Miller’s new U.S. themed Digital Elite welding helmet is definitely representing the flag, but is it all flash? Or does it perform as well as it looks? The stylized red, white, and blue graphics are some of the best that I’ve seen on a welding hood. I usually tend to stay with the standard black, it seems that most of the graphics are too flashy for my tastes. The flag model Digital Elite on the other hand, is something a bit more toned down, but still looks great, and is very noticeable. If you are looking for a helmet with graphics, this Digital Elite is one of best ones that I’ve seen. Or if your feeling adventurous, you could check out the Jackson Serpent. If your like me, you may just want to stick with good ole’ black.
I’ve been using the black Miller Digital Elite welding helmet for about 6 months now, so when I was asked to review the U.S. flag Digital Elite, I already had plenty of time to try the helmet in a variety of welding conditions. That’s something a lot of guys don’t think about when in the market for a new welding helmet. Some hoods perform better in certain environments then others. Differences in weight, balance, protective coverage, lens color, lens sensitivity, and headgear comfort all come into play in ways you may not have thought of.
For instance, when working in darker environments I prefer an amber lens such as the one found on the Jackson W60. When working in direct sunlight , the slightly darker and green lens of the Digital Elite performs fa bit better in my experience. Also, some shells are more open and allow a bit more air flow, while others are more fitted to the face and tend to allow for less air flow. Depending on where you work or live this could be both good and bad. If your working in 110 degrees conditions, then a more open design is what you want to be wearing.
The Digital Elite is more open and tends to flare out, especially at the bottom. While this can allow for more air flow, it can also allow more sparks to find their way inside your hood. Personally, I don’t have this problem, but a few associates of mine complain about that very problem. They prefer welding helmets that curve under, towards the neck and chin. I think a lot of it depends your welding style and, how tall you are. Taller welders will be more vulnerable to sparks and debris getting under their hood.. something to consider.
The green tinted lens performed great, and there was only one instance of the lens not darkening when I struck an arc. Four arc sensors rated at 1/20,000 of a second, provide super fast shade darkening. Switching out cover lenses is fast and easy, and Miller includes 5 outside and 2 inside lenses in the box. The Digital Elite also comes with a nice helmet bag that will keep your shiny stars and stripes looking newer for longer.
Here are a few additional features:
- 3.85 x 2.38 viewing area
- weld, cut, and grind mode
- delay control at .10 – 1.0 seconds
- TIG rating 5 amps
- replaceable lithium batteries
- 2 year warranty
Another nice feature of this helmet, is what Miller calls X-mode. This mode uses an electromagnetic arc sensor to eliminate sunlight interference, low amp lens opening, and obstructed sensors opening the lens. I put this feature to the test, and I gotta say that it works great and definitely gives the Digital Elite an edge over some of it’s competition. I used it while TIG welding at 5 amps and it worked perfectly. When I intentionally blocked the sensors and struck an arc, the lens darkening just as it should on all but one occasion. To be fair, this one time I had all the sensors blocked in a way that would hardly ever occur in normal working conditions. So the X-mode is more than just a marketing gimmick using fancy words to impress, it’s actually a very useful additional feature on this helmet.
A couple of complaints I have are really only minor. For one, the lens will automatically turn itself off after it hasn’t been used in specified amount of time. That can certainly help forgetful guys like me to save a few bucks on batteries, but it seemed like the lens would turn off too quickly. I tend to take my hood off and jump around to different projects, and I don’t want to have to turn it on every time I go to use it again. It would be nice if it allowed you to change the amount of time it takes to automatically turn off.
Adding to that annoying little problem are the cumbersome controls. They just didn’t feel as responsive as I would have liked. Combine that with the smaller size of the buttons, and the way they are positioned on the control panel and it can be a little frustrating trying to adjust settings, especially while wearing welding gloves.
At a suggested retail price $359.00, it isn’t for those looking for a budget helmet, but I’ve been shopping around a bit, and have found it for as low as $289.00, so be sure not to pay full retail price for this hood. That price was for the black version, the graphic themed versions will cost you about $20-$30.00 more.
With it’s sleek looks, good performance, and useful features, the Miller Digital Elite is an excellent welding hood. The X-mode works great and is something I expect more manufacturers will start to implement into their hoods. So for those who are looking for features such as a very large viewing area and digital controls, the Digital Elite is one of maybe 2 or 3 welding hoods that you should be considering.