Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Five-watt transmission power, dual frequency SOS transmission, COSPAS/SARSAT’s reliability and long track record, no annual fees., easy one handed (even gloved) operation.
Cons: Unless the lack of messaging is a con for you, we found no faults with this device.
Best Uses: Any activity or expedition during which an SOS broadcast needs best chance of being answered, functions best with clear view to sky.
Manufacturer: ACR ResQLink 406
The SOS function of the ResQlink is probably the most effective of any device we tested. It transmits your SOS message at 5 watts of power, compared to 0.4 watts for the Spot 3 Satellite Messenger, and 1.6 watts for the DeLorme InReach SE Satellite Messenger. If the lack of messaging is not a deal-breaker for you, then this device is the clear winner. It wins our Editors' Choice award as the best SOS device. It also wins our Best Buy award because, with no mandatory messaging plan (which typically cost $100-200 a year), this device is clearly the least expensive to own over 2-5 years.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Ease of Setup
Like any SEND device, the ACR must also be registered. There are, however, no annual fees to pay in order to register or be rescued, and when you register your device (for US customers, at least), you do so with NOAA, which gives a certain sense of security. With no smartphone pairing and no subscription plans to choose from, that part is simple and worry-free.
The ResQLink, operating on the COSPAS/SARSAT military satellite network described above, is arguably the most effective of all the devices tested when in SOS mode. But, realistically, it only has an SOS mode. ACR does offer a limited "Self-Test" message service that seems meant to help it compete with SEND devices but, due to the finite battery life, the ResQLink is only good for 220 self-test "OK" messages without GPS information, and 12 messages with GPS information, during the battery's five-year lifespan. To add this service to your device costs $60 (www.406link.com). We can't really think of many situations in which this could be viewed as a valuable function, other than to occasionally reassure yourself that the ResQLink is capable of sending messages. Based on ACR's track record alone, we would be more than happy to trust that it would work when needed and we would not buy this device if messaging was a priority.
The ResQLink's lack of real messaging capabilities is not a reason to overlook it. If your main concern is having the most powerful and reliable beacon to use in case of emergency, and tracking features aren't crucial, then this is definitely the device for you. The dual SOS transmission (406MHz / 121.5MHz) and 5-watt transmission power coupled with the reliability and global coverage of the COSPAS/SARSAT constellation makes this the most "serious" device that we tested, in pure SOS terms.
The ResQLink plus 406 Personal Locator Beacon is identical to the device reviewed here, except it is fully and autonomously buoyant and costs and extra $20. If you are using your device at sea you may want to consider the Plus as it won't sink if you drop it. Note: If any device that you choose is not attached to you during marine applications, it won't work, and if you're not floating, you're not being saved.
The AquaLink 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon has three levels of integrated signal technology; GPS positioning, a powerful 406 MHz signal and 121.5 MHz homing capability.
The AquaLink View 406 Personal Locator Beacon has a digital display that allows you to see all of the beacon's operational activities. The screen displays GPS LAT/LON, operating instructions, usage tips, transmission bursts as well as battery power.
— Chris McNamara and Matt Gerdes
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: July 21, 2014
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