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BD X4, ongoing real-world review (will update over time)
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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Jun 12, 2013
Caprinae monkey wrote:
Where do you get all your inside information!?!? First you know about the last min design change on the mastercam, now you know why the trigger wires are the way they are. And, you got pre-production X4s!


i used to work in the industry and have alot of friends there as well. i try to keep up on most things, as its totally fascinating stuff!

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By shoo
Jun 12, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
divnamite wrote:
Do you have the rated strength for Alien or the max strenght of X4?


fixehardware.com/shop/cch-alie...

Click technical info for CE rated strengths. This is assuming that the BD reported rating is the UIAA/CE rating system (someone else can confirm).

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By shoo
Jun 13, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
OP delivers! Some follow-up: Rain/work/other have so far prevented climbing. This will be rectified this weekend. In the meantime, I'm following up with some pictures and follow-up from discussion here.

1) As mentioned previously, the x4s are prone to kinking where the stem meets the thumb loop. The next few pics will show why. Note that the below was achieved just by bending by hand, and was easily reversible to be (mostly) straight again. This was NOT from actual falling or hanging.
Kinking x4s.
Kinking x4s.

The issue is primarily with BD's stem/thumb loop interface. In aliens and mastercams, this is achieved with a side-by-side cable swage. The (very minor) issue with this is that it leaves the stem off-center from the thumb loop. BD attempted to fix this a bit with a bit of metal work, as seen below.
.3 BD x4, stem/thumb loop interface.
.3 BD x4, stem/thumb loop interface.

While this is clever, it has two problems:

Problem 1: The kinking. Oh god the kinking. You can see from the picture that the cable has room to move leftward, and it does. And it gets stuck there. You can easily bend it back, but it's kinda silly to have in the first place. Comparison with mastercam:
Stem/thumb loop interface, mastercam vs. x4
Stem/thumb loop interface, mastercam vs. x4

This likely could have been solved had BD not left a huge empty gap, and had the stem fixed at the thumb loop termination. Seems like a bit of filler solder would have worked wonders there. Construction-wise, looks like cable is soldered instead of swaged, and there may be a technical reason why this can't be done with the head design. Someone with more experience with this stuff should chime in here, cause I am talking directly out of my ass.

It should be noted that I did not find that this interfered with the trigger pull in any way, since the entire trigger assembly is above the kink point.

Problem 2:, for the smaller sizes, there isn't enough room to keep the cable centered, as seen below. I don't really know why they had to make the thumb loop thinner for the smaller sizes, but they did.
BD .2 x4 stem/thumb loop interface
BD .2 x4 stem/thumb loop interface

Next up: the thumb itself. Mastercam seems to have an edge here too. The mastercam's thumb spot is wider and flatter and lacks that weird center ridge. Picture illustrates what I mean
Mastercam on top, x4 on bottom.
Mastercam on top, x4 on bottom.

As far as I am concerned, the thumb loop is better in the mastercam in pretty much every way. The centering piece on the x4s makes them prone to kink and doesn't do anything at all in the large sizes. It remains to be seen how permanent those kinks might be. This is a potential durability issue, and I'm a little disappointed.

But wait, that's not all. Time to compared the tops in the next post.

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By Jonathan Dull
From Boone, NC
Jun 13, 2013
Upper pitches on Crescent Tower, Bugaboos.
Were you placing and weighting all those pieces? Did you try to bend it back into place?

Also, thanks for the detailed review! Great Info.

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By shoo
Jun 13, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
Jonathan Dull wrote:
Were you placing and weighting all those pieces? Did you try to bend it back into place? Also, thanks for the detailed review! Great Info.


You can bend it back and forth by hand, no weight needed. As I mentioned, it remains to be seem whether repeated bending will make a more permanent kink.

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By Jake Jones
From Richmond, VA
Jun 13, 2013
Me and the offspring walking back to the car after...
shoo wrote:
You can bend it back and forth by hand, no weight needed.


I think he was asking how all the cams got bent to begin with. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned (I think) that there was a kink in one that wasn't caused by weighting it while placed or falling on it. This seems like an issue that should have been discovered during QC and before they went out.

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By shoo
Jun 13, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
Jake Jones wrote:
I think he was asking how all the cams got bent to begin with. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned (I think) that there was a kink in one that wasn't caused by weighting it while placed or falling on it. This seems like an issue that should have been discovered during QC and before they went out.


I bent them by hand to take the picture, and then I bent them back by hand. Edited post to make this more clear.

It seems like you are unlikely to be able to produce the same results by hanging/falling on them, since you'll be pulling in line with the stem. Remains to be seen if this is a real issue or not.

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By squiddo
From Mountain View, CA
Jun 13, 2013
A fine day at Reeds- Ejesta!
thanks for the review- very helpful. Though not making me run out to buy X4's anytime soon.

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By shoo
Jun 13, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
A few more comparisons below:

Length:
Ladies, take note.
Ladies, take note.

The x4s have two lengths, with the smallest two sizes being much shorter than the rest. Note that the biggest sizes are significantly longer than their c4 counterpart.

Head width:
Let's start with the good stuff. The x4 heads are WAY thinner than the c4's. Yes, those are the same exact sized cams in x4 and c4. Crazy.
c4 vs. x4 head widths
c4 vs. x4 head widths

Unsurprisingly, c3 still wins in the narrowest head department.
c3 vs x4 head width
c3 vs x4 head width

Slightly surprisingly, the x4's head appears to be a touch wider than a similar mastercam. The trade-off is that the x4 has substantially more metal on the rock.
mastercam vs x4 head width
mastercam vs x4 head width

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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Jun 13, 2013
OTL
We'll assume that if we don't get an update, then we should avoid buying them.

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By Chris Cavallaro
Jun 13, 2013
I'm thinking on getting either the X4 or C4 (sizes .5 & .75) or the mastercam red.

Thoughts on one over the other? I know there are a lot of opinions on this thead, but I guess I'm hoping for a cut n dry opinion please.

I'm leaning towards the BD, but cant find the X4 anywhere. So, I'm confident I will be happy with the C4s in the .5 & .75 sizes?

Thoughts please?

Thanks in advance everyone!

Edit to Add; those pictures of bent x4 cams have me quite concerned.

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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Jun 13, 2013
OTL
Chris Cavallaro wrote:
I'm thinking on getting either the X4 or C4 (sizes .5 & .75) or the mastercam red. Thoughts on one over the other? I know there are a lot of opinions on this thead, but I guess I'm hoping for a cut n dry opinion please. I'm leaning towards the BD, but cant find the X4 anywhere. So, I'm confident I will be happy with the C4s in the .5 & .75 sizes? Thoughts please? Thanks in advance everyone! Edit to Add; those pictures of bent x4 cams have me quite concerned.


Chris, I think these were going to be your first purchase in that size, correct? If so, C4s are great. Buy them on sale and get the .5 and .75.
When you have the $/need for doubles, look into a Red MC (kinda fits inbetween) or doubles w/ X4s.

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By Taylor-B.
From CO & AK
Jun 13, 2013
Mountain Bandito
+1 for Aliens and off-set aliens.

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By shoo
Jun 17, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
Quicky update from the weekend:

Got to climb a fair bit this weekend, took a few whippers on the .5. The first time was placed a touch too widely, and then a few times in a textbook placement after adjusting it a bit. Nothing terribly exciting happened (i.e. it held, just like it's made to). Again, the only interesting info is how well they hold better in marginal placements, so nothing new learned here.

Worth noting that no kinking occurred as a result of a fall. I wouldn't really expect it to, since the thumb loop and stem are directly in line in a fall. The stem has to bend in a different direction to the thumb loop assembly in order for the cable to be kinked, so this is only likely to occur if loaded oddly. Might be more of an issue for aid climbers?

Also worth noting that, like mastercams and aliens, placing the x4s takes a bit more finesse than c4s, in part due to the stiffness of the cable. Example: placing from a hard layback, I could reliably blindly place a small c4 in a place where I know it will fit, partially because you get a bit of feedback to your hand through the stem. Same placement with an x4 takes a bit more effort. Nothing big, and nothing unexpected.

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By Eric and Lucie
From Boulder, CO
Jun 18, 2013
I finally got to play (in the store) with a Blue X4 the other day. I had my green and yellow Totem Basic cams (aka improved Aliens) to compare to. Here are some observations.

First off, let me be clear about one thing, because I keep noticing a lot of confusion about this from many people: Totem Basics/Aliens are NOT the same as the Fixe models: the Fixe Alien is an exact copy of the CCH design; Totem on the other hand made a few minor but very valuable improvements to the design, the most important of which is reducing the bulk of the axle end piece, which reduced head width by a few mms. I also find the Totems to be better made that the Fixe and to operate more smoothly. And, the Totem units were $20 cheaper than the Fixe, but are now going up in price by $10, which BTW will put them at the same price point as the X4.

Now for my impressions when comparing the BD X4 with the Totem Basics (let me emphasize again: NOT the Fixe Aliens):
  • the blue X4 is somewhere between the green and yellow Totem Basic; the narrow end of the X4 is about the same as the narrow end of the green Basic, but its wide end is slightly larger; this is probably the result of the steeper cam angle on the X4, and - to a lesser extent - the stacked axle design.
  • the head of the Totem Basic is a bit narrower than that of the X4 (sorry, no pics)
  • the stem of the Basic is a LOT more flexible than that of the X4; somehow, despite this, the X4 seemed a lot more prone to kinking in your hand while pulling the trigger. I never had any issue with this with any of the Alien designs (Totems or CCHs), but noticed it immediately when I played with the X4.
  • the X4 is noticeably heavier than the Totem. I did not have a scale handy so I cannot be more specific.
  • the ergonomics of the X4 thumb piece is a nice plus for the X4 (but probably adds a bit of weight too, and - I suspect - may contribute to the tendency for the stem to kink when pulling the trigger, because it makes it easier for your thumb to push off-center)
  • the internal cam lobe spring design of the Alien is much more elegant than that of the X4
  • the X4's symmetric swage feature is pure PR gimmic IMO (makes no difference whatsoever... or actually causes issues with stem kinking... see previous posts)
  • the stacked axle is a clever idea but probably makes little practical difference in the end: the radial separation is simply too small
  • the armored trigger sleeve is pretty but not useful IMO: I've used aliens for years and never had any issue with abrasion. It might be a worthwhile feature for aid climbing though... but it adds some weight.

Bottomline: the X4 is a very sexy, well finished piece of gear. It is fundamentally a prettied up Alien. Functionally though, I think the Totem Alien has the advantage (narrower head, more flexible stem, lighter). I am going to stick with the Totem Basics, especially if they start making the smaller size (old blue Alien) again.

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By The Blueprint Part Dank
From FEMA Region VIII
Jun 25, 2013
Bummed
I bout e .75 size before a trip to RMNP this weekend. Overall, I'm incredibly impressed. Smooth action on the trigger and nice narrow head width. My girlfriend pointed out to me that the longer stem made it easier for her to get to the trigger when cleaning the cam. However, I'm reserving my opinion until I get the .1 size, I hardly ever take my 00 Master Cam with me while climbing because I find the range to be nearly useless while free climbing. But looking at the .1 at Neptune Mountaineering, I think I could actually make that a key component to my rack.

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By shoo
Jul 2, 2013
Rock wars, Red River Gorge
Just as an FYI, I'm going on a longish road trip in a few weeks, in which I expect to climb nearly every day if possible. I'll give a full update when I get back (end of August). Should have a good sense of durability by the time I return.

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By trese
From Boulder and Innsbruck, Austria
Jul 4, 2013
Tyrol
Two of our X4s also got bent without weighting them at all.

x4 bent stem
x4 bent stem


x4 bent
x4 bent

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By Neal Pence
Jul 4, 2013
out of curiousity did u do that by hand?

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By trese
From Boulder and Innsbruck, Austria
Jul 4, 2013
Tyrol
They were kinked like that after climbing - no falls and no aiding.

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By NorCalNomad
From San Francisco
Jul 4, 2013
Just fucking move them back by hand, it's not like it takes any force/ effort at all.

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By Jesse Newton
From catskills
Jul 4, 2013
slide mtn, 4180 catskills
any close up pics? I'm really interested in the overall perfromance of these in terms of durability. seems like a slight oversight by BD, will they have second gen?

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By trese
From Boulder and Innsbruck, Austria
Jul 4, 2013
Tyrol
NorCalNomad wrote:
Just fucking move them back by hand, it's not like it takes any force/ effort at all.


Oh really?!? It was just an observation that people may be interested in.

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By Neal Pence
Jul 4, 2013
If it makes people feel any better U CAN MOVE THEM BACK EASILY BY HAND and when u fall on them, since the force is directed straight down the stem into the sling it wont normally kink unless placed very awkwardly. Ive got friends that have put 30 plus pitches on them and they have told me that when they have seldomly kinked due to odd loading when aid climbing they have if bad enough fixed the bend by hand.

In terms of durability theyre like the c4's. IMO theyre the tank version of the Aliens.

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By Eric and Lucie
From Boulder, CO
Jul 5, 2013
These stems should not kink that easily. There must be something off with the quality of the cable BD uses. I'd be a bit worried if they kinked regularly and you had to bend them back by hand. Plastic deformation in metals cannot be repeated ad infinitum...
I think someone should talk to BD about this (I don't own any X4s so it won't be me ;-) )

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