I bought a Simrad in spring with sidescan. Still learning the ins / outs but it is an amazing tool. I was told the Simrad is better suited for saltwater than the Lowrance - both made by same company though.
The sidescan is cool to look at structure - as a scuba diver - main reason I bought it. Structure does mean fish so even without diving it is useful.
Here's a photo I took of side scan - trail from a channel marker anchor dragged by ice.
Here's one of something not on charts but trust me - a real fish magnet.
The sidescan is good to look for baitfish schools too.
My dad has Lowrance downscan on his boat and I dont find it particularly useful for finding fish. It may show more detail of rocks or structure on the bottom but the regular fishfinder mode is much better for marking fish.
Personally I opted for Furuno electronics when I upgraded from my Garmin 3010c package the other year because Furuno is the most stable and durable product on the market. Furuno supports their electronics a long time too. (They still sell and service their VX2 line which was released over 15 years ago). If you search the word "update" on the electronics page on www.TheHullTruth.com you will find that Garmin, Simrad, and Lowrance are all very prone to the constant "update" game to fix bugs. This is why you see Furuno on the vast majority of commercial vessels for people who count on their electronics for a living.
My opinion is stick with garmin great company stand by there products. If u have to change furuno can't b beat.i would never buy Another lowarane prod. Have had many problems after there warranty runs out. Maybe my bad luck many freinds feel same way. My opinion . Check all reviews before u blow a grand or more.:thumbup:
You are not going to get a very good Garmin unit unless you are ready to spend at least $2500 including a nice airmar transducer. Garmin is interested in the upscale market and the really great units cost over 3k. Most of the charter boats down here in south Florida are running Garmin 7600's with transducers that run over 2k. If you fish the bay only a cheap unit will work fine, when you are looking for marks at 2700 ft. in the gulf Stream you need a powerful unit with a top notch transducer.
I think u really need to separate the 2...traditional sonar vs structure/side scan when making your decision on what is important to you. For sonar I have the baby chirp Dragonfly from Raymarine and I'm totally impressed with it's ability to mark. Even in the canyons I can mark tuna and bait better than any of my prior units.
Now regarding structure/side scan...I do a lot of wreck fishing and for me it's indispensable. The ability to see out to the side of my boat when "researching" and then place waypoints by going back into the history of the scan is downright magic. I also use the downscan to verify what I'm seeing on my regular sonar as it tends to filter out non-fish marks. I know guys who only use downscan to identify fish because of it's accuracy. I should also note that the sidescan is useful for marking bait and fish out to the side of your boat.
I am getting a new garmin 94sv unit very soon (see my ad for used privateer for sale :yes. it has the chirp function. dont know about that, but i look forward to using the side scan, i am a structure fisherman. im sure it will increase my catch rates.
I have used Lowrance for years and years. Mostly good when working. Have had some issues. Monday I just bought two Hummingbird Helix 7's that are chartplotters and have down scan. Was going to buy two Lowrance Hook 7" but they were not available. Also Hummingbird works directly with MinnKota in putting a transducer in the bottom of their trolling motors. Have no idea how the Helix's will work but the screen is large for a 7" and the color is beautiful. Depthfinders actually have limited use where I intend to use these most. I am normally not going to see the fish I want to catch on them. Also stern ducer will be mounted so it can be retracted in real skinny stuff.
Parker sold immediately without advertising, test runs, kicking tires or other hassles.