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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Flagging options were marginally more confusing at first, Harder during fine search than other beacons we tested.
The Neo is one of the highest scoring beacons in our review and winner of our OutdoorGeaLab Top Pick award for being the best option available between $300-$400. The Arva Neo is a solid product, that because of its intuitive controls and functions is suitable for everyone from fairly novice to very advanced backcountry user and we think the Neo is the best mid-level model in the $350 range, that will satisfy all but the most demanding professional. The Neo's maximum range was at the top of our test for an all digital beacon and had above average processing speed that was as fast as most contenders that were over $100 more expensive. One of the easier products to use with this amount of features and this price point.
RELATED: Our complete review of avalanche beacons
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Arva Neo has one of the best ranges of any all digital beacon, we tested in our review. During our side-by-side comparisons we found the maximum range of the Neo to be close to 60 meters and very comparable to other top contenders in our review like the Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Mammut Element Barryvox and featured a slightly longer range than other top scoring products like either the Ortovox S1+ or the Pieps DSP Pro. The Neo had a much greater range than similarly priced options like the Backcountry Access Tracker 2($335) or the Ortovox 3+($350). Something else that sets the Neo apart is that because of its Isotech Technology (see below), the Neo maintained its super long range regardless of orientation and had the longest range with the worst possible orientation in our review.
Most modern beacons have three antennas, with two of them being used while searching for the signal. Most of the time, one of the two antennas is being used much less than the other, which effects the beacons maximum range and as a result the search bandwidth. The Neo is one of the first beacons to give equal power to both antenna's to increase the width of the search bandwidth to 60 meters, the widest of any all digital beacon.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
The Arva Neo has one of the simpler user interfaces of any product in this review. The Arva Neo uses five directional arrows, in addition to distance units to help the user stay on the flux line. The Arva Neo also has a very useful but less common feature of a arrow icon that displays meaning you have gone to far and you need to turn around. This function can be set to show at three or five meters or turned off all together.
Controls and Interface
The Neo turns on when you insert the "plug" that is attached to the harness, into the side of the beacon and twist. This "plug can also be removed from the harness to make the beacon more friendly for folks who like to wear it in an inner zippered pants pocket.
During the Fine search the Arva Neo turns off its directional arrows at three meters and in a similar manner to many other beacons, has four arrows all pointing out in four opposite directions to remind the searcher to start bracketing shortly. The Neo's above average processor speed was as fast or faster than several models that retail for $400 and above and we felt like we could move the Neo as fast as almost any of the products during the bracketing stage of the search.
Ease of Use in Multiple burials
The Arva Neo has an easy to use flagging feature to assist a searcher in multiple burial situations. The Neo can display up to three buried icons to represent the number of signals it is picking up. Once you flag one of the victims, a flag appears next to them on the screen to help the rescuer keep track. If the user attempts to mark a victim that is too far away, the Neo will display a No on the screen indicating that that beacon will not be marked.
Revert To Send
The Neo has a revert to send mode built into it that can be turned on or off. It can also be set to revert back to send after two, four or eight minutes. Before it switches back to send mode it gives a loud beep and the rescuer simple presses the flagging button to keep searching.
The Neo features a backlit screen for dark or nighttime rescues. The Neo like many higher end beacons offers up-dateable software as well as a group check function.
The Neo is loud. We liked this and thought that it helped us even more during a search, but while practicing, for some people, it might be a little much. Might be a good option for you if your hearing is on the way out.
Comfort to Carry
Unlike the more basic Arva Evo3+ the Neo allows the user remove the connector "plug" (that when inserted turns it on) from the harness and install it on the leash so you can wear it inside a zippered pants pocket instead of on the harness. For users who prefer to wear theirs in a harness, the Neoprene harness that comes with the Neo is nice and fairly easy to use and understand and we thought it scored rather average among beacons we tested.
At $350 the Neo is priced inline with several other manufactures' middle level products, like the Ortovox 3+ ($350), BCA Tracker 2 ($335), and Mammut Element Barryvox($350) and slightly less than the more feature rich Pieps DSP Pro ($375). The Neo has similar range to the Element with better range than all other beacons in its price range. We thought the Neo preformed better in multiple burial situations than both the 3+ or the Tracker 2, and around the same as the Mammut Element of the DSP Pro.
Best Application and the Bottom Line
The Neo is an easy to use and fully functional product that has all the features that most backcountry users want, like a fast processor, solid flagging features, and awesome range but without some of the extra features that most backcountry users don't ever use. We think the Neo is simple enough for even very novice users to understand but advanced enough with all the right features to keep all but the most advanced ski guides and backcountry professionals satisfied. We loved the Neo's range, easy to use controls and processor speed and thought the multiple burial functions were a little complicated at first, but with a little practice we got the hang of them quickly.
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 31, 2013
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