Testing The White's Prizm IV
By: Ben Myers
Building on the reputation of the Classic series of metal detectors, White's Electronics has updated to a new line named the Prizm II, III and IV. When the Prizm IV arrived for field testing, I did what I advise others not to do- took a new machine metal detecting without a glance at the manual. Hey, sometimes you just want to have fun. However, when one goes against his own advice, he'd better get some good results, and the Prizm IV came through handsomely.
Immediately apparent were the intuitive design concepts that made mastering the controls a snap, and the ultralight package was nothing short of incredible. Although I certainly wouldn't put it in the class of its MXT and DFX big brothers, the Prizm IV possesses the ability to do some serious treasure finding. I knew the suggested retail price beforehand, and it is no exaggeration to say that I never expected so much detector for the money. An excellent entry-level model for the new detectorist wanting an effective tool that is simple to learn, it also fits the bill for the experienced hunter as a great backup unit, and in fact will meet the demands of many as a front line detector. With all these abilities packed into only 2.5 lbs., the Prizm IV seems sure to become a very popular metal detector.
Let's take a closer look at the features and controls of this machine and, more importantly, what they can do for us. Several features should be mentioned before we get to the controls listed below. The Prizm IV has a very sleek profile, with the control box inside a pod that sits on an S-handle configuration. The elbow cup and shaft are adjustable for the comfort of persons of different sizes. My only suggestion in this area is that I'd like to see the detector have the ability to get a little shorter. Don't misunderstand; it isn't overly long. In fact, I even had a 7-year-old try it out, and he had no problem detecting one handed. But for smaller kids, or putting it into a detector bag, a tad shorter ability would be welcome.
One can always find something to critique in a detector, such as this one's not keeping the last settings in memory. However, the controls are so easy to set up that it is done in seconds, with no effort at all. Keep in mind that each additional feature adds to the price, and when the price of the Prizm IV is compared feature for feature, it's 'way ahead of the pack in value.
In the area of durability, the detector is built solid and rugged. In addition to its good looks, I just couldn't get over its lightweight feel... no arm fatigue whatsoever. In an ever-changing world economy, it is good to know White's is still building quality right here in the U.S.A.
Furnishing controls on a detector is one thing; how well they function can be another. When a manufacturer is able to provide an abundance of top features while keeping the cost low, it should spell success- as long as they work! I am delighted to repot that White's has maintained its reliable name with the Prizm IV by testing and providing before distribution.
As we begin, take a quick glance at the meter photo and note the target icons over the screen plus the depth and sensitivity scales below it. Also notice the control buttons or touchpads on the bottom half of the pod face for Disc, Smart Notch, Tone ID, P/P Pinpoint, Sens, and On/Off. What you probably can't see is the choice to use a built-in speaker or a 1/4" headphone jack. (By the way, if you are new to detecting, don't worry if some of these terms are not familiar. I promise that you will understand them by the end of this article.) The control pod is water resistant, but don't confuse that with waterproof- a term which does, however, apply to the 8" concentric searchcoil.
The LCD (liquid crystal display) or screen is large enough to be agreeably viewable in the field. It provides Visual Target ID (identity), Discrimination (trash elimination), Sensitivity settings, Target Depth, as well as indications for Tone ID (three different pitches for target classes), Pinpoint All-Metal Mode, and low battery level- an amazing amount of information for a low- to mid-priced detector. As mentioned earlier, just over the screen are icons to represent various targets. When an item is detected, a darkened cursor points to the most likely target identity icon. The icons run from iron nail through foil, nickel, pulltab, bottle cap/zinc cent and high-conductivity coins. Rings and other jewelry can fall into several categories, as is true for all metal detectors, due to several factors such as target size and alloys involved. The bottom left of the screen will indicate the depth of the detected object from "0" to "8+" inches. (Be sure the center of your coil is over the center of the target for the most accurate readings.)
On/Off & Batteries
We may as well begin here since we have to push the On button to start anyway, right? Once on, the LCD will reveal control settings including, if your batteries are low, a Low Batt indication. If the two 0-volt batteries weaken during use, you will be alerted in the same manner. Although battery life is affected by several factors such as headphone use (recommended), alkalines will provide approximately 20 hours, while rechargeables can decrease that amount by as much as 30%. Rechargeables will save money for those who hunt extended periods.
The batteries fit into the top of the control pod under a pop-out door, and at first I thought this might be a point for complaint. Instead, I discovered that the fault was mine. The door popped open a few times while I was detecting, but I later found that a little extra pressure to tightly secure the door fixes it. The pop-out is opened by pressing a button behind the top of the pod. The idea is actually an improvement over straining your thumbs against a slide-out door. Just make sure that you have the lip on the latch snugged in tightly. It is impossible to put the batteries in with the wrong polarity- they just won't fit until you get it right. Also, if the volume goes low, yet the Low Batt indicator does not come on, it means you only need to replace the one battery on the headphone jack side.
This control couldn't be easier. Sensitivity is sometimes referenced in various terms such as Power. The general idea is that the higher the Sens control setting, the deeper targets are found. However, as experienced detectorists will confirm, it isn't quite that simple. More sensitivity to the return signal also means more sensitivity to ground minerals and outside electrical interference. Soil mineralization is usually the main nemesis. Without getting too involved, and speaking in broad terms, a good rule of thumb is to run the sensitivity as high as possible as long as the detector remains stable without false signals (beeping where there is no metal). If it falses, reduce the sensitivity to the point where smooth operation returns. Don't be concerned about losing depth, as the Prizm IV provides good depth even at lower settings. This setup will provide the best workable depth and detector function. Press the Sens up arrow for more sensitivity, and the down arrow for less. Look at the bottom right screen where a set of darkened segments appear over the Sens indicator. As sensitivity is increased, larger segments are added. Conversely, as it is lowered, the darkened segments disappear.
This is one of the features not found on the Prizm II and III. I think it is also my favorite feature on the Prizm IV. Just press the Tone ID button, and an indication will appear on the LCD to verify that it is active. I like to hunt with a minimum amount of discrimination. Target tone allows me to hunt with no discrimination much of the time. The low tone is for iron. The mid tone is for foil and pulltabs (and, don't forget, also many jewelry items). The high tone sounds off for most U.S. coins, including nickels. If you hear a very low-pitched tone, it is the overload signal, meaning that the coil is too close to a large item. Lift the coil a bit to get a better reading.
In areas where I was sure there were no older, mid-tone coins or tokens, I just ignored the iron tone and dug the higher pitched coin tones. Occasionally, I also dug a good sounding mid-tone target in case it was a piece of jewelry. This is a great feature that eliminates much of the need to constantly look at the meter for an ID. You will never realize how useful Target Tone is until you hunt with it just one time. Target Tone is a huge plus on any top-line detector, and a welcome surprise on this mid-priced one.
Smart Notch & Discrimination
Because they are so closely connected, I've combined these two controls under the same heading. Smart Notch is another feature not found on the Prizm II and III. Once again, I was surprised to find such a control on a mid-priced detector. Not only does it provide notch discrimination, but it provides it in two ways. Before we talk about the notch feature, perhaps we should first discuss the Discrimination control for the newer folks. Discrimination simply means eliminating signals or beeps from unwanted targets. Be forewarned, though, that the more discrimination one uses, the more likely it is that good targets will be eliminated along with the bad. This is a fact for all metal detectors because targets are classified by how well they conduct electricity.
For illustration purposes, take a look at the line of target icons at the top of the Prizm IV meter. At the lower end is an iron nail, the lowest conductor of the objects shown, ranging up to the higher conductor, a 50¢ piece. If we use a series of target ID numbers up to 100 and assign them targets, they could read as minus numbers to 01 for the iron, 10 for the foil, 18 for the nickel, 30 for the pulltab, 60 for a zinc cent, 75 for a copper cent, 77 for a dime, and 80 for a quarter. You get the idea. Remember, though, that there are many other objects in the ground besides those shown- both good and bad. Therefore, if you have the discrimination turned up to eliminate most pulltabs, you could also be eliminating many gold rings, tokens, and other valuable items. The best approach is to keep discrimination as low as possible.
The discrimination level increases with the up arrow of the Disc control and decreases with the down arrow. As a safeguard, targets above zinc cent cannot be eliminated, as it would be a rare occurrence not to want signals from higher conductivity coins. Each item that is being eliminated from audio will be indicated on the screen by a speaker icon inside a circle with a slash through it. Picture yourself hunting in a very trashy park where areas full of pulltabs can seriously test your sanity. No problem. You simply hit the Disc up arrow until all targets from iron to zinc cent are eliminated. Ah, it's much quieter now, with mostly just the beeps of higher coins. But then you start to think about the items not being heard along with the pulltabs, like nickels or, more importantly, those many gold rings that have the same conductivity as nickels. That is where Smart Notch proves its worth.
Now we can discuss how Smart Notch works in two ways. One only needs to press the Smart Notch pad to enable it, and again to disable it. If the discrimination control is set at Foil or below, Smart Notch will eliminate pulltabs but still accept nickels and zinc cents. On the other hand, if the Disc control is set high to eliminate nickels and above, enabling Smart Notch will allow a window in the discrimination level to accept nickels. So you see, depending upon where the Disc level is set, Smart Notch will either eliminate tabs or accept nickels- two ways of using notch. By monitoring the discrimination symbols (circle with slash) on the screen, it is easy to see what is being accepted or eliminated. A tip here is to remember that pressing Smart Notch repeatedly turns the notch on and off, so watch the Disc icons to be certain which targets your settings are eliminating.
All-Metal Mode & P/P Pinpoint
Pressing and releasing this pad permits two modes of hunting- Motion Discrimination or All-Metal. Pressing and holding this pad enables all-metal Pinpointing to zero in on the exact location of the target. Most hunters will use the discrimination mode for coin hunting, then press and hold to pinpoint. The circuitry automatically goes back to the Disc mode when the P/P button is released. Pinpointing not only saves time but also helps avoid messy digging, which often leads to a site being closed to metal detecting. Be a good citizen, practice careful digging, and protect the hobby/sport for all of us.
Other hunters may want to activate the All-Metal mode when searching in low-trash areas for nuggets or relics. When the button is pressed, an indication of "P/P All-Metal" appears in the lower center of the screen. The Prizm IV surprised me once again when I discovered that it provides Visual Target ID in the all-metal mode, another top-of-the-line feature. Naturally, there is no Tone ID when operating in All-Metal, as all metal targets are being detected and only one tone is needed.
In The Field
In testing the Prizm IV, I was able to get around to a good number of parks, playgrounds, and yards- the types of locations where this detector will be used most often. After all, as you can tell by the controls, it is designed as a coin hunting machine.
The first trip was a short one to a local schoolground, just to check out the machine. As I said in the beginning, I hadn't even read the manual yet. It is so intuitive and easy to understand that new detectorists are going to love this machine! One can virtually push the On/Off button and begin hunting for treasure. There is a program installed that springs into action with preset sensitivity and discrimination to eliminate iron and foil. All you have to do is sweep the coil over the ground and push the pinpoint button when a target is detected. Talk about turn on and go!
This particular school is a newer one, so targets are shallow. I was popping coins out of the ground from surface to about 2" quickly and easily. The Prizm IV is most proficient in this category. I liked the layout of the buttons with the Pinpoint pad right at thumb's reach from the padded handle. I also noticed that the machine had exceptional ability in separating targets when several modern dimes, pennies, and nickels appeared in close proximity to one another in some areas.
It was at this time that two kids on bicycles showed up, asking the usual questions. I answered their first challenge with a demonstration and the detector could indeed detect the braces on the teeth of one of the boys. Since I had been finding mostly modern zinc cents so far, I figured they would get bored with that and would be on their way if I gave them the next two pennies dug. I told them they could have the next two targets. As luck would have it, the dimes and pennies stopped, and I dug two quarters in a row! No king's ransom for sure, but in the limited time I had to hunt, they turned out to be the only quarters dug. So, the kids stuck around as I continued to hunt, and they "sad-faced" me out of clad dimes, too. When it was time to go, two out of three of us had coins jingling in our pockets... guess which two. However, they were all smiles as I packed up and they headed out on their bikes. Who knows! Perhaps one day they will grow up to be detectorists and share the hobby with other kids.
My next trip was down to business as I headed to a favorite park that still yields older coins. By this time I had read the manual and was ready for treasure. I started in an area that sees quite a bit of use and is therefore littered with pulltabs- a good test. Starting with discrimination at foil reject, I soon tired of all the junk signals. That is when I hit the Smart Notch and gained some relief for my ears. Unfortunately, as those who have detected for even a short period of time can attest, a wide variety of pulltabs in composition, size, and shape have been made over the years. I think this area was a museum for all of them. I found that some of the "beaver" tabs were coming in as nickels, and so I eliminated nickels.
The area I was hunting is especially heavy in pulltabs and will drive any detector crazy. Just the same, I kept going back to Smart Notch and it picked out some good targets in all that rubbish. The detector was still locating the higher conductivity coins among the tabs, and as I eventually came closer to the edge of the "carpet of pulltabs" I was able to stay in Smart Notch to pick up nickels. On most pulltabs that sneaked into the audio I would get a nickel reading and beep in one direction, but nothing in the other. This was a sure tip-off to a pulltab whose conductivity hovered right on the line between nickel and pulltab discrimination. Many parks involve this type of hunting, and that is where Smart Notch will pay dividends in more treasure and less trash.
Up to this point I had not tried the Tone ID and suddenly remembered it. After that, I almost always hunted with Tone ID. What a pleasure to walk along, using my ears to do the hunting, with very little need to watch the meter. In fact, watching a meter is time consuming and often fruitless. New hunters should get into the habit of listening to the audio first. The high tone in Tone ID is the signal for coins, and although a few other targets can slip into the high tone as well, it is mostly coins that you will dig. Listen for a repeatable signal in both directions. A broken-up or one-way signal is a sure sign that the discrimination setting is working and helping you to avoid digging junk. Naturally, always keep the discrimination setting as low as possible. When I did look at the screen for an iffy signal, an indication that jumped back and forth between two target categories was usually junk.
Outside the trashier areas I turned the sensitivity up all the way, and in many places the mineralization level allowed me to keep it up for full coverage of the ground. At other times I had to turn the Sens down. On a signal that registered as a dime at 6" I did a little experiment before digging. I had been detecting with the Sens at one segment below full high, and I wanted to see how low I could reduce it before I would lose the target at 6". So, my finger hit the Sens down arrow one at a time, and the signal never stopped until it was at one segment. At two Sens segments and above, the Prizm IV was beeping on the dime at 6". That is why I said earlier not to worry about the areas where Sens had to be turned down, as it is still bringing in the signal. The coin turned out to be a Mercury dime and was indeed about 6" deep.
I did notice in a bench test that the target ID can drop one category when at the extreme edge of the signal, but this is common on detectors when the signal becomes too weak. During my field trips, the detector was providing accurate target ID both visually and audibly. I returned to this park three times and ended up digging three more Mercury dimes, four Wheat cents, a silver Roosevelt dime, and a silver Washington quarter, along with a huge pile of modern coins.
The next several trips were to places where some detectorists seem embarrassed to hunt- playgrounds. These sites are often covered with bark, shredded tires, or something of the sort. The digging is ridiculously easy, and those kids lose a lot of things while playing. Keeping the sensitivity low around the metal bars of the playground equipment so that the coil could get close, I came away with several pieces of small jewelry, nothing expensive but fun anyway, and plenty of modern coins. The Prizm IV excelled in this environment. Enough said. Get over your sheepishness about being seen in such places and you will find playgrounds to be great coin hunting locations when children are not present.
Another area where the Prizm IV did well was in yard hunting. Coins were found from surface to 6-7" with no problem. I tried to guess coin depths during the sweeps, and it was surprisingly accurate. On one occasion I was getting a 2" reading while sweeping the coil but it dropped to 0" when I pinpointed, and then back to 2" when I pinpointed again. The target was reading as a pulltab, and that's exactly what I found at 2" deep. The point here is that metal detectors are calibrated to provide ID and depth on coin-sized objects; as a result, other targets can be incorrect. It is a testament to the detector that it was able to be so closely correct on a non-coin object. Another target turned out to be a copper cent that was a reading from 1¢ to zinc cent and back again, but the beep was solid in both directions. Pinpointing was off by about an inch, but digging revealed the reason: the target was a copper cent completely on edge. A coin on edge presents only a fraction of its surface to the signal for identification, yet this detector picked up the signal strongly with only a slight misread and still showed the target as worth digging. That is difficult for any detector to accomplish, so the Prizm IV deserves real credit.
Make no mistake, the Prizm IV will be another success for White's. The design is tough, ergonomic, and so lightweight that hunting fatigue doesn't even enter into the equation. Most importantly, the Prizm IV provides real world ability at a bargain price. It fairly bristles with sought-after features previously found only on top-end, expensive models! The layout of the control buttons and their interplay with the screen is well thought out, easy to learn, and a credit to White's talented team of engineers.
I am quite impressed with the Prizm IV's ability to bring coin hunting as close to effortless as can be imagined and, if you are in the market for a new detector, have no hesitation in recommending it for your consideration. To learn more, contact White's Electronics, Inc., 1011 Pleasant Valley Rd., Sweet Home, OR 97386. Phone: 1-800-547-6911. Website: www.whiteselectronics.com Don't forget to tell them that you read all about it in Western & Eastern Treasures.