Being a metal detector dealer, I regularly get asked which is the best entry level machine for a beginner to buy?
This is an understandable question as it can be quite daunting with all the different machines available on the market and what features they have to offer.
So this will be a very basic guide (for full disclosure, I only sell Garrett, Minelab, Nokta Makro and XP Metal Detectors, so although there are other brands out there, I will only focus on the big brands that I sell as those are the machines I am more familiar with).
I will try and keep this article as unbiased as possible and just lay down the facts so you can draw your own opinion on which machine you think will be best suited for your needs.
Before we look at the machines, lets start with the different brands, where they from and when they were established:
Garrett – Started in 1964, Made in the USA.
Minelab – Started in 1985, Australian company and manufacture to military grade standards.
XP Metal Detectors – Started in 1998, a French manufacturer but since they don’t offer a competing entry level machine in this market, we won’t discuss them further in this particular article.
Nokta Makro – Started in 2001 in Turkey as Nokta Detectors and acquired Makro Detectors in 2014 becoming Nokta Makro.
Now lets turn to the machines themselves:
Firstly, this article is intended for those who are looking to purchase their very first metal detector as a hobby. Something to use at the park, field or the beach. If you looking for a gold detector to look for gold nuggets in Africa, this is not the list to be looking at. I have created a separate article on “Best Gold Detector for Gold Nuggets” and that can be found by clicking here.
If we looked at this same question of “which machine is best for a beginner” a few years ago, the internet generally was pretty standard with the answer. That answer was the Garrett ACE 250 but we do however live in an ever changing world where technology is continually being improved and that is certainly no longer the case.
So as of July 2020, these are the front runners of entry level machines (which will probably change by next year again)!
The team at Nokta Makro have done an incredible job of packing the most features as possible into a very cost effective unit and making it as easy as possible to use. Undeniably, the best value entry level machine on the market today. Due to its low price point and feature rich offerings, this has become an extremely popular detector, both for first time users as well as more experienced users wanting a backup machine. This is the only detector in this entry level market that is fully waterproof.
- Low Price
- Fully waterproof (submersible down to 3 metres)
- Built in wireless module (Which allows you to use the optional Nokta Green Wireless Headphones with the machine)
- Vibration Setting (Great for the hearing impaired or when detecting underwater)
- Lighting (Simplex+ has it all: LCD Backlight, Keypad Backlight and built-in LED Flashlight)
- Built in rechargeable battery
- Software updateable when new features get released for this detector.
- Only uses a single frequency of 12 kHz
- Very chatty under some circumstances (Does not run as quiet as some other machines in this market)
- Target ID’s can jump around more than other machines in this market, depending on the soil conditions.
- At the beach, the machine can at times have difficulty in auto ground balancing (This can be easily corrected by manually lowering the ground balance to 0.0 in difficult beach conditions)
- If not correctly ground balanced at the beach, false signals will be introduced which can be confusing for a beginner.
Two options are available when purchasing the Nokta Simplex+
The Standard Nokta Simplex+
The Nokta Simplex+ WHP (Wireless Headphone Package) – which is exactly the same detector but it just comes bundled with the Nokta Wireless headphones and a Simplex cap as extras.
Minelab has recently introduced the Vanquish range to its detector line-up. Minelab has created an extremely easy to use, turn on and go style of detector aimed at the novice user. This machine just works straight out the box without too much worrying about having to ground balance or having to play around with too many settings. It does not have all the features of the higher end machines but the performance is certainly there that can rival the best of them.
- Price (The basic Vanquish 340 model is the cheapest of the entry level machines mentioned in this article at time of writing)
- Multi IQ technology (Minelab has created the use of simultaneously using multiple frequencies within their newer detector range and this certainly gives improved target ID and depth performance under difficult soil conditions – see video below)
- Very stable at the beach, even on the wet sand, without the need to ground balance and therefore reducing any false signals.
- Decent depth in difficult conditions
- Runs quiet (no constant chatter)
- Coil is waterproof but the control box is not, so this machine can not be submerged under water.
- Runs on AA batteries (some may see this a pro and not a con as its easy to change out batteries in the field, however we see built in rechargeable batteries being the better option here)
- Only the top of the line Vanquish 540 model has built in bluetooth in order to use wireless headphones, the 340 and 440 model is stuck to using on board audio or using wired headphones.
- The basic Vanquish 340 model lacks coming bundled with any headphones or rain cover, where the rest of the model lineup includes these items.
Four options are available when purchasing the Minelab Vanquish:
Minelab Vanquish 340
Minelab Vanquish 440
Minelab Vanquish 540
Minelab Vanquish 540 Pro Pack
Here is a video explaining Minelabs Multi IQ Technology:
Here is a diagram explaining the differences between all the models:
Garrett ACE APEX
The Garrett ACE APEX is the newest of the entry level machines to hit the market in 2020. It certainly has a nice upgrade with a fresh, modern look compared to the older ACE models. This is now the top of the line ACE model which is massively improved compared to the older ACE models.
- Multi Flex Frequency Technology (Uses simultaneous multiple frequencies or can choose to select from individual frequencies)
- Multi-Salt mode which is great for the wet sand at the beach
- Built in rechargeable lithium ion battery
- Built in Z-Lynk wireless technology (Can be used with optional Garrett Wireless headphones)
- Coil is waterproof but the control box is not.
- Price – slightly more expensive than the other machines mentioned in this article.
Garrett ACE APEX
All these machines plus others can be purchased from our metal detecting store online – we deliver anywhere in South Africa to your door with full tracking.