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

Ortovox Zoom+ Review

An easy to operate beacon for occasional or new users
Ortovox Zoom+
Photo: Ortovox
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $290 List | $219.20 at Amazon
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  ⋅  Nov 27, 2020
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
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

Our Verdict

The Ortovox Zoom+ is Ortovox's answer for folks who want an easy-to-use beacon and are a newer or occasional user. The Zoom+ fills this need quite well thanks to an easy to understand interface and few features or buttons to get confused with. Compared to its primary competition, the BCA Tracker S, it just wasn't quite as fast in the fine search and had a little shorter range. It's a solidly priced product that is simple but not necessarily easier to use than the Tracker S, Tracker 2, or the Pieps DSP Sport.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Ortovox Zoom+
This Product
Ortovox Zoom+
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  
Price $219.20 at Amazon$499.95 at Amazon$449.95 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$349.94 at Amazon$261.80 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
75
95
92
91
87
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Easy to use, inexpensive, simple and well-labeled controlsSuper 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 Among the shortest range of any beacon we tested, no flagging featureExpensive, 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 Beacon is easy to use but has a short range and no flagging featurePerfect 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 Ortovox Zoom+ Mammut Barryvox S Black Diamond Guide BT Backcountry Access Tracker3 Mammut Barryvox
Range (15%)
6
10
9
8
10
Speed (20%)
8
9
9
10
9
Single Victim Search (20%)
9
9
9
10
9
Fine Search (15%)
8
9
9
10
8
Multiple Burials (15%)
6
10
9
8
9
Features (15%)
7
10
10
8
7
Specs Ortovox Zoom+ 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
Flagging Feature? No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery Life (send) 250 hours 300 hours 400 hours 250 hours 300 hours
Digital/Analogue Both Both Both Digital Digital

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 many features. While it doesn't have many extras, it still performs well at a beacon's most important job, which is a straightforward design that helps a potentially stress-out rescuer locate a single buried victim.

Performance Comparison


Ortovox Zoom+
Ortovox Zoom+
Photo: Ortovox

Range


Having a longer range doesn't tend to have a huge impact on speeding up rescue times; however, it's worth noting that this beacon's range is among the shortest. This model has the shortest overall maximum ranges in our review, even shorter than the BCA Tracker2 or Pieps Micro. The Zoom+ had a maximum range of around 35 meters, which means its search strip width is around 30 meters; shorter than is being taught in most avalanche courses (currently AIARE, AAI, and other avalanche educational entities recommend a 40m Search strip width). While this isn't a total dealbreaker, it means the user needs to be aware of it and make sure they operate with a 30m search-strip width rather than a 40m.

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

Overall Ease of Use


This is where the Zoom+ stands out, as it is very basic and incredibly easy to use. In our side-by-side testing, it was one of the simplest to use along with the BCA Tracker 2 or Tracker S. 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. For many, this is a fantastic design strategy, as it does what you need it to do (find a single buried beacon). This is something that many folks will appreciate under the enormous stress that comes with trying to save their friend's life, who was recently buried in an avalanche.

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

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 just below average in this category. 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 Tracker2, Tracker3, Tracker S, Arva Evo5, Black Diamond Reacon, or the Pieps DSP Sport.

Not only did we have to move slower, but the Zoom+ consistently produced a larger bracket than the previously mentioned model, and with less experienced users, it was less often that the buried beacon was in the exact center of the brackets the rescuer had made.

The light on the two "person" icons in the middle of the beacon...
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+.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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, such as concentric circles, micro-strip searches, or simply turning off the victim's beacon that was dug up first.

Features


Like its primary competitor, the BCA Tracker2, the Zoom+'s best feature is its simplicity and ease of use. Unlike some 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 dealbreaker, but by the volume of bugs that beacon manufacturers have had to work out, it seems like it would have been a good idea.

A few years ago, Ortovox installed a RECCO reflector, which is an interesting feature. 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...
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.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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. 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 the 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.
Photo: Ian Nicholson

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. We think this is actually a larger portion of the backcountry population than many people might think.

Value


It's one of the better-priced products on the market, though we preferred the functionality of the similarly priced BCA Tracker2 and the BCA Tracker S, which we think was easily worth the extra money (for the performance boost). However, for folks looking to spend as little as possible because they are rarely going to go out, this beacon is simple and among the least expensive triple antenna beacons on the market.

Conclusion


The Ortovox Zoom+ is a handy beacon for those who don't want to spend a lot of money, are occasional backcountry users, or do not prefer advanced features. It's also a pretty good deal for what is a totally functional and easy to use beacon.

Ian Nicholson