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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
Waterproof and submersible
Comfortable arm grip with strap
Headphone jack (headphones included)
False positives in sandy conditions
While the Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector is a top-of-the-line metal detector, it's also very complex for the casual user. Paired with its high price, it's clearly designed for experts.
Metal detecting has grown in popularity over the years, and with good reason—it’s a fun way to enjoy the outdoors and find treasure on the trails. For the more dedicated hobbyist, not just any detector will do. The Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector, a detector containing every feature an enthusiast could ask for, was designed for the hardcore. However, for the casual hobbyist, it could be overwhelming, as we discovered over two weekends. Read on for our thoughts on design, setup, and overall performance.
The Garrett AT Pro Detector was designed for the committed hobbyist. An armrest comes with a strap for extra hold and with good reason; at 22x11x5 inches, the detector benefits from the plushy grip, especially when dipping it in water. At a little over three pounds, it’s not heavy.
The search coil is a nice elliptical shape (8.5x11 inches), enhancing all on-target pinpointing. Snaking up the stem is the search coil that connects the interface to the detector. An extra perk to this detector—everything is waterproof in up to ten feet of water.
The Garrett AT Pro Detector was designed for the committed hobbyist.
Whereas the rest of the design is simple, the interface is where confusion reigns. What should have been a simple interface is instead a jumbled mess, hard to read and understand thanks to a series of small buttons and interface options. We appreciate the depth of the interface, considering it allows you to eliminate metals, change sensitivity settings, and even perform automatic ground balancing to optimize performance. Unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to parse, and it took us a little while to grasp its intricacies. This was a huge detriment to our experience with the Garret AT Pro.
Almost all pieces for the Garrett Detector require some kind of assembly. First, you’ll have to connect the stems by tightening the o-rings, or the camlock. At this point, we strongly recommend that you adjust to your desired length; doing so after you’ve attached the search coil might mean you have to tighten and reattach it. Trust us— that’s a total pain. You’ll also hear/feel a push pin which is another, very important way to secure the stem to the rest of the detector. Make sure both the pin and the camlocks are in place and tight before any use.
The Garrett AT Pro comes with a bolt and a screw, which you’ll use at this stage to line up and attach the search coil to the stem. Tighten the nut so that the search coil will remain firm when in use, but not so firm that it’s stuck in a sole position the entire time. From there, wrap the search coil around the stem and screw the end into the pin connector port. Be sure to double-check which connector you’re inserting it into, as the second one is solely for the headphones.
The last piece of the puzzle normally is the batteries, but the kind folks at Garrett pre-installed these so you can get right out on the trails. All you have to do is press the power button and it’s ready to go.
Taking out the Garrett AT Pro, we were initially surprised by the size of the coil. Being the largest coil we’ve tested to date, we were especially cautious in keeping it about an inch off the ground for optimal detection. However, with continued use, the handgrip felt extremely comfortable and the three pounds the Garrett weighs felt nonexistent.
A 55-page instruction booklet meant there was a steep learning curve. At first, we kept pinging almost constantly, but there was no way metal was so prevalent in the area. Adjusting sensitivity, mode, and invoking the automatic ground balance immensely helped snuff out false positives.
That’s one of the greatest features of this detector—nearly everything is adjustable in some way, from unique, enhanced iron discrimination to ground balancing. That’s not all the detector boasts, though. There are over 40 customizable levels, from iron discrimination to coin modes to both standard and professional mods. In the first hour of use, we needed to refer to the booklet because the interface is so complex and overwhelming. Once we got into the swing of things (pardon the pun), we flipped it back to the All Metal mode and found a couple of really intriguing pieces: a metal pen cap, bottle caps, and bottle tabs showed up on the interface.
What should have been a simple interface is instead a jumbled mess, hard to read and understand thanks to a series of small buttons and interface options.
One especially nice feature which helped to pinpoint these items was the depth meter. If you decide to splurge on the Garrett AT Pro, the depth meter and the pinpoint technology used to feed it data makes it worthwhile. The detector can tell you with precision how deep a metal object is using this depth bar. For large pieces, it still uses this same bar but reports back in increments of ten inches so you’ll know how far to dig. We were impressed when it accurately predicted how far we’d have to dig for a beer bottle cap.
The Garret website boasts that on top of the coin, jewelry, and relic hunting, it's also great for beach and freshwater combing. Naturally, we had to test this out, being so close to some massive bodies of water.
As with our initial experience, using the Garrett Pro on the beach required another learning curve, and even then it was a struggle in sandy conditions. Despite fiddling with sensitivity, notch, and iron discrimination settings, and swapping between standard, professional, coin, custom, and all-metal modes, we still received an abundance of false positives, digging deep into the sand to no avail.
When it did find items, they were truly worthwhile. It was on a beach that the Garrett registered a large metal object. Upon digging, it was discovered that it detected a still-functional carabiner a few inches underground. Dipping the detector into the water proved to be successful as well, as we dipped the search coil into a nearby river and it still worked.
We never actually had a low battery problem in the entirety of testing the Garrett Pro, perhaps unsurprising given the 4 AA batteries the detector takes. After two separate weekends hunting for buried treasure, we barely made a dent in the battery life. This detector will easily last 25 hours, if not more than that.
There's some sticker shock with a detector priced at $400 like the Garrett AT Pro. However, the cost is largely justified by the feature set. For your $400 you get a massive range of adjustable options, all of which can be manipulated through the interface, and you also get a completely submersible detector. Those features are almost impossible to find in cheaper detectors.
For those who balk at that $400 price point, there are other, cheaper options out there: the Fisher F22 also comes with many of these features, but costs $200 less. The Fisher F22 also comes with a simple display on which the numbers are very easy to read, as well as a depth meter.
If you’re a serious enthusiast, the Garrett AT Pro is most definitely the one for you, as it pinpoints within two inches of where you’ll need to dig, whereas the Fisher F22 only comes within three inches. However, if cost is a concern and your goal is to do this for fun and not as a part-time job, then the Fisher F22 is probably a better investment.
Top of the line greatness
The Garrett AT Pro is a premium metal detector and it's reflected in the price. Despite a fairly steep learning curve and a confusing screen interface, it very accurately detects objects in soil with pinpoint precision. For serious hobbyists, the Garrett AT Pro is one of the best options on the market.