This week, I’m taking a look at a humidor staple that isn’t made of tobacco: The Western Humidor Caliber 4R hygrometer. Ordinarily, we don’t talk about hygrometers very much, because, let’s face it, they’re necessary but boring. Or at least that was my opinion until I spotted the Caliber 4R in the Cigar Oasis booth at IPCPR 2012. It’s essentially a digital hygrometer that looks a great deal like the traditional round analog, along with a few colorful updates.
Originally slated for release late in 2012, the Caliber 4R hit the market in February of this year. The press release implies that additional tweaking may have been responsible for the delays. Here’s an excerpt:
Now we are pleased to announce the release of the Caliber 4R. This hygrometer utilizes the same sensor, circuitry and calibration as the Caliber IV but in a design that will knock your socks off! Imagine a round hygrometer with the classic looks of an analog but powered by the advanced, accurate digital electronics of the Caliber line!
Once again we did our homework and resisted the urge to bring a round digital to market too quickly. We didn’t want to produce just another regular digital display surrounded by a lot of ugly plastic. Instead we wanted to come up with a style that you would be proud to put in your humidor, accenting the time honored style that the analog hygrometer exudes.
The addition to these new features was done without any compromises on features or quality. Both the Caliber IV and the Caliber 4R retain their legendary accuracy and are designed to eliminate gauge flutter with slow response updating time. Both still display humidity and temperature readings, have the ability to record maximum and minimum readings and can be set to display in either Celsius and Fahrenheit scales.
And before we evaluate the hygrometer, here are the features as listed on the packaging:
- User calibratable with easy to use digital set button.
- ZX circuit technology prevents false readings.
- Advanced humidity sensor maintains accuracy to +/- 1% @ 70% RH.
- Fahrenheit/Celsius switchable.
- High/Low memory for humidity and temperature.
- New round design with secure magnetic mount.
And now for my thoughts on the Caliber 4R:
It handles both humidity and temperature in a space efficient manner, and should fit into most humidors with a built in hygrometer recess or hole.
It was pretty accurate right out of the box and pretty easy to calibrate. The display adjusts reasonably quickly to changes in temperature and humidity. Like taking it out of the humidor, or moving it from one humidor to the other.
It appears to have a decent battery life. I’ve had it in use for 3 months and it shows no signs of dimming or inaccuracy. (Of course, I’ve found most digital hygrometers are good for at least a year on a battery.)
I like the new take on the generally unexciting digital hygrometer. Not only is it more interesting to look at, it’s very cigar newbie friendly. One glance is all it takes to determine if your humidity is in the danger zone.
The high and low readings are a plus, but not a feature I use all that often. It could be very useful in checking out the performance of a humidification system that runs automatically. (Or if you use a climate controlled storage system like a Vintotemp to store your cigars, to check its temperature stability.)
All the features appeared to work as advertised on the packaging.
The digital display isn’t always easy to read. From some angles you see all positions of the “needle”. (The pictures I took exaggerate that effect, it was difficult to find the right angle and lighting.) That being said, it is easier to read from a distance than the prototype I saw at IPCPR 2012. (Though this means the face isn’t solid black like the prototype.)
There are smaller and less expensive options out there that will give you both temperature and humidity.
Thoughts and Ideas
While I think the Caliber 4R is just fine as is, it’s in my nature to think about ways it could be improved. And the first one that comes to mind is use of LED lighting. I’ve found that with good lighting, no obstructions, and the right angle, I could read the Caliber 4R from around 15 feet away. (I may be able to figure out where the needle was pointing from a little further.) If LED’s were to backlight the appropriate humidity color region, you’d be able to tell in poorer lighting conditions if all was well, even if the exact humidity was unclear.
Alternately, for enhanced readability from all angles, it would be interesting to see if the application of the eInk technology used by some ebook readers could be applied to this format.
Another interesting take on this concept would be the dual needle interface, with one half showing humidity, and the other half showing temperature, both color coded. Because like humidity, there is a definite temperature green zone for cigars. Especially if you’d like to avoid those nasty beetles.
Again, this section is merely captures a few thoughts I had during my use of the Caliber 4R is not intended to be read as criticism of the product.
I give the Western Humidor Caliber 4R a thumbs up. The next time I’m in the market for a new hygrometer, I’m buying one. It does everything I need it to do, with all the accuracy of a digital hygrometer while looking better than most (perhaps all) digital hygrometers I’ve seen. As I mentioned in the cons section, it is a little more expensive than some other options out there, but only a little. For a very occasional purchase, it’s worth a few extra bucks to get something that you’ll enjoy seeing when you inspect your humidor.