distinction is crucial because shallow water environments can be particularly challenging for many devices to render accurately. The engineering behind the LVS34 allows it to perform exceptionally well in these conditions, which is a testament to its advanced technological capabilities.
However, one minor issue we found is beam stitching, which sometimes can be noticeable on the units and may slightly affect the user experience. Beam stitching refers to the visible lines or seams where two different sonar beams overlap and merge.
In terms of pricing, it is the most expensive live sonar system. However, the difference is minor compared with the Lowrance Active Target system.
Humminbird MEGA Live
Humminbird’s MEGA Live, launched in 2021, is the latest addition to the real-time sonar options.
In terms of technical specifications, the MEGA Live offers a range of 150 feet, which is 50 feet less than what Garmin and Lowrance offer. However, for practical purposes, especially in the forward or overhead views, users rarely go beyond this 150-foot range.
The MEGA Live maintains the same beam angle as Garmin’s offering at 20 degrees. Yet, it narrows the beam width to 120 degrees, compared to Garmin’s 135 degrees.
In terms of frequency, the MEGA Live operates at 1050 kilohertz. Interestingly, despite having the “MEGA” name, its frequency is 50 kilohertz lower than its competitors.
When it comes to the clarity and detail of the live sonar, MEGA Live doesn’t seem to match the standards set by Garmin and Lowrance. Although it has addressed and resolved the beam stitching issue that can sometimes be observed in other units, its overall detail level doesn’t quite reach the standards of its main competitors.
However, Humminbird has made significant improvements in the mounting system for the MEGA Live.
The product features a hinged landscape mount that stands out for its simplicity and compactness. Users can easily adjust the mount by pinching two buttons and rotating it. This hinged landscape mount is arguably the most user-friendly and compact overhead view system currently available in the market.
When compared to the mounting systems of Garmin and Lowrance, the MEGA Live’s mount is noticeably more compact and doesn’t have any knobs that users need to be wary of potentially loosening. This ergonomic design enhances the user experience, making the installation and adjustment processes smoother and less cumbersome.
Lowrance Active Target
Lowrance launched its real-time sonar option, Active Target, in late 2020. This was after Garmin had already introduced its LiveScope in 2018. The introduction of Active Target meant that Lowrance was joining the ranks of brands providing high-detail real-time sonar options for users.
In terms of technical specifications, the Active Target bears similarities to Garmin’s LVS34 transducer. While Garmin’s beam size is 20 degrees by 135 degrees with a frequency ranging from 530 to 1100 kilohertz, the Active Target has a slightly narrower beam size at 18 degrees. The 2-degree narrower beam theoretically offers a slightly more detailed image. However, based on the observations, there is no significant enhancement in the sonar image of Active Target over Garmin’s LiveScope.
When it comes to image quality, both Garmin and Lowrance have demonstrated the capability to produce higher detailed images in comparison to Hummingbird’s Mega Live. This indicates that Lowrance’s Active Target is among the top performers in the market in this aspect.
In deeper waters, the Active Target shows its prowess by effectively capturing underwater structures, providing a continuous and clear image. Comparing with Livescope, which offers a broader picture due to its wider beam, the Active Target provides a detailed representation, especially of objects closer to its beam or focus.
However, it’s noted that there’s a slight delay in the Active Target’s update rate when compared to Garmin’s LiveScope. This means that while Active Target offers high-quality images, its refresh rate might be a tad slower.
Our Verdict: Livescope vs MEGA Live vs Active Target
All three brands have their strengths and offer high-detail real-time sonar options.
Garmin’s LiveScope provides most detailed images and is seen as a leader in the market.
Active Target is closely matched in performance with Livescope. It is effective in specific scenarios and provides detailed images, especially in deeper water contexts.
Hummingbird’s MEGA Live boasts seamless integration with boat components and has an advantage in installation, but falls short on image clarity.
What is Live Sonar
Live sonar, often referred to as real-time sonar, is an advanced form of sonar technology that provides near-instantaneous underwater imaging, allowing users to see fish and structures in the water in real time.
Traditional fish finders provide a snapshot of what’s happening beneath the water, and these images are refreshed at intervals. On the other hand, live sonar provides a continuous, real-time view, much like watching a video.
Live sonar technologies offer a level of resolution and clarity that rivals medical imaging techniques like ultrasound. This allows for the identification of fish species based on their outline, which is not always possible with conventional fish finders.
One of the most significant advantages of live view fish finders is the ability to see how fish react to your lures. This can provide invaluable insights into the fish’s behavior and improve the angler’s technique.
Live sonar can produce 3D images of underwater structures, like sunken ships or rock formations. This gives a better spatial understanding of the area you are fishing in.
Beyond recreational fishing, live sonar can be used in research, marine biology, and even in search and rescue operations due to its ability to provide a clear view of underwater objects.
What is the best Garmin fish finder for Livescope
Garmin offers a range of fish finders compatible with their LiveScope system. The best fish finder for LiveScope largely depends on the specific needs and preferences of the angler. However, in general, the Garmin GPSMAP and ECHOMAP series have been popular choices among anglers using LiveScope.
1. Garmin GPSMAP Series
- These are premium fish finders/chartplotters from Garmin.
- They come in a variety of screen sizes, from 7 inches to 12 inches.
- They offer high-resolution touchscreens, fast processors, and a range of networking capabilities.
- They can be integrated seamlessly with LiveScope and other Garmin marine products.
2. Garmin ECHOMAP UHD and ECHOMAP Ultra Series
- ECHOMAP devices are slightly more budget-friendly than the GPSMAP series but still deliver excellent performance.
- The Ultra series, in particular, offers larger screens and is optimized for LiveScope.
- They come with preloaded maps, high-definition scanning sonar, and touchscreen functionality on the Ultra models.
Of the two, the GPSMAP series offers more features and is geared towards serious anglers and professionals, making it a top choice for those wanting to get the most out of their LiveScope system.
What Humminbird units are compatible with MEGA Live
Hummingbird’s MEGA Live Imaging technology is compatible with select models of their fish finders. Most prominent Humminbird fish finders that support MEGA Live include:
- Helix G3N and G4N Models: These are popular due to their range of screen sizes, clear displays, and a host of features. They come in 7-inch, 8-inch, 9-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch screen sizes.
- Solix Series: These are the high-end models from Humminbird with larger screen sizes (typically 10-inch, 12-inch, and 15-inch) and more advanced features. They are known for their clarity, multi-touch screens, and advanced networking capabilities.
- APEX Series: The APEX series represents some of the latest offerings from Humminbird with advanced features, and they are also compatible with MEGA Live.
what Lowrance units are compatible with active target
The latest Lowrance fish finders that are compatible with Active Target include:
- HDS Pro: HDS Pro, launched in late 2022, is the latest release in HDS series. It is the most advanced fish finder offered by Lowrance with a suite of features for anglers and boaters.
- HDS LIVE: This is Lowrance’s premium fish finder and chartplotter series. The HDS LIVE offers a high-definition display, built-in advanced fish-finding applications, and compatibility with a wide range of chart options. It pairs seamlessly with Active Target to provide an optimal viewing experience.
- Elite FS: The Elite FS series is a more budget-friendly option compared to the HDS series but still offers a range of features and a high-resolution display. Active Target compatibility ensures that anglers can still benefit from real-time sonar imaging without breaking the bank.