Ortovox 3+ Review
Cons: Range isn't as good as most others, consistently produced a larger box while bracketing, flagging/marking function often got confused with more than three signals in close proximity
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|Price||$309.30 at Amazon||$499.95 at Amazon||$446.99 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Easy to use, fast, good flagging feature, intuitive design, easy-to-interpret display, low profile||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||Very fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low stress sounds||Very fast processor, excellent range, easy-to-use, comfortable to carry, top-notch multiple burial capabilities with excellent signal lock and marking/flagging functions|
|Cons||Range isn't as good as most others, consistently produced a larger box while bracketing, flagging/marking function often got confused with more than three signals in close proximity||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||Display 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 signal||Not 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||An easy to use beacon with intuitive displays help keep it simple during what is likely a very stressful situation, however just so-so fine search performance and average speed kept this beacon from scoring higher||Perfect for pros or advanced users, this model is one of the best performing products in every category||A high-end beacon that is packed full of features, with an interface that is easy to use for the less experienced||A fantastic all-around model that combines ease of use in a smaller than average package||Has better range and superior multiple burial capabilities while still being fairly quick in the fine search|
|Rating Categories||Ortovox 3+||Mammut Barryvox S||Black Diamond Guide BT||Backcountry Access Tracker3||Mammut Barryvox|
|Single Victim Search (20%)|
|Fine Search (15%)|
|Multiple Burials (15%)|
|Specs||Ortovox 3+||Mammut Barryvox S||Black Diamond...||Backcountry Access...||Mammut Barryvox|
|Weight||200g / 7.0 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||40 meters||70 - 95 meters||60 meters||50 meters||70 meters|
|Battery Life (send)||250 hours||300 hours||400 hours||250 hours||300 hours|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Ortovox 3+ was among the more intuitive beacons to use and scored reasonably well when it came to finding a single buried beacon. Its pleasant interface and easily decipherable displays are a welcome sight for most users during what is almost undoubtedly a high-stress situation. However, the 3+'s drawbacks of a relatively short maximum range (and thus a so-so search strip width) and consistently larger brackets (boxes), which were generally less precise during the fine search, kept it from scoring better.
Ease of Use in Single Burials and Speed
The 3+ beacon is among the simplest and easiest to use. It has straightforward controls and is a great beacon for a novice or less practiced backcountry traveler. Its ease of use and easy to understand displays are this model's strongest advantage.
Ease of Use in the Fine Search
We found the 3+ has slightly below average accuracy during the fine search; while bracketing our victim, we would consistently get larger sized brackets compared with other beacons in the same spot. We also found that it generally would take less practiced users longer to complete a bracket than with other models.
Ease of Use in Multiple Burials
The 3+ uses an easy to understand display that shows 1-3 victims and puts an intuitive mark around each signal as that beacon has been flagged. We used to feel that the Ortovox 3+ had one of the better flagging features on the market, but now as technology has gotten better, it's pretty average. During real-world use, we rarely had to hit the flag button more than one time; as long as there weren't too many signals in close proximity, the 3+ marks the buried beacon easily.
The range of the 3+ is toward the lower end of the spectrum of beacons and nearly the lowest of the three-antennae beacons we tested. The 3+ had a maximum range just below 40 meters. That means it has a few meters longer range than an original BCA Tracker DTS, Arva Evo4, and the Ortovox Zoom+, but not by much. It consistently came up meters shorter than the new BCA Tracker 2 and had a shorter range than the similarly priced Pieps DSP Sport and Mammut Barryvox beacons.
The 3+ is one of the few beacons to give buyers a color option. Like many other higher end beacons, you can update the software to help keep it running more smoothly. You can do this at some retailers or by mailing your beacon into Ortovox directly. The 3+ does have a group function feature, but it was complicated to access, and we didn't find ourselves using it very often.
The 3+ harness system is not the most comfortable to wear. It moved around on our testers more than other beacons. That said, it is very light, and its thin profile was nice to wear in an inner zippered pant pocket.
Revert to Transmit Mode
After 120 seconds of no movement, the beacon switches from Search to Send mode in case you get buried in a follow-up slide. Before switching back, this beacon beeps loudly for 10 seconds to alert the searcher that this function is taking place. This usefulness of this feature is sometimes debated, and you can read more about it in our main review.Smart Antenna Technology
The 3+ was one of the first avalanche beacons to implement smart antenna technology. This technology is now being applied by more and more avalanche beacon manufacturers. This technology helps the beacon realize how it is oriented on the victim, who is buried in the avalanche. Using gravity, the beacon picks the antenna that is in the best orientation to broadcast its signal, maximizing the range that searchers might be able to pick up the buried beacon.
The 3+ is a beacon that can be appreciated by everyone, from the most novice user to very experienced and avid backcountry travelers. Only professionals and the most demanding recreational users will wish the 3+ had more to offer.
There is a lot of competition in this price range, and compared to similar priced models, the 3+ just doesn't perform as well in our tests.
While the Ortovox 3+ is simple and easy to understand, and has solid multiple burial functions, its downsides are average speed, okay bracketing, and a slightly below average maximum range. Similarly priced models like the BCA Tracker 2, BCA Tracker 3, Pieps DSP Sport, or Mammut Barryvox should also be on your radar.
— Ian Nicholson