The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Ortovox Zoom+ Review

An easy to operate beacon for occasional or new users.
Ortovox Zoom+
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Price:  $290 List | $202.30 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Easy to use, inexpensive, simple and well-labeled controls
Cons:  Among the shortest range of any beacon we tested, no flagging feature
Manufacturer:   Ortovox
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 30, 2018
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#14 of 14
  • Range - 15% 6
  • Speed - 20% 8
  • Single victim search - 20% 9
  • Fine search - 15% 8
  • Multiple burials - 15% 6
  • Features - 15% 7

The Skinny

The Ortovox Zoom+ is Ortovox answering the increasing demand for a super easy to use beacon for newer or occasional users. The Zoom+ fills this need quite well with an easy to understand interface and few features or buttons to get confused with. More advanced users might want more out of their beacon but that's not who this was really designed for. When compared to its primary competition, our Best Buy winning BCA Tracker 2, it just wasn't quite as fast in the fine search and had a little shorter range. At $290, it is a solidly priced product that is slightly easier to use than the Pieps DSP Sport but doesn't have as good a range.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Ortovox Zoom+ is an entry-level avalanche beacon best-suited for newer users or those who don't need (or want) a lot of features.

Performance Comparison


Ortovox Zoom+
Ortovox Zoom+

Range


The range was one of the biggest drawbacks to the Zoom+ — it had one of the shorter overall maximum ranges in our review. The Zoom+ had a maximum range of around 33 meters, giving it slightly less range than the BCA Tracker2, but still a little more than the original BCA Tracker DTS.

The distance and directional arrow while searching for a single victim with the Zoom+.
The distance and directional arrow while searching for a single victim with the Zoom+.

Overall Ease of Use


This is where the Zoom+ stands out, as it is very basic and easy to use. It was among the easiest to use along with the BCA Tracker 2 for the novice or inexperienced user. The Zoom+ has very few controls and switches, and far fewer features, but this only helps to make it less confusing and simple to use.

Ian Nicholson tests a Zoom+ while comparing avalanche beacons during the bracketing stage of the fine search.
Ian Nicholson tests a Zoom+ while comparing avalanche beacons during the bracketing stage of the fine search.

Ease of Use in Fine Search


For our review comparisons, we included not only the fine search (the bracketing portion of the search) but also the last five meters while coming in toward the victim. During the fine search, the Zoom+ was average. The Zoom+, like many contenders in its price range, uses five directional arrows to help the searcher stay on the flux line with the directional arrows going away at two meters to help remind the searcher to start bracketing. The Zoom+ had an average speed processor, and we thought we had to move slower and had to be more careful with it than the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 or the Pieps DSP Sport.

The light on the two "person" icons in the middle of the beacon indicates that the Zoom+ is picking up multiple signals. There is no way to flag or mark a buried beacon with the Zoom+.
The light on the two "person" icons in the middle of the beacon indicates that the Zoom+ is picking up multiple signals. There is no way to flag or mark a buried beacon with the Zoom+.

Ease Of Use In Multiple Burial Situations


When multiple victims are buried, the Zoom+ has a light that signals indicating that it is picking up more than one signal. It will automatically take you to the closest beacon. The Zoom+ has no flagging feature for multiple burial scenarios, so more traditional techniques must be employed to find multiple beacons.

Features


Like its primary competitor, the BCA Tracker 2, the Zoom+'s best feature is its simplicity and ease of use. Unlike a lot of other modern beacons, the Zoom+ doesn't have a feature where you can plug it into your computer for software upgrades. For us, this wasn't a deal breaker, but by the volume of bugs that beacon manufacturers have had to work out it seems like it would have been a good idea.

Starting this year Ortovox installed a RECCO reflector, which is an interesting feature, because obviously searching for the beacon would be faster and searching for the RECCO requires a helicopter, or at the minimum, a much larger scale search and takes much more time. The only thing we can think this would be useful for is a body recovery in a situation where your beacon runs out of batteries, or you are lost in such a large area that they can't pick up the signal broadcasted from your beacon.

The switches that turn the Zoom+ from search to send. These switches required a fair amount of fine motors skills and if we had thicker glove on we would have to remove them in order to turn the Zoom+ into Search mode.
The switches that turn the Zoom+ from search to send. These switches required a fair amount of fine motors skills and if we had thicker glove on we would have to remove them in order to turn the Zoom+ into Search mode.

Smart Antenna Technology and the "+"

Ortovox's smart antenna technology helps to potentially increase the range that the wearer's beacon can be picked up in. Contrary to what some folks think if you have a Zoom+, it doesn't boost your range. How it works is basically the Zoom figures out which of the antennas is at the best orientation to broadcast from. For example, for most other models if the primary transmitting antenna is orientated vertically the range at which other beacons will be able to pick up the buried beacon are dramatically reduced and could potentially be close to only 50% of maximum range. However, with the Smart Antenna, it uses gravity to figure out which is the best antenna to transmit on.

Revert to Transmit Mode

The Zoom+ has a revert to transmit mode that is set, and the user may not turn it off. We discuss the usefulness of this feature in our full review.

The backside of the Zoom+ showing the power on/off switch.
The backside of the Zoom+ showing the power on/off switch.

Best Applicationa


The Zoom+ is best for a novice or more occasional user who will benefit from the ease of use and won't miss the more complex functions that it is lacking.

Value


At $290 it is one of the better-priced products on the market, though we preferred the functionality of the similarly priced BCA Tracker2.

Conclusion


The Ortovox Zoom+ is a handy beacon for those who don't want to spend a lot of money, and who don't intend to use it very often or use advanced features.


Ian Nicholson