Pieps DSP Pro Ice Review
Cons: Battery life is displayed in thirds, seems to be nearly identical save for its clear plastic housing to the DSP Pro but is $30 more
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Pieps DSP Ice one of the better multiple burial functionalities of all the beacons in our review. The Pieps DSP Ice is the latest in Piep's long run of DSP beacons but doesn't appear functionally very different to the DSP Pro, which is our current Top Pick, save for its transparent, housing.
While a beacon's maximum range isn't a big deal and most people will likely use 40-meter search strip widths (as this is what is taught in Level 1 avalanche courses across the county), it's still nice that the Pieps DSP Ice has a longer range. We thought that the DSP Ice had a more or less identical maximum range to the DPS Pro, but offered about 0-5 meters more than the DSP Sport.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim and Speed
This beacon's interface is well-designed and among the easiest to use while searching for a single signal. Five arrows are used by the DSP Ice; you can use these pairs to stay on the flux-line. The DSP Ice also has one of the fastest processors of any of the products we tested, allowing us to move slightly more quickly than most beacons and we found this advantage grew if there were several buried beacons nearby. For pure speed at finding a single victim, the Backcountry Access Tracker2 and Tracker3 were the only models that were faster.
Another design aspect that this model and the rest of the Pieps beacons include is that they keep their directional arrows during the coarse and fine search all the way down to 2 meters instead of only down to 3 meters like models from Mammut and Arva (BCA also looses their arrows at 2m meters). We observed that this was less of a big deal with experienced users; for less practiced individuals, we consistently noticed that they would come in directly over their buried beacon (a good thing) more frequently, as keeping the directional arrows a little longer during the search simply gave the rescuer longer to error correct before beginning the bracketing stage and becoming forced to keep the beacon in the same orientation. Overall, this model performed well above average at finding a single victim and proved quite comparable to our Editors' Choice winner, the Mammut Barryvox S, even scoring a little better in the hands of more novice or less practiced users.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The fine search is where the rescuer should keep their beacon in the same orientation to figure out where the beacon is not and find the low point in their numbers. We also opted to include the final five meters before bracketing begins as part of this category of comparison, as the two sections of the search are directly tied together. The difference in processing speed becomes apparent during a fine search; in finding one victim, we loved the processor's speed during a fine search. It was also relatively easy to understand.
One feature that the DSP Ice did not have that several other higher-end models did is a feature that tells you to turn around if you weren't paying close enough attention to the numbers and went too far. While we think the turn-around arrow is cool, all of our testers agreed that this is a minimal feature and is not a big deal.
Ease Of Use In Multiple Burial Situations
The DSP Ice scored high when it came to multiple burial situations. This model is designed with solidSignal Lock (i.e., it doesn't want to "jump" from one signal to another very easily). This feature is especially helpful for pro-level courses and examinations or complex real-world multi-signal burials. Overall, we found the DSP Ice to have a stronger signal lock than the Arva Axio, but it still wasn't as strong as the Mammut Barryvox S.
The Ice's flagging/marking function and is among the hardest to confuse and you can "unmark" the last buried beacon that was marked by holding the mark button for three seconds. One of the unique features of the DSP Ice (and the DSP Pro) is its Scan function. To activate this beacon's scan function simply press the scan button and the screen will display the number of signals it sees within 5, 20, and 50 meters. All of our testers found the Scan function very useful for any multiple burial scenarios, and unlike many features, the Scan function became even more helpful the more complex the rescue. It can help prepare you by informing you at very early stages of the rescue if you are going to be dealing with two beacons nearby.
If we knew we had the potential to be faced with or tested in multiple complex burials and/or situations involving close proximity burials, this would be one of the three beacons we consider along with the Arva Axio and Mammut Barryvox (and the nearly identical seaming Pieps DSP Pro).
Group Check Mode
The strong signal lock makes it more challenging to do function checks a larger group. Activating the Group Check mode reduces the beacon's range down to about a meter and only displays distances in that range. It also will display an Error code if it senses anything wrong with another beacon's signal.Smart Transmitter Technology
The DSP Ice uses Pieps Smart Transmitter Technology, which helps reduce signal overlap in multiple burial situations. If the beacon is motionless for more than two minutes (as in, you just got buried), it will search for other beacons that are sending closeby and adjust it's cadence so that the two don't overlap. This makes it easier to search for both.Inclinometer
While our testers never broke it out, the DSP Ice a features an inclinometer. We think this is kind of cool, but also whipping out your beacon to measure slopes to see if they are avalanche terrain doesn't seem like the best idea.Battery Life
When in Send mode, the DSP Ice has a battery life of 400 hours. When placed in Search mode, it had more than 100. Compared to other models in our fleet, it's more than any other contender, and almost twice as much as the DSP Sport.
The battery life is shown in thirds, which we disliked as it was not as accurate a representation as a percentage. For example, with the 1/3 power bar displayed this beacon has anywhere from 100 hours to 20 hours left (20 hours is lower than is recommended by several avalanche educational bodies to start an average day tour). The DSP Ice also has a relatively specific feature where it can search for a specially designed dog transmitter. If you want to use this model, you can press the scan and flag button for three seconds while searching. It will then search for a TX600 Dog Transmitter.
While not an automatic feature, the DSP Ice can switch back from Search to Send if you are caught in an avalanche while searching. This has to be set up beforehand though by connecting the beacon with a data cable that plugs into the headphone jack. Pieps doesn't recommend using this feature, because if you are caught in an avalanche while searching the beacon will most likely be in your hands, and the chances of it staying there while you take a ride are slim to none.Comfort to Carry
The DSP Ice has a great harness that was comfortable and easy to use. The small issue we had with its harness is that for taller users (or even mid-sized users), its lanyard is pretty short even when stretched-out out all the way. This beacon was a little chunky for carrying in your pocket though.
The DSP Ice is an incredibly capable beacon that is still relatively easy to operate compared to other high-end models. It is stacked with features, and while it works fine for a novice or less experienced user, it is best appreciated by guides and trip leaders. Because this model has lots of features that many backcountry enthusiasts will never use, the DSP Sport may be better-suited to some user's needs.
The DSP Ice is a solid beacon, and at $450 is in-line with other top-performing models like the Mammut Barryvox S ($490), Ortovox S1+ ($500) or Arva Axio ($470). However, it is nearly identical to the Pieps DSP Pro ($420) but is $30 more for basically just a clear housing.
The Pieps DSP Pro Ice is a great beacon - but we're just not sure what the point of this additional product is given it's close resemblance to the DSP Pro.
— Ian Nicholson