FAQ: What is the best pinpointer for metal detecting and why?
"While I think my opinion is important, I have to consider what the masses say. And the fact is, there is one pinpointer that sells 10-1 over the rest and for good reason."
For anyone new to metal detecting, I cannot stress enough how important a pinpointer is in the sport. In a previous post titled, "Why a Pinpointer is Such a Crucial Part of Your Metal Detecting Gear", I discuss why the tool is so important to the hobby of metal detecting. So, I won't get into that as much here. This article's purpose is to lay out all of the pros and cons of the various pinpointers out there and why one stands out above the rest.
I am a firm believer that recovery speed and digging more targets is a key element to metal detecting success. This is why a pinpointer is such an important part of metal detecting. Some of the considerations I give are the functionality of the different detectors Small things.. Say, for existence, how quickly the machine turns on and off and how quickly you can retunes in the field. Both of these things are important to recovery speed. These little things may seem de minimis but I assure you, they can make big difference in recovery speed. Better recovery speeds = more holes dug = more treasure found.
I may not cover every specification and am not trying to detail the use of each of them. I am pointing out the things that make each of these pinpointers unique among to the others - some of it good and some of it not so good.
In order for this article to remain somewhat succinct (LOL), I will start by narrowing the field down to the most common or most popular pointers on the market. First, I will eliminate all of the cheap Chinese made pinpointer that are virtually given away by all major metal detector dealers (including us ;). Although they work and are better than nothing, they don't even deserve mention by name in this article. They are not sensitive and you are lucky if they may last a year or so at best. They are trash.
For this comparison I will narrow it down to the following brands (in no certain order):
- Minelab (Pro Find 15, 20, and 35)
- Garrett (Pro-Pointer II and Pro-Pointer AT)
- XP (MI-4 and MI-6)
- Teknetics (Tek-Point)
- Fisher (F-Pulse)
- Nokta Makro (Nokta Pointer & PulseDive)
These pinpointers are by far the best and most popular pinpointers on the market as of this article. Don't waste your time looking at anything else.
Next, I will give a quick summary of the features of each pinpointer metal detector. Although simply looking at the features of each pinpointer may help you be able to decide which one will suite your hunt, remember, each of these manufacturers is trying to sell you something. So, description alone is not enough to make an educated decision. Time in the field is what helps a person truly know what makes a pinpointer great. Fortunately for you, we have plenty of time in the field with each of these pointers to help guide your choice.
Minelab Pro Find Series Pinpointers
The Pro Find series of detectors include the Pro Find 15, Pro Find 20, and Pro Find 35. Each of the three choices include a holster, high visibility coloring, audio indication, and a handy "lost alarm" which alerts you when the pointer is on and inactive for a certain period.
The Pro Find 15 and 20 are waterproof up to 5ft, the Pro Find 35 is waterproof up to 10ft. The Pro Find 20 and Pro Find 35 have both audio and vibration which is super handy if you are detecting in the water or trying to be discreet when metal detecting. All of the Pro Find series pointers use 9V batteries for their power source.
What makes the Pro Find 35 the choice among the Pro Find series of pinpointers is not only the fact it comes with a lanyard (which is really handy for water hunting), an LED light on it that allows you to see targets in the dark or in a deep dark plug, and you can use it in deeper water, but it also has two features that make it the winner among Minelab's three pointers. First, the Pro Find 35 has adjustable sensitivity (more on this later in the comparison) and Minelab claims the pinpointer features a "FERROUS TONE ID -Two different responses help you to identify ferrous junk from nonferrous treasure. Great to use with non-discriminating detectors." This feature does seem to work, although not well enough to really tell the difference. When there is a ferrous item, the vibration and audio kind of skip a little whereas a non-ferrous item will give you a more steady indication. It is hardly noticeable, so don't make this the deciding factor.
One other draw back I have found when using the Pro Find 35 underwater is the audio indicator and vibration are rather weak. This makes it a little more difficult to use when pinpointing items underwater. The button location and difficulty finding the buttons without actually looking at the pinpointer is another drawback of the Pro find series of detectors.
Another factor when considering which Pro Find is the on-off functionality of the detector. For the Pro Find 15 and 20 when you turn it on, you have to wait for a final beep (different than the on-tone you hear when switching it on) before you begin detecting. The period between the on-tone and the final beep is so the detector can sense its surroundings and adjust as necessary. If you put it close to metal prior to hearing that third beep, it tunes out targets and doesn't work. To me, this is a huge pain in the ass since pinpointing is all about recovering targets quickly. This feature also tends to confuse a lot of users. The Pro Find 35 is ready to go as soon as you turn it on. At $129 the Pro Find 35 is the clear winner within Minelab's pinpointer offerings. At $79 the Pro Find 15 offers a more affordable option with fewer features for newbies. Franky I am not sure why, at $99, the Pro Find 20 is still in existence.
Garrett Pro-Pointer Series Pinpointers
Garrett has three pinpointer options. The Garrett Pro-Pointer II, Pro-Pointer AT, and the Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk wireless. The Pro Pointer II is a great pointer. The on-off functionality is great and the large buttons make it easy to turn on and off without having to search for the button. You turn it on and you are ready to go. No waiting for the pointer to adjust. Same goes with the other two Garrett Pro-Pointers. Each of the Garrett Pro-Pointers use 9 volt batteries, have a loop on the end where you can attach a lanyard, and are ruggedly designed. Each of them has a ruler on the side to gauge depth and a handy scraping blade built into the sensor end of the pointer to make it better suited for scraping dirt away. They all feature a lost Pro-Pointer function where they will begin chirping after 5 minutes of inactivity and an automatic off function that turns the detector off after 60 minutes of progressively faster warning chirps. All of the Garrett Pro-Pointers come with a holster and also have a handy LED light on them that allows you to see targets in the dark or in a deep dark plug.
Each of the Pro-Pointers feature the ability to re-tune the detectors. Re-tuning is where the user can shrink the detection field of the pointer making it easier to tune out mineralization and more accurately pinpoint large targets. The main difference in the re-tune between the Pro-Pointer II and the AT series pointers is with the Pro-Pointer II re-tuning involves shutting the detector on and back on whereas the AT series pointers can be re-tuned by simply hitting the button once (without having to turn it off and back on).
The big difference between the Pro-Pointer II and the AT Series pointers is the fact the AT Series pointers are fully submersible up to 20 feet and the Pro Pointer II is simply water resistant. Meaning, the Pro-Pointer II can be used in the rain and rinsed off but should not be submersed further than the on-off button.
The Pro-Pointer AT and the Pro-Pointer AT with Z-Lynk are virtually the same. However the Z-Lynk option allows you to connect the pointer to the Garrett Z-Lynk wireless headphone system (proprietary to Garrett only). This function is really nice when detecting in water, noisy environments, or when you want to be discreetly detecting. Both of the Garrett AT pinpointers have three sensitivity modes and can be operated silently in vibration-only mode (which also has three levels of sensitivity). One handy feature the AT pointers offer is the simple ability to re-tune them. As mentioned before a simple push of the power button immediately retunes the pointer. Once the detector is shut off, the retune resets to factory settings. Speaking of buttons. I love how the Garrett pinpointer buttons protrude out from the pinpointer. This makes it really easy to turn on and off and retune without having to search for the button. It may sound like a small thing to consider but, when water hunting this is a very important thing to consider.
Since the AT pointers are virtually the same and the Z-Lynk can only be used with Garrett technologies and you have to pay about $145 for it, I will narrow down the contenders of the Garrett Pro-Pointers to the Pro-Pointer AT and Pro-Pointer II. Although, at a price of about $110, I love the Pro-Pointer II, I am going to claim the Pro-Pointer AT (priced at about $127), due to its waterproofness and easy re-tuning as the clear winner within the Garrett pinpointer offerings.
The XP MI-4 and MI-6 are virtually the same pinpointers. Both of them feature an internal waterproof lithium polymer battery that can be recharged using a USB cable that is provided. They feature an LED light and have a hole in the cap that a lanyard can be attached to. With regards to ergonomics, I will say these pointers feel really good in your hand with the soft, non-slip, rubber molded handle. Single button operation is also a plus (although the button, like the Minelab pointers is hard to locate as it is rather flush with the handle). Both detectors are waterproof up to 6 meters (roughly 30 feet for us Yankees) and come with a pretty bad ass looking holster. In terms of cool-lookingness, I would say the XP Pointers are definitely the winners. But, that is not all to take into consideration when buying a pinpointer.
XP Pointers feature several "programs" which are basically a variety of different options with regards to sensitivity and audio/vibration output.
The thing that separates the MI-6 and the MI-4 is the ability to connect it to the XP wireless module and thus the headphones allowing you some pretty cool options including the ability to adjust the sensitivity of your pinpointer from your detector's remote control, hear the signals from your pinpointer in your headset, the ability to locate your lost pinpointer, even if switched off, view the location chart on your remote control, adjust the tone of your pinpointer, and check the settings of your pinponter on your remote control. These are some pretty darn cool options if you ask me. So, although, these features are nice for XP users, they are, like Garrett's Z-Lynk, a proprietary wireless technology and may not be available to every metal detectorist. So, overall, the MI-4 takes the win for XP Detectors.
F-Pulse and Tek-Point Pinpointers
For those who don't know, Fisher, Teknetics, and Bounty Hunter are all products derived from a little-known electronics manufacturer called First Texas Products. I tell you this so you know that the F-Pulse and the Tek-Point are the exact same pinpointers but a different color. So, there is no need to discuss the differences - because there are none. For the sake of simplicity I will refer to them both as the F-Pulse in this article.
Both pinpointers are waterproof up to 6 feed, have a 360 degree detection field, feature a LED flashlight with adjustable beam, a ruler to determine depth, a molded lanyard loop and have an auto-shutdown feature. They have 9 different modes (varying audio and vibration settings along with sensitivity).
Many detectorists are fond of the F-Pulse due to its sensitivity. Simply put, it has a lot of range when it is at its highest setting. This can be a hinderance when detecting. Normally it wouldn't be an issue because you can retune the detector. However, the retune function on the F-Pulse is seriously lacking.
Another thing users like about the F-Pulse and Tek-Point pinpointers is the fact they use two AA batteries.
Frequency shift is another nice feature of the F-Pulse. Since some detectors and pinpointers will interfere with one another, the F-Pulse has the ability to adjust frequency to account for this.
The button, in my opinion of the F-Pulse is too flush and makes it a little difficult to locate in certain circumstances. In addition to this, switching between modes is similar to the Garrett Pro-Pointer AT but it is a little more difficult to master.
All in all, the F-Pluse and Tek-Point Pinpointers are quality pinpointers in my opinion.
Nokta Makro Pinpointer and PulseDive Pointer
We will start with the PulseDive Pointer. Although available as a 2-in-1 pointer and dive detector (the 2-in-1 comes with a large round coil for allowing a larger detection pattern when diving), the PulseDive doesn't make a great land pinpointer due to its bulky size and button configuration. As it is waterproof up to 200 ft, it does make a great underwater pointer and detector.
If you don't care about how bulky the pointer is and are interested in the PulseDive as an option to kill two birds with one stone, overall the functionality is pretty good. First, it has an internal rechargeable battery. This feature is debated among many serious metal detectorists as it leaves you with the potential to be left dead in the water (pun intended). Some opt for replaceable batteries to avoid this circumstance.
One think I like about the PulseDive is it has a loud audio tone that can be heard quite well underwater well and the vibration indicator is solid (they can be used together or independently). Making it easier to hear and feel the indicators underwater. It has adjustable sensitivity (10 levels) but it is a little hard to use on the fly as it takes two hands to adjust it (very inconvenience underwater). It does have a frequency shift but, again, it is a two-hand operation and would prove difficult to use on the fly or underwater. The PulseDive has a wireless option to connect to the Nokta Makro 2.5GHz wiress headphones - a proprietary connection much like the Garrett Pro Pointer and XP Pointers. This feature is not too useful for most people as a stand alone pinpointer.
The Nokta Pointer is a rather popular pinpointer. Especially among the Nokta-Makro fan base. It features a replaceable 9-volt battery (included). Much like the rest of the pointers it does have a 360 degree detection field. One thing people do like about this pinpointer is it does come with two protective tips, one smooth and the other with a scraping blade. It also has an auto-shut off function and a lost alarm that functions much like other detectors with this feature.
Now for the cons. Although a popular pointer the Nokta Pointer is lacking in some major areas. First, the button configuration and on-off functions are not very conducive for on-the-go detecting. The detector takes a moment to turn on once you hit the green power button and it takes a moment to shut off. This is precious time when you are trying to improve your recovery time. The buttons themselves are located in a very inconvenient spot on the very rear end of the pointer. This makes it awkward to turn on and of in the field. Although it does have adjustable sensitivity, it does not have an auto-retune function - a valuable tool in the field. The audio is decently loud but the vibration is rather weak. Again, not too useful for underwater detecting. Which brings me to the final drawback. Although the Nokta Pointer is waterproof it is only rated up to 3 meters. Deep enough for most people but not deep enough for serious beach and water metal detectorists.
Winners and Losers
Determining a winner in the pinpointer world is a hotly debated topic. Many people are so brand loyal they will always lean towards "their" brand. Fortunately as a dealer, I have to remain somewhat unbiased in my opinion. Along with having sold thousands of pinpointers I have had a chance to use each one of them in the field as well as take the time to dive deeper into their functionality, features, and technical specifications for the purpose of this article.
In addition to my personal experience with each of these pinpointers, I have had the opportunity to talk to thousands of customers each year that are both experienced and new at metal detecting. I also get to see which ones sell the most.
In my final analysis on which pinpointer metal detector is the best, I am taking into consideration price, quality of manufacturing, depth, usability/functionality, and popularity. Probably the most important feature to me is the functionality in the field. It is very important for me to have a detector that is submersible, has a user friendly button configuration and on/off functionality. While many people think sensitivity is a really important factor, I disagree. Pinpointers are used to finely pinpoint objects and extreme sensitivity can make it difficult to pinpoint. This is one reason I think an easy re-tune function is very important.
While I think my opinion is important, I have to consider what the masses say. And the fact is, there is one pinpointer that sells 10-1 over the rest and for good reason. The Garrett Pro Pointer AT is America's favorite pinpointer. Far above the rest. Even the most avid users of other brands, the Garrett Pro Pointer AT is the most desired pinpointer. A single button to handle all of the pinpointer's functions (i.e. switch modes, sensitivity, and re-tune) is awesome, but the fact the Pro Pointer's button protrudes out from the detector handle, which makes it very easy to find rather quickly in the field is a huge benefit to me. Priced in the middle of the pack at $127.95 it is a great pointer for the price. A replaceable battery will ensure that, as long as you bring back up batteries, you will never be stuck without your pinpointer. Waterproof up to 20 feet is another plus. And, the fact the pointer has a solid vibration and sufficiently loud audio indication to be used underwater, make it a clear winner in this competition.
Good luck and happy hunting!
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- Joshua Turpin