When word of a new PI (Pulse Induction) metal detector came out I was excited as I always am. But I was not overly optimistic about its potential performance. As the Garrett ATX got closer to release I was intrigued by the early reports of its performance and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. That opportunity came a couple days ago while I was in the gold country of California’s mountains.
I would be testing it in a place where most of the ground is very mild but in a few places extremely hot. My first impression on handling the machine is that it is very robust and well built. Perhaps a little too well built since the weight was quickly evident. It’s also very easy to operate with only a few buttons and those being quickly and easily adjusted on the go while detecting.
The first impression upon operating it was how smooth and stable the threshold was. My Friend Steve Herschback had already tested the ATX and commented on how well it handled EMI even in a city setting. I was testing the unit in an area with minimal amounts of EMI so this wasn’t an issue. But even with the gain maxed out to 13 the machine ran very smooth. This led to another surprise. The ATX could hear extremely small nuggets. Flakes more correctly. I had found a tiny flat nugget barely perceptible with the GPX 5000 earlier that day which wouldn’t register on my scale. It was less than a tenth of a gram. On the ATX the smooth threshold gave rise to a very audible signal while replicating the circumstances the nugget was found. Granted it’s not a true test but it does give indication to the machines potential.
I next tested the machine in the hot ground. I dug a few holes for ground noise but about the same amount I would with my GPX 4000 at the same place. I could still leave the machine at full gain but found it best to take it down a couple notches to about 10 or 11. At this gain setting I could still hear the small nugget but not as noticeably.
The downsides I found in the ATX hold it back from being a replacement level machine for the Minelab GPX detectors but are better than anything in its price range, about $2,100-$2,500. First off the unit I was using would false signal when bumped against rocks or brush. These were the only blips I would hear in the otherwise stable threshold. The depth on larger targets was noticeably less than that of the higher end PI machines. And finally the weight was an issue. I don’t have any problem swinging my GPX all day without a harness but after a couple hours with the ATX I was feeling it. Granted a lot of my swinging was on steeper sidehills but that’s common for me to detect and I don’t want the weight of my detector to dictate my methods.
Many people were hoping for the ATX to be a PI which discriminates like a VLF. The wait for such a machine is ongoing. Digging all my targets and testing the iron check each time I rate the discriminator as about the same as the GPX. The audio grunt of the ATX is probably easier for people to recognize than the blanking of the GPX however.
Garrett ATX Pros
- Great sensitivity to small gold
- Stable Threshold
- Strong performance in hot ground and EMI
- Waterproof and quite possibly bulletproof (not really but it is strong)
- Compact and adjustable shaft
- Runs on readily available AA batteries
Garrett ATX Cons
- False signals when coil is bumped ( at least at a high gain setting)
- Not up to same standards as the top end gold detectors
My Final Assessment:
The Garret ATX is a very good metal detector. If you are a new prospector that wishes to give yourself the advantage of swinging a Pulse Induction detector but don’t want to spend almost $6,000 this is probably your machine. Just spend some extra money on a swing harness and buy three ounces of gold (the price difference between an ATX and a GPX 5000). It’s likely an excellent detector for beach hunting and parks but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it for those purposes.
As for me, I look forward to using the ATX for sniping underwater and in dense brush or other places its compactness can be utilized. Other than that I will continue to use my GPX 5000. As much as I would like Garrett and other manufacturers to truly compete with Minelab, the ATX still isn’t there. It’s like Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Muhammed Ali, both are great for what they are they’re just in different weight classes.
- Michael Greyshock