None (Upgrades quickly get into cost of vastly better marker)
Shoots good for the $
First a bit of context: I purchased an Ion XE after realizing that mil-sim markers are stupid. I love woodsball but gained no benefit from a heavy, bulky marker whose key features were to be designed like a battlefield rifle (which are designed to contend with issues such as aiming at long range, recoil, heat dissipation, among others which dictate there shape, feel, and design) which a paintball marker clearly is not.
The Ion XE is a light, simple, clean marker which outperforms pretty much all the milsim markers out there (except maybe BTs new Invert Mini based marker). It is durable, can survive being rained on, bashed into trees, fallen on, rolled over, or pretty much anything reasonable you can throw at it. As long as its cleaned, and all the fittings are tight its never had issues.
- The Bolt out back is great. I've seen how older ions are serviced and this is vastly superior. I also take a key interest at the field in how other markers come apart, and I've seen a few equal, but non-exceed the Ion XEs simplicity.
- The Ion XE's design is simply elegant. There are really only 2 major moving parts, the bolt and the solenoid. Two screws get you into the real meat of the marker if you have any desire too and your presented with a few fittings, some hoses, a solenoid, and the eyes. Thats about it.
- for the price, the Ion XE shoots incredibly well without any upgrades. The Ion XE will outshoot stock 90% of the markers that hit the woodsball field. Balls fly reasonable strait with no breaks and the stock regulator sees about + or - 5fps on the field crono once broken in. Another 5% of those markers (low end protos, minis, and the like) it will compete with, but wont quite match. Meanwhile the last 5% of those markers will totally destroy it, but most cost a anywhere from $500-$1200 more. I have seen some higher end guns fire faster, with a more linear flight path, more consistently, and at longer ranges. I have had high-end markers hit me five times in the same two inch circular spot on my hand through a small window at a steep angle at ranges that the Ion XE was only able to respond with a two to three foot diameter firing circle in return, despite having a easier firing window. If you have the extra 150 maybe get a Invert Mini or Dangerous Powers G3 or something on those lines. If you have the other 1200, I do not really feel qualified to recommend, but maybe an Ego. If you do not, the Ion XE is great.
- I've never had a failure of the ion that was not caused by me. So the reliability is great. I've never had to leave it in my equipment box to grab another marker.
- Eyes do wonders, apart from maybe the SP Vibe/ SP-1's low pressure bolt system, I wouldn't own a marker without them. Ability to turn them off on the fly is a bonus.
- The Air Efficiency of the Ion XE is not bad, its just not amazing. I use a 68/4500 HP tank with my ion, always filled to the top. I normally carry 4 pods and a hopper about 700 paintballs. I can fire all of them and still have 1000PSI left. So thats about 200 paintballs fired per 1000PSI. Not too shabby really. I have never counted, but the Ion XE will fire a fair amount of paint on that last 1000PSI of air without issue or visible drop-off till the tank hits just a hair over whatever pressure you have your regulator set to (mines usually running around 180PSI for 280fps) . Then things fall apart quite rapidly. So you might be able to get away with a smaller tank, and the same amount of paint that I carry.
- Watch out for the Body. The Body is a very strong plastic and rubber housing for the breach of the gun, and also serves as an attachment for the feed neck and frame. All the while holding the dents and the eyes into the breach. Its an effective system but has a few minor issues to watch out for. If you let either of the two screws at the front or rear of it get lose it can slide a little. This can produce a lip between the body and the breach at the feed neck that balls can be caught on and thus not feed smoothly into the marker.
- I pretty much clean my marker before I take it out on the field. I play about twice a month. Over the past 9 months my Bolt Out Back has gotten well scuffed, but this is purely a cosmetic issue.
- A lot of people seem to hate this pressure fitting feed neck. I really like it. Its simple, has no bolts that can come loose (and thus lost) like clamping feed-necks, and holds my hopper insanely tight. A little to tight as it turns out. Despite removing one o-ring to loosen the fit, lubricating the feed neck to ease hopper removal, and sanding down my Halo B's feed-neck, I have managed to break the threadlock that holds it in. Not a major problem at all, as you simple screw the feed-neck back in, but its annoying when you unscrew your feed-neck while trying to wrestle your hopper on. The manual clearly states that you should only turn the hopper counter-clockwise during removal to prevent just this problem, but I have had my hopper so utterly stuck, that I had to wiggle it out thus breaking the threadlock.
- The Micro Line fittings are apparently threadlocked in with some incredibly strong stuff (red threadlock?). I attempted to remove the fitting from the bottom of my regulator and totaly destroyed the soft brass fitting without getting it off. That was a $45 dollar mistake as I have to replace that part of the regulator, at that price I might as well spend the other $30 and get a new one.
- I also think the Micro Line is ugly and could be streamlined better as seen on the EOS/Vibe/SP-1. The EOS/Vibe/SP-1 has it strait down the centerline with very nice fittings. This doesn't get in the way, and I think looks better. Its a minor annoyance.
- I do not like the fact that I need a wrench to adjust my regulators output pressure. Every other marker on the planet uses a hex wrench, not to mention that every other part of the ion is serviced with a hex wrench. Its just one more tool I have to carry. And again, the EOS/Vibe/SP-1 all have hex wrench based adjustments, which is a much nicer looking system, and quite frankly easier to use.
-The Dents work just fine, but the rubber wears down fairly fast, requiring replacement, which could be a hassle for the technically unadventurous.
- The stock battery is absolute rubbish. This seems to be a major issue with smart parts products in general. I have known quite a few people who thought there marker was broken (me included, twice!), because of this foul battery. The marker simply does not operate with it. It will fail to cycle and appear to get jammed. I suggest a campaign: everyone should send the battery back to smart parts and demand they pay to recycle this battery that seems to have no purpose apart from helping destroy the planet. They really should save themselves some money, there customers the technical difficulty, and there tech support guys a lot of phone calls and simply not include this useless battery. If I knew how to put this in giant bold text I would, in hopes smart parts would read it, and act! Note: I really do know how to put this in giant bold text, but its against my sensibilities.
- Stock On/Off Switch, Oh how do I hate the. The Stock On/Off switch is simply a printed plastic sticker with a bump of soft rubber glued to both sides. One on the exterior of the marker to give you something to press on, and one on the interior of the marker to push down on the micro-switch. Unfortunately, its is insanely hard to press. The only way I could do it on my marker was with my fingernail, which quickly destroyed the soft rubber. Then it begins to slide off the marker as paintball goo eats away at the adhesive. Ultimately forcing you to get a new one at some insidious cost (~$10 for a upgraded one). And if you think I'm starting to rant I haven't even begun! Ok, lets look at this from a manufacturing standpoint. Other smart parts markers have a very simple, good feeling, good looking, small, and durable plastic button. This button is most likely made via plastic injection molding. A one step process. Meanwhile, smart parts has to pay someone to print in mass the plastic power switch sheet found on the Ion XE, then cut it out, then glue two rubber nubs on it, then apply adhesive. Printing in itself is expensive. I cannot imagine that it is more cost effective to make this dysfunctional glorified sticker than it is to mold the lovely little plastic button thats found on basically all their other markers. A button that fits into the Ion XE with zero modification and is sold as an upgrade. The only advantage to them is to ripping off their customers to sell a $10 pice of plastic, a bad ploy, as it seems most paintball stores do not seem to carry smart parts upgrade button and instead carry the numerous alternate 3rd party replacements; which are in of themselves slightly more glorified stickers. Smart Parts, I plead with you, get rid of this button. If I knew how to make this any more scathing I would.
- The Micro-switch method of programing your marker is obtuse at best. Anything that requires you to press something with 'micro' in its name a billion times while trying to interpret the flashing of equally microscopic lights; all the while counting how many billion times you pressed it, and multiply some number in your head to determine how many fractions of a second you just adjusted your dwell, only to realize you accidently had it on the wrong adjustment mode, and screaming as you attempt to re-input the factory defaults by repeating the process over again isn't a good thing.
-The Trigger is sloppy but functional. Unfortunately as its made of , what to be fair is a strong, plastic with a hole drilled into it at a particularly vulnerable point so an adjustment screw could be placed into it; mine broke at said point when it was hit by a paintball. Frankly, the best thing that ever happened to my marker, as the metal replacement trigger I replaced it with is quite posh.
- Lastly, you can dump insane amounts of money into upgrading an Ion, or for that matter any other marker. Just make sure you realize that after a handful of even some of the cheeper upgrades (QEV ~ $20 ~ $30 feed neck, ~$30 trigger, ~ $10 switch, ~$50 bolt for a total of ~$140 ), plus the Ion XE ( ~$270) your already to the price of a higher end marker that will probably be better out of the box than the upgraded Ion XE. In-fact, that plus a better electronics kit (~$140 for a total upgrade cost of ~$280 and the Ion XE for ~ $270 = ~ $550 ) are the cost of a better marker and another nice toy! Simply put buy the Ion XE for what it is, not for what it can be.
Overall the Ion XE is a good, reliable, fairly sturdy marker, with excellent performance to cost. Although perhaps not class leading, it holds its own against even marginally more expensive markers. Overall I'm very satisfied, apart from the inexcusably bad battery and criminally ineffective power switch. That being said, there are vastly better markers on the market, but they are also had for more money. If you want one of these better markers, do not buy an Ion XE with the plan of upgrading it into one, the cost of doing so adds up at an incredible rate, and there is just no sense at making a good marker into a great marker, when you could almost have had had both at the same cost. Get the Ion XE for what it is, a very competent marker for ~$275.
8 out of 10
Last edited on Sunday, August 24th, 2008 at 1:34 am PST