The Humminbird Helix 7 SI GPS is the model that everyone has been waiting for. It’s available in four different variants, with the SI being the first choice for most users. While it has a lot in common with its younger sibling, the Helix 5, it has a few key advantages that consumers are excited about. The most notable is an upgraded image processor, allowing it to better filter the signal and create a more realistic image. On top of that, it’s got several key features that put it well ahead of many products that are currently on the market. While it looks incredible on paper, we had to try it for ourselves to see how it stacks up in person.
In many ways, the Helix 7 looks a lot like the other models in the Helix series. It’s got an attractively designed case, composed primarily of its gorgeous 7” screen. Off to the right, the case is slightly extended to make room for it’s well thought out control system. For the most part, you navigate through the software using the silver-rimmed directional pad. All of the main functions including zoom, menu, select, and mark have their own independent button assigned to them. In our opinion, the design of the Helix 7 is appealing without being over the top. But the real power comes from what’s underneath it’s polished exterior.
The Helix 7 Sonar’s is the foundation of its down imaging system. It’s incredibly easy to use, but still gives you a lot of control over how you use your fish finder. It has two possible settings, depending on how much of an area you want to cover. Wide beam provides less detail, but covers a large area. Narrow beam lets you home in on the action, getting much more information about your immediate surroundings. Changing between modes is done through the ‘switchfire’ option on the face of the unit. You can view everything within a 60-degree radius while you’re searching for the next perfect spot, then dial it in to a 20-degree radius when you’ve found it.
Humminbird’s down imaging technology is designed to give you a bird’s eye, or in this case a ‘fish eye’, view of everything going on directly below your boat. Down imaging is essentially an upgraded form of sonar. It produces images from a similar point of view, but newer technologies are used to increase the resolution and detail of the image.
It works by sending quick pulses out that cover a very small range, providing you with a detailed recreation of a small area directly under your boat. Humminbird’s version of the technology has always been competitive with the top brands, and this latest edition provides a much more accurate and detailed image than any previous model.
Down imaging is something that everyone uses at once point or another, and every model in the Helix 7 line includes one form of this technology. If you get the down imaging specific model, your image is a little better. This one combines the switch fire sonar data with information from the side imaging sensors to recreate the downward image. It’s nice to have, but this is still a side-imaging focused unit.
When you’re ready to take your fishing to a whole new level, side imaging is the technology you want. Side imaging takes everything that’s great about down imaging, and adds a whole new dimension. The signal is projected out from your boat on each side, giving you a 180-degree field of view. It uses high frequency beams that show structure, cover, and the density of the area below. It’s easier to find where fish might be hiding, and you can see obstructions that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. The total range covers 480 feet (240 on each side of your boat) so you’ll always be aware of your surroundings.
We’re all familiar with how a basic GPS works. If you’ve owned an inexpensive unit before, you likely know how disappointing they can be out on the water. Large bodies of water can reflect the GPS frequencies, causing navigational errors. Humminbirds Helix 7 GPS G2 line uses an advanced GPS that give you real time measurements with up to 2.5 meter accuracy. This is possible thanks to the inclusion of a compass, something that helps cancel out errors and estimate the heading in between readings. The Helix 7 series is also compatible with the GRP GPS package which includes an antenna and additional components that boosts accuracy by a noticeable margin.
All GPS enabled fish finders are equipped with the Unimap software, a program that includes all of the US coastline and many inland rivers. They have a resolution of 30 meters per pixel which is much higher than we’re used to seeing. For those rare fishing spots, you can throw your maps on the included SD card, giving you infinite possibilities. You can also use Autochart Live to create your own maps in real time, using the sonar and GPS data.
There is no point in having all this incredible imaging technology if you can’t properly display it. The brilliant 7” LED-backlit display can provide you with an incredible level of detail. 800×480 isn’t a true HD resolution, but it does have the same pixel density as most HD displays. The result is a crystal-clear image unlike anything we’ve seen in older models.
In our opinion, the Humminbird Helix 7 SI GPS G2 is the best combination of performance and value on the market. It includes the down imaging system you might be used to, as well as the side imaging system that you want. Once you add GPS into the mix, the entire package becomes one incredible deal that you simply cannot resist.