Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Tons of features, Long range
Cons: One of the more complex interfaces, Slightly slower than top beacons in the fine search
Best Uses: Proffesionals, ski guides, trip leaders and advanced backcountry travelers
The Arva Pro W replaces the Axis Link in Arva's beacon line and is one of our top two over-all scoring beacons and was only just barely edged out by the Mammut Pulse Barryvox as our OutdoorGearLab Editors Choice and the Ortovox S1+ as our Top Pick, but was still one of our favorite beacons and is super solid. Until Fall of 2013 the Arva Pro W was previously the Arva Link and was mostly black in color. The Pro W's original development was actually done in conjunction with Mammut while they were designing the Pulse and there are some similarities. It is similar to the Mammut Pulse Barryvox, Ortovox S1+, and Pieps DSP Pro in that it has a ton of features, excellent range, fast processor and above average flagging marking function. The Pro W does have some of the most controls that are well labeled and intuitive to use, making the Pro W less confusing compared with other similar high end, feature reach beacons.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Arva Pro-W is an excellent beacon that compares very closely to our Editors Choice the Mammut Barryvox Pulse in with only a few exceptions. One of those exception is range, while they have similar published maximum ranges we found the Arva Pro-W's maximum range while in digital mode to be about 50 meters, close, but maybe a lttle farther than that of the BCA Tracker 2, but about 10 meters shorter than the Pulse's and 5 meters shorter than our other top picks the Ortovox S1+ and the Pieps DSP Pro.
To increase its range, the Arva Pro W has a analog function where the beacon can be toggled into analog mode which results in a little under 20 meters further maximum range. While we think this feature is cool and could be useful for advanced users. For more intermediate users and even some advanced users this function is too complected and likely not a time saver.
Ease of finding a single victim
The Arva Pro W has a faster than average processor that is comparable but was just slightly behind in speed compared with the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 and the Arva Neo as far as speed goes. It has was very precise at bracketing and was among the best of all the beacons we tested.
During the fine search the Arva Pro-W was; along with the Ortovox S1+ and the Mammut Pulse Barryvox that would tell us to turn around. The Pro-W has a free floating arrow that can point forward anywhere with a 180 degrees of range compared with most other beacons that use 5-9 directional arrows to help keep the rescuer on the flux line. On top of that the Pro W will display a U-Turn icon to let the rescuer know they have gone too far and to turn around. We really liked this feature, especially for less experienced or less-practiced users this can save the rescuer a fair amount of time. The Pro-W's directional arrows disappear at 3 meters to help let the searcher know that it is time to start bracketing.
Ease of use in Mulitple burials
The Arva Pro-W is one of the the top scorers in Multiple burial situations. During our side-by-side comparisons we thought the Pro W had one of the top flagging features among beacons we tested. Like only a few other beacons the Arva Pro W features a scrollable list, to enable the rescuer to "go back" to any previously flagged beacon. The Ortovox S1+ and the Mammut Pulse Barryvox have similar features but the Pieps DSP Pro can only go back to "unmark" the last flagged beacon. The Pro W indicates on it's display that there are anywhere from 1-5 buried beacons, above five burials the Pro W displays a 5+.
Controls and User Interface
The Pro W might have the most buttons of any beacon on the market, but they are extremely well labeled and we thought unlike a lot of electronics where more buttons can be more confusing; we thought all the buttons helped us to more easily navigate the Pro W's more complex settings. For example we loved the up and down scrolling buttons to help us navigate through different menus. Even with that the most important controls for searching, powering on, and off as well as flagging/marking are more basic and easy to understand with a combination of displays on the screen and well labeled buttons. Even while teaching AIAIRE Level 1 avalanche courses OutdoorGearLab Reviewer Ian Nicholson noted that he was impressed on several occasions on how well a person could operate a beacon as complex as the Pro W with little to no experience.
The Pro-W similar to the Element Barryvox and Pulse Barryvox, can transmits additional information on the "W-link" frequency to help keep from getting confused. W-Link frequency is essentially a separate, secondary frequency which operates on 868 mHz, that's primary purpose is to reduces signal confusion. While this is a cool feature, it can only work with other W Link devices like the Mammut Pulse and Element. Unlike the Mammut Pulse Barryvox, "Pulse" feature, the Arva Pro W doesn't send any movement information over the w-link frequency to assist in determining if the buried victim is dead or alive.
Revert To Send
The Arva Pro W is one of the few beacons that allows the user to turn the revert to send feature on or off. When the revert to send feature is on, the user has the option of 4 or 8 minutes with no motion before it reverts back to send mode.
We are not sure who Arva accomplishes it but unlike nearly all other avalanche beacons on the market today, Arva says it's okay to use lithium batteries where as in most cases only alkaline batteries are recommended.
The Arva Pro-W has two modes a "Novice mode" and an "Expert mode". The Novice mode basically takes away nearly all of the more advanced features and just sticks with the basics, like searching, sending, and a flagging function. While we think its cool the the Pro W offers these feature, because people could buy this beacon and work up to its full potential. On the other hand we don't think its worth it for folks to use it 90% of the time in "Novice mode", because they would be better off spending less mondy and buy the Arva Neo which has all those same features as the Pro W in "Novice mode", but is $100 less, has better range, and is a little faster.
Like many other high end beacons the Arva Pro W features a group check features as well as update-able software.
The Arva Pro-W versus the Mammut Pulse Barryvox
Both the Arva Pro-W and the Mammut Pulse Barryvox were among our highest scoring beacons and most people looking for a high end beacon will end up comparing both of these. They have many similar features because they were actually devolve jointly and the Pro-W has a similar feature where it can sense if the wearer is moving or not but Arva chose not to display this information.
Both beacons need to diplay a ton of information and both do a pretty good job but we liked the Pulses slightly bigger screen.
We like the menu's on the Pro W's better than on the Pulse. The Pro W would regularly display more options at one time. We never found this confusing and thought it was faster to scroll through and choose the option we wanted.
The Arva Pro-W is best used by more experienced backcountry users, trip leaders or avalanche professionals. The Pro W's interface is easy enough to understand that we were impressed at how even a number of novice, never ever beacon users could understand it. We that said we wouldn't recommend it to those type of people because they are spending more money than they have to for a bunch of cool, but advanced features.
Despite its high price tag it is one of the better "value" beacons in our review. The reason is the Arva Pro-W has most of the same features that are only found in the higher preforming beacons like the Mammut Pulse Barryvox ($490) or the Ortovox S1+ but is $50 less expensive. It is more than our other top pick the Pieps DSP Pro but only has a few more features
The Arva Pro W is one of the best and highest preforming beacons on the market, that was just barely edged out in our final score by the Mammut Pulse Barryvox as our OutdoorGearLab Editors choice. With that we think even the most demanding backcountry user will be extremely happy with the Arva Pro W and its nearly $50 less than the Pulse.
— Ian Nicholson
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Most recent review: December 5, 2013
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