UPDATE 2011: Read my new blog entitled "How to Broadcast a Backyard Weather Station" to get instructions to purchase and install your Vantage Vue station.
Today in my Christmas Gadget Reviews: The Davis Vantage Vue electronic weather station.
COMING SOON: Ambient Weather Forecaster devices
This Fall I was fortunate enough to get to play around with the Davis Vantage Vue electronic weather station -- the first new weather station release from Davis since the Vantage Pro in 2003.
THE DAVIS VANTAGE VUE SET UP AT ACCUWEATHER HQ
In a sector where quality control is generally low and customer service bad, Davis stands out with quality stations and customer service that cares because the company isn't a huge conglomerate doing lots of other things; weather is their business. Here's a quick video showing you what's in the box:
Here's a list of Pros & Cons. The short of this new unit is that Davis has used the ideas and sensors from the VP but drastically slimmed down the station, made it easier to install, and slashed the price.
- Easy to Install: This station is one of the easiest installs I've ever done, at any price, and much easier to install than the old Vantage Pro. It literally only requires a couple hand screws and a couple turns of the included allen wrench and you're ready to go. Other than mounting the anemometer vane, which requires a specific instruction, I didn't even look at the manual. No tools are required. Add the WeatherLinkIP and you can get your station on the Internet in minutes, no computer required. Compare that to the old VP, which had an almost-impossible-to-visualize way of mounting the instruments to a pole, which required at least 3 hands. Or compare to the Oregon Scientific WMR-968 which requires a tiny screwdriver (not included) and over 20 tiny screws -- and that's just to assemble the sensors and transmitters, not to mount the station.
THE ANEMOMETER VANE & CUPS ARE ATTACHED WITH A SIMPLE ALLEN WRENCH INCLUDED
- Small Enough To Fit Anywhere: I was extremely impressed by how much smaller they made the package without sacrificing the quality of the Vantage Pro which, with its large rain gauge and separatable instruments, was hard to mount in a place without access to a roof or yard. The rain gauge is about 1/5th of its previous size, introducing an entirely new concept that may revolutionize the industry: A tipping "spoon" instead of a two-sided "cup" which aided in the miniaturizing. The temperature/humidity pagoda is at least 1/3rd of its previous size, and the solar panel was even cut by half, which is amazing considering that it will still transmit the 1000 feet which beats most competitors, certainly anyone in this price range.
THE DAVIS VANTAGE VUE "TIPPING SPOON" RAIN GAUGE
- Competitively Priced: Davis has always been the "Apple" of the industry - building a quality product "the right way" with good customer service, but at a steeper price. The wireless VP sold for between $600 and $1200; the Vue comes in at $395 retail, with discounts up to $100 from resellers, and remember that it has the accuracy, range and all of the instruments at that same price. I was as impressed by this price cut as I was by the reduction in size of the instruments.
I say "CONS" because none of these are reasons not to purchase the Vantage Vue... they are mostly things that Davis gave up to be able to slim down the station and slash the price. Each has a "But" which speaks to this.
- No more Add-on Sensors: One thing that Davis cut out of this consumer model, and rightly so, was the ability to add instruments such as additional temperature sensors, evapotranspiration & UV sensors, and the heated rain gauge (which I admit, I did enjoy). But none of those will matter to consumers, only to professionals who can still purchase them with the Vantage Pro line.
- No upgrade in Accuracy/Precision: It's important to know that the sensors here are not an upgrade in accuracy or precision from the previous Vantage Pro station, so if you have one of those, you don't need to run out and buy this station, unless its limitations are causing you trouble. But was an upgrade really needed when the VP series already had accuracy and frequent transmission times that slaughtered all other low-price competitors?
THE DAVIS VANTAGE VUE CONSOLE
- Crowded "Old School" Console: If I could say anything negative about the Vantage Vue, it would be that I personally don't like the look of the new Console. It seems to be a throwback to the old "Classic" Davis stations of the 1990's and the LCD display is crowded with information; it looks like it was created by a scientist, rather than a designer... but at this price I wouldn't expect them to have spent a lot of R&D time creating a slick device, and it wouldn't have been worth the increase in retail price.
I have been a long-time user of Davis stations, first installing a (classic!) Weather Wizard II in my car in 1996. When the local newspaper asked for weather readings from AccuWeather HQ, I installed a Vantage Pro at in 2004, another at my house in 2006, and when Chief Long-Range forecaster Joe Bastardi wanted a trouble-free weather station at his house, I installed a VP for him in 2008. (AccuWeather's VP Elliot Abrams also has one at his house which I have assisted with from time to time). All, of course, are running the WeatherLinkIP which makes transmission to the Internet a breeze, but I've reviewed that before.
ONE TECHNICAL NOTE: If you are going to check out this station and you already have a Vantage Pro at your location (or worse, one with the Anemometer Transmitter Kit as I did) you are going to have to read the manual carefully when setting up your Vue, otherwise you're going to be massively confused on which instrument(s) the console is reading, because it will read your old VP station.
BOTTOM LINE: SO WHAT DO I NEED IF I WANT TO SPEND MY CHRISTMAS MONEY ON THIS BABY NOW?
If you want to setup a Vantage Vue with WeatherLinkIP today, this is the route that I do recommend if you have the money (AccuWeather is not selling this station yet; it will run you about $350 for the VV & $250 for the IP if you Google or Ebay for those terms for a good deal). If you don't have the $250 for the IP, then your station won't be accessible from your computer or the Internet (don't try the slightly-less expensive WeatherLink USB, you will be disappointed, I've had lots of trouble with those). If you do go with the IP it's important to realize that, even though the device connects to the Internet with no computer required, you can setup the WeatherLink software on a computer to poll the station over your local network and download the weather data every minute for a permanent archive (which will beat the online archive through CWOP, which is only every 15 minutes).
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