Review: Ameo Powerbreather, Over-priced & under-performing

What is the Ameo Powerbreather?

It’s a “revolutionary” …well…snorkel.  You’ve probably seen pics of it online, looking like something a Storm Trooper would wear for a visit to the enlisted clone’s pool on the 745th Lower Deck of the Death Star. Or maybe more like Darth Vader without his helmet.

Maybe…Darth Loneswimmer?

Darth Loneswimmer – “I do not fear the dark water, as you do”. The review was worth doing just to take this photo. I did not crop out the background.

 

Let’s call it the snorkely, which sounds better than Ameo Powerbreather, which is a bit of a mouthful at poolside. (Badum, and we’re off!). Still I suppose funny-looking snorkel might not look great on the label.

Revolutionary is not my choice of term. It’s marketing-speak. Instead of venting the exhaled breath back through the intake tube like a regular snorkel, the Ameo Powerbreather snorkely uses a one-way “patented valve technology” to expel the exhalation into water so fresh air comes in the tubes and exhaled air goes out the valve. Ameo would have you believe this is a big deal.

Why am I reviewing the Ameo Powerbreather?

Because they gave me one to try for free. All my usual caveats were conveyed. I’d say what I thought, when I felt like it, only after I felt I’d done sufficient testing. I think they’d forgotten I’m going to do this, because I don’t rush reviews.

Getting popular bloggers to review product is a key strategy for many smaller companies. The blogger is meant to feel that they are “respected by the industry” through getting free stuff. Because everyone likes free stuff. Since Search Engines rank (genuine) blogs highly, blogs become a source of almost free advertising, which stays in place as long as the blog is active, unlike advertising which has to be paid for to stay active.

So it’s really cheap advertising. But it is certainly the case that many bloggers might be less than completely frank in exchange for the free stuff. They become (drumroll) mouthpieces (yeehah) for the product! And there’s not a lot of free stuff you can give away related to swimming because though free goggles and swimsuits would be great, no-one gives them away, and even if they did, how much would there be to write? I’ve reviewed the Poolmate Swimovate (bought the  first one, got the second for free to review, bought the third one) and my all time favourite swim product the Surf-fur. because I bloody love my Surf-fur.

I’ve also turned down product offers because they aren’t interesting, or in one particular case, I begged the designer to not produce the product, because it would be dangerous. (I believe I was successful).

What do others think?

There are lots of reviews of the Powerbreather online, usually a type of breathless (ha! I’m a terrible punner but I’m on a roll) endorsement. Not one seems to me to be comprehensive. I’ll posit this is for one of two reasons:

1. As mentioned they’ve gotten the product for free, and haven’t thought much about it, or tested long enough.

2. Choice-supportive bias.

You’ll see the usual type of “X says this is great” endorsement. Here I freely admit I’ve never understood why you buy swim caps because they have Michael Phelps printed on them, or buy a super-expensive snorkley because a world champion triathlete is paid to say he uses it. I am apparently not the target demographic, because I use products based on reading, testing and what my friends use. You know… real world considerations.  So, what I really mean, is I don’t understand how so many people are so swayed by marketing. So you can understand I’m not normal in this way, as with so many others.

So if you think because a world champion recommends triathlete this product, it will perfect for you, stop here. If you however are a more ordinary swimmer, maybe want a bit more detail, let’s get on with it, (please do, I almost hear you mutter).

What about regular swim snorkels?

I reviewed a Zoggs centreline swim snorkel a few years ago. I picked that brand because it was the cheapest available then, and I didn’t see the point in overpaying. That is even more relevant in this review. Centreline snorkels are used by swimmers instead of the usual side snorkel intended for well, snorkelers/snorklers? and scuba divers. They reduce drag by putting the snorkel right in front of your face and since it’s so close, it’s not in the way.

Centreline snorkels work, they are simple, good for technique work, and are not perfect and are reasonably-priced.

So what’s so special about the snorkely Ameo Powerbreather?
That one-way technology. You know how you think your TV, phone, shirt, car etc is better only because it has an Sony, Apple, Mercedes, Ralph Lauren logo? This is like that. There are marginal gains, but really, it’s marketing.

The core technology that Ameo touts is just not that important to the swimmer. But I am absolutely sure it will convince many who believe new technology must be better.

Ameo say that the system allows only fresh air in with no build-up of CO2 so you can swim harder, and breathe cleaner. What’s also very different about the snorkely is it’s shape, with two breathing tubes that wrap around the head, instead of one in front as in centreline snorkels.

The Ameo Powerbreather also works, is not as simple, is good for technique work,  is not perfect either and is not reasonably-priced.

 

So how is it used?

The snorkely wraps around your head, while the mouthpiece fits into your gob. Then there’s a screw dial that you tighten to keep the snorkely in place. Yes, really. And nowhere else did I see a mention of the issue with this. And until you try it, you might not either. But it’s absolutely there.

There are also interchangeable caps that fit on the ends to the tube. These come in different lengths, short for pool, long for open water. These are intended to reduce water ingress into the tube from a rough water surface. You can also cap off one of the tubes to reduce air flow to aid in hypoxic training (forcing yourself to improve your cardio-respiratory response by adapting to lower air flow).

It’s used in the same way you’d use any centreline snorkel: For technique work, or for hypoxic training.

Some people consider snorkel are for swimming faster but this is not something I used them for and I disagree with the idea that using technology to aid speed in some way conveys the feeling of speed and will therefore aid in achieving it unassisted. You don’t sit on a scooter to see if you can cycle faster. This might be true for a small number of elite swimmers, but is nonsense for most average swimmers because there are too many other more impoartant technique variables, most of which the swimmer won’t be aware.

Snorkels are great for long kick sets, if you like me find it easier to swim with your head in the water than be bored and slightly uncomfortable when lifting it up. But I haven’t done a kick set in months. So that’s no big deal and the Ameo doesn’t offer any advantage for this.

For technique isolation, then a centreline snorkel is useful, especially in stroke lengthening, pull or rotation.

Originally snorkels were designed for shallow diving assistance. Some people prefer to use swimming snorkels for open water snorkeling. I don’t have any comment on this.

Some people like to use snorkels to allow themselves to swim places of do things they wouldn’t be able to otherwise do without them. This I am less sanguine about. It feels like a triathlete using a wetsuit to get into situations they would be incapable of otherwise. Wetsuits and snorkels are also safety devices but experience has shown me that in many case they are used are crutches to overcome shortcomings.

The Ameo Powerbreather is not unique here, but if you need one to swim open water, then you shouldn’t be swimming open water.

What are the positives and negatives?

The best aspect of the Ameo Powerbreather is that due to the one-way air flow, there is much less aerosolised water in the tube, usually none. So you are not inhaling water spray. Which means you can probably swim harder more comfortably.

I say probably, because in reality and for many repeats 200s and 400s, I found that I could not swim as fast using the Powerbreather as I could with a centreline snorkel or without a snorkel. It may be that because the Powerbreather fits around your head, it adds drag. Look at the picture, my neck isn’t that wide or my head that big.
Using it after a flip turn is different than a centreline snorkel, and which you prefer will be personal. You can clear a standard centreline snorkel with a single explosive exhalation, whereas this did not seem to work with the Powerbreather, which requires a more controlled and sustained exhalation, (which doesn’t work as well with a centreline snorkel). Since I was used to explosive expiration on breakout from using a centreline snorkel, it took me a few hundred metres and an email from Ameo to adjust. And while it may seem like controlled exhalation is better, most swimmers should be capable of this, and either one is not inherently bad.
So what’s the verdict?

Safety: A standard or centreline snorkel mouthpiece is easily removed from the mouth, literally with a spit or opening your mouth. Due to the dial that you tighten, the Powerbreather requires you to rotate the tubes forward slightly then you can remove the mouthpiece. If you pull it without rotating the tubes forward , the whole construction feels like it is screwed onto your head and into your mouth. That’s because it is. What this means for me is that Powerbreather is absolutely not suited to beginners or anyone prone to a little panic.

If for some reason like the aforementioned exhalation restriction, a beginning or improving swimmer floods the tubes, and then tries explosively clearing them, which won’t work, their immediate subconscious move will be to pull it off. And it won’t easily move. It’s clamped in place. Thus leading to the most dangerous emotion for a swimmer, panic. Should this happen in open water the situation can be further exacerbated. And in case you think it wouldn’t be used in this circumstance, try reading some existing Amazon reviews of the product.

Will this happen a lot? I don’t think so. It may never cause a safety incident, but I am absolutely sure that a training toy that can cause panic in swimmers is not good especially if you add possible open water use into that scenario. Ameo will probably say they’ve never heard of this happening.

At this point, because I can anticipate Ameo’s or others objections, I’d like to mention that Swimovate didn’t know that their watch couldn’t count up past 1000 metres continuously until I tested it, or the product I think I stopped because it was so potentially dangerous, or the Pace Watch where I pointed out the flaw with the paint peeling. Swimovate fixed their problem while I was testing, Pace Watch didn’t. One of them no longer produces product. (Can I mention, I’m a product engineer? I build new products. I tear them down to understand how they should be made, I test them, and I I figure out other ways to make them).

However, a traditional or centreline snorkel can be spat from the mouth and the person can immediately inhale.

This snorkel is therefore ABSOLUTELY NOT for beginners or improving swimmers.

I think that the marginal beneficial case for the Powerbreather is experienced swimmers, who want to use it for on technique honing and full effort swimming and to whom the amount of spray in a centreline swimmer’s snorkel is limiting.
On the whole I do not recommend it.

 

I let Ameo know this my overall reaction (without the detail) and the response was gracious, but included “I half suspected as much from […] my earlier attempt to help you with some issues raised at the start as well. If only one of us had been able to be there to swim with you, maybe we could have helped.”

My problems with the Powerbreather don’t come from the questions I raised earlier. Nor from something they think I needed help with.

They come from being an experienced swimmer who thinks that such an expensive piece of equipment should be able to justify its price without personal intervention by the designers and should not pose a potential safety problem. You see, asking world champion swimmers, you can miss these kind of things.

Cost: The Powerbreather is expensive. Like, stupidly expensive. It’s in the same category of stupid swimming expensive as €60 ($70) goggles.

Ameo Powerbreather Wave: Pay more, for even more stuff you don’t need

Brand centreline snorkels costs about €22 / £20 / $26.

An Ameo Powerbreather cost from £90 / €100 / $110 on Amazon for the standard “Sport” edition, to an extraordinary £107 / $150 for the “Wave” edition, which has all the extra tubes and a case. A covered case that retains water. In your swimming kitbag! By the way, there’s an intermediate cost “Lap” edition. By intermediate in cost, I mean in between £90 and £107 at $130.

Early above I mentioned that I felt the reviews might have been affected by choice-supportive bias. This is the simple psychological mechanisam where, having spent a significant sum on something, we insist, mostly to ourselves, that the expenditure justified the result. Like for example, someone spending five times the amount of a centreline snorkel convincing themselves it’s a justified purchase.
For something three to five times more expensive than the tried and proven centreline snorkel, it should be three to fives times as good, and simply, it’s not.

If you want a swimming snorkle, (and they are useful) buy yourself a centreline snorkle.

With the £70 you save, you can donate €5 to the blog, £5 if you are feeling empowered by Brexxit, and  spend the rest on something that will benefit your swimming more, like taking a trip to swim somewhere new, or getting some lessons.

You may choose your preferred spelling of snorkle/snorkel.

Loneswimmer wearing an Ameo Powerbreather snorkely

Darth Loneswimmer – “I am disturbed by your lack of faith“.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Ameo Powerbreather, Over-priced & under-performing

  1. Well I have product-tested this blog thoroughly and I find it excellent value. Admittedly, it’s free, but that’s neither here nor there. We’ll be in Copper Coast Country in a few weeks, and will definitely get in for a swim. I will probably have a wetsuit, but no snorkel/snorkle.
    (It’s from the German ‘schnorchel’, and I wouldn’t mess with that. Definitely snorkel for me)

    Like

  2. I’m American, and I’ve never seen that spelling either.

    Thanks for this review. I’m training for my first marathon swim and am at the point where some gear is useful (swim watch with GPS, Tempo Trainer, prescription goggles) and some is definitely not (underwater music players). This is helpful.

    Like

    • I’ve seen the distinction in at least one reference, but who really knows? I mean, who really knows anything with the state of chassis we are all enduring, anything except this: I swim.

      Like

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