With a huge library of maps across the US and Canada, Navionics remains a strong mapping product compatible with the major fish finder brands.
Even after being acquired by Garmin, there are still map cards with great coverage no matter what type of fish finder you have.
While each manufacturer has proprietary maps, Navionics offers the lone alternative to the in-house maps available for Humminbird, Lowrance, and Raymarine.
What does that mean, exactly? Here are your map choices for each brand.
With this review, I set out to see if Navionics+ or Navionics Platinum+ are worth buying over in-house lake map products. I’ve included over 25 screenshots from my SOLIX 12 to help you decide if it’s best for you.
- Excellent Lake Coverage – Compared to LakeMaster, Navionics has more expansive coverage of the US and Canada, with thousands of lakes available in huge regional map cards.
- Useful Advanced Features – Popular fishing features like 1ft Contours, Depth Range shading, Shaded Relief, and Satellite Imagery are downloadable and displayable on compatible units.
- Not User Friendly – You will need to get used to downloading data and layers to your SD card – and be ready to resubscribe after 1yr to continue utilizing the advanced map features and overlays.
There are two types of map cards to choose from. Navionics+, and Platinum+. Navionics Features fall into three buckets.
Every card comes with the base Chart Layers and Advanced Features, while only Platinum+ offers the Overlays for download.
* Subscription required for downloading data after 1 year of activation.
NOTE: These are NOT the right map cards if you have a Garmin unit. You need to buy the cards called Garmin Navionics+ and Garmin Navionics Vision+. We bought a Vision+ card for our Echomap Ultra, and you can read that review here.
Please be sure to check whether you have a compatible unit. Navionics has an extensive compatibility chart to make sure you are good to go (and that you don’t buy a card with features that aren’t supported.)
Getting Started with a Navionics Card
Unlike LakeMaster VX, using a Navionics card is not a plug-and-play experience.
There is a process of activation and installing a computer program before you can download map data to the SD card.
Navionics Startup Process:
- Open a web browser and navigate to navionics.com/activate/
- Download & Install the Chart Installer program to your computer.
- Log in to your Navionics (or Garmin) account.
- Insert the SD or MicroSD Navionics card into your computer.
- Follow the prompts to activate the card and subscription.
- Select the fish finder model that the card will be used in.
- Use the chart coverage tool to select the area(s) you want to download. You can choose multiple areas, but not at the same time.
- Check the boxes for Nautical Charts and SonarCharts.
- Click the Start button to download the charts to the SD card.
- Now check the Overlay data you want to download. You can only select one layer to download at a time.
NOTE: The first download can take some time, depending on how large an area you’ve selected and your internet speed.
You can now eject and bring the SD card to your GPS chart plotter. As you can see, getting started is a bit of a process! This is one reason we recommend LakeMaster for Humminbird units.
Chart Contours & Coverage
Now that we’ve downloaded the contour data, what does it look like on the unit? Are the charts any good? How do they compare to LakeMaster or C-MAP?
The important thing to note here is you need to enable the SonarCharts on your fish finder to display the HD 1ft contours.
I’m happy to tell you the contours are very detailed and are comparable to LakeMaster. Not all lakes will be the same, but generally, they are very similar. Here are a few comparison screenshots on a HELIX 12.
(Contours Screenshot Comparisons – Side by Side)
Where Navionics Platinum+ is better is the size of its library. Many more lakes have at least 5ft contours than on a comparable LakeMaster card. The Humminbird basemap might have coverage but typically only 5 or 10ft contours.
Notes on Coverage
Navionics+ and Platinum+ have 4 huge regions covering the United States and 2 covering Canada. Some of these regions overlap – like Tennessee, Michigan, and the Dakotas being available on two regional cards.
Or there is the Navionics+ US card which covers the entire country for just $50 more.
Advanced Map Options
These settings allow you to customize how your charts look on your unit. Like with LakeMaster, you can highlight target depths called “Fishing Ranges” and highlight shallow water for safety.
“Fishing Ranges” = Depth Highlighting
I’ve gotten to love the depth highlight feature with LakeMaster cards, so it’s exciting to see Navionics+ can do this as well.
The only problem is it’s not compatible with HELIX units, only SOLIX. Lowrance seems to have better compatibility with these options.
You can create multiple zones to customize your map however you like. Here are screenshots to show you how nice the highlighting depths on Navionics+ look.
(Depth Highlight Images)
SonarChart Live Mapping
Real-time mapping has become a standard feature on every fish finder. I’ve lost count of the times it has come in handy on lakes with poor contours or honey holes I am trying to understand better.
Unfortunately, only Raymarine and Lowrance units can run SonarChart Live mapping on the unit itself. Humminbird owners must use AutoChart Live (which is also great, so no big deal).
(SonarChart Live Image)
What are overlays? These special layers can be downloaded to your Navionics Platinum+ card and displayed over the top of the contours.
Overlays are not necessary for finding and catching fish, but they can certainly aid in breaking down water to find good fishing areas.
The only problem?
- The coverage is not extensive (but always growing over time)
- You can only have one layer on the card at a time.
I tried downloading SonarChart Shading and Relief Shading, but it’s not allowed. 🙁
SonarChart Shading seems to cover many of the biggest and most popular lakes, but Relief Shading has far less.
Compare that with the Aerial Images and Relief Shading coverage for EVERY lake on a LakeMaster card.
Satellite Imagery with SonarChart Shading
Using aerial imagery is a great tool to find good stretches of docks, seawalls, and rocky banks.
SonarChart Shading uses a blue color palette. Darker blues are deeper and show drop-offs, while lighter blues and shadow gives depth to the contours.
The aerial shoreline imagery combined with the subtle blue shading creates a unique view of the water.
Here are Satellite and SonarChart Shading screenshots from a SOLIX 12.
(Satellite Imagery Images)
This layer uses a Blue to Red color palette with a touch of shadow to make the contours pop with a 3D effect.
Here are Relief Shading screenshots from a SOLIX 12.
(Relief Shading Images)
Sonar Imagery Layer
This layer overlays Navionics surveyed lake bottom imagery onto the contour map.
These are not super detailed images like you’d see on your fish finder. They scanned the lake bottom with imaging sonar, processed the data, and blended it into a sort of bottom composition heat map.
This view can be useful in finding changes in bottom hardness and composition- both key aspects when looking for fish.
When on the water, I always look for transitions from soft to hard bottoms. This could be a muck-to-sand or sand-to-rock transition that oftentimes will hold fish. This layer could speed up the learning process.
(Sonar Imagery Images)
This view exaggerates the contours and satellite imagery to help you better understand the lake and surrounding terrain.
You can pan around, zoom in and out, and change the viewing angle from the top down to near level. You can rotate the view to match your heading for a cool navigational view.
This is a neat feature, but I would not use it much for fishing unless I were on the Great Lakes or coastal areas.
(3D View Images)
Navionics Subscriptions Explained
Two Navionics subscriptions are regularly confused by anglers.
When you buy a new Navionics chart card (Navionics+ or Platinum+) for a fish finder, it must be activated with the Chart Installer program.
Activation starts the clock on your 1-year of access to downloading all the layers and data that your card can show.
After 1 year, you can continue using any previously downloaded data, and you can’t download anything new until you renew.
A renewal costs $49.99. That might seem expensive, but it’s much cheaper than buying a new card to access new lake data like you would with LakeMaster.
The Navionics Boating App costs $24.99 annually and is a separate subscription. This gives you access to contours and layers for all of the US & Canada.
I love the Boating App for mobile use. I can drop waypoints and study lakes I plan to fish at any time and anywhere.
Bottom Line – Is It Worth the Money?
A Platinum+ map card will set you back $250 at the regular retail price. Put one at your console and one at the bow, and it’s getting up there.
Is Platinum+ worth the hit to the wallet, or are there better options?
I think it’s simple.
If you own Humminbird units (especially HELIX) – there are minimal reasons to stray away from Lakemaster VX maps. Navionics+ (but not Platinum+) is a solid secondary map option when LakeMaster coverage doesn’t match your area well.
SOLIX users would get much more out of a Platinum+ card, but again, other than some coverage differences, you get the same features out of the box with Lakemaster Premium for less money. Read our Navionics and LakeMaster comparison for more details.
Lowrance users have a closer choice between C-Map and Navionics. It’s a toss-up, and I say choose whichever you’re more comfortable with.
*Last updated 2024-03-03 at 12:39 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API