The ACR ResQLink+ is a compact, full-function personal locator beacon from a long-standing company. Like all the devices that use the COSPAS/SARSAT (our Buying Advice article has a breakdown of the networks in use) communication network and protocol, the explicit function of the ResQLink+ is limited to emergency SOS transmission. Its closest competitor offers the same service. Identifying the ACR's application is as simple as describing what it does. If you need a device for remote environment emergency search and rescue summons, and you are interested in researching the functionality of ACR's "406Link" subscription service (currently out of order) as a sort of messaging option, this is your best bet.
ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon Review
Cons: Larger and heavier than closest competitor
Compare to Similar Products
ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon
|Price||$289.95 at Amazon||$349.99 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
|$350 List||$279.95 at REI|
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|$199.99 at REI|
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|Pros||COSPAS/SARSAT’s reliability and long track record, no annual fees, simple operation||Small, two-way texting||Small, affordable subscription options, proven satellite and dispatch networks, simple||Reasonable initial purchase price, no paid subscription, uses proven global network, compact||Two-way messaging, on-device keyboard, smartphone interface|
|Cons||Larger and heavier than closest competitor||Complicated to compare costs, texting on device is very slow||Only supports SOS on the device itself||No non-emergency messaging||Bulky, tough customer and tech service|
|Bottom Line||An excellent emergency-only (with one debatable caveat) personal beacon.||Emergency and routine text communications from the backcountry, in a tiny package.||Compact, simple, two-way satellite communications using proven technology and relatively affordable subscription options.||Compact, affordable “help me” button in your pocket.||A two-way texting device with a built-in keyboard reminiscent of old Blackberry phones with slightly limited geographic coverage.|
|Rating Categories||ACR ResQlink 406||Garmin inReach Mini||Somewear Global Hotspot||Ocean Signal rescueME PLB1||SPOT X|
|SOS Emergency Messaging (30%)|
|Non Emergency Messaging (25%)|
|Signal Coverage (20%)|
|Ease Of Use (10%)|
|Specs||ACR ResQlink 406||Garmin inReach Mini||Somewear Global...||Ocean Signal...||SPOT X|
|Weight w/ batts oz||5.4 oz||3.5 oz||4.1 oz||4.0 oz||6.8 oz|
|Battery Life (hours)||30||Up to 50||up to 1000 messages||24||240|
|Waterproof Rating||up to 5 meters||IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible)||IPX7||up to 15 meters||IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible)|
|Pair with smartphone?||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Dimensions (in.)||4.5 x 1.9 x 1.6||3.9 x 2 x 1||3 x 3.6 x .8||3 x 2 x 1.3||6.5 x 2.9 x 0.9|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The ARC ResQLink+ uses proven technology, a comprehensive network, and bomber compact electronics to provide the user with reliable, primarily emergency, communication to the outside world. It's an excellent emergency SOS communicator and little to nothing more. Overall, only one product scored lower than the ResQLink+. However, if all you need is emergency messaging directly to SAR resources, the ACR works.
Using the international and government maintained COSPAS/SARSAT satellite network and communication protocol, the ACR taps into a system that is as effective as anything available. All satellite communications have limitations. For example, every single transmission involving satellites requires a clear view of the sky. The ACR and its relationship with the COSPAS/SARSAT network is no exception. The limitations on emergency communication are mainly terrain and satellite-related and have less to do with the device itself.
If you have a life-threatening emergency, and push the power button on the ResQLink+, a "Y'all come" message will make its way to the best possible local resources. The response takes some time (hours, at minimum), and the length depends significantly on weather, terrain, and local SAR resources. With the ACR, though, you should have few concerns about the first variable in securing help. The service that monitors COSPAS/SARSAT for emergencies and communicates to local SAR resources depends on the country you register your device in, but that monitoring and communication is free. You need to register your ResQLink+, and you may need to pay for the on-the-ground response, but you will never pay a fee for emergency messaging.
Explicitly, the ResQLink+ has no option for non-emergency messaging. The design and intention of the COSPAS-SARSAT network is for emergency use only.
There was a time that you could test these devices for functionality using the COSPAS-SARSAT, which involved sending a non-emergency message from the device to the network. For a subscription fee each year, via ACR's 406Link service, ACR would send notification of a successful device test to one email address and one cell phone of your choosing. They call these "self-test notifications." For a higher subscription fee and a slightly different test procedure (read the manual for details) you could include up to five emails and cell numbers. You can also customize the message, which will contain a link to a map showing your location.
However, as of November 2019, this service is suspended. So it's a moot point at the moment. ACR includes 406Link promotional materials with each device and on the web, so we hold out hope of the service returning.
With their omission of certain verbiage, ACR was clear that the messaging "hack" was not the intended use of this device and service. They never called this a messaging service. It is a service for confirming the function of your device, via the device's test procedure. They state:
You and your loved ones will breathe easier knowing that your beacon is working properly should you ever need to use it in an emergency.
In dangerous environments, using your equipment outside the explicit bounds of the manufacturer's recommendations requires significant judgment and understanding. Do not consider this an "instruction manual" on how to use your ACR ResQLink+ for non-emergency messaging. Familiarize yourself with the ins and outs from the manufacturer.
Ease of Use
In its designated function, the ACR couldn't be easier to use. Initial registration requires some online form-filling. Then you're good to go. In an emergency, you deploy the antenna and push the on button. If you're interested in using 406Link, you'll need to do some further research and familiarization using information from the company itself.
The ResQLink+ is the latest in ACR's multi-decade evolution. Our lead test editor used one of the original ACR PLBs in the early 2000s. Fifteen years ago a device performing this function was four times the size of the ResQLink+. In this historical perspective, the ACR is tiny and light.
However, as compared to the other options now, the ACR is twice the size and about 140% the weight. In many contexts, this is not a big deal. However, for ultralight backpacking and trail running, the weight and bulk will be noticeable.
The COSPAS-SARSAT network used by the ResQLink+ is world-wide. As with all satellite communications, there are localized terrain limitations and interference issues that stem from device orientation, other electronics, forests, and buildings.
Value is an important part of the PLB discussion. When you truly need the attributes of an emergency communication device, it doesn't matter what it costs. However, you don't always need it. Most will not use the emergency communication attributes of any device. Therefore, value the device like you would any insurance policy. The ACR has an initial purchase price greater than all but our Editors' Choice winner, but it has no subscription service requirement. It is, for what you could conceivably get out of the deal, an incredible bargain. That said, the OceanSignal rescueME does exactly what the ACR is intended to do, but it's a little smaller and less expensive.
Educate thyself on exactly what you are getting with any given PLB purchase. More than in most other categories we test, every single product we assessed has its place. Of the nine products we reviewed for 2019, each is unique and worthy. The differences are, on one level, subtle. On another level, some of these products couldn't be more different from one another. The ResQLink+ is a clever product that rewards the discerning and educated user.
— Jediah Porter