The question "Which Navionics card is best?" is one that I get all the time. So much in fact that I decided to put this post together to help everyone out. It can seem confusing at first, but it is fairly simple to decide which one is best for you. For this blog, I will just focus on the Navionics+ and HotMaps Platinum cards.
First, you need to see which card is compatible for your unit. This is easy to determine by viewing this compatibility guide. Once there you will see a listing off all of the major brands of chartplotters and then find your model. From there you will be able to first see which card will even work in your unit.
You will also see several three icons, each of these will show what the each card will do with your specific graph, which is based on the capability and age of your electronics. The three are as follows: Nautical Chart, SonarChart and Community Edits and this is what the icons will look like on the compatibility guide.
Here is a quick rundown of each one:
- Nautical Chart: Your basic charting that also includes many, many lakes including over 2,500 exclusive Navionics HD lake surveys with up to 1’ depth contour increments
- Community Edits: hundred of thousands of edits from the Navionics Community viewable on select GPS chart plotters. These things include points of interest, hazards, fishing spots and more.
- SonarChart: This is what you want to have if your graph is capable. It is HD mapping with the best detail you are going to find and thousands of lakes that no other cards even show. Can't say enough about how much I love using SonarChart detail on my Lowrance units.
Here is more info about SonarChart from Navionics:
SonarChart™ is an HD bathymetry map, great for locating fishing areas and revealing more bottom contour detail. It reflects ever-changing conditions by integrating sonar logs from the Navionics Community with existing data. Sonar logs and tracks can be accepted from many of today's leading chart plotters as well as our mobile apps for iOS and Android.
Use your plotter/sounder or mobile device to create personal HD bathymetry maps in real-time with SonarChart Live. SonarChart Live is also the most efficient way to enhance SonarChart because your sonar logs are automatically sent to Navionics from your mobile and you can monitor the improvements while navigating.
So now that you have decided which card will work in your chartplotter, the next thing to do is pick the best one for you. If only one works, the decision is easy. If your graph will take any of the cards it will come down to a few different factors. Fresh or saltwater, region and more can all factor into deciding which one is best for you.
My favorite card is the Navionics+ card because it eliminates the need to decide based on fresh/saltwater and also the region. The card comes pre-loaded with Nautical Charts for the whole country and then once you update the card in your computer, you can select the region you plan to fish and download the HD SonarChart for just the areas you need. It is the best detail and most updated data you will find. You can also update your card throughout the year to get more and more details as they are uploaded by Navionics users. I typically update my card once a month and often see the difference on places I fish.
The HotMaps Platinum card is another very popular option and I use it too. It's freshwater only, but again the best detail you are going to find. It has SonarChart level detail that shows 1 foot contours. The cards are broken down by regions and you would just need to view this map to see which one works for you.
The Platinum cards also have the option to show satellite overlay for help with landmarks and other things on shore. Another cool thing is the ability to see the maps in 3D view. I personally do not use this option as much since I am so used to the standard option, but many people love the feature. Those are the two biggest differences between the Navionics+ and the HotMaps Platinum.
Another thing about both of these cards is something called Freshest Data. Like I mentioned earlier, you can update your cards. Both of these allow for free updates for a year after you buy the card. The update process is easy and you can get the latest, best and most up-to-date Nautical Chart, SonarChart and Community Edits data.
Here is a quick video I did on how to update your card:
Whatever card you decide on will be a good choice. The detail from the mapping will be excellent, it just comes down to which unit is best for you and the electronics you have.