Vexilar SonarPhone-100 Review
by Sadie Marcheldon
The advancement of technology in recent years has opened up a whole new world of fish finders for amateur and professional anglers alike. A castable or portable fish finders is an innovative product which allows those fishing from small crafts like kayaks and canoes or even from shore to have the same advantage anglers in large boats enjoy.
Those who have never heard of a portable fish finder might be shocked or even skeptical but it will quickly become apparent why this exciting technology continues to carve out a spot for itself on the market.
The Vexilar SonarPhone-100, which also goes by SP100, might be compact but it packs a big punch when it comes to providing all the features needed in a portable sonar. Many people choose the SP100 for its affordability, reliability, innovative technology, versatility and well-programed app. Best of all, it pairs with technology you already own; your IOS device or your Android device.
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The Vexilar SonarPhone-100 is a product professional and amateur anglers alike can and will enjoy for its versatility and many different features and functions. The transducer pod can be pulled behind a small boat like a kayak or canoe, thrown out from shore or cast out with a rod. Since it’s portable, it’s a great option when fishing out of someone else’s boat. It’s also a great choice for ice fishing.
The SP100 transducer pod pairs with IOS and Android operating systems so either a phone or tablet can be used, depending on individual preference or need. The sonar information is relayed wirelessly from the T-POD to the screen the user pairs with it. Generally there is a hundred yard transmitter range in all directions. A smartphone or even a tablet can be transformed into a sonar system complete with a full colour screen with multiple menus, settings and functions available. Simply download the SonarPhone App and you’re ready to roll.
The SP100 sonar is Wi-Fi enabled, meaning the unit itself acts as a hot-spot. The signal can be shared by many other users. Just download the APP on your phone or tablet and you’re ready to share in the experience.
The beauty of the unit acting as its own hot-spot is that you don’t have to be fishing in a place with cellular service to be able to use it. The SonarPhone Sonar Transmitter will work just about anywhere in the world.
The feature displays the whole range between the sonar and the bottom. There is no side scan but the feature can be useful in finding fish, deciphering the terrain and structure of the area and learning habitat. The unit also indicates water temperature as well as depth. The unit has a relatively higher power output of 400 watts (point to point), making it effective in different temperatures. The sonar will generally see through weeds and likely be able to give a clear picture to deeper depths than some other fish finders in the same category.
The SP100 comes with a self-contained battery which has a life of up to four hours. The Lithium Ion battery technology in the T-POD can last for years or over five hundred recharges. It’s a great idea to charge the battery before it goes completely dead. To prevent the terminals from rusting, be sure that they are completely dry before the unit is recharged. To recharge the battery you can simply plug the T-POD right into a USB port or you can use the supplied charging cable.
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Anglers of all ages and skill levels will love the multitude of features that come built into the SonarPhone App. The Fish ID feature shows a fish symbol on the screen when the unit receives a positive signal from the T-POD. Furthermore, a fish alarm can be set to sound when this fish symbol appears. The app also features Bottom Track Zoom technology which allows the user to zoom in on selected areas of their path. It also has an alarm for shallow water and low battery warning.
Versatile and Reliable
Many anglers have chosen the Vexilar SonarPhone-100 for its versatility and reliability. While the unit doesn’t have side vision, it does have a reliable depth reader that is clear, easily defines the bottom and structure, sees through weeds and can be used in different water temperatures.
The unit doesn’t have to be babied and can be thrown out from shore, cast out using a rod or pulled behind a small boat, canoe or kayak. The technology employed in the unit is meant to last. The battery itself lasts for up to four hours and, if cared for properly, can withstand over five hundred recharges.
Easy to Use for All Skill Levels
The ease of use will delight any angler. Instead of spending hours or even days trying to figure out how the technology works, the SP100 is as simple as casting, throwing, placing or trailing the T-POD in the water.
The unit is water activated so it will turn on when it’s wet. The T-POD pairs with the SonarPhone App, so be sure that’s installed on your device. After that it’s only a matter of connecting your IOS or Android device. The unit is easy to turn off. It’s simply pulled out of the water and will shut off within thirty seconds.
Recharging is as simple as plugging the unit in using a USB cord or the included adapter.
Using the HotSpot
The unit is Wi-Fi enabled and acts as its own hotspot so you need not have a cellular connection. In fact, the unit will work almost anywhere in the world. Multiple users can hone in on the hotspot connection so an entire group of people need only have one T-POD.
A small portion of users have found that the Wi-Fi connection can be temperamental while others have found it hard to stay connected for longer than a couple seconds at a time. A great way to get around disconnection issues is to use an older phone or turn off cellular data so the signal from the T-POD is not interrupted by incoming texts, calls or emails.
Customizable Screen Options
The SP100 is compatible both with Android and IOS devices. The user has many customizable options for their screen. Either a phone or a tablet can be used. The SP100 comes with an armband for the operator to wear their phone while it’s in use. Some users have found the armband uncomfortable or that it gets in the way of paddling.
The screen can also be mounted with the many different types of holders on the market. Some might find that their phone screen is too small to be effective and prefer to use a larger option like a tablet. From there, the user can purchase additional accessories like anti-glare and anti-fog screens or a waterproof case to make their viewing experience effective and enjoyable.
Pairs With a Great App
The SonarPhone APP itself is going to be something that almost everyone enjoys. Some users have found that the menus and functions might be confusing or hard to use on a smaller screen but the problem can easily be solved by switching to a larger phone or even a tablet. The App features full color, an accurate depth reading and also many different features like the ability to zoom in on a path you’ve already traced or alarms that go off when a fish crosses the T-POD’s path.
The SP100 is a great choice for those who would like a depth finder but don’t want all the bells and whistles of a fancier, more expensive unit. The price point really is quite affordable considering the technology and host of features that come with the unit.
SonarPhone-100 Pros and Cons
- Highly versatile T-POD can be cast out with a rod, thrown from shore or pulled behind a small boat, kayak or canoe.
- Reliable and consistent sonar
- Easy to use and operate
- The unit works well in most water temperatures and is a great ice fishing option.
- Utilizes technology you already have- a phone or tablet!
- Compatible with both IOS and Android units. The unit is its own hotspot so no cellular connection is needed. The signal extends up to 100 yards in all directions. Multiple users can also share the same hotspot connection so only one T-POD is needed for a large group.
- Lower price point makes the unit affordable for both professional and amateur anglers
- Higher end battery technology means the unit can last up to 500 recharges or more and has a battery life of up to 4 hours.
- Well-developed app with a robust set of features including alarms for fish, low battery, shallow water and the ability to zoom in on a previous path.
- Some users have found the armband that comes with the product uncomfortable or inconvenient, which is solved by mounting the screen with an aftermarket holder.
- The buttons and menu on the app can be confusing or overlap each other on a smaller screen. Switching to a larger phone or tablet will usually solve the issue.
- The unit is generally not suited to larger boats or higher speeds.
Other Products in the Line
Vexilar SP200 SonarPhone T-Box
The Vexilar SonarPhone-200 is quite a different product with many different features and capabilities than the SP100 though they are both Vexilar products. The SP200 unit can be used on a small boat like a kayak or canoe like the SP100 but it can be fix mounted right to the boat. The transducer is located in a small box called the T-Box.
The T-Box works much the same as the T-POD on the SP100 in that it can wirelessly transmit a signal to any IOS or Android device. Both the SP100 and SP200 use the SonarPhone app but the SP200 can additionally take advantage of the Navionics Boating App and Sonar Charts Live. The key advantage to using Navionics is that the user now has the ability to plot charts.
The SP200 is often similarly priced to the SP100 so it’s really up to the user what features and options they want in their Vexilar product.
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+
The Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ might be more than twice the price of the Vexilar SP100 but it comes with some great features and packs a big technological punch for a small unit.
Like the SP100, the PRO+ floats on the water’s surface and provides a detailed picture through a Wi-Fi connection to an IOS or Android device using a specific App. The Pro+ provides details on bottom structure, depth, water temperature and fish location. It’s castable up to 330 feet without losing its secure connection. Since the Pro+ weighs just 100g it can easily be cast from most rods. It too has a battery life of four hours and takes about two hours to charge. It can scan down to a maximum depth of 260 feet.
The key feature that makes the Pro+ worth the extra cost for some anglers is the ability the PRO+ has to create underwater topographic maps that clearly define structure and features and can be saved for later viewing. The PRO+ also features different modes and changeable scanning that might justify spending a few more dollars for the more advanced technology.
See our in-depth Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ Review.
Reel Sonar iBobber
The iBobber is another popular castable depth finder. It has a price point comparable to the SP100, making it a more economical choice. The iBobber is castable up to 100 feet and scans down to a maximum depth of 80 feet. It displays the information through a connection to an IOS or Android device.
The main drawback of the iBobber is that it features a Bluetooth connection, which some users have found to have a shorter range. The connection might also be more erratic, especially in poor weather connections. The two modes, a fish finding mode and a contour mapping mode have made the iBobber a popular choice for some anglers. However, some people have found that the iBobber doesn’t provide as clear a picture or as easy to read or accurate information as other finders.
Check out the Reel Sonar iBobber.
The Bottom Line
The Vexilar SonarPhone-100 is reliable, easy to use and versatile. It employs innovative technology all wrapped up in a small, portable package that anglers of all ages and skill levels are going to enjoy. Best of all, the SP100 is an affordable option that fits neatly into most budgets. The SP100 is easy to use and the SonarPhone App is well programed and easy to navigate which means that you can spend the majority of your time fishing, not worrying about how to work your depth finder. The sonar provides a reliable, clear picture, making it that much easier to find and catch fish.
For the price, the innovative Vexilar SP100 is a great entry-level fishing technology choice, and we are happy to give the SP100 an overall grade of a B+.