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Black Diamond Recon X Review

Fast, accurate and built with a modern feature set to serve most backcountry users
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Black Diamond Recon X Review (The Recon X has a clean, straightforward interface. Notice that it only has one button (the red flag), whereas the...)
The Recon X has a clean, straightforward interface. Notice that it only has one button (the red flag), whereas the more advanced Guide BT also features a Scan button.
Credit: Dom Rickicki
Price:  $350 List
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Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Dom Rickicki ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 13, 2024
82
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 10
  • Speed - 30% 8.0
  • Interface - 25% 8.0
  • Accuracy - 20% 10.0
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 7.0
  • Range - 10% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Recon X offers the best combination of speed, accuracy, and ease of use, making it the most user-friendly beacon for the widest range of backcountry skiers and riders. Other beacons are a little faster, and some offer more features, but the Recon X hits the sweet spot in terms of speed and accuracy. Even though it doesn't offer the same set of pro-level features that allow other beacons to excel in multiple burial scenarios, the Recon X was easily one of the most accurate beacons in our single burial tests. If you're looking for your first beacon, or even if you're looking to upgrade, the Recon X is our top pick for overall performance. Check out our in-depth article on the best avalanche beacons to see how it took the top spot in our review.
REASONS TO BUY
Fast processor
Easy-to-follow display
Intuitive interface
Just the right amount of features
REASONS TO AVOID
Slider is hard to use
Small feature set for pro-level use
Bulky

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Bottom Line An easy-to-follow display and just the right amount of features make this the perfect option for most backcountry usersGreat for both novice or advanced backcountry skiers, this beacon offers top-level capabilities for the most common rescue scenariosAn intuitive model that manages to pack in a host of user-friendly features, whose price point will appeal to a wide range of backcountry skiersBCA honors the 'simplicity is speed' mantra, including only the most sought-after features in this fast and intuitive beaconWith an easy to use interface and a very fast processor, this an ideal option for intro-level backcountry skiers and riders
Rating Categories Black Diamond Recon X Mammut Barryvox Arva Neo BT Pro Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access...
Speed (30%)
8.0
7.0
8.0
9.0
9.0
Interface (25%)
8.0
9.0
7.5
8.0
6.0
Accuracy (20%)
10.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Multiple Burials (15%)
7.0
6.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
Range (10%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Recon X Mammut Barryvox Arva Neo BT Pro Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access...
Manufacturer's Stated Max Range 60 m 70 m 90 m 55 m 55 m
Measured Range 40 m 55 m 62 m 42 m 42 m
Flagging Feature Yes Yes Yes No (Signal Suppression) No (Signal Suppression)
Digital or Analog Modes Digital Digital Both Digital Digital
Stated Battery Life (in "Send") 400 hours 300 hours Alkaline: 350 hours
Lithium: 450 hours
250 hours 250 hours
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Measured Weight 217 g 210 g 214 g 215 g 165 g

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Recon X is a Goldilocks beacon. It offers an excellent range, a fast processor speed, and just enough features to satisfy novices and professionals alike. While it is essentially a stripped-down version of the Guide BT, the main differences in performance only come down to their ability to solve complex, multi-burial scenarios. But for the highest likelihood incident – a single-person burial – the Recon X is all the beacon you would ever need, no matter your skill level.

Performance Comparison


black diamond recon x - the recon x is a simple and easy to use beacon with a processor that...
The Recon X is a simple and easy to use beacon with a processor that won't slow you down.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Speed


The Recon X is one of the faster beacons in our test, especially among models that include a higher-level marking function. When considering speed, we are looking for a beacon that relays information to the user quickly without lag, but also one with a processor that is accurate enough to avoid any hangups or pauses mid-search.


In the coarse search phase, the Recon X locked into a signal, and we could easily follow the search pattern at any reasonable speed. But where this beacon really shines is in the fine search phase. Often, in a fine search, a beacon will lag slightly while updating its distance from a target, causing you to slow down more than you already have. Or worse, the distance readings are jumpy, making it difficult to bracket accurately. But the Recon X struck the best balance of speed and accuracy in our fine searches, which ultimately helped us perform faster rescues.

We love the smooth, easy-to-follow Pieps processor that Black Diamond beacons use.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Interface


The Recon X is a simple, base model beacon whose straightforward interface won't ever impede your ability to perform a proper search in a stressful situation. The display is large and easy to read, the buttons are easy to access, and its functions are easy to figure out in a short amount of time. While we always suggest reading the user manual for your transceiver, the Recon X is intuitively designed and generally easy to use right out of the box.


One of our main complaints about the Recon X is the cumbersome slider lock. This mechanism has plagued Black Diamond-PIEPS for years, and despite updates to address design flaws, it still requires an attentive eye to make sure it's properly locked in the correct position. It also takes some significant force to slide, which often requires two hands, and it's easy to slide the switch past where you want it. These details are manageable, but for an otherwise well-designed beacon, it's annoying.

Upon startup, holding the flag button when the beacon says “CH” initiates the group check function, which blocks signals further than one meter away for more efficient trailhead checks.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Notable Features


The Recon X isn't the most feature-rich beacon in our test, but that's largely why we enjoy using it so much. Often, beacons that offer more features are much more expensive, and most skiers and riders will never use many of them. Conversely, the Recon X has exactly what you need and nothing else.

black diamond recon x - the recon x has a clean, straightforward interface. notice that it...
The Recon X has a clean, straightforward interface. Notice that it only has one button (the red flag), whereas the more advanced Guide BT also features a Scan button.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Like other beacons from Black Diamond, the Recon X connects via Bluetooth to the Pieps app for firmware updates and settings management. This beacon includes a revert-to-send option, which you can turn on or off via the app. Like many of the top models we tested, the Recon X offers a marking function that can block multiple signals so you can continue searching for other buried beacons. Interestingly, it can also identify any old analog transceivers that emit a continuous wave signal – these are identified by a flashing human figure. Of course, the Recon X also offers the option to perform a Group Check upon start-up. Unfortunately, it requires you to hold down the flag button throughout the entire group check, which is inconvenient.

black diamond recon x - we don't particularly like the slider lock on the black diamond...
We don't particularly like the slider lock on the Black Diamond beacons. It tends to stick and is difficult to set into place.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Accuracy


In our tests, our assessment of accuracy begins the minute we acquire a signal. While some beacons struggle to lock into an accurate distance reading at the maximum extent of their range, we had no such issues with the Recon X. From the minute we acquired a signal, this beacon provided us with steady distance readings and accurate directional arrows to follow the signal into a target. What impressed us most was just how smoothly the distance and direction were displayed – the Recon X saved us the hassle of needing to decipher a jumpy display, allowing us to move confidently during a coarse search toward the lowest number.


In the fine search phase, the Recon X consistently put us within 25 cm of a probe strike on a target buried up to 1 meter deep. We attribute this partially to a properly executed bracket, and while most of the beacons we tested are this accurate, it is notable is they are not. However, out of all the beacons in our test, we were most likely to contact a target on our first probe strike, which is exceptional.

black diamond recon x - the powerful pieps processor behind the recon x is one of our...
The powerful Pieps processor behind the Recon X is one of our favorites for accuracy in coarse and fine searching.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Multiple Burials


The Recon X offers an easy-to-use marking function that can be used for several beacons in multiple burial situations. Of course, we appreciate this advanced-level functionality for the worst-case scenario, but more importantly, we appreciate it for practicing complex rescues. Out of all the beacons we tested with this feature, the Recon X performed the best in a fine search – meaning it lagged the least – when the processor was overloaded with signals.


It is important to note that the Recon X lacks some of the pro-level features that come in very handy during ski guide exams or other professional-level examinations. For the statistically highest likelihood events – which are single burials – this beacon is excellent. But even for scenarios involving two to three burials, the Recon X still performed the best of any mid-level beacon we tested.

black diamond recon x - the recon x provides easy to follow direction and distance signals...
The Recon X provides easy to follow direction and distance signals that are never jumpy.
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Range


Beacon manufacturers stated ranges are based on measurements with ideal coupling, which only occurs when two beacons line up along their antenna to achieve perfect pairing of their flux lines. Real-world searching does not often occur with ideal coupling, and thus, average search ranges are lower. For more of a real-world assessment of range, we recorded the distances where we first picked up a consistent signal and averaged those across our tests.


The average measured range of the Recon X was 40 meters. While it isn't the longest range, it is quite average among beacons we tested and totally adequate for modern search techniques. Of course, a longer range allows you to start following a signal earlier. But the beacons with the longest range also aren't nearly as reliable at the maximum extent of their range as the Recon X.

black diamond recon x - we tested the electronic interference of common items like radios...
We tested the electronic interference of common items like radios, cell phones, smart watches, and heated gloves on a beacon's range. For a direct comparison, we tested the Recon X (middle) against other top beacons like the Mammut Barryvox S and Barryvox (left) and the Arva Neo BT Pro (right).
Credit: Dom Rickicki

Should You Buy the Black Diamond Recon X?


The Recon X offers the best combination of speed, accuracy, and ease of use, making it the best beacon for the widest range of backcountry skiers and riders. If you want a beacon with an intuitive interface and an easy-to-follow display, look no further. It is as easy to use for a complete novice as it is comfortable in the hands of a seasoned professional. If you're looking to purchase your first beacon, or even if you want to upgrade from an older model, it's tough to beat the performance – not to mention the price point – of the Recon X.

What Other Avalanche Beacons Should You Consider?


If you're in the market for a solid all-around beacon, we suggest comparing the Black Diamond Recon X directly against the similarly capable Mammut Barryvox. If you're shopping for your very first avalanche beacon, consider the Backcountry Access Tracker S, which is not only one of the easiest to use but also one of the fastest beacons in our review. If you're a guide or avalanche professional who would like a more feature-rich beacon, our top pick is the Mammut Barryvox S.

Dom Rickicki