Arva Axio Review
Cons: A little chunky and slightly slightly bulkier for pocket carriers, one of the more complex interfaces, slightly slower than top beacons in the fine search
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|Price||$470 List||$500 List||$449.95 at REI|
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|$229.95 at Amazon||$260.95 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Tons of features, excellent multiple burial features and performance, differentiates close proximity burials very well, long-ish range, analog mode to help with micro-strip searching||Super fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in this review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinations||Easy to use, many features, Bluetooth and smartphone based app, good range, fast processor, best battery life in our review, excellent multiple burial and flagging features||One of the easiest beacon to use, lightning fast, great value, extremely intuitive||Lightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface|
|Cons||A little chunky and slightly slightly bulkier for pocket carriers, one of the more complex interfaces, slightly slower than top beacons in the fine search||Expensive, more complicated than other models, okay but not the best for newer or less practiced users||Battery life is only displayed in thirds and not a percentage, some force required to toggle switches, can be chunky feeling if carrying in a pant's pocket||Not as good for multiple burials, slightly below average range, not as low volume as other models||Mediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software|
|Bottom Line||An extremely capable beacon whose features and multiple burial prowess will appease the requirements of any advanced user or pro||One of the most capable and highest performing beacons on the market||One of the best models for advanced and beginners alike, it's easy to use, and is one of the best priced "pro-level" beacons||Easy and intuitive for experts or novices, making it straightforward to help zero in on the buried signal||An easy to use capable beacon with a lightning-fast processor|
|Rating Categories||Arva Axio||Mammut Barryvox S||Black Diamond Guide BT||Backcountry Access...||Backcountry Access...|
|Single Victim Search (20%)|
|Fine Search (15%)|
|Multiple Burials (15%)|
|Specs||Arva Axio||Mammut Barryvox S||Black Diamond Guide BT||Backcountry Access...||Backcountry Access...|
|Weight||229g / 8.1 oz||210g / 7.4 oz||210 g / 7.4 oz||255g / 9.0 oz||165g / 5.8 oz|
|Number of Antennae||3||3||3||3||3|
|Manufacturer's Range||60 meters||70 - 95 meters||60 meters||50 meters||55 meters|
|Battery Life (send)||250 hours||300 hours||400 hours||250 hours||250 hours|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arva Axio is packed full of rad features and is one of the most capable beacons in complex rescues and pro-level examinations. While on the spendier side, it's a good value for advanced users and pros who will take advantage of the unique functions and design features. While this beacon works well for novice users, it will equate to more money for features and capabilities that may not used often.
The Axio has a maximum range of around 50 meters and a recommended search strip of 50 meters. While that is still a longer-than-average range and a wider search strip width than is recommended by AIARE, AAI, the CAA, and other avalanche educational entities, it is the shortest of all the most advanced high-level beacons.
This beacon's above average processor speed is in line with other top beacons, like the Ortovox S1+ and Mammut Barryvox. On average, it wasn't quite as fast as some models when it came to finding a single burial, particularly for newer users who would benefit from keeping directional arrows down to two meters instead of three meters. Both Tracker models and the BD's directional arrows disappear at two meters, signifying the rescuer to keep the beacon in the same orientation and start bracketing, while that happens with the Axio at three meters.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
The Axio performed above average at finding a single victim. Its longer than average range helped us quickly acquire a signal, and during the coarse and fine search, the Axio's speedier-than-average processor enabled us to move quickly.
It uses five primary directional arrows and four smaller sub arrows to help its user stay on the flux line. Once you get below 10 meters, there is a very distinct tonal change, signifying that the user should move the beacon to the surface of the snow.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The Axio's directional arrows can be set to go away at either five or three meters. All of our testers preferred to have the directional arrows longer, as they helped us to get closer before the bracketing stage/fine search.
Once inside three meters (or five depending on what you choose to set it at), the screen displays numbers in the middle and four arrows, pointing out in the main cardinal directions. This display signifies to the user that they should keep the beacon in the same orientation and proceed with the bracketing stage. We will say that more novice users will need to practice bracketing more with this beacon than a BCA Tracker3 or Tracker S, whose arrows go away at two meters. For more experienced users, having arrows disappear at three meters versus two didn't make as big of a difference.
Ease of Use in Mulitple Burials
The Axio is one of the best models for multiple complex burials and pro-level rescue drills. It will show up to five figures, indicating that it sees up to five signals, and a plus symbol for more than five. After extensive side-by-side testing, it proved to have one of the more effective markings/flagging functions, and it rarely got confused even with several close proximity burials. This is at least partially due to its fold-out third antenna, which, when opened, instantly turns the beacon into search mode.
The third antenna is much longer than any other model we tested, helping to differentiate between close proximity burials. Most model's third antenna length is limited by the thickness of the beacon; however, with this model, it is at least three times as long because of its fold-out design. The Axio offers several features to help it more effectively deal with multiple burials. The first such feature is how it easily lets you toggle between victims. This is nice in the event of lots of rescuers where you have several people digging, and you move on to the next beacon. In fact, in a pro-style rescue drill, we opted not to flag with this beacon and instead to toggle, so we didn't get confused. This feature can also help orient you to the situation; from a given point, you can see how far each beacon is from you.
The Axio also has an analog mode to use when in close proximity to the buried beacons. It is activated (when in search mode) by pressing the power button, which prompts the display to ask you if you want to go into analog mode. This feature was also especially useful for micro-strip searching close proximity burials in pro-level exams.
The Axio is loaded with features and received a perfect score for this category. Not everyone needs all of these features, but for more experienced users, this beacon, along with the Mammut Barryvox S, is essentially the manual camera of avalanche beacons: more capable but need more practice to be proficient with.
Group Check Mode
The Axio sports one of the easier to use group check modes. After you power the beacon on, the screen will ask you if you want to run the beacon in group check mode. To enable this mode, simply unfold the third antenna. The screen will display GCHECK and significantly shorten its range. It will still display distance and give audible tones; once the other beacon is inside two meters, you will have the option to flag it and move on to the next beacon you're testing.
Comfort to Carry
The Axio is a thicker than some, and as a result. feels slightly chunky. Its harness is comfortable, so this more of a small issue for those who like to carry their beacon in their pocket.Controls and User Interface
The Axio's basic functions are relatively easy to use. It sports an "On" button on the left-hand side of the main body and a single red joy-stick directly below the screen that helps you navigate menu options and function as a select/flag icon when this button is depressed. The red arm that turns the beacon into Search mode and contains the third antenna doesn't do anything else besides turn this model into Search mode.W-Link Frequency
The Axio, similar to the Mammut Barryvox S, can transmit additional information on the "W-link" frequency to help keep from getting confused. W-Link frequency is essentially a separate, secondary frequency that operates on 868 MHz, the primary purpose of which is to reduces signal confusion. While this is a cool feature, it can only work with other W Link devices like the Barryvox. Unlike the older Mammut Pulse Barryvox and the newer Barryvox S, which contain the "Pulse" feature, the Axio doesn't send any movement information over the W-link frequency to help determine if the buried victim is dead or alive.Revert To Send
The Axio is one of only a few beacons that allows the user to turn the Revert to Send feature on or off. It can be set-up to automatically switch back from Search to Send mode if it doesn't detect any motion for two, four, or eight minutes. The Axio makes four loud beeps before reverting to let the user know it is about to revert. During this time, you can press the joystick to keep it in search mode. We liked this feature but preferred the Pieps Micro and Pieps Pro's design where they continually keep beeping after reverting back to Send mode.
Novice users can use the Axio, but in practice, it is designed for more experienced backcountry users, trip leaders, or avalanche professionals who will take advantage of this model's many capabilities and functions. We think casual users will be better off with a simpler beacon like the Arva Evo5, Tracker3, Tracker S, or Black Diamond Recon BT.
The Axio is in-line with other very capable high-end beacons like the Black Diamond Guide BT and the Barryvox S. Similar to those beacons, we think this beacon is a good value for advanced users and pros who will take advance of the special functions and design features. For beginners or novice users, this beacon might be overkill, and these users may be spending more money on features and capabilities they may rarely use.
The Arva Axio is one of our new favorite avalanche beacons for pros and advanced users. It is a solid beacon for a beginner and works great for finding a single burial, but more complex situations and professional level rescue assessments are where the Axio really shines. We liked this beacon slightly more for rescue drills than the Black Diamond Guide BT because of how much easier it was to manage multiple signals, particularly if they were in close proximity.
— Ian Nicholson