PROS / It boasts a solid selection of features at a very low price point.
CONS / Its depth gauge doesn't work well, and its notch settings are unintuitive at best.
VERDICT / It’s very affordable, but the Winbest Elite Edition’s so-so performance and complicated settings create an unnecessary challenge for beginners.
Well-respected for its designs of sports optics and security products – everything from binoculars and rifle scopes to lock boxes and carrying cases – Barska has entered the metal detecting market with its Winbest line of detectors. Feature-rich and highly affordable, the Winbest Elite Edition has a lot of the bells and whistles you'd expect in a much more expensive machine. You get what you pay for, though: The detector's poor performance makes the full feature set much less impressive.
The Elite Edition's design is straightforward enough: A standard S-shaped pipe supports the control box's housing, while a classic 8-inch concentric search coil rests at the end of its adjustable-length shaft. Its padded armrest is comfortable, adjustable and unobtrusive, and the buttons on its control box are all easily reached with your thumb while you're scanning – something not all detectors can claim.
It's in the control box that the Winbest flounders. Admittedly, some of its features are very welcome. There’s a 3.5mm headphone jack that lets you use your own headphones (instead of needing to buy an adaptor for a quarter-inch jack), and the device's volume control and power switch are simple to manage. However, some of Barska's design choices make using the detector a confusing proposition – especially its target ID and discrimination and notch settings.
The Winbest Elite Edition has a six-segment target ID, meaning it spots metals beneath the surface and filters them into one of six categories: iron trash, 5-cent coins, pull-tabs, bottle caps, pennies and quarters. However, it has twelve discrimination settings that can be individually notched out, and how each notch matches up to each target ID isn’t always clear. Because different coins can appear on different notches, you don't know what you're notching out, which rather considerably reduces the value of the notching mode.
The detector also features a 12-segment depth gauge that reads out the depth of an object in half-inch increments, up to 6 inches. Putting aside the fact that a 6-inch scanning depth is rather low compared to the 8- or 10-inch depths other detectors can achieve, the Elite Edition usually reads an estimated depth of the full 6 inches, regardless of how close a coin is to the surface. This makes the depth gauge effectively useless.
Yes, the Winbest Elite Edition is a very affordable machine, and the other detectors in the Winbest series are even easier on the wallet. Once you can learn the idiosyncrasies of its discrimination and notch settings, it does provide a great value. However, those idiosyncrasies and other usability issues make the machine less useful and less enjoyable than other metal detectors we reviewed. Metal detecting is a hobby that already requires a lot of patience, and this less-than-straightforward machine can unnecessarily complicate it for a beginner.