Garmin began life as a start-up GPS manufacturer and now find themselves among the elite of large corporations offering a seemingly never ending array of electronic gadgets across a wide range of industries. Recently stepping up their assault on the Australian marine segment, Garmin have introduced a range of keenly priced, easy to use fish finders culminating with the top of the line Garmin Echo 550c.
This unit is particularly easy to use all the way to the mounting system which includes a quick release tilt mount and complete 360 degree rotation on the base, an addition some other manufacturers will gladly add their standard RRP price. The whole package includes a transom mount transducer and is easy for the home handy-man to install with the use of a few tools. We had the unit mounted on a small RIB used for fishing in enclosed waterways and the unit was ready to go straight out of the box.
The screen itself is 5 inches and can be flush mounted (an extra component is required costing $10) or installed on the pedestal base, standard in the box. The pedestal means that mounting can take place in a relatively tight spot on any dashboard, like those found on many runabouts and still be viewable from many angles. The screen itself scrolls at a reasonable pace and the feed is constantly able to read the bottom, meaning no blank spots where you are left wondering what is actually down there. As with any fish finder they take some time to become accustomed to, but I found the Echo 550c was easily able to pick up resident fish at a wide array of depths. From the top to the bottom of the water column I was able to pick up concentrations of fish and one run around a small bay had me picking up the mooring block easily with a few tweaks of the manual gain.
The Echo 550c runs 500w of RMS power and has a dual beam transducer extending your viewing angle to 120 degrees wide, well beyond the sides of the boats, meaning you are able to pick up much of the bottom structure over a wide area. This makes the unit perfect for hunting local reefs for fish and structure they could be holding near. Garmin claim a viewing depth including detail of 1900ft in freshwater which we were not able to test.
The screen displays amazing clarity courtesy of the 640 x 480 resolution display resulting in a video quality image. Onscreen units include depth, water temp and as you would expect, a history of the bottom. You can also look back at areas recently visited, a handy option for keen anglers.
Without a doubt, our favourite thing about the Echo 550c is how easy it is to use straight out of the box. The simplicity of design and some clever thinking has resulted in a menu system that is completely understandable and easy to navigate, even for the novice.
Priced in a very competitive area of the market, the Garmin Echo 550c offers more than most in this category and if you are seriously looking for an upgrade to your existing unit, or a sounder to go with a recent purchase, the Garmin Echo 550c has plenty of power and useability at a very reasonable cost.