So after hemming and hawing over spending the money for one of these, I made up my mind (while stuck in an airport after my flights home were cancelled...) and pulled the trigger and ordered one. Got it a week or so ago and have just gotten time to make some use of it over the past few days. All I can say is "wow" over what an improvement this thing is over both the cheap autodark and the old passive that I have been using up until now.
Here are the qualifiers:
-I am not a pro, I don't weld for a living, don't spend all day under a hood.
-My experience is limited to the low end (~$70 from my LWS a few years ago) autodark that looks suspiciously similar to the one HF sells and a couple of mid-range passives I've had for maybe 25 years or more.
- I have only used this to run some TIG welds on aluminum and some steel, maybe an hour or so total. So this is mostly a first impressions review.
With that said here are my first impressions:
It is fairly lightweight. I got the basic black one as it was the lowest price and the fancy designs didn't matter to me. It comes with a drawstring storage bag, a couple each of replacement inner and outer clear cover lenses. It also includes a sheet of decals with stuff like Lincoln logos, flames, flags, pinstripes, and some letters so you can spell out your name if you like.
The difference between this thing and the others is almost startling. It activates every time. When it darkens the shade is completely uniform. The large window is awesome, particularly given that I wear bifocals. The "clarity" (sounds like a marketing term, but describes it well) is noticeably better than my others as is the ability to see what's going on with the puddle. There is no noticeable distortion and the veiw is far less green-tinted than is typical.
Beyond the view through the window, the headgear is way nicer that the other two I have and the few others I have used elsewhere. Far more comfortable and much more effective at putting the hood where I want it and keeping it there.
I know this is sort of an unfair comparison given the cost of this compared to my others. I'd expect it to be overall much better. But that is not always the case of course. In this case I was not disappointed with my purchase. I have no idea how this particular one compares to others in the same price class, but I guess my point is that if you are giving any thought to upgrading to one of the newer generation autodarks, DO IT! It really is worth the money even if it seems expensive. Once you have it and use it a few times, the cost will be a distant memory.