The Garrett AT Max Metal Detector is a single frequency VLF detector that operates on 13.6 kHz. The AT Max is wireless using Garrett’s Z-Lynk Wireless Technology. The Nokta Makro Simplex is also a single frequency VLF detector that operates on 12 kHz. Both metal detectors have very similar features. In this article we will compare Garrett’s AT Max to Nokta’s Simplex to see which ones comes out on top.
Note: I’ve had the pleasure of having both of these metal detectors in my possession to review and compare thanks to Keith Leppert from Fort Bedford Metal Detectors. If you are ever in need of a new or used machine as well as coils for your machine please consider Fort Bedford Metal Detectors. You can contact them at 814-215-1732 or via Facebook or through their website
Entry-Level or Mid-Level Machine?
Before we start comparing the AT Max to the Simplex, its important to point out that the both of these machines are in a different class of metal detectors. To many, the Simplex is considered an entry-level machine because of the price. But many will argue its not. Whereas the AT Max is considered a mid-level machine. The Simplex does seem like it can compete with the mid-range of detectors with all of the extra features it offers. But can it compare to one of the most popular mid-level machines on the market? That is what we are going to take a look at in this article.
AT Max and Simplex MSRP Price Comparison.
For starters there couldn’t be a bigger difference than the price. The MSRP of the AT Max is $840.95 but the Nokta Makro Simplex has an MSRP of $299.00. That is a HUGE difference. Granted, no one expects to pay full MSRP for either machine but the difference is clearly notable. But can the Simplex deliver on price alone? Lets keep comparing.
Price ADVANTAGE: Nokta Makro Simplex
Which Metal Detector is 100% Waterproof?
The answer is both of them. Garrett pioneered their AT series to be waterproof and set the bar high for others to follow. The AT Max is no exception. It is 100% waterproof and submersible down to 10 feet. The Noka Makro Simplex is also submersible down to 10 feet but for a fraction of the price.
One underwater advantage the Simplex has over the AT Max is the ability to vibrate around the grip. This feature is fantastic for those who hunt underwater and especially in murky water. The advantage goes to the Simplex
Waterproof ADVANTAGE: Nokta Makro Simplex
How Many Search Modes Does Each Machine Have?
Lets start with the Garrett AT Max. The Max includes the following 4 search modes:
- All Metal
If you are new to metal detecting, looking at these search modes, only two of the four will probably make any sense to you. Obviously “Coins” and “Custom” will mean something to the average Joe. But “All Metal and “Zero” aren’t as straight forward. However, for those who are familiar Garrett metal detectors especially the AT Pro or Gold, transitioning to the AT Max will be a breeze.
On the other hand, the Simplex search modes are very similar to the Minelab Equnox. The Simplex includes the following 5 search modes:
- Park 1
- Park 2
- All Metal
Looking at the Simplex search modes from a beginners point of view, they are easier to figure out and understand. If you are new to the Simplex you already have an idea of what search mode to use if you are at a park, beach, or if you are in a field. The Simplex makes it…well simple. The advantage goes to the Simplex in this category.
Search Mode ADVANTAGE: Nokta Makro Simplex
Which Metal Detector Has More Features?
This question may be a little bit difficult to answer depending on what you would consider a feature. To draw a conclusion lets put all the features for each machine in side by side table and we’ll count them up at the end.
Note: These features are taken from each companies website.
AT Max Feature Simplex Feature Z-Lynk Wireless Technology Compatible 2.4 GHz Nokta Green Wireless Headphones Iron Volume: Yes Iron Volume: Yes Notch Discriminaton: Yes Notch Discrimination: Yes Search Modes 4 Search Modes 5 Frequency Shift: Yes Frequency Shift: Yes Audio Tones 3 Audio Tones 3 Target VDI Range 0-99 Target VDI Range 0-99 Pinpoint: Yes Pinpoint: Yes Target Depth Indicator: Yes Target Depth Indicator: Yes Rechargeable: No Rechargeable: Yes Power: 4 AA Batteries Power: Rechargeable Lip Battery (Built In) Firmware Updates: No Firmware Updates: Yes Retractable Shaft: No Retractable Shaft: Yes Sensitivity Adjustment Yes Sensitivity Adjustment Yes Backlight: Yes Backlight: Yes Volume Adjustment Yes Volume Adjustment Yes LED Flashlight: No LED Flashlight: Yes Vibration: No Vibration: Yes AT Max Total: 13 Simplex Total: 18
As you can see from the table above, the Simplex has the advantage when it comes to the features available for each machine.
Feature ADVANTAGE: Nokta Makro Simplex
Note: You will see more in the near future from Garrett as they begin to unleash their new multi-frequency Ace APEX in July 2020.
What About Depth?
After doing numerous air tests with both machines the AT Max out performs the Simplex by approximately 1.5 to 2.5 inches in depth. That’s a major difference and not too surprisingly. Garrett really took advantage of knowing what worked well in the AT Pro and AT Gold and fine tuned the Max to its max by giving us more depth. But it came with a cost. The AT Max runs a bit hotter and is unfortunately a lot nosier then the AT Pro or Gold. This is an edge that cuts both ways. Many AT Max owners didn’t like the extra noise while others embraced additional features and appreciate more depth.
The Simplex on the other hand comes up short in depth on certain targets. But lets be clear, it is hitting some deep targets and competes with many of the mid-range machines including the AT Max. But overall the Simplex depth comes up a bit short compared to the AT Max. The advantage here goes to the Garrett AT Max.
Depth ADVANTAGE: Garrett AT Max
Which Machine is Easier to Use?
For seasoned Garrett Owners of the ACE or AT PRO/GOLD transitioning over to the AT Max will be a breeze. For new owners, it won’t be so bad either. The AT series of detectors have always been made for simplicity and never over complicated. This trademark is what makes Garrett Owners love their machines.
On the other hand, the Nokta Makro folks took a page right out of Minelab’s playbook when they created the Simplex. It is unmistakably similar to the Minelab Equinox. It has similar search modes, settings menu etc.
The Simplex has a look and feel similar to the Equinox. But the Simplex is NO EQUINOX! However the Simplex is super easy to use and very intuitive. Its easy navigate through the menu system and get right into metal detecting. For these very reasons the Simplex is a much easier machine to learn and use.
Ease of Use Advantage: Nokta Makro Simplex
What Search Coils Are Available For Each Machine?
Garrett offers the 8.5″ x 11″ DD as their standard coil but you can also get their 5″ x 8″ DD coil which is good for trashy sites and water hunting. Several after market coils also exist for the AT Max. Some of the more popular coils are NEL Coils. You can see all of the Nel coil options over at Fort Bedford Metal Detector’s website by going here.
The Simplex only has a choice of 3 search coils. Their 11″ DD coil comes standard with the machine. You can also purchase a 9.5″ x 5″ DD coil for trashy sites and water hunting. They also offer their 8.5″ DD coil as a smaller option to the 11″.
The advantage of coil availability goes to Garrett. Even though Garrett only offers 2 coils for the Max, there several aftermarket coils available for the AT Max compared to the Simplex.
Coil ADVANTAGE: Garrett AT Max
Which Metal Detector Works Better on The Beach?
Both the AT Max and Simplex do really well on dry sand. Both detectors perform as expected. Both machines get decent depth but I do believe the Simplex (tuned correctly) will still come up short compared to the AT Max as far as depth is concerned. However, the Simplex isn’t far behind and on dry sand but the advantage goes to the AT Max.
Dry Sand ADVANTAGE: Garrett AT Max.
Metal detecting the wet sand is a different story. Garrett’s AT series of machines have issues with hunting in the wet salty sand and in the surf. The AT Max is no exception. Slight improvements have been made compared to their AT Pro and AT Gold but the AT Max is not the ultimate beach machine and I would stick to dry sand if you plan on taking it to the beach.
The Simplex on the other hand, has been performing quite well on wet sand. However, the Simplex needs to be tuned correctly with the right sensitivity and proper ground balance in order to work well on wet sand. In addition, the Simplex is somewhat “chatty” all the time on wet sand. However, the Simplex has been proven to sniff out some very deep targets at the beach. If tuned correctly, the Simplex is the better option for the wet sand.
Wet Sand ADVANTAGE: Nokta Makro Simplex.
Craftsmanship: Which Machine is Built Better?
Lets look at the AT Max first. Garrett made some minor upgrades from the AT Pro and AT Gold. They included a better rubber grip which feels good to hold on to. They didn’t change the shaft style from the previous AT machines so everything is mostly the same. The AT Max is balanced well and not a problem to swing but can require some arm strength endurance over long periods of detecting.
The Simplex is completely different than the AT Max. The Simplex hugs your arm better than the AT Max. The grip is really nice to hold on to and the shaft is a lot like the XP Deus where is compacts down very easily. The one problem owners have been complaining about is the wobble in the shaft. If the shaft is extended out to the max, you can tell that there is a problem with the design. However, Nokta Makro has addressed the problem and offers a solution/fix to the wobble.
Even with the slight wobble in the shaft I’m giving the advantage to the Simplex. The telescopic shaft and design of the grip is extremely comfortable to swing. The advantage goes to the Simplex.
Craftsmanship ADVANTAGE: Nokta Makro Simplex
Who Offers Better Technical Support?
From someone who just recently had experience using Garrett Technical Support, I will say Garrett continues to have some of the best tech support in the in the business. The majority of folks out there will agree.
Since the Simplex is still kind of new to the game it will be some time before we really know if Nokta Makro Technical Support will be able to provide and sustain good support to its customers. I’ve already been seeing numerous issues popping up where Simplex owners aren’t quite sure where to go or who to call to get repairs even though they list their support information on Nokta’s website. The tech support advantage remains with Garrett.
Tech Support ADVANTAGE: Garrett AT Max
Whether you are a fan of Garrett or a new believer in Nokta Makro, both machines offer something the other one doesn’t. The biggest factor that will drive Simplex sales is the price. No one in the business can beat the price of the Simplex for what it offers today. Will that change in the future? Hard to say.
However, the Simplex isn’t made in America and to many, that’s a show stopper. Others don’t care where the machine is made and sold as long as it works as advertised and can be serviced when there is a problem.
The Simplex is getting (mostly) great reviews but there are some who aren’t so “Team Simplex” due to its chatty behavior and shaft wobble. There is a bit of tuning that needs to be done to the machine prior to use. But for the price, you get a bunch of features built into an entry-level machine that acts like a mid-level machine for a ridiculous price that will be hard to beat.
In contrast, Garrett built a solid machine with the AT Max from the success of the AT Pro and Gold. But now they appear to be gearing up to upgrade their fleet of machines. The first of which happens to be their ACE Apex. Will they continue upgrading their AT series? In my opinion, it will really depend on how well the Apex does. Check out some of my Apex articles below
- Garrett ACE Apex and Simplex Comparison
- Garrett ACE Apex vs. Minelab Vanquish
The Clear Winner is…
The Simplex clearly out shines the AT Max in many ways and if you were keeping tabs, the Simplex wins the day. But even thought the Simplex is considered an entry level machine, it acts like a mid-level detector. It comes with many features at a cost that can’t beat. The Simplex is hard to pass up for the price. Many will purchase one just to have as a spare or to have as a water machine.
The AT Max is a solid mid-level machine that is more stable and gets a little more depth, and has better support at a higher cost. The extra depth and technical support from Garrett will be highly important to the legion of Garrett fans out there.
Now its Your Turn
Even though my pick is the Simplex, that doesn’t mean you have to be in the same camp. Over the couple weeks that I had the Simplex, I really enjoyed the machine and found it more appealing than the AT Max but that’s just my opinion.
So whats your pick? The Simplex is a heck of a good entry level machine and very capable one. Its only going to get better. If you are starting out with a tight budget, I would highly recommend giving the Simplex a try. I think you’ll like it. I know I did! Leave a comment and tell us which one you think is better.