If you're a newcomer to treasure hunting, there are a few basic qualities to look for in a metal detector, and the Fisher F4 has every one of them. It's powerful enough to find targets, even when they're almost a foot beneath the surface. It can sort treasure from trash, so you won't be spending your day digging up old bottle caps. And while it's easy to use, it's not so basic that it won't grow with you as you learn the ins and outs of the hobby.
Despite being a tad pricier than other beginner detectors, the Fisher F4 stands atop our list. Powerful, capable and feature-rich, it has everything you'll need to help you grow from a fresh-faced detectorist to a veteran hunter, which is why it earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
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.
The Fisher F4 has every major feature you want to see in a metal detector. With four-tone audio and an 11-category graphic target ID, we always had a decent idea of what we were digging up, and the F4 supplements these features with a numeric target ID readout. This gives you a target's precise reading on a scale of zero to 99. Numeric ID tends to be a lot more helpful than category ID for advanced detectorists, but it can feel a bit opaque to new users. By providing both, the Fisher F4 teaches you what the numeric readings mean and grows with you as you become more comfortable in the hobby.
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 and reliable 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 detect in highly mineralized soil without affecting your depth.
The F4's adjustable shaft locks snugly into place and doesn't wobble at all, even if you get a little rough with the machine. It can extend out far enough to accommodate the tallest of users with ease. The only significant downside to its design is the armrest's padding, which was far too hard and had a raised edge that chafed our arms during testing. Of course, if you buy the F4 and have the same problem, replacing the foam is relatively easy.
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 a superb metal detector that excels in just about every category. With its combination numeric and graphic target ID display and its custom notching settings, finding treasures in the wilderness is a breeze. Its accurate depth indicator and precise pinpoint mode let you know exactly where and how deep to dig. And its powerful DD-style coil and advanced ground balancing will help you find targets others have missed in soil that leaves them confounded. It is a bit pricier than other general-purpose detectors because of the DD coil, but it is well worth the price. For beginners, the Fisher F4 is the best metal detector we've found.
The F4 has every feature you'd want in your first detector, including target ID, manual ground balancing, and an excellent DD-style coil.
The padding on its armrest is unforgiving and can chafe after extended use.
In terms of sheer power, the Fisher F4 is the best beginner metal detector on the market.