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Electronics Review

Side Imaging for the Masses? Humminbird's 797c2 SI

Date: 8/03/08
Tackle type: Electronics
Manufacturer: Humminbird
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 7.25 -


Introduction: Since the debut of Humminbird's side imaging technology several years ago, recreational anglers have been patiently waiting for this eye opening technology to trickle down to more reasonable levels. After all, $2K (roughly the cost of Humminbird's 979c Si) is a hefty sum to put down on a unit that might see only 50 uses in a given year. Well, Humminbird answered those consumers' calls with the introduction of their 797c2 SI unit at ICAST 2006 and while at roughly $1,000 the unit is still quite pricey, at least now there's a slightly more economical option. Here's our look at Humminbird's 797c2 SI, winner of ICAST 2006's Best in Electronics.

Humminbird 797c2 SI Combo NVB Specifications

Display 5"
Pixels 680v x 480h
Colors 256 TFT
GPS Navionics Compatible
Power Output 500 Watts (RMS) 4000 Watts (Peak to Peak)
Sonar DualBeam Plus (200 kHz/20d @ -10db : 83 kHz/60d @ -10db : Max Depth 1500ft)
Side Imaging 455 kHz / (2) 86d @ -10db : Max Depth 150'
Network Modules (all optional) Weather Sense : Wireless Sonar Link : Cannon Link : InterLink
Other Features Temperature, GPS Speed, Backlight, Waterproof
MSRP $1,199.99
Options purchased: InterLink (~$99) : Navionics HotMaps (~$149) : Navionics Gold West Region (~$199)

Impressions: For those of us with smaller boats, the 797c2 SI is the perfect size to mount either up front or at the console of your boat. Humminbird provides a very solid base for all their units with the great feature of making it really easy to mount and dismount your unit. Simply click it into the base when in use, and then, depress a lever on the back of the unit to release it from the base for removal when in transport or storage.


The very first test for our 797c2 SI unit was this tree...

Side Imaging: Getting right to it, the most sought after feature of the 797c2 SI is, of course, the side imaging. The trick here is in order for the SI to work most effectively, Humminbird recommends speeds of about one to three miles per hour. Not unreasonable if you have your unit mounted on the console, but if you're expecting to get those wonderful images at the front of your boat while running on the trolling motor, well, it's not going to happen. We found this out the hard way as the first of our two 797c2 SI's was mounted right up front of my boat, and we were less than impressed with the results.

... what we didn't realize is you need to be travelling at a good 1-3mph clip for the imaging to work. Note our speed in the lower left hand corner.

After reading the manual and discovering why, instead of moving the unit or even the transducer, we procured another for the console and tried again. What we found was although this worked much better, the screen size on the 797c2 SI is a bit small to really make out anything very effectively - especially in dual side imaging mode. In single side mode, it's a little better, but still not quite what we expected or hoped.

So, how were we able to pick up this detail at another spot travelling at the same low speed, we're uncertain. We tried to duplicate this pass, but nothing came through!


GPS: Another reason for procuring another unit was to better test the GPS features of the 797c2 SI. Up front, the GPS unit worked great and with the Navionics maps, detail is extraordinary. Naturally, when we switched to two units, we had to take it to the next level and test out the company's Interlink component which enables communication between two compatible Humminbird products.


Thanks to Humminbird's partnership with Navionics, map detail is very good.


What I was hoping was that not only could I share waypoints between units, but contour maps as well, but of course, when I put my Navionics chip in one unit, I was not able to see the map detail in the other. Waypoints are instantly shared between units, but not map info. This was a huge disappointment. Of course, the next thing I did was to try and copy the map data from my Navionics SD card over to a spare SD card so that I could have one chip in each unit. Anyone familiar with the Navionics chips knows exactly what happened next - I ruined the original card because it is copy protected. My fault there and quite a costly one at that.


Unfortunately, if you're using the Interlink to share way points, map data is not shared, so you need one Navionics chip for each unit.

So, with a new card procured, I licked my wounds and moved forward with the limitations of the GPS and Interlink operability in mind. On the next several trips I discovered something else quite troubling. In the middle of runs and for no apparent reason, the GPS would lose signal and then reacquire several minutes later. Not only that, but quite often, one unit would get a GPS signal while the other could not. The troubles were very intermittent and not something I could easily diagnose or isolate and especially not something I cared to troubleshoot while out on the water fishing. Needless to say, while I love the concept of the Interlink, I am not sold on this unit's reliability.

The birdseye view feature is interesting, but we did not use it much. This is actually one of the few moments it gave us a picture.

Another issue I have with the 797c2 SI's GPS function is the way in which routes are stored - manually. The user has to make a conscious effort to save a route before power is turned off or your day's worth of running a body of water is gone. Perhaps not an issue if this is your first GPS unit and you are aware of this operability, but having switched from a different unit and manufacturer where past routes up to a certain memory limit, are resident in the unit for quite some time even after powering down and back up again, this is a difficult adjustment to make and something I still miss to this day. Especially when the power switch to my boat inadvertently gets switched off from guys moving around the boat in the middle of a fishing day.

The 797c2 SI is full of very useful split screen mode views.










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