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Ortovox Zoom+ Review

An easy to operate beacon for occasional or new users
Ortovox Zoom+
Ortovox Zoom+
Credit: Ortovox
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Price:  $260 List
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
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 14
  • Range - 15% 6.0
  • Speed - 20% 8.0
  • Single victim search - 20% 9.0
  • Fine search - 15% 8.0
  • Multiple Burials - 15% 6.0
  • Features - 15% 7.0

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.

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Pros Easy to use, inexpensive, simple and well-labeled controlsVery 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 functionsOne of the easiest beacon to use, lightning fast, great value, extremely intuitiveLightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface
Cons Among the shortest range of any beacon we tested, no flagging featureDisplay 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 searchNot as good for multiple burials, slightly below average range, not as low volume as other modelsMediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software
Bottom Line An easy to operate beacon for occasional or new usersTakes previous Tracker's top-notch ease-of-use, speed, and intuitiveness, and adds a marking function and a low profile designA great all-around and very capable beacon that works well for the majority of usersEasy and intuitive for experts or novices, making it straightforward to help zero in on the buried signalAn easy to use capable beacon with a lightning-fast processor
Rating Categories Ortovox Zoom+ Backcountry Access... Mammut Barryvox Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access...
Range (15%)
6.0
8.0
10.0
8.0
7.0
Speed (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
Single victim search (20%)
9.0
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
Fine search (15%)
8.0
10.0
8.0
10.0
10.0
Multiple Burials (15%)
6.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
8.0
Features (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
6.0
Specs Ortovox Zoom+ Backcountry Access... Mammut Barryvox Backcountry Access... Backcountry Access...
Weight 200g / 7.0 oz 215g/ 7.6 oz 210g / 7.4 oz 255g / 9.0 oz 165g / 5.8 oz
Number of Antennae 3 3 3 3 3
Manufacturer's Range 40 meters 50 meters 70 meters 50 meters 55 meters
Flagging Feature? No Yes Yes No Yes
Battery Life (send) 250 hours 250 hours 300 hours 250 hours 250 hours
Digital/Analogue Both Digital Digital 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+ avalanche beacon - ortovox zoom+
Ortovox Zoom+
Credit: 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.

Ortovox Zoom+ avalanche beacon - the distance and directional arrow while searching for a single...
The distance and directional arrow while searching for a single victim with the Zoom+.
Credit: 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.

Ortovox Zoom+ avalanche beacon - 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.
Credit: 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.

Ortovox Zoom+ avalanche beacon - 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+.
Credit: 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.

Ortovox Zoom+ avalanche 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.
Credit: 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.

Ortovox Zoom+ avalanche beacon - the backside of the zoom+ showing the power on/off switch.
The backside of the Zoom+ showing the power on/off switch.
Credit: 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
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