Ortovox 3+ ReviewNovember 19, 2014
- Intuitive Display
- Manual Auto revert button
- Adaptable send antenna
- Good signal separation/marking
- Low Power consumption – single AA battery
- Harness that keeps loose straps organized for storage
- Least accurate distance reading
- Easily confused with 3+ signals
- Lowest range in class
The Ortovox 3+ avalanche transceiver is simple and reliable for use in single- and two-victim scenarios. It has a reliable 43+meter range, good audio cues, and fast reliable marking. On the downside, the Ortovox 3+ offers less accuracy in distance readings over its range than other transceivers we tested, and when there are three or more victims the 3+ can be easily confused. Two Minus would be a more accurate name for this product.
The Ortovox 3+ is a mid-priced, triple-antenna avalanche transceiver for recreational backcountry skiers.
Maximum range is a respectable 43+ meters and once the 3+ sees a signal it tends to lock on quickly. It does have an elliptical pattern, so if oriented cross-wise to the flux line the range may drop to only 30 meters. If a second signal is nearby it generally notices that in the 25 to 15 meter range. Compared to its peers, the 3+ offers the shortest range.
A single AA battery is loaded from the bottom on the right side. To turn it on, pull the thumb lock open and turn the knob counter clockwise to the ON position. The beacon goes through a power up routine that includes an internal self check, powers all the LCDs on, then finishes by displaying the software version and battery power level, and then begins transmitting as indicated by a pair of LCDs that pulse on every second.
To switch to search, pull the two arrows at the top of the beacon apart with your thumbs. A button at the top center will pop out and then it will begin listening for a signal. The screen will show a grid pattern as a visual clue that you should be moving in a grid pattern until you obtain a signal. Once it detects a signal, it will indicate the direction and distance to signal. By the time you are within 30 meters you should see at least one icon in the center bottom of the screen indicating the 3+ has identified one or more distinct signals.
There will be some “bounce” to the numbers displayed, meaning they may go up sporadically as you approach the victim, but they will trend down as you get closer. Beyond 35 meters numbers are lower than actual, closer than 25 meters they are higher than actual.
Once you detect a signal, move in the direction indicated and make sure the distance numbers are decreasing, allowing for a bit of distance “bounce.” Direction arrows are generally accurate and reliable. The 3+ will recognize multiple signals and indicate the presence of more than one, but it will keep its focus on the strongest signal until it is “masked” from consideration.
When closer than two meters the directional arrow is replaced by a circle that grows progressively smaller as you get closer, or larger if you are straying away. As with most digital beacons, but more so with the 3+, be sure to slow your movements down. Quick, jerky movements may give erroneous distance and direction readings, especially the closer you get.
The 3+ gives a steady beep single beep every cycle for the strongest signal detected. Inside of five meters the tone will beep faster and with a higher pitch as you get closer
If there is more than one signal, the 3+ will indicate that when the additional signals are 15 to 25 meters away. As with other digital beacons, if one of the signals is from an older analog beacon with a continuous carrier signal it may temporarily lose the signal or indicate there are more victims than there really are. Like others, this is not a flaw, but a clue to the nature of one of the signals being searched for.
Once you are within five meters of the target, it is possible to mark a victim and ignore that signal by pressing the rubber flag button in the center of the beacon. The 3+ will then focus on the next strongest signal, or begin searching anew if it is beyond 25 meters from a target. The timing of the next signal overlaps (hopefully temporarily) with the already marked signal. The 3+ gets high marks for uniquely identifying signals and reliably marking them, but the cost may be slower movements in the fine search phase.
All Ortovox beacons use a smart antenna algorithm to select the antenna that is most horizontal as the transmit antenna. This increases how easily the signal can be found if you’re the one buried. Vertical burials can give searchers a fit of confusion, so the 3+ senses orientation and picks the most horizontal of the two available antennas.
Compared to early versions of digital beacons, the Ortovox 3+ is an outstanding piece of equipment that makes it relatively easy for inexperienced users to find one or two beacons. However, compared to other available models, it falls short of living up to its name; three or more beacons are a tall order for any beacon, but the 3+ is more easily confused, especially by its own kin, the F1. Practice can overcome this perception, but will you really practice? If you do and you can get a great price, buy it. Nonetheless, a more accurate name for the 3+ would be 2-.