I recently purchased a new weld hood to use in my home shop and figured it would be worth sharing my thoughts on it as reviews outside of Amazon seem to be limited. This review is from the perspective of a hobbyist and not a professional. While I have worked in some fab shops while putting myself through college and currently work as an engineer in a weld shop, Im not going to pretend that I know more than I do about the subject. If you spot something in this review that doesnt seem to make sense, please point it out so I can clarify what I was trying to say. One advantage that I do have in working in this field is that Ive had my hands on a lot of different weld hoods and feel I can give an honest assessment of how this hood stacks up to others that are available. Finally, things being what they are these days, I should point out am not a shill and have no association with any of the brands or websites mentioned in this review. The purpose of this review is simply to contribute to the GJ community because Ive benefited from it so much over the years.
The hood I purchased is the Tacklife PAH03D. I found this hood in a bit of a roundabout way. Ive been interested in the USA Weld Striker Supreme XL weld hood for awhile now, but could never quite convince myself to pull the trigger on it. Someone mentioned in another thread that USA Weld were doing a $30 off sale, which put the price around $90 and rekindled my interest in the hood. I searched for reviews in an effort to justify the purchase to myself and I found on another forum where someone pointed out that this same hood was selling under the Tacklife brand name on Amazon for even less money. Looking through the pics and specs on Amazon and USA weld, other than the finish on the shell, these appear to be the same weld hood. At $65, I was willing to take a chance on the Tacklife hood.
Striker Supreme XL:
The Tacklife hood comes in a minimally marked box with some accessories included a storage bag, spare battery, and a handful of replacement lenses. The first thing I noticed about the hood once I pulled it out of the box was the flexibility of the shell material. The shell is made of nylon and has a lot more give than other hoods Ive handled. The Bohler Guardian hood I demoed at Fabtech is also made of nylon and had a similar feel. I think some the Amazon reviewers who comment about the flimsy feeling of the hood are referencing this. My knowledge being limited when it comes to polymers so Im not sure if nylon is a good or a bad thing when it comes to long term durability, time will tell I suppose.
The next thing I noticed about the shell is the size. It is probably the narrowest hood Ive ever seen. One of the things I really like about the secondhand Speedglas 9002 that I have been running is how compact it is while still providing good coverage. When pulling a tape measure over both hoods to compare dimensions, to my surprise both had very similar measurements when it came to top, side, and chin coverage. The only difference is that the Tacklife is nearly an inch narrower. I think the flexibility of the nylon comes into play here allowing the hood to flex and conform to a variety of head sizes. Looking at the two side by side, it is a bit of an optical illusion, as they are in fact very similar dimensionally. A big positive of this hood is that it fits tight to the head and the backlight is minimal. I love the filter on the Lincoln Viking 3350 (my Dads weld hood), but am always annoyed when running it by the amount of light that comes in the back and reflects off the lens. If your head isnt positioned just right, youll find yourself looking at the reflection of the ceiling instead of the puddle. It doesnt seem to bother my Dad as much as it bothers me, so maybe Ive just got an oddly shaped head.
Headband adjustment was straightforward and I didnt have any issue getting it to fit comfortably on my larger than average head. Instead of a more traditional band around the brow type headband, the Tacklife uses a design that mimics headbands found on more expensive hoods where the rear of the headband is offset and sits closer to the neck than in the middle of the back of your head. One of the other common complaints on the Amazon reviews is with the headband, but I suspect that may be due to confusion as to where the back of the band is supposed to sit on your head if adjusted properly, it seems to fit well. The brow pad seems to be is adequate. I always wear a weld cap, so I really dont know what makes one pad more comfortable than another. When it wears out, Ill replace it with a basic leather pad like I have on my other hoods and face shields.
There are a few things worth noting about the headgear. The adjustment clips and hooks seem sturdy enough that I wouldnt worry about resetting them to fit different users occasionally, but in a shop where it may be shared between different people and adjusted daily, I dont see it lasting long. Another issue that may or may not work itself out with use, the catch that holds the hood up seems to be somewhat weak on my hood unless the tension on the pivot is set fairly tight. If you are someone who likes to snap your head to get your hood to drop, it may be difficult to get the tension tight enough to hold the hood up while still allowing it to drop with ease. (Side note snapping your head to drop your hood is a habit that should be avoided and isnt really necessary in most circumstances now that we have access to good AD hoods at affordable prices) Finally, the headband has a single band across the top of the head, where most of the higher priced options use two bands (Lincoln Viking 3350, Speedglas 9100xxi, ESAB Sentinel). I dont see this being an issue for a hobbyist, but worth noting to avoid any surprises.
Okay, enough is enough, now the filter...
I spent a couple hours Friday and Sunday night just messing around with test plates and hopping between the Tacklife, Speedglas 9002, an old Jackson EQC, and a fixed shade hood comparing and contrasting the nuances of each hood. In short, I really like this filter. It is very bright and easy to see your work when unshaded or in grind mode. Sensitivity and delay are adjustable and work as expected. Shading levels seem to be accurate with the other hoods tested 10 looks like 10, 13 looks like 13, etc. when switching between different hoods. When shaded, I believe the 1/1/1/1 optical rating is true, everything is very crisp and clear. The coloration of the filter is strikingly similar to the Speedglas 9002, maybe a touch less green/a little more yellow when welding, but easy to see the puddle and work. The yellow coloration is much better than the dark emerald green hue found on the Jackson EQC and the cheap Northern Tool hood I used when I first started welding.
The color is also what sets other, more expensive hoods apart from the Tacklife. The Speedglas 9100xxi and Viking 3350 with 4C technology both have a more true to life blue hue to their filters. While I think some of the claimed benefits of the coloration may be a little bit of marketing hype, I do have a fair amount of time with a Speedglas 9100xxi (what we run at work) and a Lincoln Viking 3350 (my Dads hood) and I do think it is a bit easier to see when running those hoods. Is it worth the price difference? That is a matter of personal preference and a decision youll have to make for yourself. All in all, the Tacklife is probably the best filter Ive seen for the money, on par (dare I say) with the older Speedglas 9002 filter, but not quite up to the same level as the newer filter technology currently available on the premium end of the market.
Some additional notes about the filter There is no On or Off button the sensors appear to always be active. There is a test button on the panel so you can see if the battery is dead (activates the shade). If you are going to keep this hood as a backup, it would be wise to keep it in the bag or in a cabinet. Hanging it on a wall or gas bottle facing towards your work area would activate the filter and drain the battery if you (or someone else) is welding in the same area. The filter uses standard square protective lenses, where the 3M hoods use a dedicated proprietary shape and charges a premium for them. Not the end of the world for a hobbyist who may only change out lenses a few times a year, but something to keep in mind. Grind mode is a feature of this hood I will probably only use in a pinch because the switch is located on the inside of the filter. There is no way I would be able to access this switch without removing the hood, and at that point, I might as well put on my clear face shield. Other manufacturers are putting this switch on the outside of the hood which makes switching back and forth easier. Finally, the battery is replaceable, which is not always the case on budget hoods.
Ive only had this hood a few days, so I cannot speak to the long term durability. What I can comment on is that if you want a weld hood that will work for you all day, every day, I would have a tough time recommending anything but a Speedglas. I have yet to see a Speedglas filter malfunction. The only reason we replace them is due to physical damage, usually when someone drops their hood and the filter gets cracked.
So final thoughts/opinions Is it as good as the premium hoods on the market? No. Would I recommend this hood to someone who is going to be making a living as a welder? Maybe to bridge the gap if you are just starting out, but long term, I think it would be wise to go with a better proven brand. Is this a good hood for the hobbyist or beginner welder? Absolutely. Id be hard pressed to come up with a better hood that has the same features for the money. I dont regret my purchase at all and wouldnt hesitate to recommend this to a friend in the same situation. #GeneralToolDiscussion