Another week, another weekend of methodical drinking. Gotta love a job that let’s you have a few before you can do anything. I’ve been looking for an excellent entry level products, something that uses a fuel cell, is accurate and doesn’t break the bank, and I am happy to say I found one. The AccuMed BAC-178 is a great option for those just entering the wonderful world of breathalyzers.
These alcohol breathalyzers have been interesting to review, and a lot of fun too. I got to come up with a testing system, I got to learn all about how they are made, and I have been able to break them down into two broad categories.
There are the professional models and the Novelty models. Both do the same thing on a surface level, but only one of them can tell you if you’re okay to drive. The difference is in the price and the parts used. The professional models tend to use a Fuel Cell of some kind to test your blood alcohol content, and are able to determine it to within a thousandth, while the cheaper novelty breathalyzers use semi conductors to estimate the BAC, think of it as more of a ball park figure, fun to play with, but don’t stake your life on one.
Today I will be testing out the AccuMed Professional, and it comfortably sits in the high quality section. It uses an fuel cell, and they are as accurate as can be, in this case a full 0.00 to the 2.00mg/L range. This is more than enough to verify whether you are under the legal limit or not. I’ll go into detail about how it works later in the review.
I will be using my usual methodology for testing. Me and a small group of friends will drink different amounts of alcohol as the evening wears on, myself with one beer, the next on two and so on. I will be checking the results against those I got from the Vaster Professional, a Novelty item, and the BACtrack S80, a very high quality breathalyzer, and seeing how it does. We each have slightly different alcohol tolerances, so the numbers should reflect that somewhat. The AccuMed professional is positioning itself as a mid range, accurate blood alcohol content checker, so let’s see ho well it does.
AccuMed BAC-178 Professional Design and Build Quality
Where the Vaster was a little cheap looking, this AccuMed Professional feels far closer to the quality of the BACtrack. The BACtrack had a curved line for the mouth piece, and that did make using it easier, this instead goes for a fixed mouthpiece slot flush with the side of the device. You fit the piece over it and it sticks out a little over an inch. The great thing about the design is its simplicity, the body is sleek and all black, and it is fairly easy to hold. I would have like to see a groove or two, but it is not a deal breaker. The LED display leaves a bit to be desired, a simple numbers out affair, reminding me of those old alarm clocks. Considering the quality of the internal components it is perhaps not too surprising that they skimped in this area, as the price is very reasonable.
On the inside we have a fuel cell. The main difference between a fuel cell and a semi conductor, in the breathalyzer world, is the accuracy. Semi conductor solutions have less range when compared to fuel cell solutions, usually only able to tell you if you are high or low. In addition they cannot tell the difference between alcohol particles and other materials, like hair spray or cigarette smoke. Fuel cells activate only in the presence of alcohol, and have a far broader range of differences in resistance level. The fuel cell oxidizes the alcohol that is breathed into the device, and creates resistance on the current, the more alcohol the lower the resistance, and thus the higher the displayed number.
As a mid range device, the AccuMed lacks some of the more advanced features you would see in the upper range, but from a core feature perspective it has it all. An easy to use interface, and a sub 20 second test. Coupled with the fuel cell tech and a low price and we are onto a winner. There are a few downsides. It does not come with batteries, and it uses 3 AAAs. Sure, they’re cheap, and it drives the cost down a little more, but i still would have like to be able to use it straight out of the box, instead of running around the house ripping batteries out of things. As a final note, when you are blowing high the BAC-178 will sound off with a loud beep, making dam sure you know you are not okay to drive.
Overall, I am a fan of the simplicity here. There is plenty of evidence here, letting us know that while the AccuMed BAC-178 is cheap, the core tech is not what was cut. Instead we have a slimmed down build, that does what we need it to do and little else.
AccuMed BAC-178 Professional Testing
Onward to the test itself. The first thing we all do is breath into the device, each with our own mouthpiece of course, and verify that we are sober. I even sprayed a little hair spray around the place to make sure it wasn’t able to pick it up. We all blew a 0, which is a good base line. Next we all had one beer, and tested again, after the allotted wait time. I was ecstatic to see the results were on par with the excellent BACtrack Professional, which I reviewed last week, and significantly more accurate than the Vaster from the week before. We continued with the test regardless, and found our BAC to be within a hundredth of the readers I got from the BACtrack Professional. It just goes to show that the value of that product is in the fuel cell.
Now that I have it established that this is a professional grade breathalyzer I can say unequivocally that yes, it will tell you whether or not you are under the legal limit. But I am a cautious person, not to mention a light drinker, and even where I under the limit I would not risk driving. Granted, I don’t have a license, so buzzed or sober it isn’t a good idea to put me behind the wheel of a car, but even one drink can slow the reactions by a hair, and that it all it takes. Be careful out there.
When it comes to the price point this is one of the better options on the market. You can usually get the AccuMed BAC-178 Professional breathalyzer for under $70 (it tends to vary) so to see the current price at Amazon.com you can click here.
Bear in mind that it comes with no batteries, though most folk have a few scattered around the place, but the most unfortunate cost saving tool they used is in the lack of mouthpieces. You only get two with the build, so you will have to shell out for spares. Again you can grab 10-50 packs of these on Amazon.com right here.
AccuMed BAC-178 Professional Conclusion
As is usual, you have to ask yourself a question when you are thinking about getting a breathalyzer. Do you want it for the peace of mind, for the verification of alcohol consumed, then you will need to buy a fuel cell based, high quality device. The price of the BAC-178 makes it very attractive, and if it ticks all your boxes then by all means go for it. If you see a cheaper build online I implore you to check out the tech behind it. The novelty semi conductor based testers are little more than toys, please do not rely on them for an accurate reading.One final thing, you will need to get this re calibrated after about a year of use, it is pretty cheap though, usually around $20.
There are a few downsides here, the lack of bells and whistles might put some people off. I personally think it is a good thing. They skimped on the unnecessary so as to make the necessary affordable. I am a fan of companion apps though, being able to keep track of your blood alcohol level long term is amazing, so not seeing one here is a little disappointing. Overall, this is a bare bones affair, but one that is better than the vast majority of options, and the one I would recommend to those thinking about getting a cheaper breathalyzer.
Current Deals & Discounts
If you are interested in checking out the AccuMed Professoinal Breathalyzer with all available discounts you can check it out at Amazon.com by clicking here.