If you’re looking for an affordable fish finder that still has the latest features, then you already know that Humminbird should be your first choice. This company has a long track record of creating high quality units that don’t break the bank. The Helix 5 DI is one of the more affordable models in the line, providing you with features that are a little more basic, but still adequate for anglers both new and experienced. What surprised us with this model was the performance. Sure, they may have cut a few corners and carved out features that are not commonly found in this price range, but everything they did included works very well.
When shopping for any technical product, you usually want to see the specifications first. It’s nice to see how one model stacks up to another on paper, but there is one key feature that we really wanted to highlight with the Helix 5 DI. Some of the higher end fish finders have easy to use, highly polished menus. Online, this makes them look very high-tech. But there is one thing that pictures can’t adequately describe, and that’s the usability.
When I first fired up the Helix 5, one of the first things I did was maximize the display. Whether it was in strictly DI mode or split screen mode, the image is incredibly clear. You can quickly adjust settings like brightness, although we rarely had to turn ours above 7/10. Even in bright daylight, we can run it for 8 hours plus thanks to the efficient display. It’s easy to undervalue things light brightness and clarity, but at the end of the day these features will have the biggest impact on how much you enjoy the fish finder.
There are two types of imaging technology built in to the Helix 5 DI. As the name suggests, it’s got Humminbird’s famous down imaging technology that they’re so well known for. While down imaging doesn’t have the same hype as CHIRP or side imaging, it’s actually the view that you’re going to be using most of the time. The image is much more detailed than many models, giving you something that looks a little more like a photograph than a digital image.
This is one of those things that you’ve really got to use before you can truly appreciate it, but the sheer detail of the things that this finder picks up is amazing. Small weeds on the bottom of the lake, minor changes in the shape of the ground, and all of these seemly minute details just seem to come to life. If you’re looking for a down imaging fish finder, the Helix 5 DI is the one to beat.
For those of use who’ve been out on the water for many years, we don’t get as caught up in the latest technology as some. Personally, I’m used to having to do a little interpretation on the image. It makes the sport more exciting, and brings back the element of surprise. I spent a surprisingly large amount of time in sonar mode. Humminbird has what they call “dual beam” technology. This means that the sonar can switch from a wide angle low resolution mode to a high resolution narrow mode. This is great for trolling. You can keep your eyes on your surroundings, but quickly switch to the close up view when you think you’ve spotted something.
Depending on what you like, the design of this fish finder can be a benefit or a negative. It’s not quite as compact as some 5” fish finders, since it’s oriented horizontally. If you’re often going to be using your finder in split screen mode, then you’ll definitely prefer landscape as it gives you more screen real-estate. The menus are also much easier to navigate this way, as using the controls feels more natural on the side than it does from the bottom.
This is really the only complaint I have with the unit. The menus are reasonably easy once you get used to them, but not particularly intuitive. Pushing the right or left buttons on the dpad, you’ll scroll through three different tabs. They have settings for the sonar, down imaging, and system. Most are pretty self-explanatory, although the system menu contains a hodge-podge of assorted things. You can change the brightness, display lay out, turn the internal speaker on or off. Things that you won’t use all that much. It might take you a few minutes to get used to the menu, but you’ll certainly get used to it in short order.
One of the features you’ll likely appreciate the most is the built-in GPS navigation. It includes the popular UniMap cartography system which provides up-to-date maps of the entire US coast and a large portion of the inland lakes and rivers. On their own, these maps are only suitable for navigation purposes. With a resolution of 30 meters per pixel, you don’t generally get much detail out of them. The AutoChart Live feature is Humminbird’s answer to this problem. What this does is combine your existing map data with the information received from the sonar and DI sensors. As you navigate, your maps are automatically updated with greater detail than you’ll find in any commercial map. This is great for tracking your path or saving your favorite fishing spots for later. Some users will still want to purchase higher resolution maps, and the included MicroSD card will facilitate that. But with the 5” display of this finder, we’d recommend upgrading to the Helix 7” for higher levels of detail.
If you’re looking for value, you’re unlikely to find a better deal on a fish finder with both down imaging and GPS. While it’s not the cheapest on the market, the manufacturer really didn’t cut any corners with the design. All of the cheaper models we’ve come across are lacking things like the included maps, or produce an image that lacks detail. If price is your main concern, there are many sonar only models that are still perfectly functional. But if you’re after a mid-level feature like down imaging, it’s better to spend the money for a system that has been properly executed.