Ortovox Zoom+ Review
Cons: Among the shortest range of any beacon we tested, no flagging feature
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
At $290 it is one of the better-priced products on the market, though we preferred the functionality of the similarly priced BCA Tracker2.
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