8 Best Welding Helmet Reviews of 2020 – Auto Darkening & TIG/MIG
Do you care more about the welding experience your helmet offers than its price? We all like to pay less for a new product, but no one wants to fork out money for something that will give them a bad experience. The cost of a bad experience always outweighs the monetary value of an item.
This is why we tested, reviewed, and compared 51 different welding helmets in our garage. We then handpicked our 8 favorite helmets for you to see. You can find their pros and cons as well as the unique differences between them, including price. You’ll also find a buying guide, which runs through the different aspects most people consider before purchasing a helmet. We hope this will help you in your search to find the right hood.
Our Favorite Picks of 2020 Compared
|Lincoln Electric 3350 Series|
|Esab SENTINEL A50||3 years||4.70/5|
|3M Speedglas 9100||3 years||4.45/5|
|Miller 281000 Digital Elite||3 years||4.30/5|
The 8 Best Auto Darkening Welding Helmets
1. Lincoln 3350 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet – Top Pick
Lincoln tends to do a good job in its helmet designs, and it did an excellent job with the resilient, durable Electric 3350. It has a rare 1-1-1-1 optical clarity rating, but what makes this lens even better is the 4C technology, which shows natural color rather than the typical green haze. This increases visibility and enhances the weld pool sight, so you know exactly what’s happening during your weld.
Lincoln has also done an exceptional job with the headgear in this helmet, making it surprisingly lightweight and comfortable. Often helmets excel in a particular area and are weaker in others. Part of the reason we like the Lincoln 3350 series is that it hits the mark with diversity. It even includes a carrying bag.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have waterproof features, but the fact that it withstands excessive sweat inside the helmet makes it useful for summertime.
However, this is still one of the best auto-darkening welding helmets of 2020 for all types of welding (TIG, MIG etc.).
2. Esab SENTINEL A50 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The Halo-inspired Esab SENTINEL A50 has comfortable headgear and a clear lens with a 1-1-1-2 rating, just one notch less than the 3350 series. The lens clarity is so good that it can appear too light when welding, as if the shading isn’t dark enough. Even though it appears clear, it protects your eyes just as well as the equivalent shading in a different helmet. This helmet also includes a bag.
The enormous front lens looks really cool. It’s easy to change, but it’s expensive to replace and sits flush with the helmet, making it a good target for damage. The rest of the hood is durable and has been uniquely designed to withstand a fair beating while protecting the high-tech features.
The colored LED touchscreen has memory functions to set up the settings for different jobs at the touch of a button. The touchscreen is hidden inside the hood. There’s a grind button on the exterior of the helmet, which makes transitions between welding and grinding smooth when you keep the hood on.
The worst design flaw of this helmet is the sensors. There are four of them, which most high-quality helmets have. However, they’re recessed so far back that if you’re welding off to the side without being able to turn your head fully, they sometimes don’t catch the arc and won’t darken your lens.
3. Antra AH6-260 Welding Helmet – Best Value
We found the Antra AH6-260-0000 to be one of the best welding helmets for the money due to its light weight, clear vision, extensive 4/5-9/9-13 shade settings, and all-around performance. It does exactly what a basic hood needs to in protecting your face and eyes, without breaking the bank.
It’s not the most flexible helmet, so it won’t bend out of the way if you hit your head on something, but it can withstand a beating. The headgear has 1-1-1-2 optical clarity equal to the Esab SENTINEL. This Antra model pales compared to the Esab SENTINEL and the Lincoln 3350, but for a simple helmet at a low cost, it’s an excellent option. Note that it has a short one-year warranty and is not meant for industrial use.
4. 3M Speedglas 9100 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The 3M Speedglas Welding Helmet 9100 has comfy headgear, with side windows to keep open or closed for extra vision. When welding, it’s usually best to have the windows closed, as open ones will cause weldburn with high amperage. If you’re cutting, grinding, or wanting to look around with your helmet on, the windows are an excellent feature unique to this helmet.
The hood is light with a design that suits most peoples’ heads comfortably. It does a good job easing the pain of weld-neck during a full week under the hood with its ergonomic shape, although not everyone agrees it relieves their pain. There isn’t any solar power option. The price is on the higher end of the scale, but you can downsize the lens for a lower price. A particular highlight is that this helmet can be used to TIG anything as low as one amp, giving it broader range than most helmets. It comes with a three-year warranty.
5. Miller Digital Elite Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
The Miller 281000 Digital Elite is a great all-around lightweight TIG, MIG, and grinding helmet, except for its fragility and poor headgear design. It offers 1-1-1-2 optical clarity. It has a lens called clearlight, which removes the green tint most lenses show to clear up visibility and bring in natural light that’s typically hidden.
It comes with four modes: weld mode, cut mode, grind mode, and X-mode. Each has different shade variations. The X-mode stops direct sunlight from interfering with your vision when welding, which is a brilliant and unique feature. This has one of the better mode features among helmets.
The headgear doesn’t match the standards of the rest of the helmet. It’s comfortable but sometimes struggles to keep the hood remaining upright when not in use. This is a real pain between welds if you want the helmet up for a while. When the hood’s down, it’s excellent. The sensor placement is great. If there is an arc anywhere near the hood, even off to the side and regardless of obstructions, it will darken. This helmet has a three-year warranty.
Make sure you keep this helmet in a safe place when you’re not using it, as the lens can easily get damaged if it falls, and is expensive to replace.
6. Jackson Safety BH3 Welding-Helmet
The pricey Jackson Safety BH3 helmet is designed for higher-level welders and has fantastic lens quality because of it. It has 1-1-1-1 optical clarity and a three-year warranty. Unfortunately, the headgear doesn’t match the same standards, and you can’t grind with it or TIG weld at low amperage safely. The solar design means you can’t use batteries with it. It’s not the most comfortable helmet to wear due to headgear design flaws. However, the wide lens outshines most other hoods in clarity.
A trait we love about the shell design is that the outer lens is recessed back, which protects the lens from excessive damage, improving lens life. The designers seemed to put all the effort into the lens and shell of this helmet, which certainly has paid off. If there were a few more sensors to give an ample reading of your arc, even with obstructions and a new headgear design, it would be one of the top helmets available.
7. Hobart Impact Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
The solar-powered Hobart Impact Variable Auto-Dark Helmet has a durable shell with good shielding coverage and space for a respirator, which is very useful. However, it can be hard to move around in tight spaces while wearing it, due to the helmet’s size. The lens width is sufficient, but it’s not the widest of lens ranges, and the vision matches most standard lenses. There is a handy on-off feature, which can save battery life. There’s no off button on it to indicate when it’s off, but it does seem to turn off.
The sensitivity dial is very sensitive, which makes finding the right range a challenge, but it has a broad shade range. This includes a grind mode, which is always desirable. Note that sunlight can affect the settings.
It cannot be used to weld low-amp TIG safely, but it’s more than capable of shielding against most high-amp welding. It has a lower price tag than most, but is no better than the Antra AH6-260-0000 helmet, which also has a lower price tag.
8. Instapark GX-500S Welding Helmet (Auto Darkening)
The Instapark ADF Series GX-500S looks great on the outside, but lacks the quality of the top available helmets. The lens is 3.63 inches wide by 1.65 inches tall, which is a smaller area than some hoods, and has a slight variance in the shading range. It comes with a grind function, some replaceable lithium batteries, and a solar-powered feature, which is great to keep costs down.
The main benefit of this helmet is its price. You may get lucky with it surpassing its one-year warranty range, but if it doesn’t, it’s easily replaced through the warranty system. However, be aware that numerous customers have damaged their eyes due to the lens not working correctly without them realizing it. If you decide to get this helmet, make sure you know what a fully functioning lens looks like before you use it.
As there are often many choices to consider before buying your next welding helmet, it’s important to understand why there are differences and how they’ll affect you under the hood. Everyone is different and you will buy according to your unique desires, but the following guide will help you find what you’re looking for.
It’s essential for every welder to have the best vision through their hood. Things to consider in helmet lenses are the lens width, the lens height, and how clearly you can see through them.
Helmet lenses are generally measured in dimensions that look like this: 3.7 x 2.3 in. This means the lens is 3.7 inches wide around your face, and 2.3 inches tall. The wider it is, the more you can see left and right without moving your head. The taller it is, the more you can see up and down without moving your head.
The area you can see is important, but the clarity you can see with matters more. Most helmets shield the weld well and provide the necessary UV protection to guard your eyes, but if they don’t display your weld clearly, you won’t be able to produce the best work. Compare these aspects of the helmets you’re considering buying.
Welding helmets come with all sorts of shading options. Some are fixed with no variance. Those that can change come in varying ranges to suit many different conditions.
Some have a grinding mode feature that’s almost transparent, having only a light shade to it, and some have cutting shades that are slightly darker but cannot be welded with. The welding shades range from number 5 to number 13, getting darker as the number increases. The brighter the arc is, the darker you will want your lens.
If you’re TIG welding with low amps, you’ll want a helmet with a range as low as 5 to enable low amperage shading. Some helmets only have a range for higher amperage between 9 and 13, which won’t shade low amperage welding properly.
The delay of your auto-darkening is the time it takes for the shading to darken once your arc is lit. The range is between 0.35 to 0.1 seconds, with the shortest delay time being the most desirable. Both suffice, but the faster the response is, the more protection your eyes receive.
The comfort of your helmet is also crucial, especially if you weld for any length of time more than the occasional hour here or there. The way a hood feels is critical and differs from helmet to helmet based on the weight, the headgear design, and how well balanced it is.
The helmet should grip comfortably onto your head by the locking mechanism on the headgear while sitting naturally without excessive pressure. The hood should also flip up and down smoothly. It should be able to stay in the required positions with the pivoting device between the headgear and the hood working correctly.
The headgear tends to have the most variance from helmet to helmet and will make a world of difference in your experience using it.
There are numerous different features on welding helmets, but usually only the more expensive ones include them. They’ll improve your welding experience uniquely. Some helmets have anti-fog features for good visuals even while you sweat. Others have touchscreens, multiple auto-darkening sensors, windows, ventilation systems, computer memory devices, and more.
You can also get helmets with the option to buy separate attachments like respirators, hearing protection, and hard hat features that can be fitted or removed as desired.
Most of these features are really handy and can make your welding experience much more enjoyable. It depends on your preferences and type of welding. Some people consider them unnecessary extras and prefer a less feature-rich helmet to keep the weight down for comfort’s sake.
Knowing what you want before you buy will help in filtering the different options.
While most helmets have a large margin between the headgear adjustments to suit most head sizes, the hood’s outer shell can differ in size significantly. The larger the helmet is, the harder it will be to get into tight spaces, and the more off-balance it will feel. However, a small hood won’t have room to fit a respirator into if you use one.
Your helmet’s size will depend on your specific work requirements, but you can be sure the options are there for you.
Be mindful of your helmet’s warranty. Many hoods have two- or three-year warranties, and you often need to register your new helmet through a form or website to ensure it’s actually covered. A warranty will generally be a good indication of the quality of the hood, but don’t just rely on the warranty length. Reviews will give you the best insight.
The warranty should be aligned with the helmet’s price, so don’t go forking out lots of cash for something with a year or less of warranty.
Helmets come in different shapes, designs, and colors. Some have graphics on them, and others, like the Esab SENTINEL A50, are designed after people’s favorite characters or games.
A helmet’s look won’t affect its performance. Often a plain hood is ideal, so you can add your own look to it, like the helmets found at 20 Impressive Welding Helmet Makeovers. Regardless of what you’re after, this is something to consider when searching for your helmet.
Thanks for checking out our reviews of these helmets. There are so many online to choose from, and it can be a confusing and tiresome task sorting through them all.
While the Antra AH6-260-0000 is an economical option, giving you some real bang for your buck, the top two helmets on the market are definitely the Lincoln Electric 3350 Series and the Esab SENTINEL A50.
The Esab SENTINEL A50’s sleek shell and comfortable headgear, with high-tech computer-aided visual features that can withstand a beating, make the welding experience almost game-like.
It’s indeed the best option apart from the Lincoln Electric 3350 series, our top recommendation. The Lincoln has great optics, satisfying headgear in quality and snugness, and a tenaciously tough shell. These traits and more make it our choice as the best auto-darkening helmet.
We appreciate you stopping by. Feel free to send your own reviews and comments below.
More welding-related buyer’s guides:
- Our Favorite Picks of 2020 Compared
- The 8 Best Auto Darkening Welding Helmets
- 1. Lincoln 3350 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet – Top Pick
- 2. Esab SENTINEL A50 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- 3. Antra AH6-260 Welding Helmet – Best Value
- 4. 3M Speedglas 9100 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- 5. Miller Digital Elite Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
- 6. Jackson Safety BH3 Welding-Helmet
- 7. Hobart Impact Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
- 8. Instapark GX-500S Welding Helmet (Auto Darkening)
- Buyer’s Guide