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New Miller Digital Elite Helmet: A Review

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  • New Miller Digital Elite Helmet: A Review

    Hey guys, as some might remember, a few weeks ago I was asking about the Millet Elite helmets, because I wanted to get something for the shop. Anyways, with the new Digital Elite being released, I ended up holding off on the regular Elite and getting one of the Digital ones instead. I thought it might be good if I did a review about some of my thoughts regarding the new hood since it’s still pretty new on the market.

    When looking at a hood, for me at least, some of the important things that come to mind are comfort, clarity and quality. The three Cs, well, almost I tried to keep those key things in mind while looking at different features of some of the hoods I have used. I guess another C could be added, "coolness factor," and this hood rates pretty high on that scale, but it’s really not a necessity, so I won't say much more than that about the awesome graphics.

    Head Gear:
    I’m impressed with the headgear on this helmet, I knew it would be better than what I was used to with my 3M Speedglas helmet, but still I didn’t realize how much I’d like the headgear until I put a day in with it. It definitely works a lot better than some of the other lids out there and is quite comfortable. I liked how the adjustment of the distance between the face and the lens was easy to use and when you adjust the knobs on the side for tension, the helmet will actually stay up accordingly (Speedglas manufacturers take note

    Helmet Design:
    Like any decently designed helmet, the Elite hugs the welder’s chest pretty good when flipped down, which helps keep out arc light and fumes. It feels to be about the same weight as my Speedglas, perhaps a tad heavier but over the long run it didn’t feel like it strained my neck like other hoods have, it seems to be better balanced. I’m always tilting my head back, just to keep the Speedglas and Selstrom helmets from flopping down when moving, so normally I just take them off every time I have to get a new piece, grind the tungsten, etc. The Elite just sits there upright on the head on its own, no neck straining required, one of those things that I never realized how much I was missing until I used the Elite.

    A design feature I consider to be mandatory with modern auto darkening hoods is replaceable batteries. Reading through the literature on the Elite, I noticed that Miller has taken this another step further and has included a low-battery warning that will pop up on the screen a couple of days before you start to run out of battery power (apparently after ~3000 hours of arc time, so 3-4 years for most full-time welders. That’s smart, it means that for this hood I no longer have to stock a spare set of batteries and worry about their shelf life.

    One final thing I liked about the overall design of the helmet was its ergonomics. There is enough room that I can adjust the buttons inside the helmet without taking it off, and the helmet shell, while being larger than the slim-design of the Speedglas, still allows for full range of motion of the head and is in no way ‘clunky’ feeling. Finally, when welding overhead, all of the inner ratcheting bits do their job to keep the helmet in the same orientation to the eye as it is when I am looking slightly down welding on a fab table. This sounds like something simple, but my Speedglas has a habit of slipping down and resting on my nose when doing the overhead work because its ratcheting mechanisms, to put it bluntly, suck. The Selstrom is a bit better, but is clunky feeling. The Elite just does what you’d expect and maintains the same setup regardless of head position.

    Function of the Digital Unit:
    I originally thought that the digital console would just be fun to have for the ‘coolness’ factor, but now that I have used it, I’ve found it to be nice to have. With the big buttons and numbers on the screen, it’s easy to tell what your settings are. Also, the settings (shade, sensitivity and delay) were linear in their range of adjustment and easy to use. No reading of the manual is really necessary to use the hood, as everything is self-explanatory.

    X-Mode:
    Yes, it really works. I wanted to make sure for myself before I came on here saying it worked, so I blocked off the optical sensors (carefully, so as not to damage them), and ran the hood on (optical) weld mode, to verify that the optical sensors did not allow the lens to darken, then I switched it to X-Mode and sure enough, it works like a charm. It even works when I tried it on 5-amps DC tig. I don’t know how it picks up the electromagnetic fields so well, but it seems to be the bee’s knees if you’ll pardon the expression. I know I’ll enjoy using the X-Mode for those times that I can only half see what I am doing, no more flashing because of blocked sensors.

    Low-Amp Tig:
    For the fun of it, as I mentioned up above, I wanted to see if the hood would pick up the 5-amp arc that it mentions it will in the advertising, so, I ground a fine tungsten, turned the Dynasty way down and on a DC arc, tested the X-Mode and Weld Mode. Sure enough, the helmet didn’t miss a beat and picked up the arc without so much as a stutter. That’s pretty amazing to me, considering how little light is given off of a 5 tig amp arc.

    Cutting:
    It’s known that these new hoods with the cutting mode are great for working with plasma cutters, especially ones like the Elite with the large window, but something that I thought was neat about this hood is that you can use the settings in the cutting mode to lock on a shade 5 lens, just like you put a set of cutting goggles on and use it for oxy-fuel cutting.

    Clarity:
    Clarity, in my mind, is perhaps the most important feature of a hood, if not one of the top 2, second maybe only to function. The Speedglas is the king of clarity, well; it was until I tried the Elite. I can honestly say that this is the first hood that I have used that has a noticeably better optical clarity than my Speedglas. To tell the truth, I was almost a bit put out that this, thinking that I’d get this new fancy Miller hood but the Speedglas would still be my “professional” hood because of its high level of optical clarity. Times change I guess, and the Elite has definitely impressed me.

    Unexpected Benefit:
    Something I didn’t foresee was an unexpected benefit of having such a large viewing area. I find that now with the Elite when I’m doing quick things like dressing up a tungsten or repositioning a piece for welding, I‘m just leaving the hood down instead of flipping it up. The large window let’s me see fully what is ahead of me and also some of my peripheral vision, it’s really quite neat just how much you can see with this big lens.

    Overall, if you’re looking for a top-notch helmet and can afford the Elite Digital, it is well worth the money. It won’t completely replace my Speedglas, the Speedglas will ride around in my truck with me, as does the Selstrom, and be good for the grunge field-work, but for everything in the shop, the Elite will have its full-time place. The finding that the Digital Elite outclassed the Speedglas caught me a bit of guard, but I must say that the Elite was the underdog in my mind before actually using it, and its quality has earned a permanent place in my shop.

    Thanks for reading and have a good one guys
    Attached Files
    hre

  • #2
    great review! i'm jonesing for a new hood and like the D-Elite.

    i have one question:

    how low of a shade can you use to tig weld? it says 5-8 for cutting, is that locked on all the time or auto dark too? Will it work for TIG? i often find that i can use a shade lower than 8 for low amp tig.
    Dynasty 200 DX
    Millermatic 175
    Spectrum 375
    All kinds of Smith OA gear

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks Laiky.
      Yes the cutting mode will auto-darken as normal, if you turn the sensitivity to 10 in the cutting mode it will then lock on the dark state. I guess then that means you could also have shades 5-8 at your disposal. When I was doing the real low amp tig, I found the shade 8 to be really quite light, worked well for the 5 amp stuff for me, but my eyes are more sensitive to light compared to some of the older guys I know, so that may be a factor too.
      hre

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for your review. Very detailed.


        Scott

        Comment


        • #5
          Nice review. I know what I'll be asking for Christmas...
          I noticed the red maple leaf on your helmet. Is this the canuck version?
          Millermatic Passport Plus
          Millermatic 200

          Millermatic 350P with Python
          XMT 304 /w S-64 feeder and 12VS
          Dynasty 300 DX
          Thermal Arc 400 MST
          Victor O/A
          Premier Power Welder for my trail junk.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks for the review, If I need a new lid that is where I will go.
            My old XLI is the designated grind/plasma lid & gets the dirty work when it happens..

            Well written post also.

            Comment


            • #7
              Well done, there, fossilfuelsmoke! Wish I hadn't read it, because I feel a purchase coming on!

              Hank
              ...from the Gadget Garage
              Millermatic 210 w/3035, BWE
              Handler 210 w/DP3035
              TA185TSW
              Victor O/A "J" series, SuperRange

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks guys Yep, being the Canuck that I am, I had to have the Maple leaf pattern. It turns out that the hoods use the same shell as the BWE, so if you get your hands on a BWE shell of a design that is not yet offered in the Digital, you can just switch over the lenses. This helmet is going to be a big hit, and I suspect that Miller won't waste much time coming out with new designs for it.
                hre

                Comment


                • #9
                  Coalsmoke, a very good report. I've been using my Saf one (Miller copied the Saf) since May and am very pleased with it. So much so, that I now have one helmet at work and another at home with my new Kemppi AC/DC tig.
                  One thing to note though that I have found, where the adjustment is for spacing the helmet away from your face there are 3 settings, the centre setting isn't as well supported as the other 2 (2 notches versus 3)and I have found that either of the "end" settings are better than the centre from a strength viewpoint.
                  Like you I love the X mode as well, it's particularly good when welding outdoors as well. My eyesight isn't as good as yours so on low amp tig I use the variable shades on the cutting mode and it works perfectly.
                  Regards Andrew from Oz.
                  We are tig welders, gravity doesn't worry us.

                  Miller Dynasty 350 Tig.
                  OTC AVP300 AC/DC 300 amp hybrid wave Tig. (now retired)
                  Kemppi MLS 2300 230amp AC/DC Tig for home with all the bells and whistles.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Coalsmoke View Post
                    Thanks guys Yep, being the Canuck that I am, I had to have the Maple leaf pattern. It turns out that the hoods use the same shell as the BWE, so if you get your hands on a BWE shell of a design that is not yet offered in the Digital, you can just switch over the lenses. This helmet is going to be a big hit, and I suspect that Miller won't waste much time coming out with new designs for it.
                    There are some subtle differences in using the previous Miller Elite helmet, the front lens cover is a slightly different shape and there may be some cutting of the plastic surround around the digital cassette to make it fit if you want it to locate the right side up. If you are happy to fit it upside down it will go in without a problem..
                    I know this as a friend put his cassette out of his Saf helmet into his Miller Elite Inferno as he didn't like the ghey Saf blue (as Seinfeld says "not that there's anything wrong with that")
                    Regards Andrew.
                    We are tig welders, gravity doesn't worry us.

                    Miller Dynasty 350 Tig.
                    OTC AVP300 AC/DC 300 amp hybrid wave Tig. (now retired)
                    Kemppi MLS 2300 230amp AC/DC Tig for home with all the bells and whistles.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      nice review, coalsmoke which speedglas do you have? i have the 9002x but looking into the new Speedglas Sl which seems to have improved on the headgear and other stuff. have you had a chance to compare that to the new Digital Elite ?

                      thanks

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        awill, there might be some design differences between the saf and the Digital elite. The 3 position side slots are equally tight and supported on the Elite, and the lens is in right way around but the digital panel has some definite similarities. I wouldn't be surprised if the Saf hood was used as a bit of a tester model and feedback from it was incorporated into the Elite. This is of course pure speculation on my part, but I have seen Air Liquide do that with some other stuff in the past, or have other Miller products that have an Air Liquide name on them.

                        Drift, I have the Speedglas 9000F, a good hood, good optical clarity and tough as nails, but not versatile enough for all the different facets of shop work, especially stuff like the low amp mig and tig, it is just better suited in the larger stuff. I looked at the new SL, for one, I'm not sold on its headgear, it looks too much like the same cheap stuff on all the other speedglas hoods, and despite it being extra light weight, it doesn't look to be bringing much new to the table in terms of features.
                        hre

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          who is seling the D-Elite? and how much is it?
                          Dynasty 200 DX
                          Millermatic 175
                          Spectrum 375
                          All kinds of Smith OA gear

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            For those of you who might wonder why Miller has this board. Coalsmoke has proven once again that marketing and fancy brochures dont mean all that much. The best salesguy is the guy who uses it to make a living and the smart money is on letting him have a soapbox to let everyone know how he feels, especially when he loves it. Only problem is when the guy can't stand it. So far I'm a believer that Miller leaves the good and the bad on the board.
                            [B]Trail Blazer 302
                            Suitcase X-TREME 12VS
                            Syncrowave 180SD
                            Coolmate 4
                            Millermatic 175
                            Millermatic 251
                            HT Powermax 180
                            Victor O/A
                            DeWalt DW872 Chop Saw
                            Lathe
                            Milling Machine
                            Bandsaw
                            No matter how hard I try, I always hear about the other guy who can do it better, faster and cheaper. Sure would like to meet him someday but no one seems to be able to find him when I ask. [B]

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by acx780 View Post
                              For those of you who might wonder why Miller has this board. Coalsmoke has proven once again that marketing and fancy brochures dont mean all that much. The best salesguy is the guy who uses it to make a living and the smart money is on letting him have a soapbox to let everyone know how he feels, especially when he loves it. Only problem is when the guy can't stand it. So far I'm a believer that Miller leaves the good and the bad on the board.

                              I've been here since 2003, and I've never seen the board administrator dump a post critical of a Miller (or any ITW family) product. They are straight shooters all the way.

                              Hank
                              ...from the Gadget Garage
                              Millermatic 210 w/3035, BWE
                              Handler 210 w/DP3035
                              TA185TSW
                              Victor O/A "J" series, SuperRange

                              Comment

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