Pros: Outstanding build quality, excellent optics and superb ergonomics in a very affordable package. Image is crisp, bright and clear in the centre of the field, with plenty of detail and good contrast.
Cons: Softening around the field edges is noticeable when panning with a moving subject or scanning a large area and can be a little distracting. While the HD handles chromatic aberration admirably for a non-ED binocular, it is visible in some high contrast scenes.
Price: RRP €369 at time of writing — available for €290 via the Birdwatch Ireland Shop.
Rating: Highly Recommended
The Frontier HDX is, very simply, a Non-ED version of Hawke’s flagship Frontier EDX range. As such the HDX shares many characteristics with its high-performance sibling, but at a significantly reduced price point. If you’re on a budget the Frontier HDX offers the same outstanding build quality, superb ergonomics and excellent optics (without the ED Glass, of course) and delivers exceptional all-around performance for the price. The 8×32 configuration we tested here is a wonderfully compact and portable binocular. It would make a fantastic second pair for travel, or for carrying with you when a larger pair of bins simply isn’t practical. It would also make a very capable primary birding and wildlife binocular if you’re looking for something lightweight in terms of both bulk and budget.
Check out the full specs and information on the Hawke Frontier HDX 8×32 on the Hawke UK website.
Hawke Frontier HDX 8×32 Full Review
When I reviewed the Hawke Frontier EDX 8×42 earlier this year everything about the binocular impressed. It was frankly hard to fathom how Hawke had crammed so many premium high-end features into such a well-crafted binocular and managed to deliver it at a price point that sits squarely in the mid-range.
The Frontier HDX is the EDX’s lower-priced sibling, offering many of the same great features at an even lower price point.
The only real difference between them, spec-wise, is that the HDX doesn’t use extra-low-dispersion glass in the objective lens elements. As far as I can tell the build quality, materials, and the rest of the optical system are identical.
Balance, handling and build quality
I observed in my review of the Frontier EDX that Hawke had “taken a significant step towards narrowing that gap” in terms of build quality, design and attention-to-detail between their best binoculars and those of more premium brands. That same build quality is evident in the HDX. It employs the same contemporary single-hinge design, and in the 32mm configuration is even more compact. In fact, it’s smaller than most 32mm binoculars I’ve used and is similar in size to the increasingly popular semi-compact 30mm binoculars like Swarovski’s CL Companion range or the fantastic Kite Lynx HD (my lightweight choice for travel).
The high-spec magnesium-alloy chassis means the Frontier HDX feels remarkably light given the solidity and quality of its construction. At just 540g it’s very comfortable to carry around and use in the field for long periods. In fact, you pretty much forget you have it until you need it, which is perhaps the best accolade you can give a lightweight binocular.
Rubber armour covers the metal chassis, making it very comfortable to hold and of course, protecting the binocular from knocks in the field. The matt, slightly textured finish to the armour looks great, but more importantly serves a practical purpose, providing a positive grip. Strategically placed ridges in the armour augment the grip further. Like its sibling, the Frontier HDX is a binocular that’s both easy-on-the-eye and easy to handle.
The only difference I can see between the central focus wheel on the Frontier HDX compared to the EDX is the underlying colour of the metal, which is black powder-coated on the HDX as opposed to the brushed silver. If anything the black is preferable in a wildlife observation instrument, as it’s one less thing to glint in the sunlight and potentially alert wary animals to your presence.
The wheel sports the same knurled rubber bands for grip, and the focus is quick, fluid and accurate, with about 1.25 anti-clockwise turns from a specified close-focus of 2.5m (8.2ft) to infinity. In practice, focusing on the HDX is identical to the EDX model and ranks among the best focus mechanisms I’ve used on any binocular.
As usual with Hawke binoculars, you’ll find the dioptre adjustment wheel under the right eyepiece and as with the focus wheel, the only difference between the HDX and EDX is the black rather than silver trim. It turns smoothly and stays put once set, but there is no locking mechanism, so there’s always the risk of moving the dioptre accidentally. There is an arrow, + and – sign on the rubber armour beneath the dial and a mark on the dial itself that allows you to note it’s position.
Eye Cups and Eye Relief
The twist-up rubber-coated metal eyecups of the Frontier HDX are superbly made. The mechanism is smooth and precise, with three positions: fully down, fully up and one intermediate stop. The tapering of the rubber eyecup I noted on the larger 42mm EDX is even more evident on the HDX, and if anything ads to both the comfort of using them and the ease with which you can flick off the eyepiece rain-guard. That seems a small thing but can make all the difference in the world to a binocular’s usability in the field.
Quoted eye relief for the 8×32 Frontier HDX is 16mm, which should work for most glasses wearers. If you need longer eye-relief the 42mm model offers a very generous 18mm.
The Frontier HDX, as you would expect, is fully sealed and nitrogen purged to ensure it is waterproof, dust-proof and impervious to internal fogging.
Every Hawke binocular I’ve tried has punched above its weight in terms of optical performance for the price, and the Frontier HDX is no exception.
Image quality and field of view
The view through the Hawke Frontier HDX 8×32 is bright and clear, with lots of detail in the centre of the wide field of view (135m/1000m/c.7.7°). While there is plenty of fine detail in the main subject area in the centre of the field, the Frontier HDX 8×32 is softer around the periphery. That softening doesn’t detract from a static view, but it is noticeable, and a little distracting, when panning with a moving subject or scanning and area. Overall the Frontier HDX offers a very good viewing experience, especially considering its price point. It’s a binocular that more than holds its own with similarly priced competition and can rival some significantly more expensive alternatives.
Colour Fidelity, contrast and chromatic aberration
Colours through the Frontier HDX appear neutral, and I couldn’t detect any significant colour bias. Contrast is very good, delivering vibrant, detailed images and allowing you to see subtle differences in tone and hue while retaining a natural feel. Lacking the ED glass of the EDX, the Frontier HDX isn’t quite as good at controlling colour fringing (chromatic aberration). That said, the HDX still performs admirably in this department. Colour fringing was only visible if I looked for it while purposely viewing very high-contrast scenes. In normal birding use, I didn’t notice it at all.
Low light performance and coatings
As with all decent binoculars today, the Hawke Frontier HDX is fully multi-coated, with multiple layers of high-transmission, anti-reflective coatings applied to all glass surfaces within the optical system. They also include phase-correcting coatings and highly reflective dielectric mirror coatings on the roof prisms. The Frontier HDX is an extremely bright binocular for its size that, for a 32mm, delivers excellent performance well into twilight.
Hawke has also included a special protective coating to the outer lens surfaces of the Frontier HDX, shielding the more delicate coatings underneath, and repelling water and dirt, making the lenses easier to clean. It’s a big plus on a binocular at this price point.
The Hawke Frontier HDX comes with all the usual accessories you’d expect when you buy a high quality binocular. There’s a very comfortable neoprene padded strap; a smart high quality padded case for storing your binoculars in when not in use, tethered objective lens covers, a decent eyepiece rainguard and a lens cleaning cloth. You’ll also find a user guide and a warranty card in the box.
The Frontier HDX is covered by Hawkes incredible No-Fault Lifetime Warranty — which means that if your binocular is damaged or defective for whatever reason, regardless of what happened or whose fault it was, Hawke will repair or replace it free of charge, for life. It’s one of the best warranties in the industry and proof that Hawke really believes in the quality and longevity of its products.
The Frontier HDX is an excellent binocular. The ergonomics and handling match that of the more expensive EDX, and the 8×32 form factor is a joy to carry and use. Optically it doesn’t quite match its more expensive ED sibling, but it’s really very far behind either. It’s a binocular that offers fantastic value, looks superb, uses the highest quality materials in its construction and delivers in terms of optical performance too. Hawke, once again, delivers in spades on the price-performance ratio of its products, and as with the EDX, the Frontier HDX shows a refinement in the finished product that was perhaps lacking in earlier models.
If you have a little more budget to play with, then it’s worth going for the edge in performance offered by Frontier EDX, but if funds are tight, and you’re looking for the absolute best bang for the buck, then you’ll be more than happy with a pair of Hawk Frontier HDX.
From the manufacturer’s website:
Nitrogen Purged – Waterproof and Fog Proof.
I’d like to thank Hawke Optics for providing the Frontier HDX 8×32 for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer and all reviews on the site are completely independent and objective. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.