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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > HighGear Axio Max Mulitfunction Watch > Test Report by John Waters

HIGH GEAR AXIO MAX WATCH
TEST SERIES BY JOHN R. WATERS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - July 05, 2010
FIELD REPORT - September 14, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - November 08, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: John R. Waters
EMAIL: exec@bysky.com
AGE: 61
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 178 lb (80.70 kg)
BOOT SIZE 10.5 US

My backpacking began in 1999. I have hiked rainforests in Hawaii, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico, on glaciers in New Zealand and Iceland, 14ers in Colorado and Death Valley's deserts. I hike or snowshoe 6-8 miles (10 km-13 km) 2-3 times weekly in the Cooper Mountain range, with other day-long hikes on various other southwest and central Colorado trails. I frequently hike the mountains and deserts of Utah and Arizona as well. My daypack is 18 lb (8 kg); overnights' weigh over 25 lb (11 kg). I'm aiming to reduce my weight load by 40% or more.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Highgear
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Model #: 20119HG
Manufacturer's Website: High Gear.com
MSRP: US$ 210.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 4 oz (113 g)

Other details (from Highgear website): The Axio Max features an ALTIMETER, BAROMETER, COMPASS, THERMOMETER and STEEL CASE

ALTIMETER / BAROMETER
•Swiss Air Pressure / Temperature Sensor
•1m / 1ft Local Altitude Resolution
•Working Range: - 2303 ft to 30045 ft (-702m to 9158m)
•12 Hour Weather Forecast Icon
•Sea-Level & Absolute Barometer Display
•Mercury Inches and Millibar / Hectopascal Barometer Display

THERMOMETER
•Digital Thermometer
•User option for Fahrenheit or Celsius
•Working range from +14°F to +122°F (-10°C to +50°C)

DIGITAL COMPASS
•360°/16 Cardinal Point Beraings
•Digital True North Arrow
•Digital Compass Re-call
•Digital Compass Calibration
•Adjustable Declination

CHRONOGRAPH
•100 Hour Chronograph
•1/100 Second Resolution
Highgear Axio Max
Picture Courtesy of Highgear

DATA LOG
•10 Run Memory
•Starting Altitude Record
•Accumulated Altitude Record
•Maximum Altitude Record
•Total Exercise Time Record

TIME
•12/24 Hour Time Display
•Time/Day/Date
•Dual Time Zone

ALARMS
•2 Daily Alarms
•1 Rest Alarm
•1 Hydration Alarm
•2 Altitude Alarms

OTHER
•Durable Steel Case
•Mineral Glass Lens
•50 m Water Resistant
•EL Backlight
•User Replaceable Battery


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Axio Max arrived in a 3.5 in (8.9 cm) cube box, and was packed in black foam. The steel face glaring up at me looked like it was suspended in air because the black band blended into the foam. Being a technophile, I was eager to take it out and get it on my wrist.

The first thing I noticed was the weight. At a hair under 4 oz (113 g), this is a hefty, solid piece of gear. It's twice as heavy as the multifunction timepiece I've been wearing. So the extra functionality of the Axio apparently bears some additional weight as well.
I was very pleasantly surprised when I looked at the watch and found that the time was already set correctly right to the minute. Albeit, the Central USA time zone, which is one hour behind our Mountain time zone, but kudos to the folks at the factory for setting the time to something so close.

I was concerned about how long it would take to set the correct time and was again pleasantly surprised when I was able to do so with a short review of the manual page on setting the time. The process is quite intuitive.

This timepiece is packed with several operational functions that I'll get into great detail about in the next report, the Field Test. I have used wrist timepieces with barometric altimeters before and I am anxious to see how well the Axio stays calibrated and how well the altimeter functions in various locations. I quickly set the barometer function to match our local reading from the Mountainview Core Knowledge School here in Canon City; about 2 mi (3 km) to the West of us, and the Axio came close to our altitude here at our place. However, I need to do some more detailed comparisons over different terrain and barometric pressures before I can report more on this feature.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions packed in the cubic box are also about 3.5 in square (8.9 cm) with black front and rear covers. I found it interesting that Highgear managed to pack instructions in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese (I'm assuming here for these two since the country names are in Kanji or Hiragana), German, Italian, Dutch and Swedish into that little package, in two volumes, and keep both volumes to less than 0.5 in (1.27 cm). That either says they did an excellent job of writing, or they did not give really good detailed instructions. That shall be something to examine in the field test.

At first glance, they did a pretty good job of covering all the functions in 27 pages of English, since I'm already feeling like I understand the functions and how to program and use them. I am a little unclear about the barometric settings for sea level and absolute since the manual mentions how to set them but does not explain what the difference is. That is a topic I will need to research more.

I have been warned in the manual to not wear the watch in a hot tub or in a soapy "bubble bath", so no partying with the timepiece on. I was also warned to not push the buttons when the watch is wet or else I am "actually pushing water inside the watch." The instructions say that the watch is "water resistant" to 5ATM an (atmospheres), which is 164ft (50 m), which is "suitable for surface swimming and clear-water showering or bathing." So, if I get this straight, I can wear the watch in the shower as long as I bathe without any soap and I can get it wet as long as I don't push any buttons. Thus, if it is raining or snowing on the trail, I shall not be able to switch between functions if the watch gets wet. Interesting.

SUMMARY

I've already been wearing the Axio almost exclusively since I opened the box. I have noticed that the night-light is not as readable as my full screen backlight on the other watch I use. I need my reading glasses to see some of the information. But, again, I shall go into more detail about that in the field report.

So far, I like the black band. It is vented with .25 in (.64 cm) slits and the strap has a nice lockdown for the end of the strap that keeps the loose end in place so well that getting the watch off takes a little getting used to.

This is going to be an interesting device to test and all the detail will be forthcoming in the field report.

This concludes my Initial Report on the Highgear Axio Max. Below are the results of my first two months of testing.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have been wearing this watch constantly during this test period. The only time this watch has been removed from my wrist has been when I was climbing towers or working where I was concerned that I could scratch or damage the unit.

Otherwise, it has been all across Colorado westward to Salt Lake City, Utah and then all across Wyoming from Salt Lake City, Utah back to Denver, Colorado. Frequent trips into the Wet Mountains south of Florence, Colorado up to 8,120 ft (2475 m), the Cooper range in Fremont County, Colorado from 5600 ft to 7200 ft (1707 m to 2195 m) and from Canon City, Colorado up across Colorado Springs from 5300 ft to 6900 ft (1615 m to 2103 m), Monument, Colorado at 7362 ft (2244 m), Denver, Colorado at various altitudes around 5800 ft (1768 m).

Temperatures during this period ranged from 40 F to 102 F (4.4 C to 38.3 C). Barometric pressure ranged from 800 mb to 1200 mb and would fluctuate +/- 100 mb during severe storms.

Button screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I used both Google Earth and my SportsTrak Pro handheld GPS to compare altitude readings. For temperature, I used a small clip on thermometer attached to my backpack shoulder straps or my Subaru dash digital thermometer. Weather Underground was used to compare barometric pressure when I was close to a local weather station. WUG is great because there are so many volunteer stations reporting and I can usually get readings pretty close to my location.

TIME

Time screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


I had no problems at all using the clock and alarm functions. There was no time drift. The clock stayed right on with the national atomic clock and my cell phone. I would like to see the time zone indicator made into an icon and that space used for displaying some other value though. It seems like such a waste of space on the main dial to have T1 or T2 taking up a whole line above the time just to tell me what time zone I am looking at. My 2 cents anyway.

The alarm has been super easy to set and use. It is not very loud though. Fortunately, I set my cell phone alarm, which is VERY loud, because if I were to rely on just the Axio alarm I would have missed some early morning appointments. When wearing the Axio on my wrist it ends up under the pillow because I sleep on my side with my left arm under the pillow. That means the alarm is muffled. If it is not under the pillow it is still not too loud and I can sleep right through the alarm. The noise level is really low in our place in Canon City or out in tents in the middle of nowhere. Maybe a small vibration or a little more volume would make this a more useful alarm.

There are two regular 12/24 hour alarms, a rest alarm, a hydration alarm and 2 altitude alarms. These are easily settable. I just push the MODE button to ALARM and then the - (minus) button cycle through the clearly marked alarm types. Once on the desired alarm type, I have to hold down the ADJUST button for about 3 seconds while HOLD - Adjust flashes, then I can use the MODE button to select the desired numeric value to set using the +/- buttons. When done, a press of the ADJUST button locks in the values.

I like that I can change the bottom line of the display from Month-Day (Sep 5 for example) to just the weekday (Mon), to altitude (which will display in the feet or meters depending on how the main altitude screen is set). This is changed by the lower right push button. The display will change and display the option selected until the MODE button is used. So I can scroll through and get the altitude to show under the time and stay that way until I press the mode button again.

Time change screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual



In the upper left just in front of the time zone indicator is a weather icon. It's been pretty accurate with storm, clouds, sun icons showing up to tell me that "YES" it really is sunny as I look all around me just in case I was not sure or "YES" it really is raining, etc.

The manual says "NOTE: If you wear the watch on a daily basis in TIME or ALTI-BARO mode with altitude display, you
must scroll to a view without altitude to begin the forecasting process. This process takes 12 hours." Wow. Actually, I have set the time display to show time in the center and then altitude in place of the calendar date. I did not notice that the weather icon was not working, but maybe I switched the display back to time and date before the weather icon needed to be reset. Or, maybe it is just so darn sunny here in Colorado that I would not have noticed the sunny icon was not changing.

The regular display is VERY easy to read in all lighted situations, even in bright full sunlight. However, I had trouble reading the backlight in low light. It works pretty well in pure darkness, but, in my opinion, there was not enough contrast in low light (enough clarity due to bleeding of the backlight between characters) and I had difficulty reading the display, especially the small icons and values. I figured out that running through the TIME settings to the CONTRAST setting solved my problem well. The CONTRAST function is set at zero (0) by default. I set the contrast to its maximum value of 5 and the backlight is now clearly readable in low light and dark.

The calendar runs to the year 2057. I am 61 now, so I would be 108 when the watch runs out. No doubt my clock will probably run out first ... maybe.

Compass

Compass screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


The compass function works great. The +/- buttons don't do anything in this mode except bring the display back. After about 25 seconds the compass display will blank and put up 3 dashes (to conserve battery life) and to get the display back I need to press either the + or - buttons. The manual says to calibrate the compass frequently, however I calibrated it one time when I took it out of the box and checked it several times against my pocket compass and my GPS and it has been right on without additional calibration. However, I would be sure to check the calibration if this were the only compass I was using and my life depended on it. It is very simple to calibrate. I did not bother with declination adjustments since the readings were so close to my reference devices, but making such adjustment is also very simple.


Altitude

Altimeter screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


Of all the functions, this is still the most confusing to me. Since the altitude is obtained by barometric pressure, when I set the altitude, the reference for that altitude is the current barometric pressure read by the watch. When barometric pressure changes for reasons other than altitude, the altitude reading can be misleading. For example, if I am at 5,000 ft (1524 m) and the pressure is 1000 millibars, under normal circumstances there is an equation to calculate the changing altitude based upon the barometric pressure and temperature.

A = 1,000 x ( K -- B ), where

A is the altitude indicated on the face of the altimeter, in feet
K is the pressure setting at sea-level, in inches of mercury
B is the actual barometric pressure at the location of the altimeter.

If a storm is coming in and the barometer drops 100 mb and I do not change my physical altitude, the watch will indicate a rise in altitude because air pressure is lower at a higher altitude. The watch doesn't know that I am in the same spot. Temperature also affects the calculation. So an altimeter that depends on barometric pressure needs to be calibrated often to a known reference point and there must be an awareness to fast changes in pressure and temperature unrelated to altitude. I found that it is best to keep a good topo map handy to do those calibrations. When on a mountain peak and a storm comes in, I can be off quite a bit.

Setting the values is easy though. I just change the altitude in feet (default) and change the barometric pressure to a known reference. I used the local reading from the airport nearby to do my first calibration. To get the right values set up, I needed to be AT the airport or at the location I picked to use for the reference. This will not work unless I am right at the reference point. Once the initial barometric setting is entered, as I was told by our High Gear contact, I was to leave the barometric setting alone and change ONLY the altitude to make future calibrations. I was told to leave the sea level value alone.

The display can be changed from millibars to inches (for example, from 1020 to 30.12) just by using the + button. Adjustments can be made in either measurement unit.

Altitude can be displayed in either feet or meters and switching back and forth is quite easy by pressing the + button. Holding the + button down for 3 seconds will change the default display unit.

Altimeter change screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


Barometric readings are very unreliable in a moving vehicle, in an air-conditioned or heated room with forced air (because air pressure is increased by the blowers) and definitely in a pressurized or moving aircraft. Standing still in constant barometric pressure with weather that is not changing, the altimeter will work well. It compared to my GPS within 3 ft (.9 m) under stable conditions. Add a rapidly moving thunderstorm to the mix and I the altimeter would indicate I was rising like Mary Poppins dozens of feet (meters) into the air.

The altimeter fluctuates, but not as rapidly as my GPS. When I am hiking, my GPS will show me up and down several feet (meters) as I walk along because the GPS is recalculating satellite information. The Axio Max stays stable unless it sees a barometric pressure change. That also means it depends on the inclination of the watch. I noticed that I can change the altitude reading by positioning the watch vertical or horizontal since each position will have a slight change in pressure. A good reading is when the watch is stable for 30 seconds in any position though.

I took the watch with me on the Durango-Silverton Steam Engine railway trip, a 3 1/2 hour ride in vintage narrow gauge cars pulled by a black coal fired steam locomotive through wonderfully beautiful high mountain scenery. Starting at 6500 ft and rising to 9300 ft (1981 m to 2834 m), we were seated (standing all the way actually) in an open gondola car. Moving at only 12 mph (19 kph) with no pressured compartment, I figured this was a great way to test the response time of the altimeter.

I calibrated the unit at the station and away we went. The Axio was fine until we started to rise and fall on the way up to Silverton. It also did not handle the return trip well going down. The unit lagged the GPS from 30 seconds to 3 minutes but would eventually catch up or pass the GPS values. Because there was so much fluctuation, I was not able to chart the changes. Too bad there was no way to get the output of each device and chart the entire route. I was hoping to find a constant differential.

The value on the Axio would be mostly 30 ft off (9.1 m) in each direction; going up it usually would be 30 ft (9.1 m) lower and going down it would be 30 ft (9.1 m) higher. However, there were also times that it was 200 ft off (61 m) in either direction and then would, after a few minutes, catch up to within 30 ft (9.1 m) again. If we were travelling in a straight line for several minutes, the Axio and the GPS would agree to within 10 to 15 ft (3 to 4.6 m) . However, again, there were times when we stopped to pick up or drop off passengers that the Axio remained 100 to 200 feet off (30 to 61 m). So I am not sure what to expect. I was hoping to find a constant to apply and I just could not get a handle on it. I wanted to see that if the GPS said we went down 200 ft (61 m), then in 30 seconds, the Axio would catch up, etc. and that just did not happen. I guess that +/- 30 ft (+/- 9.1 m) would be a good variance to use as a rule of thumb in a stable environment for accuracy.

I checked the GPS satellites frequently to make sure there were always at least 5 or more being used across the sky and not just on the horizon. If the GPS did not see more than 5 satellites spread out, I ignored any large differential between the GPS and the Axio.

I also checked the altitude on a short hike at Poncha Pass in Colorado. Our GPS, from 7 satellites, had 9,048 feet (2.7578 km) where we stopped and the Axio had 9,052 ft (2.7590 km). That is very close indeed. We stopped and let both devices rest for 10 minutes. Air pressure according to the Axio was 29.97.

In Wolfe Creek Pass, Colorado, at 10,863 ft (3.3110 km), the GPS recorded 10,864 ft (3.3113 km) where we were and the Axio said it was 10,742 ft (3.2741 km). That is quite a difference. I let the devices rest for 10 minutes and this was maybe only 45 minutes after we made the reading that was pretty close at Poncha Pass. So I do not know why I saw this difference in 45 minutes. It may be that the outside temperature at Poncha Pass was 69 F (20.56 C) and the outside temperature at Wolf Creek Pass was 50 F (10 C). The barometric pressure dropped to 20.06 on the Axio at Wolf Creek Pass.

Instrument flight rules mandate that the sea level pressure be set to 29.92 if flying above 18,000 feet (5.486 km). Since I didn't get that high, I didn't have to do that, but the Axio will need to be set that way if I ever get that high (which is not happening in Colorado).

A really good topo map and a really good GPS that can see several satellites across the sky would be much more trustworthy to me. It is handy to have though and I see myself continuing to use this function to see about how high we climbed over a period of time and to know approximately what our altitude is without having to remove the GPS from its pouch.

I now sit in our RV writing this (no air-conditioning and no fans, just open windows) at 5685 ft (1733 m) (as shown on Google Earth) and the Axio says I am at 5693 ft (1735 m) after I re-calibrated the watch to local barometric pressure and adjusted the absolute pressure to get it to this value. The watch should now be set for my next trek.

It is important to remember that the barometric pressure setting must be corrected to sea-level. Airports and weather service reports give sea level corrected values. My home barometer does not unless I calibrate it to an airport or weather station value.

Temperature.

Well, a thermometer on my wrist is not going to give me a very accurate ambient temperature since I give off heat. After extensive measurements using a bulb thermometer on my backpack shoulder strap, I have had readings that were from 5 to 26 degrees F off (2.78 to 14 C). For example, when it was 50 F (10 C) on the chest strap thermometer, the Axio on my wrist was reading 76 F (24.4 C), . The warmer the ambient temperature was, the smaller the differential was. Generally, when left on my wrist, the readings were always high until ambient got above my body temperature. I could not come up with a constant to apply since the temperature difference varied a lot. The only way to get a truly accurate temperature reading is to take the watch off my wrist or go to places hotter than 98.6 F (37 C).

Chronograph/Data

Chrono screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


By definition, a watch that tells time AND has a stopwatch function is a Chronograph. So the chronograph function of the Axio is a stopwatch and it handles up to 10 "runs" and can store the results in memory. I'm still interested in knowing how many people who buy watches with stopwatch functions actually use a 10 lap timer. I tried using it to time things like my granddaughter and I doing sprints and runs for soccer. It works well for timing runs. Starting it require only pressing the mode button until CHRONO appears on the dial face, and then a display with hours, minutes, seconds and decimal to 2 places (1/100 second) appears on the dial face. I press the + button to start and the - button to stop. Then I hold the - button down until HOLD appears on the screen and the counter is reset to zero and the values are moved to the appropriately numbered data slot. Then I hold the ADJUST button down and the timer is reset to zero without the data being stored.

Alarm screen
Picture Courtesy of Axio Max Manual


Like the other functions, what to do with the stored data was pretty intuitively obvious once I realized that everything from the CHRONO function is stored and managed in the DATA function. I was a little confused when I got a "FULL" error displayed on the stopwatch screen until I guessed that it meant that I put all the lap times into memory and I filled up memory in each of the 10 lap timers. I finally realized that I was zeroing the values out wrong. Holding the - button down stores the value and increments the timer number. I was using that to zero out the timer each time we ran. I needed to use the MODE button to zero out the timers and not store the values.

Pressing the mode button gets me to the DATA screen. Each of the runs can be stored in memory by holding the - button down for a few seconds until the word HOLD appears on the screen. The starting altitude, the difference in altitude ("accum"), maximum altitude, and total time are stored for each "run" entered.

The run number, starting at 1, will increment each time the run is saved. I have not figured out how to increment the run numbers without stopping the clock though. Although multiple run timers are supported, multiple CONCURRENT run timers are not. A run (or what they call exercise periods) must be stopped and saved before the next period can begin.

These timers can be used to store the values from a hike. Start when I begin and stop when I end to record all the values and store them in the DATA section. Of course, this information is available in almost all new GPS units, but to have this available handily on my wrist is very neat, especially if the batteries in my GPS die and my wife has used all my spares for her camera because she forgot to bring her own. However, there is no way to export the data to a PC.

Cool timer and alarm functions are available for hydration and rest time or for whatever you want to be reminded about. I know I won't need one for eating time.

Waterproofness

I took a leap of faith and wore the watch in the community pool playing with my granddaughter for a little more than 2 hours the other day.

With specific instructions to her not to push the buttons (because she likes the run timer), the watch came through with no damage at depths up to 6 ft (1.8 m) and with a pounding from a 9 year old. I noticed that the face of the watch collects a "bubble" around the rim that made me think it was starting to fill with water, but the water has a weird way of collecting around the outside rim to create this bubble that looks like one in a level. All is well and I now know that I can wear this watch in the water. Please read my comments posted in the Initial Report about use in the water before taking a bath or wearing this watch in the hot tub - very important.

SUMMARY

I know that these descriptions may be detailed, but in actual use, I was able to figure out almost all functions and how to set them without referring to the manual. That says a lot for the design of this timepiece. Kudos to the developers for making this so intuitively programmable and operable. I don't think I have ever had a handheld anything that was as easy to work with as this Axio Max.

My goal now is to get a better handle on the altimeter for the final report. See below for my final report and to see how I did.


LONG-TERM REPORT

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Mountain hikes, commercial airlines, around and about town in Colorado; that covers where I have mostly used the Axio Max the past several weeks. Temperatures have been unusually high in south central Colorado, up to 85 F ( C) and it has been exceptionally dry. Ten days in Florida brought high humidity into the mix.

The Axio has handled everything very well while being quite comfortable on my wrist. I have not removed it at night when sleeping because the display is easily visible for a quick time check when I don't feel like turning over to view the time projected on the ceiling from my bedside clock (wow technology can sure make me lazy). However, I still have issues with the display changing modes in the middle of the night when I accidently press a button. The same thing happens when I am hiking or working. I inadvertently change the time from T1 to T2 or change the date display from date to altitude. Nothing serious, but it does happen.

I continue to have problems with the alarm not being loud enough. I sleep with my arm up under my head and under a pillow most of the time and the alarm chime is just not loud enough to wake me if my arm is still under the pillow when it goes off. Even in a tent in the middle of nowhere in almost absolute quiet surroundings, a pillow is enough to muffle the alarm. I cannot be able to rely on this alarm to get me up to catch an airline flight or to watch the sunrise.

The time clock has been right on and has not drifted at all the entire test period. I had it set to the atomic clock time and it has continued to be spot on.

The compass has not drifted at all from the original calibration. Until the finalization of this report, it has performed well at all elevations and has agreed with my GPS and car compass all the times. I say this knowing that this compass can only be used for getting a general direction fix. In reality it cannot be used for accurate back-country navigation. Like the thermometer, it can not give reliable readings while on my wrist. Since there is no leveling bubble and I can't hold my wrist perfectly level, the compass digital display values will change a lot as I try to keep my wrist still. Since the digital readout is in one degree increments, the numbers move rapidly with even the slightest movement of my wrist in any direction and when I twist my wrist. When I say the compass agreed with my GPS and car compass, I mean within the accuracy of the 6 degree analog marker along the outer band. If my GPS said WSW, then the Axio was also pointing generally WSW. In order to get the most accurate reading the Axio had to be removed from my wrist and placed on a level surface. Again, without a leveling bubble, there is no way to know that the surface being used is actually level.

Interestingly, during the writing of this report, I was asked about using the declination adjustment. I did that when I first calibrated the unit in Colorado and then again in Florida. I had no issues doing that. But just for kicks, the comment reminded me that I did not re-calibrate the compass when I returned to Colorado. Since I really only pay attention to the 6 degree wide analog marker, I hadn't paid attention to the small difference between Florida and Colorado. However, when I started the re-calibration process again, the Axio compass would not calibrate at all. I have tried in on my wrist, in my hands, resting on flat surfaces, and performed the two rotations numerous times from 10 seconds per rotation to 20 seconds per rotation and the compass calibration notice continues to report FAILED. I even tried it again this week in Michigan, figuring I had another opportunity to change the declination again. Nope ... FAILED.

I went to the Highgear Web site and there is a notice in the FAQ section (I didn't notice it before, maybe I just missed it earlier), that if the Axio compass fails to calibrate to "demagnetize your compass" by going to a retail store or library and holding the watch face down over the demagnetizer. This, they say, are the units stores and libraries use to erase the security strips on products. I looked around this week and did not see any, but when I do see one, I shall ask to have my watch demagnetized and I will write an addendum to this report with the results.

Weirdly enough though, the compass still points in basically the correct general direction.

The altimeter still continues to be a challenge. It is not something that I can just look at any time and assume it is correct. It absolutely needs to be frequently calibrated. So unless I have a GPS or topo map handy and had a chance to calibrate the altimeter, within 30 minutes or so I personally cannot rely on its accuracy. However, it is handy when calibrated correctly and the weather and temperature stay fairly constant.

Now, I know that it does not perform accurately in an airplane, but just for kicks I kept an eye on it during a few commercial flights and although there is really no algorithm to calculate real altitude in a pressurized cabin, it was possible to see that we were ascending or descending and I knew for sure when we were actually headed down for the final approach. Granted the Axio said we were at 8,500 feet (2.6 km) when we were really more likely at 30,000 feet (9.1 km) because that is what the cabin pressure was held at. But the airplane starts increasing pressure as it descends, so the Axio would see that as a lowering of altitude. Very handy in that respect and fun.

The mechanical structure of the watch has been solid. I had worried that the thing would be too heavy, but I am quite use to it now. I have so far managed to not scratch the face at all and have only had a few barely visible hairline scratches around the stainless steel body. It really does look like new. Even the black composite wrist band is like new except for some barely visible lines where the buckle meets the strap. It continues to be very attractive.

On a recent trip it even survived hiking in Florida with 98% humidity and 86 F (30 C). That's the kind of weather where as soon as I walk out from an air-conditioned room my sunglasses fog up and my shirt gets soaked immediately because of rapid condensation. The Axio Max had no condensation in, or on, the display and the wrist band remained comfortable and was not sticky. It even held up under overnight tent camping at that same humidity at a very damp 58 F (14.4 C). And, oh yes, we were at an amazing high altitude of 22 feet (6.7 m) above sea level. Quite a change from our 5700 ft (1.7 km) high ranch in Colorado. I adjusted the Axio at the Palm City airport when we landed and it correctly told me I was 22 ft (6.7 m) high for 10 days but told me I was at 26 ft (7.9 m) one day when a storm came through (because the barometric pressure dropped and it didn't know that I was not actually going higher).

Since I was testing a tent while in Florida, I wanted to get the ambient temperature. So I had to take the Axio off my wrist. I wanted ambient air and ground temperature. I hung the Axio from a carabineer from the inside center loop of the tent top for ambient air and then placed it on the bottom of the tent for ground level temperature. I did this a few times during the night and the Axio performed very well. I checked the temperature every few hours and there was up to a 10 F (5.5 C) difference between the two levels. So the Axio can be quite handy for doing field testing.

The weather icon has been correct and I have been able to verify that just by looking around. It has always agreed with what I have been able to see the weather to be.

The battery shows no sign of wear. There is no battery charge indicator so I am not sure what to expect when the battery starts to go. Only time will tell (pun intended).

SUMMARY

This watch is attractive, heavy duty, comfortable to wear, and has been reliable and fun to use. It has held up under all sorts of conditions, although I did not take it to the top of Everest. Not yet anyway.

It's a keeper.

Thank you to BackpackGearTest.org and Highgear for allowing me to test the Axio Max Watch.

John R. Waters

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Electronic Devices > Watches > HighGear Axio Max Mulitfunction Watch > Test Report by John Waters



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