ATN Binox-HD Smart HD Optics Day & Night Vision Digital Binoculars Review

ATN Binox-HD Smart HD Optics Day & Night Vision Digital Binoculars Review ATN sent a pair of their new digital smart day/night binoculars for review. After giving them a workout, […]
ATN Binox-HD

Jeff talking to Sean from ATN about the Binox-HD

ATN Binox-HD Smart HD Optics Day & Night Vision Digital Binoculars Review

ATN sent a pair of their new digital smart day/night binoculars for review. After giving them a workout, here are our early impressions…

Just as the ATN X-Sight HD changed the optics market in 2014, the ATN Binox-HD  is changing the binoculars market in 2016. Simply put, the Binox-HD spec sheet reads like something out of a science fiction movie.  Here is the high level list of features from the ATN site:

  • “Wi-Fi
  • Gyroscope
  • Smooth Zoom
  • E-Compass
  • Day / Night Vision
  • Velocity
  • Altitude
  • GPS Geotag

    ATN Binox-HD Wi-Fi file transfer

    ATN Binox-HD Wi-Fi file transfer to Android phone

  • Record Video”

Changing the playing field

How can traditional binoculars compete with the <$500 Binox-HD that can:

  • connect to a smart phone to download pictures and 1080p videos with audio
  • stream live video
  • allow remote manipulation of many of the Binox-HD’s settings
  • geotag pictures and videos
  • show the user orientation data like heading and deflection on the pitch and roll axes
  • calculate and display heading and altitude
  • and zoom from 4-16x with reasonable clarity

In my mind, the only thing keeping ATN from total world domination is the fact that electronics can be finicky creatures… especially for those who brave the waters and bring innovation to the market. Until Smart HD Optics offer the simplicity of user experience and reliability of traditional optics, I will still carry a backup set of binoculars with me in serious situations. However, in the mean time, I will enjoy all of the advantages that the ATN Smart HD Optics offer.

ATN Smart HD Optics at Amazon:

An evolution of Smart HD Optics technology

When ATN sent their original ATN X-Sight HD rifle scope for review last year I was blown away by the list of specs and features. In use, the first scope we tested stumbled… a lot. However, we exchanged that X-Sight digital rifle scope and the new one has worked nearly flawlessly in a variety of tests, reviews and hunting trips. At SHOT Show 2016 Sean from ATN told me that they had a manufacturing issue that caused problems with some of the early ATN X-Sight HD units, but they had learned from it and were incorporating all that they had learned in to their new X-Sight HD II and Binox-HD digital binoculars.

Another evolution from the original X-Sight to the Binox-HD is improved viewfinder resolution. On the X-Sight I often found myself wishing the 800×600 image in the viewfinder was as crisp and detailed as the one on the HDMI connected monitor or in recorded videos. Sometimes I wasn’t actually sure if I had really optimally adjusted the focus because of a bit of lack of clarity on the viewfinder screen. I’m  finding that is not nearly the case with the Binox-HD. The dual 960×540 resolution on the viewfinders is very good and compares well to the streaming video image on my Android phone.

ATN Binox- night vision across the cove

ATN Binox- night vision of the docks across from my marina, about 400 yards away.

Night Vision!

One improvement that made it’s way into the Binox-HD is a much brighter IR illuminator (infra red flashlight). On the X-Sight HD the IR illuminator was an external unit that could be attached to the sight via a rail on the left side of the scope or attached to any other rail on the rifle.  On a good night I get almost 100 yards effective range from the X-Sight’s IR illuminator. Most ATN X-Sight HD owners that actually used the Night Vision mode for hunting quickly upgraded to a more powerful aftermarket IR illuminator.  ATN even rolled out an upgrade option this year with the IR850 Pro, rated at 300 Meters.

Enter the Binox-HD… the left side of the housing does not house an optical lens like you would find in traditional binoculars. Instead, there is a strong IR illuminator hiding behind the 65mm objective lens. Tuning the forward section of the housing

ATN Binox-HD NV boat

1080p video screen capture from ATN Binox-HD NV. This boat was about 100 yards away on a dark night.

adjusts how focused the IR beam is. In initial testing with a weak set of batteries I was able to clearly light up the shoreline on the opposite side of the cove from my marina. I have not yet ranged the distance with the built in range finding function or my portable laser range finder, but I would guess it has to be at least 400 yards. While I felt a bit let down by the illuminator range in the original X-Sight, I was pleasantly surprised by the NV range and sensitivity of the Binox-HD.

I took these pictures with the Binox-HD set to Green Night Vision mode. If you prefer your night vision images to resemble that of a white phosphor Night Vision device, it as simple as changing a setting in the Binox-HD’s menus or via the app.

ATN Obsidian app streaming live video from Binox-HD

ATN Obsidian app streaming live video from Binox-HD

They’ve got and app for that…

One of the most common questions I have gotten when people see the WiFi logo on the ATN X-Sight HD is “can you check your email on that thing?” WiFi connectivity is achieved via a local hostpot created by the Binox-HD. It does not connect to the internet, but does allow the user to connect a device such as an Android phone, Android tablet or Apple iPhone or Apple iPad. ATN also provides the Obsidian app for both platforms.  From within the app many of the Binox-HD’s setting can be changed, digital images and videos can be copied to the connected device, and the Viewfinder even shows live streaming video, complete with the capability to zoom from within the app. You can even monitor key Binox-HD telemetry remotely, like the heading and angle above or below the horizon that the Binox-HD are pointing.

ATN Obsidian app streaming live video in landscape mode from Binox-HD

ATN Obsidian app streaming live video in landscape mode from Binox-HD

ATN Obsidian app streaming live video in landscape mode from Binox-HD

ATN Obsidian app streaming live video AND ZOOMING in landscape mode from Binox-HD

Wired connectivity

Just like the original X-Sight, the Binox-HD has 3 slots on the side:

  1. Micro-HDMI (click to buy cable) to allow output of the video signal to an HD monitor or television
  2. Micro-SD memory card (click to buy microSD card) slot used for firmware updates and storing image, video, GPS and other data.
  3. Micro-USB for data transfer or external power. ATN reports that the Binox-HD will run roughly one hour for each 1,000 mAh of external battery pack capacity. I have not yet found the current draw requirement for the Binox-HD, but I can report that my new SunJack 8,000 mAh USB battery pack would power the Binox-HD when fully charged, but after about 20 minutes it would no longer power the Binox-HD until charged again. Not sure if this is an issue with the Battery, the micro USB cable, the Binox-HD… or something else. The ability to run off of an external power source is important given that the Binox-HD is rated to run about 7-8 hours on a set of three Lithium CR123 batteries. If you use the Binox-HD much at all, it will pay to pick up an external power source. Lithium CR123 batteries aren’t obscenely expensive, but they aren’t exactly “cheap” either. I already miss the X-Sight’s AA battery slots where I found I can use Enloop Pro rechargeable batteries with great success.
  4. Microphone… OK, not a wired connection, but a device that is present… and I was on a “micro” roll.

Try ANY of that with your old pair of glass binoculars.

Wireless connectivity

We have already discussed the WiFi capabilities of the Binox-HD, but another new addition from the prior generation of Smart HD devices is Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. To be honest, I haven’t attempted to use it yet. I’ll let you know when I do.

Weather resistant

I’m not really one to take a manufacturer’s word on much of anything without verifying it for myself. However, in the case of resistance to snow, rain and mud… I’m not willing to take that risk just yet.

Ease of use

Ok, maybe this is where the old optical binoculars have a bit of an advantage… there is very little that can go wrong. With an electronic device like the ATN Binox-HD, anything from weak batteries to the several seconds required for the little computer that powers this party to boot can cause you to miss what you were trying to see with the Binox-HD. I recommend setting the Binox-HD’s Sleep setting to fit your usage pattern. If you are hunting and need to quickly use your Binox-HD with only a split second’s notice, then invest in a good external battery pack so you can leave the Binox-HD running the whole time you are hunting. If you can afford to wait 5-10 seconds for the Binox-HD to “wake up”, then you may stretch your battery life with a more aggressive sleep setting. You might also want to ease into using the Binox-HD if you are new to handheld “smart” electronic devices. Learn basic operation first, then turn on option features like GPS tagging and WiFi, and try taking pictures and videos as you get more comfortable. If you aren’t a smart phone/tablet junkie, then you may want to track down a 7 year old to help you set up the WiFi on the ATN Binox-HD and get your Apple or Android device connected to it. None of this is particularly difficult, but sometimes taking “baby steps” can be a good thing.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something that has challenged me since I first picked up a set of Binox-HD at SHOT Show 2016… getting my eyes to focus together so I “see” one image vs two copies of the image that are beside each other… one for each viewfinder screen. Even with a fairly generous range of pupillary distance adjustment and the adjustments to focus each viewfinder I still routinely find myself struggling for the first few seconds to get my eyes to work together. In fairness, I often have the same problem with glass binoculars too.

Minimum optical zoom is 4x, which seems about right to me. Digital zoom works fairly well through 16x. If you elect to enable “extended zoom”, then be prepared for your image to degrade markedly as the ATN Binox-HD goes all the way to 40x, a magnification level that produces an image that is just as grainy as you would expect.

Here is how ATN describes the Binox-HD on their site:

Binox-HD

ATN is proud to announce their new addition the Smart HD Optics line of devices, with the all new ATN Binox-HD line of digital binoculars. The BinoX-HD binoculars are the world’s most advanced digital binoculars, featuring state of the art technology and optics, combined with a convenient and easy to use user interface, all running at 1ghz on the brand new Obsidian Core processor. Such a high speed processor allows these binoculars to achieve tasks and operations never before even considered for a pair of binoculars, such as geo tagging, state of the art image stabilization, and a smooth E-zoom feature which allows for magnification of anywhere between 4-16x, all at the touch of a button. In addition, the BinoX-HD features a night vision mode which allows them to function at any time, in any place, day or night. They also feature a MicroSD slot, and the ability to record video, and take pictures, and either save them to a card, or to export them via a built in micro USB port, and a micro HDMI port. The BinoX-HD binoculars are the binoculars for the 21st century.

Overall

We are fairly early in the review cycle for these Digital day/night binoculars and will add more pictures and comments as our experience grows. However, so far, I am impressed. For the money, the ATN Binox-HD appears to be a steal.

Gear Score
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ATN has a winner with the Binox-HD. For around $500 they deliver $1,500 worth of performance. I'm still moping over the non-rechargeable batteries, though.

 

Originally posted 2016-06-03 00:02:10. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits.

A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management.

Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.