Ortovox S1+ Review
Ortovox started out with the S1 basic 1425 Version of the S1. The 1425 was the first of it’s kind to have a flip “Cell Phone” style clam shell case. This made it the easiest beacon on the market to switch from search to transmit mode. It also included the capabilities to simultaneously scan for all signals in a field and display them in a graphical representation on the S1 digital transceiver display. The S1 was also one of the first beacons to include an electronic compass and temperature gage. As an added safety feature, the S1 also reverted back to transmit mode if searching was stalled.
The firmware was later updated to version 1.0 was released which also included a new upgraded case and on/off switch. Version 1.0 also included a search function for over 4 victims. The menu was upgraded, and the entire unit was now upgradeable by authorized retailer or by mailing the beacon back in to Ortovox. Additionally, version 1.0 of the S1 included new directional indicator, and the additional functions like the compass and interference correction were overall enhanced.
Version 2.0 unveiled the top of the line beacon on the outdoor market. With all of the bells and whistles, the second release showcased detailed improvements to directional indicator, deep burial detection, and self test. There were also further enhancements made to the resistance against interference. These types of refinements show Ortovox’s commitment to usability, durability and most importantly – showing their best work in the event of a worst case scenario. Saving lives. Your aren’t just investing in a beacon, you are investing in yourself and those who care about you.
Version 2.1 and Version 1.2.3488 came in a new case, and were referred to as the S1+ for the new model. They offered further improvements to improve the search accuracy by indicating when the signal is lost or confused. Additional menu functions were added to cancel marking and a hold function for the inclination measurement tool, so you can read the degree of slope without having to be down on the ground. Also the internal sensitivity has been optimized, so precise locationing and deep burial functions were made more accurate.
As you can see by the history of the Ortovox S1, they have been dedicated to improving and updating the firmware to keep the S1(+) as up to date and one of the highest rated beacons on the market.
Why should someone consider Ortovox S1 or S1+ for purchase to save their life, or their friends life? Thats a lot to ask for a little piece of equipment.
[pullquote_right]In advanced testing, the S1 was always shown as one of the top rated in search and recovery.[/pullquote_right]The Ortovox S1 was a new revolution to the beacon world. No one had such an advanced display, and a convenient flip style form factor. In advanced testing, the S1 was always shown as one of the top rated in search and recovery, from the novice to the advanced user. The S1 has always been in the top ranking for fastest location times for all users inexperienced to advanced. The S1 has an advanced sensor control that shows up to 4 victims and a menu option to search for more than 4 victims.
The S1 also has an illuminated display, compass, temperature display, and inclomotor for measuring slope angle. It was super easy to switch from transmit to search mode by just opening the beacon clamshell. It is rated at up to 50 m search distance. The S1 also offered a close proximity search for narrowing down at close distances, with an audible notification that intensifies as the range comes closer.
Searching with the S1 is so easy. Just open the flip and wait for the searching pattern to display. If there is interference, a stop hand appears while the signal is located again. There is also a reminder that will appear if you are not holding the beacon parallel to the ground, for the most accurate reading.
Once the distance is within 3 m the beacon goes into close proximity mode or fine search where a circle appears and focuses in down to 1 m to begin probing.
There are 2 simple buttons on the inside of the beacon. One is an “OK” button, and the other is a Menu button. At first it’s not apparent, but there are visual lines that indicate the functionality of the buttons as displayed in the digital display. The “OK” is used to make selections when using the menu, or marking found victims to continue searching.
There are two buttons on either side of the hinges of the S1. The left side is a locking button to keep the beacon clam from being opened, which sometimes works as a lock, and other times does not. The right side is the on/off switch that sometimes took a little pushing/twisting action to get it to turn, and is proven hard to do with gloves on.
[pullquote_right]The menu is very simple, however it sometimes feels too simple.[/pullquote_right]The major feature you are paying for with the upgraded Ortovox S1+ is the Smart Antenna. It automatically switches from a vertical to horizontal placed transmitting antenna depending on the direction of the beacon when buried. Under our testing, we noticed that the direction was still fairly accurate depending on whether we stood beacon upright or laid it down. However the distance was drastically off. From a dry test, we placed the beacons about 20 m apart. The S1+ would read from 20 m to 40 m depending on the direction of the beacon. However, the S1 would read 20 m no matter what direction the beacon was laying.
- The S1+ has a controlled avalanche scanner with 3 antennas and a timing sensor to switch back to transmit mode incase of an additional slide.
- The S1+ uses the same large display as the S1, however the backlight was improved and the overall display is easier to see in various lighting conditions.
- Smart Antenna
- Slightly Larger Search Range (up to 55m)
- More precise refinement under close proximity
- Only takes 2 tripple A (AAA) Batteries; the S1 takes 3 tripple A (AAA) Batteries, this was said to have improved searching capabilities of the beacon.
- The S1+ has a newly refined main menu with only the most important information on the first screen, the second menu screen now houses other functions not necessarily needed during the time of touring or searching.
What we Thought of the S1+
We found it interesting that the S1+ came in at a price point below the cost of the original S1 (About $50 cheaper). It could be that Ortovox is trying to be more competitive with the current market. Additionally, we feel that the improvements made to the S1+ weren’t directly pointed at the S1 owners, encouraging them to go upgrade to the S1+. Although the new rotational antenna and simplified menu were significant changes, we don’t feel that many users will upgrade from the S1.
However, shoppers in the market for a new beacon may be attracted to the lower price of the S1+ as well as the added improvements. The S1+ also has a little cooler look, but we would have liked to see them shrink the size of it a little over it’s predecessor. With everything from cell phones to laptops getting light and smaller you think they could have shrunk the beacon a little.
The menu is very simple, however it sometimes feels too simple. Navigating between the main 4 function screen and the advanced menu is a little annoying. Additionally, you can input your personal information into the beacon if it is found, or if you are found. This input is very time consuming, but only needs to be done once. It would be nice if there were an easier way to input this information, and update future firmware enhancements.
The new case is easier to use with gloves on because of a grippy coating on the actual beacon. The old sling case had a button to remove the beacon from the holster that was hard to push with gloves on. Additionally the beacon had to be in a precise position to see the outer flashing lights to know that the beacon was on and transmitting. The new case has a mesh front (for on light visibility). I must also point out both the S1 and the S1+ both have a very nice design for a self retracting leash that stays out of the way.
One issue we noticed with the S1+ is that you may get a false sense of battery life during the self test. When the beacon is turned on, it may show that your battery is at 100% power during the self test. However, using the menu and viewing the “i” information button, it will most likely show a more accurate representation of the battery life.
The reviews all over the internet are accurate, this is one of the best beacons on the market. When compared with other beacons in the same price range, or out of this price range, the S1+ stands strong, and is worth the cost for anyone spending time in avalanche country.
Do you own an S1 or an S1+ let us know you you think about them in the comments below.
Don’t own one but have some questions, ask them in the comments below and we will do our best to answer them.