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03 March 2015

Tool Review Tuesday, Part 5: Speedglas 9100XX welding Helmet

What is it?
The Speedglas 9100XX is a welding helmet. It protects your head and especially your eyes from the infrared and ultraviolet radiation generated by electric welding processes including MIG, TIG and stick. It also protects from grinding debris and can also be used as a shield from cutting processes, both flame and plasma.

This is what it looks like straight out of the box:

 Product website:
Speedglas 9100XX

What does it do?
The Speedglas 9100XX protects your noggin and eyes from nasty crap while you weld. It does it with remarkable clarity, speed and with many features that are class-leading, and honestly, it better for how dang expensive it is. The 9100XX model has the largest ADF (Autodarkening Filter), at over 12sqin of viewing area. As such, it does NOT have room for a solar assist panel (which helps extend battery life), but it still has a remarkable 2000 hour nominal battery rating. (To compare, the Miller Digital Elite has a 3000 hour nominal battery rating for the same or very similar sized batteries.)

Notable Observances:
-The fit and finish are tremendously amazing. It is much better than the newest Miller helmets. (I've tested a few.)
-The headgear is sublime. It fits super well, even over a head cover and respirator. The detent keeps the sucker UP. The friction holding is very good so far, though that might change over time, but with the detent, I doubt that will be an issue.
-The buttons are easy to push, though you will need to read the manual to figure out what everything does. There are several advanced modes that are interesting and possibly useful.
- When flipped up, it sits much, much lower over your head than any other hood I've ever come across.
-It is much wider in the front than Miller's helmets:
-Even though the front is wider, it is not that much wider than the miller since the sides stick out a bit less. This is used to good effect to make it much easier to fit a respirator under the hood.
-It has a built in vent right in front of your mouth/nose. It works! A side benefit is that it is easier to understand what someone is saying with the hood down.
-The protective covers for the ADF are priced about $2.50 per, which is slightly more expensive than the Miller-branded ones, but not too much more. There is no possibility of taking a standard flat cover and making it fit, but that's the price you pay for having a more advanced helmet.
-The lighter colored front piece really does keep the helmet cooler, which will be friggin' awesome when it gets hot out!
-The shape covers the head and neck very, very well, with or without a respirator.
-Ultra-unique, exclusive side-windows:
These are a shade 5 that are curved and allow you to see nearly every dang thing. When you are welding, you can see where you are moving. When you aren't welding, you actually have peripheral vision which makes not tripping over stuff much easier. The best part is it makes it REALLY hard for someone to sneak up on you! LOL!

-Fit and finish is amazingly good.
-Very huge, clear view.
-Good performance.
-Many mode options, though I really hate having to click on an internal button to get into other modes. It's faster to take it off and put on my face shield for cutting and grinding.
-The side windows are truly revolutionary. I didn't think they would make as much of a difference as they do for just moving around and overall awareness even while welding.
-VERY clear light state (shade 3). I have no issues seeing anything even in the less than ideal shop lighting we have.
-A pretty useful variety of accessories are available, see the site above.
-It is expensive. It is easily one of the more expensive helmets on the market. The Miller Digital Elite (plain black, graphics are for prissy pretty boys and girls) retails for about $255. The Jackson Trueview goes for about $280. I bought this for $395 shipped (with a free respirator, which was a nice bonus). The 9100VX and 9100X are less expensive and have solar assist available while still providing a very good size ADF, so you can consider those if this one is out of the budget, with the added bonus of additional battery life
-I hate having to hit buttons on the inside to get into different modes. It takes too much time. It's way easier to take it off to change the settings, but then I might as well just put on my face shield, as I mentioned before. An external button would be greatly appreciated, even if it made things a bit more complicated to take apart.
-If you need to wear a hard hat with this, there are more than a few complaints about how bad the hardhat adapter performs.
-I am concerned that the additional size might get in the way when doing silly things like roll cages. We'll see how that goes in the future, as I will update this.
-Clear shields are likely NOT available everywhere. Order some online and keep them and spare batteries around. Duh! 

Is it BBA (Beaver Built Approved)?
)(#*$)(*#$(* YES! If you can afford it, get it. I use my welding helmet 5-7 days a week, for long hours. Comfort, usability, reliability and protection are all things that are necessary to prevent me from going blind. This thing is amazingly awesome. I look forward to using it for years to come!

Bonus pics:
 That is with the front part taken off. You can see the venting. It is really very clever!

This is the full compliment shipped with the helmet:
Already putting it to work: