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Arva Neo Review

A solid all-around beacon that will satisfy the demands of a majority of users
Arva Neo
Photo: Arva
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Price:  $350 List
Pros:  Excellent range, lightning fast, well-labeled buttons and easy to use interface, very intuitive, has all the features that the majority of backcountry users will use and want without a lot of extras
Cons:  Flagging options were confusing at first, harder during fine search than other beacons we tested, directional arrows disappear at 3 m instead of 2 m requiring more practice to get proficient with it
Manufacturer:   Arva
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 27, 2020
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85
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 14
  • Range - 15% 9
  • Speed - 20% 9
  • Single victim search - 20% 8
  • Fine search - 15% 8
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 9
  • Features - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Arva Neo is a solid all-around beacon that will satisfy the demands of most backcountry users. It is easy enough to use for more novice or less practiced users but is capable enough for an aspiring professional or someone with a little more experience. The Neo is a former winner of our Top Pick Award for the best beacon between $300-$400 and only just barely lost this award to the BCA Tracker3, primarily because the Tracker3 consistently scored better during the fine search where it was consistently more precise while bracketing. With that said we did like the superior range of the Neo compared to the Tracker3 and while the Neo didn't win an award, it remains an extremely capable beacon that is certainly worth consideration.

New Version
Arva has released the new Neo+. Read on for more details.

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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $350 List$499.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Excellent range, lightning fast, well-labeled buttons and easy to use interface, very intuitive, has all the features that the majority of backcountry users will use and want without a lot of extrasSuper fast processor, differentiates between beacons fantastically during multiple burials, best range in this review, best model for multiple and pro-level examinationsEasy to use, many features, Bluetooth and smartphone based app, good range, fast processor, best battery life in our review, excellent multiple burial and flagging featuresVery fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low stress soundsVery fast processor, excellent range, easy-to-use, comfortable to carry, top-notch multiple burial capabilities with excellent signal lock and marking/flagging functions
Cons Flagging options were confusing at first, harder during fine search than other beacons we tested, directional arrows disappear at 3 m instead of 2 m requiring more practice to get proficient with itExpensive, more complicated than other models, okay but not the best for newer or less practiced usersBattery 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 pocketDisplay screen is just okay, multiple burial function un-suppresses the last marked beacon in only 1 min, leading to confusion and wasting time, can only mark one signalNot as user friendly in the bracketing stage as other models, sometimes tells user to keep the orientation earlier than we would like during the fine search
Bottom Line This beacon is easy enough to use for novices but capable enough for a professionalPerfect for pros or advanced users, this model is one of the best performing products in every categoryA high-end beacon that is packed full of features, with an interface that is easy to use for the less experiencedA fantastic all-around model that combines ease of use in a smaller than average packageHas better range and superior multiple burial capabilities while still being fairly quick in the fine search
Rating Categories Arva Neo Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond Guide BT Backcountry Access Tracker3 Mammut Barryvox
Range (15%)
9
10
9
8
10
Speed (20%)
9
9
9
10
9
Single Victim Search (20%)
8
9
9
10
9
Fine Search (15%)
8
9
9
10
8
Multiple Burials (15%)
9
10
9
8
9
Features (15%)
8
10
10
8
7
Specs Arva Neo Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond... Backcountry Access... Mammut Barryvox
Weight 260g / 9.2 oz 210g / 7.4 oz 210 g / 7.4 oz 215g/ 7.6 oz 210g / 7.4 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 60 meters 70 - 95 meters 60 meters 50 meters 70 meters
Flagging Feature? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life (send) 250 hours 300 hours 400 hours 250 hours 300 hours
Digital/Analogue Digital Both Both Digital Digital

Our Analysis and Test Results

The New Neo+


Arva updated their longstanding favorite, the Neo, to the Neo+. This new version can push the search limit to 70 meters (up 10 meters from the previous version). It is equipped with a movement sensor to switch automatically back into transmit mode, and it comes with a new holster which allows the user to carry the transceiver on the harness while in search mode. The new Neo+ is pictured in the first photo alongside the Neo we tested in the second photo.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Since we haven't tested out the Neo+ yet, this review that follows pertains only to the previous Neo. However, we are linking to the newest version for purchase in this review.

Hands-On Review of the Neo


The Arva Neo was updated in 2016 to include an interference management system: if the software has too much interference from phones, radios, etc., it reduces the search range to better lock onto a signal. The harness and graphics have also seen small changes.

The Neo is a solid all-around beacon with a long range, fast...
The Neo is a solid all-around beacon with a long range, fast processor, and multiple burial capabilities. While it just barely didn't win one of our awards this year, it remains a super solid beacon for novice or experienced users alike.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Range


The Neo has one of the best ranges of any all-digital beacon in our review. During our side-by-side comparisons, we found the maximum range of the Neo to be close to 60 meters and very comparable to other top contenders in our review, like the Mammut Barryvox S (70m maximum range), and the more basic Mammut Barryvox. It featured a slightly longer range than other top-scoring products, like the Ortovox S1+, Pieps DSP Pro, and Pieps DSP Ice. The Neo had a much greater range than similarly priced options, like the Backcountry Access Tracker2 ($335) or the Ortovox 3+ ($350). Something else that sets the Neo apart is that because of its Isotech Technology (see below), the Neo maintained its super long-range regardless of orientation and had the longest range with the worst possible orientation in our review.

Isotech Technology

Most modern beacons have three antennas, with two of them being used while searching for the signal. Most of the time, one of the two antennas is being used much less than the other, which affects the beacon's maximum range and, as a result, the search bandwidth. The Neo is one of the first beacons to give equal power to both antennas to increase the width of the search bandwidth to 60 meters, the widest of any all-digital beacon.

The Neo performed well during the fine search/bracketing stage...
The Neo performed well during the fine search/bracketing stage. However, we noticed that less experienced and less practiced individuals would generally take a little longer to complete their brackets. We feel that this because the Neo's directional arrows disappear at 3 meters whereas several other manufacturers' arrows disappear at 2 meters, giving those less experienced users more time and opportunities to error correct and thus hopefully finishing their bracketing slightly more quickly.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Finding a Single Victim


The Neo has one of the more straightforward user interfaces of any product in this review. The Arva Neo uses five directional arrows and distance units to help the user stay on the flux line. The Arva Neo also has a handy but less common feature of an arrow icon that displays meaning you have gone too far, and you need to turn around. This function can be set to show at three or five meters or turned off altogether.

Ease of Use in Fine Search and Speed


During the fine search, the Neo turns off its directional arrows at 3 meters and displays all four arrows pointing out in four opposite directions to remind the searcher to start bracketing shortly. The Neo's above-average processor speed was as fast or faster than several models that retail for $400 and above, and we felt like we could move the Neo as fast as almost any of the products during the bracketing stage of the search.

The only drawback of the Neo for more novice or less practiced users was that its directional arrows disappear at three meters compared to the BCA or Pieps models, which disappear at two meters. While this wasn't a big deal, we noticed that folks with less experience would consistently take slightly longer to bracket because they would often marginally lose track of their orientation and because their directional arrows would disappear further away, they would have more margin for error than with beacons that kept them for longer.

The Neo's display once its directional arrows go away under 3...
The Neo's display once its directional arrows go away under 3 meters. The icon on the upper right-hand side indicates that the searcher could flag/mark a victim if they choose to. The two "people" on the lower left indicate that there are multiple signals.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Ease of Use in Multiple Burials


The Neo has an easy to use flagging feature to assist a searcher in multiple burial situations. The Neo can display up to three buried icons to represent the number of signals it is picking up. Once you flag one of the victims, a flag appears next to them on the screen to help the rescuer keep track. If the user attempts to mark a victim that is too far away, the Neo will display a "No" on the screen indicating that that beacon will not be marked.

The Neo's display showing that it has flagged/marked one of the...
The Neo's display showing that it has flagged/marked one of the victims, indicated on the lower left.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Something relatively unique about the Neo is that once you are within three or five meters (this distance can be set ahead of time) of the buried unit, an icon on the screen starts to flash, letting you know that you could flag that victim. This is an interesting feature because most of the time, you will still need to bracket the victim and probe them before moving on to the next person so others can start digging the first victim up. The only situation where this could be super useful is with many rescuers and a lot of beacon searchers where you realized you and another rescuer were both locked onto the same victim.

We thought the Neo was above average for multiple burials but still didn't perform quite as well as models geared more towards professionals like the Arva Axio, Mammut Barryvox S, or the Pieps DSP Pro or DSP Ice, where there were even more options and capabilities to help a rescuer manage a complex scenario. We don't think this is a problem for most recreational users, but if you are a ski guide or avalanche professional, this beacon doesn't do as well for high-level rescue exams.

Features


The Neo features a backlit screen for dark or nighttime rescues. The Neo, like many higher-end beacons, offers up-dateable software as well as a group check function. The Neo is loud. We liked this and thought that it helped us even more during a search, but while practicing, for some people, it might be a little much. Might be a good option for you if your hearing is on the way out.

Controls and Interface

The Neo turns on when you insert the "plug" attached to the harness into the side of the beacon and twist. This plug can also be removed from the harness to make the beacon more friendly for folks who like to wear it in an inner zippered pants pocket.

The "toggle" in red on the left is inserted into the hole and...
The "toggle" in red on the left is inserted into the hole and twisted to power the Neo on.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

When the beacon is on, the controls are intuitive and easy to understand. To switch from Send to Search modes, simply slide the bar on the right-hand side of the unit upwards, similarly to the Pieps DSP Pro and Sport. The flagging function is activated by pressing the button with the visible red flag in a red circle. As a whole, we thought the Neo was one of the more natural models to use with as many features as it has.

Revert To Send

The Neo has a Revert to Send mode built into it that can be turned on or off. It can also be set to revert back to send after two, four, or eight minutes. Before it switches back to send mode, it gives a loud beep, and the rescuer simply presses the flagging button to keep searching.

Comfort to Carry

The Neo allows the user to remove the connector "plug" (that, when inserted, turns it on) from the harness and install it on the leash so you can wear it inside a zippered pants pocket instead of on the harness. For users who prefer to wear theirs in a harness, the Neoprene harness that comes with the Neo is nice and relatively easy to use and understand.

This is a great mid-level beacon that is well-suited to those looking for a few more functions than an entry-level model but don't need all the bells and whistles that a professional user requires.

While not quite a "fully featured beacon," the Neo performs well in...
While not quite a "fully featured beacon," the Neo performs well in all of the most important aspects of a beacon and still has all the functionalities that most users want.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

Value


The Neo is priced in line with several other manufacturers' mid-level products and is slightly less than the more feature-rich Pieps DSP Pro. The Neo has a better range than all the beacons we mentioned, except the Barryvox. While you can spend more and get a beacon with more features than the Neo, we think that most users will find that the Neo has all the features they are likely to use the most, and without the extras that most users won't use.

Conclusion


The Arva Neo is an easy to use and fully functional product with all the features that most backcountry users want, like a fast processor, solid flagging features, and fantastic range, but without some of the extra features that most backcountry users don't ever use. We think the Neo is simple enough for even very novice users to understand but advanced enough with all the right features to keep all but the most advanced ski guides and backcountry professionals satisfied. We loved the Neo's range, easy to use controls, and processor speed, and thought the multiple burial functions were a little complicated at first, but with a little practice, we got the hang of them quickly.

Ian Nicholson