Reviewed by Declan Sibley
I have yet to meet anyone who has not been impressed with the Neo Airbrush. Its quality, good performance and excellent price all make it a joy to use. Have Neo and Iwata been able to repeat this balance of value, quality and performance in their new miniature air compressor? Let’s have a look.
Before delving into the small (21xcm 16cm x8cm box) a few words regarding the review. I will be coupling up the Neo Compressor to a Neo airbrush and using Tamiya Acrylics and Humbrol Enamels through the brush to gauge the compressor’s performance. However I am not reviewing anything but the compressor here and will comment only on its performance.
Called Neo Air this miniature compressor comes well packaged in a stout white and black box, inside you receive the compressor, an AC adapter fitted with a three pin plug suitable for UK sockets, a length of air hose and a plastic airbrush holder. These parts are listed on the box outer as well as technical specifications ( see below). The box states that the Neo Air will work with most gravity fed airbrushes and has 3 speeds. On the inside of the box further instructions are written on set up and actions on the compressor failing to start. To protect the motor, the Neo Air compressor will automatically shut-off after 10 minutes of continuous use.
Every item in the set is matt black with white text, the small compressor has a soft ‘gel’ type feel to its surface which is easy to grip and handle with one hand, weighing less than a pound. The plastic airbrush holder clips into the side of the compressor, the AC adapter into a socket on the left side, all pretty standard. The air hose attachment is different though. The compressor has a thin pipe outlet, very similar to an aquarium pump and the air hose has a plain end, not the normal screw thread attachment. The air hose is made of a soft and very flexible vinyl that allows the open end to be pushed onto the pipe out let. This was done with ease and the seal very good. However I wonder on how many times pulling on and off before the air hose starts to degrade? I will be leaving the hose attached, there is enough remove in the box to keep it in place. The brush end of the hose is fitted with a standard Iwata screw fitting. Due to the push fit air hose, if you did want to run a different airbrush then an adapter at the brush end would be the only way to achieve compatibility as you cannot just attach a different hose. The Neo airbrush fitted comfortably in the holder.
Set up took no more than 3 minutes.
The compressor is fitted with a bleed valve which allows the motor to run continuously even when the airbrush trigger is not depressed. That though is the only feature as the set has no gauge, air tank, water-trap or pressure release valve. As a portable budget set this is to be expected and control of air pressure is done by clicking through the main on/off button. Starting (click 1) gives a purple LED lamp and medium power. The brush was immediately ready for use, no time is required to let pressure build. A second click gave high power and a blue LED lamp. Third click was red for low power with a forth click returning the compressor to off. I tried all 3 pressure settings and discovered that there was not much between medium and high though the motor does step up a gear to let you know it’s working harder. The drop in pressure for Low (red) was more noticeable.
The compressor functioned flawlessly and I was able to deliver paint consistently. The Neo airbrush worked well while attached to the compressor. I did not have any delivery related problems caused by air pressure. The flow of air was constant and at whatever setting chosen no variation experienced, I did not get any splattering or spitting caused by intermittent air. I even tried clicking through the settings while the airbrush was operating and found no break in flow as the pressure changed. I found this reassuring as with only a short run time possible with this compressor you wouldn’t want to be wasting time fiddling with the air flow. I did not get any moisture through the airline either, but it was a dry day and not something I normally suffer with my larger compressor. The screw fitting at the airbrush end allows you to fit an in line water trap if you decide to do so.
At no time did the pressure drop or the compressor stutter even when clicking to change the pressure. The little set vibrated quite a lot but didn’t ‘wander’. I did have to check that the cup on my brush was not full of paint though as the vibration was enough to spill a full cup. Noise levels were less than my larger compressor but not the ‘quiet’ as advertised. It certainly wasn’t enough to annoy a neighbor and you could talk comfortably over the sound. Placing it on a soft mat rather than a hard table reduces the noise and vibration.
I timed the compressor and at just over 10 minutes continues running the compressor did shut off. There was a decrease in pressure about 10 seconds before the set shut down. The compressor needs to be left to cool down before restarting; the housing was very warm to touch after being in use for 10 min. The box doesn’t give a rest period but additional instructions from the importer recommend 20 minutes to cool. I was able to get it running again after just 3 minutes but only to test it for this review and would recommend leaving it much longer to cool and prevent damage.
At a price of £99.00 ( Jan 2013- Airbrush Company Ltd) it represents good value as the whole set has a quality feel to it that is not obvious from the on-line pictures. The compressor functioned exactly as described and delivered a steady stream of air.
With only a 10 min run time it is not really for the workshop/ hobby room. Any user must consider clean up time as well as total painting time when contemplating use and therefore a more powerful unit with longer running time may be preferable at only about £30.00 more outlay. However for quick touch up jobs it is ideal. The Neo Air’s real strength is its size and weight. Being so light and small makes it ideal for hobby use when travelling, taking to shows for repairs on club displays or setting up at the end of the kitchen table if modeling areas are restricted.
I would certainly recommend purchasing one to a club, as part of their display repair kit, or to any modeler who juggles travel with model making (I know of some long distance lorry drivers who kit build in their cabs at the end of the driving day). But if it is your first compressor or your new to airbrushing where a lot of time is spent practicing, or if you tackle a lot of painting in a single session I would recommend saving up for something bigger with a longer run time.
Oil less miniature compressor.
Working pressure:- 1- 15 PSI
3 speed selection from On switch.
Approx size 13cm X 9.9cm X 6.5cm.
For a review of the Neo gravity fed airbrush Click Here