Gear and Product Reviews

Product Review: Akari AX12 e-Tinting Visor Insert

Written by  October 29, 2015

I must admit -- living in the 21st century is pretty grand. Granted, when I was a kid, I thought we’d all have flying cars and vacation on Mars by now, but still, life is plenty sweet. My car may not be flying, but all my technology just keeps getting better, smaller, and more capable. And, the more I think about it, riding my bike is probably more fun than a flying car, anyways.

Rider protection technology, in particular, has become much more advanced over the last few decades. It seems that almost every piece of motorcycling gear these days provides some sort of patented tech to make riding more comfortable or to improve impact or abrasion protection. Of course, things could always be better.

Helmets, for example, are now lighter and safer than ever, but most still have not solved the common challenge of sun protection for the rider’s eyes. While a few models now offer built-in retractable sun visors, most still require riders to either carry extra visors or put up with the inconvenience of fumbling to fit sunglasses inside the helmet. What if you have to ride through a tunnel?

Fortunately, there is cool new technology on the market that offers a better option.

Today we are reviewing a very cool visor insert that provides visor tinting at a push of a button – the Akari AX12 from AMI Powersports. AX12 uses patented e-Tint® liquid crystal technology to provide practically instantaneous visor tinting. Besides motorsports, this technology is also used in military and industrial applications.

Specs and features

  • Tint from light to dark in less than 1/100th of a second
  • Blocks 80% light with tinting enabled
  • Universal size 2.85”x 4.57”x 0.02” fits most helmet visors on the market 
  • Battery: Lithium Polymer with charge protection, USB rechargeable, 50 mAh, 3.7 V
  • 40 hrs battery run time / 3 weeks standby
  • Distortion-free polycarbonate plastic construction
  • Permanent anti-fog coating
  • UV protection
  • Automatic and manual tinting modes
  • Defaults to “clear” if battery dies

The test kit

Our test set came with the AX12 visor insert, control button, USB charging cable, installation template and instructions.

The components have a quality feel to them. The insert itself has a tiny area of visible electronic circuitry on the left hand side, which included a small socket where the control button attaches. The button is small but sturdy, with a rubberized weatherproof coating and a distinctive “click” that can be felt even when wearing the riding gloves.

On the manufacturer’s website, this kit is sold for $130. This is not cheap, but also not prohibitively expensive, considering it’s an innovative, high-tech solution to a pervasive problem.

Test setup

We tested the AX12 with a Shoei Neotec modular full-face helmet. The Neotec has a built-in retractable sun visor, which provided a great opportunity to test the e-Tint technology side by side with the more traditional approach.

Fit and comfort

Fitting the AX12 requires the removal of the visor shield from the helmet shell, which is a simple proposition on most full-face helmets. Once the visor was off the helmet, we had to tackle the installed Pinlock® inner insert. (The Pinlock® insert clips into two posts on the inside of the visor and prevents fogging by creating a double-pane system.)

With the Pinlock® insert removed, we were ready to apply the AX12. The supplied template made centering the insert on the visor very straightforward. The AX12 features an adhesive border, which holds it firmly in place once it is pressed onto the inside of the visor.

Here we did run into a slight snag with the Pinlock® posts. While the actual liquid crystal panel of the AX12 fit nicely between the posts, the adhesive border extended over them, and could not lie flat on the visor. Not wanting to inadvertently damage any of the hidden circuitry, we contacted AMI Powersports for a solution and were advised to simply trim portions of the border that overlapped the pins, so that the insert could lie flat.

akari ax12

With the insert in place, it was time to attach the controller button. The button has a thin, flat and flexible cable that connects to the socket on the visor. The cable then wraps to the outside of the visor, where the button attaches with adhesive backing.

With the AX12 installed, we snapped the visor back into the helmet and went for the test ride.

Performance

The tinting performance of Akari AX12 is simply phenomenal. In manual mode, pressing the button instantly darkens the face shield. There is no delay, no gradual darkening – it is truly instantaneous. Tinting is uniform across the insert, and does not reduce the optical clarity of the visor – there is no distortion, blurring, or optical artifacts in the liquid crystal panel. Press the button again, and the visor instantly goes back to clear.

akari ax12AX12 installed to visor, with tinting turned off

akari ax12AX12 installed to visor, with tinting turned on

The automatic feature also works well, and does what is intended – automatically adjusting tinting based on the lighting conditions.

Since our helmet offered a built-in retractable sun visor, it was easy to test it against the AX12. After several back-and-forth tests, we could not tell the difference – the level of tinting and the optical quality of the AX12 were on par with the built-in unit.

There is another benefit to the AX12 – anti-fog protection during cold rides. This is in one part thanks to the permanent anti-fog coating, and in another part due to the double-pane system it creates when installed in the visor.

The only gripe we had with the AX12 had to do with its fitment on the newer helmets like the Neotec, which offer larger visors with wider field of view. The AX12 panel did not extend the entire width of the visor, and the wide adhesive border was not transparent, and resulted in considerable loss of peripheral visibility. Perhaps one solution AMI could explore is creating a Pinlock®-compatible version of the AX12 that would forego the adhesive border altogether. This issue bothered us because we were used to the wide field of vision of the Neotec. It would not be as pronounced in helmets with smaller visors.

akari ax12View from the inside

It’s also worth mentioning that, as with all double-lens systems including Pinlock®, in certain light conditions riders may experience a reflection, glare or slight double-image in the visor. In our experience this effect is very slight and infrequent, but everyone’s eyes and light sensitivity are different, so please be aware of this effect, and judge for yourself. Again, this is not a shortcoming of the Akari AX12, but rather a common side effect of double-pane visor systems.

The verdict

Akari AX12 is an innovative and technologically advanced product that not only protects the rider’s eyes, but also protects the rider, by allowing them to see clearly in varying light conditions. In our tests, the e-Tint® technology performed flawlessly. While the universal fit system worked well enough, we do wish there were more custom-fit options for various helmet models (currently, there is only a custom version for Arai).

Pros 

  • Excellent e-Tint® technology
  • Simple installation
  • Anti-fog features

Cons

  • Adhesive border reduces peripheral visibility
  • No Pinlock® version

Score 

Value 4/5
Quality 5/5
Fit and Comfort 4/5
Performance 5/5

 

 

Manufacturer's website: amipowersports.com

Photos by Cycle Connections. All rights reserved.