Arva Neo Avalanche Beacon ReviewMarch 1, 2015
- Excellent range 65+/45
- Fast, reliable mark function
- Smooth response
- Locks on quickly
- 2nd victim range – 20-25m
- Intuitive display symbols
- Overestimates distance
Experienced backcountry skiers who are willing to upgrade and new skiers alike will appreciate the long range of the Arva Neo. This extended range quickly picked up signals and provided smooth response for quickly directing me to the burial point. The Neo marks signals reliably, and did not get confused by multiple signals.
The Arva Neo avalanche transceiver features three antennas using state of the art digital technology to operate as a homing beacon should the wearer be caught and buried in an avalanche, or make locating burial positions as easy and simple as possible.
Now that I’ve had a bit more time operating the Arva Neo and comparing it side by side with other models it continues to impress. It concedes a few comparisons, but wins the important ones like range, reliability, and intuitiveness.
In the most obvious measure of performance, maximum range, the Neo is neck and neck with the Mammut Pulse. For best-case conditions Mammut’s Pulse can edge it out, but when the signal is cross polarized Neo detects signals, and locks on as far away as 55 meters. With such a strong ability to detect weak signals Arva conservatively is only claiming a search strip-width of 30 meters.
The most compelling features of Neo revolve around ergonomics, except for the on switch. Neo uses a T-shaped plug that you insert into the side of the beacon and turn counter-clockwise to turn it on. This forces the user to wear the harness to turn it on, like the classic (discontinued) analog Ortovox F1. On start up the Neo goes through a self check, indicating the firmware version (v3.0 in this case), the battery level, and then, after beeping four times in succession, it begins transmitting a short pulse roughly every second.
To begin searching, push the grey side sleeve up and, while holding the beacon horizontal, begin your signal search. Neo may detect a signal as far away as 70+ meters, but it probably won’t lock on until it is within at least 60 meters, 55 meters if cross-polarized, and 45 meters if the burial is vertical. Walk in the direction the arrows point and make sure the distance numbers are declining. Once locked, you’ll hear a steady beep until you get to 10 meters from the signal. The Arva Neo does exhibit a bit of digital bounce, so don’t be surprised if those numbers occasionally increase momentarily. If they steadily increase and you don’t notice, Neo will warn you with a loud double beep, and show an odd-looking arrow to back up or turn around. Unlike competitors, once you turn around the Neo senses the direction change quickly and gets you back on track.
Inside of 10 meters the beeps raise in pitch and frequency as you get closer to the target. At the 3 meter four small arrows surrounding the distance reading, indicating you should be performing a grid search. A circle will appear in the upper right corner indicating when you are closer enough to mark the signal it is focused on. Press the flag once, quickly, and that signal is masked from further consideration.
In the case of multiple beacons, Neo remained calm and steady. It focuses on the strongest signal, though it will recognize a second signal when it is in the 20-25 meter range. For more than two, it might not sense them all unless they are in the 15-20 meter range. In all cases, Neo easily sought out the strongest signal, and after marking, progressively went to the next without getting its silicone brains tied in a knot.
It is possible to enable a group beacon check function, change the range for marking from a 3 meter to 5 meter radius, and to decide if you want the beacon to auto-revert-to-send after 2, 4, or 8 minutes, or not. Factory default is the group check function is disabled, no revert-to-send, with a 3m marking radius. If range matters and you want an avalanche transceiver that won’t get flustered when you’re bound to be, the Arva Neo should be on your short list of beacons to consider.