The Ortovox 3+ Transceiver is a distinct looking three-antenna avalanche transceiver with signal marking capabilities and comes in two colour choices to match your look - green apple and phantom black. It has a modest 40 metre range and simplified user interface design with only an on/off knob, marking button and search/transmit mechanism. Up to three signals can be shown on the backlit display, which indicates distance and direction in a graphical format. If more than three signals are detected then a 4+ icon will illuminate on the display. An audio pulse compliments the visual display. If no movement is detected for 120 seconds then the Ortovox 3+ automatically switches from search to transmit which is a nice safety feature should a secondary slide occur and you are unable to change back over to transmit. A double pulse will sound repeatedly before this happens so that you are aware of what is about to occur. The Ortovox 3+ transceiver also comes with what they call 'smart antenna' technology which analyses the position of the device and automatically switches to the optimal transmitting antenna and thus avoids the worst coupling positions.
With the ability to upgrade the Ortovox 3+ firmware you can be sure your transceiver will always be up-to-date. The five year warranty and a durable rubberized housing ensures that the Ortovox 3+ Transceiver handles minor abuse, snow and water; though you still need to treat it like the high tech wizardry that it is.
The Ortovox 3+ Transceiver has a beautiful refined style that doesn't get in the way of the information you need—how many, how far and which direction? In addition to the standard search and transmit functions the Ortovox 3+ also performs a self test and group check and allows you to easily mark signals. When you initially turn the Ortovox 3+ Transceiver on it will conduct a self test of the transmit, receive functions, sensors and battery capacity. If anything is not working as it should an error code is indicated on the display as E1 (a problem with the transmitter or receiver), E2 (a problem with antenna reception), E3 (a problem with antenna transmission), or E4 (a memory error). While in transmit mode the circular display shows a radiating pulse graphic in addition to a constant battery level (which is a nice feature).
In order to switch to from transmit to search mode you need to use both hands to operate the search/transmit mechanism. The display will light up and show you direction with seven possible arrow orientations, numerical distance and number of signals almost instantly. Each signal display an icon of a horizontal person at the bottom of the display so you know how many signals it is picking up (a maximum of three signals can be displayed). While in search mode an audio pulse is used to indicate how well you are doing, cadence and pitch increase as you get closer to the transmitting transceiver. When you are within two metres of a transmitting transceiver the Ortovox 3+ Transceiver will enter fine search mode and arrow indicators disappear. If you inadvertently heading away from the signal source the display will show smaller semi-circles to indicate you need to correct your direction. The display will show 0.2 as the lowest measure of distance.
Search/transmit mechanism in transmit mode.
Search/transmit mechanism engaged in search mode.
Marking button used to 'mark' or 'mask' signals.
The Ortovox 3+ Transceiver uses signal separation technology to mark or mask a signal in a multiple-burial scenario (this is the flag button on the transceiver face). Once you are within five meters of a signal it can be marked so you can then focus on additional signals. Only the strongest and therefore closest signal's details will be displayed to eliminate confusion until the user marks this signal and moves onto any secondary signals.
While the Ortovox 3+ Transceiver does have a partner check feature it is a complicated sequence of events that rivals the secret handshake of the Loyal Order of Water Buffalos. If you really must know it - here goes:
1. Enter search mode with the transceiver off.
2. Turn the transceiver on.
3. When you see the word "UP" hold the mark button for approximately 5 seconds until you see "PC" (stands for partner check).
4. You will see"E0" when a transceiver comes within 1 meter of the Ortovox 3+ Transceiver and is operating fine, if this transceiver is not functioning properly then you will see a error code between E1 and E7. (Phew!)
Search mode with multiple signals detected and masking of the first signal.
Marking function: Allows first signal to be masked to avoid confusion with other signals.
Housing: Durable, waterproof rubber protects against moisture and impact
Automatic switchover: In case of a secondary avalanche the unit will switch back to transmit in 120 seconds
Self-test: Transmitter, receiver and battery status
Smart-Antenna-Technology: Automatic location of the strongest transmission signal
Circular display: Backlight for use in low light, LCD Indication for direction and distance, displays up to 3 signals
Harness: Pouch with elastic strap for device
Battery: Requires no special tools to replace which is handy.
Standards: meets the EN 300 718 standard
The Ortovox 3+ Transceiver operates as intended and makes you look like a pro when searching for multiple signals. The search range is adequate and the feature list is impressive for this price point. Marking is a breeze and spikes are handled well. The Ortovox 3+ Transceiver uses an innovative mechanism to switch from transmit to search and via-versa, while not as simple as some it is easy to use with gloves on. A quick hit changes it back to transmit, which is crucial.
The only beef I have with the Ortovox 3+ is that it has some industrial design issues for new users. The difficulty presents itself with the battery compartment design. It is very finicky to close and far too easy to open by mistake. Once you have some experience with it it does become easier, however because the locking mechanism is small and recessed in the body it's impossible to operate with gloves on. Combine this with a very firm on/off switch which rotates in an awkward manner and the problem is only compounded. The AA battery provides a very respectable 250 hours of life for the Ortovox 3+ however I am not a fan of carrying two different batteries types in my emergency kit as back-up. Most headlamps now take AAA's and I prefer a transceiver that also takes this battery type for simplicity.
The harness contains a fairly simple pouch that could be made a little larger as fitting the transceiver back in can be cumbersome. The elastic tether which enables fine searches close to the snow is a must, however should you wish to disconnect the Ortovox 3+ it is not that straight forward. This is not a requirement but is a 'nice to have' for scenarios and practices.
Price: $385 CAN
Dimensions: 73x122x27mm 4.8 x 3.25 x 1.25 inches
Weight: 210 grams / 7.4 oz
Battery: 1 AA (250 hours battery life)
Frequency: 457 kHz
Search range: 40m
(As with all digital transceivers be sure to turn off all radios, mobile phone and MP3 players while in search mode or you may find yourself going around in circles as these can interfere with transceiver signals.)
Simple marking feature and intuitive user interface for a good price. Back light is a great perk for low light searching and rubberized case is a great idea. It's pretty.
The on/off switch can inadvertently be turned too far and open the battery compartment, it is also impossible to switch on and off with gloves on. Signal range is on the low end of newer transceivers which are now hitting the 60m mark instead of the traditional 40m.
Ease of Use 1/2
Quality / Price 2/2
This is only our opinion. Do you disagree? Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Join the discussion in the forums here, and let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation. Check back mid-season to see how our review stands up to our in-the-field testing.
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