Pros / It has a DD coil.
Cons / It only detected 72 percent of the objects we buried.
Verdict / The Fisher F4 is a little more advanced than a lot of metal detectors in our review, but it’s still easy to use and relatively accurate at identifying objects buried in the earth.
The Fisher F4 is the most advanced metal detector in our review, which also means that it’s the most expensive. As one of the few detectors with a DD coil in this price range, it’s ideal for beginning treasure hunters that eventually want to bridge the gap to immediate detectorists. In our tests, it performed better than most metal detectors and it’s easy to use despite the advanced features. For these reasons, the Fisher F4 has earned the Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award.
- Objects Detected
- Correct Identification
- Approximate Identification
- Accurate Depth
Treasure Hunting Performance
To find the best metal detector for beginning detectorists, we buried metal objects in a grid system laid out in a field. The objects were pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, pull-tabs from soda cans and nails. We dropped these into holes dug at varying depths ranging between 2 inches and 12 inches. Then we swept the metal detectors across the field and recorded how accurate each was at identifying the type of metal and the depth. Once we finished, we swept across the field a second time.
The Fisher F4 accurately identified the planted treasure 34 percent of the time and was close an additional 24 percent of the time. This may not seem impressive, because you’re more likely to identify the wrong thing, but it’s significantly better than other metal detectors we tested. Still, when you consider both rates, you can be pretty sure that you’re going to find something worthwhile before you dig.
The depth accuracy was 39 percent, which was on the low end of our tests. As with most metal detectors, it errs on the deep side, often suggesting that items that were buried 2 inches were at 6 or even 8 inches. Still, it was within 2 inches of the actual depth 19 percent of the time.
The biggest disappointment in the performance was basic object detection. It only detected 72 percent of the buried objects, which was the lowest in our tests. This could be the result of the DD coil, which is great for differentiating between two closely spaced items because of its blade-like magnetic field but requires a more expert touch to get accurate readings. That said, the other DD coil detector in our review found all the objects we buried.
Ease of Use
As mentioned, the Fisher F4 is the most advanced metal detector in our review, which usually means that it comes with a steep learning curve. However, the basic features are easy to learn, which is why it received an A- for ease of use.
The LCD display is big and easy to read. Across the top is metal types such as iron, foil, pull-tabs and coins up to a dollar. When you get a hit, an arrow points to one of these items, making it easy to determine whether it’s worth digging up. Additionally, it also provides a target ID number, which is what intermediate and advanced detectorists use to determine if the identified metal is a false hit or not.
This device has other great features as well, including custom notching to complement its discrimination settings, a pinpoint mode to guide exactly where you should dig, and a surprisingly accurate depth indicator. If you've never had to ground balance before, then using its free-twisting ground balance knob will take a little practice, but once you learn how to do it, you can go treasure hunting in highly mineralized soil without affecting your depth readouts.
The basic design of the Fisher F4 mirrors most of the other metal detectors we reviewed. Its control box is mounted just below the angled grip, letting you grasp the F4 and adjust its common settings with your thumb. Its sensitivity and discrimination settings are a little higher on the box, so you can't accidentally brush them – this is ideal since both can significantly impact your treasure hunt if you change them without realizing it.
While most beginner detectors sport concentric coils, the Fisher F4's elliptical, DD-style search coil places the machine well above the competition. DD coils emit search fields that are shaped like thick blades: long top to bottom but short side to side. The F4 coil's 11-inch diameter beats an 8-inch coil any day, and you can cover the same amount of ground as a concentric coil, if not more. Plus, the thin shape means the detector won't be confused by closely spaced targets. Given that most coils are lucky to hit depths of 8 inches and average around 4 to 6 inches, the Fisher's 10-inch depth range puts a lot of power at your fingertips.
Help & Support
Fisher's help and support are among the best in the business. You get a five-year limited warranty and a great FAQs page to answer all of your questions about metal detecting. If you manage to come up with a question the online help can’t answer, there are easy email and phone access options, too. There are also several instructional videos about the F4 you can find online to help guide you through its use.
The Fisher F4 is an excellent metal detector for both a beginner and an intermediate detectorist. By combining numeric and graphic target ID displays, treasure hunting is a breeze. While it was a little disappointing at detecting all of the metal in our tests, it was more accurate than most of the metal detectors we reviewed. That said, it is a bit pricier than other general-purpose detectors because of the DD coil, but it is well worth the price.