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Hands-on Gear Review
Ortovox Zoom+ Review
Cons: Among the shortest range of any beacon we tested, No Flagging feature
The Ortovox Zoom+ is Ortovox answering the increasing demand for a super easy to use beacon for newer or occasional users. The Zoom+ fills this need quite well with a easy to understand interface and few features or buttons to get confused with. More advanced users might want more out of their beacon but that's not who this was really designed for. When compared to its very similar primary competition, the BCA Tracker 2, it just wasn't quite as fast in the fine search and had a little shorter range. At $300 it is a solidly priced product that is slightly easier to use than our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy winner the Pieps DSP Sport which is $25 less, has better range, and a flagging feature but isn't quite as simple.
RELATED: Our complete review of avalanche beacons
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
Range was one of the biggest drawbacks to the Ortovox Zoom+ and it had one of the shorter overall maximum ranges in our review. Overall the Zoom+ had a maximum range of around 33 meters. In our side-by-side testing the Zoom+ had even slightly less range the the BCA Tracker 2, but was still better than the original BCA Tracker DTS.
Overall Ease of Use
This is were the Ortovox Zoom+ really stands out, it is very basic and easy to use. It was among the easiest to use along with the BCA Tracker 2 for novice or inexperienced users. The Zoom+ has very few controls and switches and far fewer features but this only helps to make it less confusing and simple to use.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
For our review comparisons we included not only the fine search (the bracketing portion of the search) but also the last five meters while coming in toward the victim. During the fine search the Zoom+ was average. The Zoom+ like many contenders in its price range, uses five directional arrows to help the searcher stay on the flux line with the directional arrows going away at two meters to help remind the searcher to start bracketing. The Zoom+ had an average speed processor and we thought we had to move slower and had to be more careful with it than the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 or the Pieps DSP Sport and this is what cost the Ortovox Zoom+ our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy award.
Ease Of Use In Multiple Burial Situations
When multiple victims are buried the Zoom+ has a light that signals indicating that it is picking up more than one signal. It will automatically take you to the closest beacon. The Zoom+ has no flagging features for multiple burial senerios so more traditional techniques most be employed in order to find multiple beacons.
Smart Antenna Technology and the "+"
Ortovox's smart antenna technology helps to potentially increase the range that the wearers beacon can be picked up in. Contrary to what some folks think, if you have a Zoom+ it doesn't boost your range. How it works is basically the Zoom figures out which of the antennas is at the best orientation to broadcast from. For example, for most other models if the primary transmitting antenna is orientated vertically the range at which other beacons will be able to pick up the buried beacon are dramatically reduced and could potentially be close to only 50% of maximum range. However with the Smart Antenna it uses gravity to figure out which is the best antenna to transmit on.
Revert to Transmit Mode
The Zoom+ has a revert to transmit mode that is set and the user may not turn it off. Some people debate the usefulness of this feature and you should read on about it in our main Best in Class beacon review. The Best Avalanche Beacon Review
Like its primary competitor, the BCA Tracker 2, the Ortovox Zoom+'s best feature is its simplicity and ease of use.
Unlike a lot of other modern beacons, the Ortovox Zoom+ doesn't have a feature where you can plug it into your computer for software upgrades. For us, this wasn't a deal breaker but by the volume of bugs that beacon manufacturers have had to work out it seems like it would have been a good idea.
Starting this year Ortovox installed a RECCO reflector, this is an interesting feature, because obviously searching for the beacon would be faster and searching for the RECCO requires a helicopter or at the minimum a much larger scale search and takes much more time. The only thing we can really think this would be useful for is a body recovery in a situation where your beacon just plain runs out of batteries or you are lost in such a large area that they can't pick up the signal broadcasted from your beacon.
At $300 it is one of the better-priced products on the market, though it is $25 more expensive than our OurtoodGearLab Best Buy award winner the Pieps DSP Sport and had less range and no flagging feature. It is similar to use as the Pieps DSP Sport, but only slightly.
Bottom Line and Best Application
The Ortovox Zoom+ is best for novice or more occasional users who will benefit from the ease of use and won't miss the more complex functions that it is lacking. It is one of the better priced options on the market that has a fairly fast processor.
— Ian Nicholson
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 4, 2014
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