||123 x 79 x 30 mm,
||Analog and Digital
Overview: The Ortovox S1 is unlike other avalanche
transceivers on two fronts. First, it has a flip-phone design where
you flip the transceiver open to initiate search mode. Second, the
S1 displays multiple burials on a computer-like display which is
analogous to seeing the victims on a map. You line-up one of the
victims on the screen and walk toward him, rather than following
a traditional directional
indicator that points to the victim. As you move toward the
first victim, you can see other victims pass you on the sides. It
is a matter of personal preference if you prefer this design or
the more traditional follow-the-blinking-light (or arrow) approach.
A Plus version of the S1 was released in late-2011 (i.e., "S1+").
Changes to the
- The S1+ includes the "smart
antenna" technology that was first introduced in the
Ortovox 3+. This can improve the ability of other transceivers
to locate the S1+. The addition of the smart antenna resulted
in a slightly longer "y-axis" antenna which should,
theoretically, allow for a slightly wider
search strip width than
the basic S1.
- The number of batteries was reduced from 3 to 2. Ortovox
tells me that the removal of the battery resulted in a longer
reception range (due to a
reduction of interference).
- The device has a rubberized coating that makes it easier
to hold with gloves.
- The S1+ uses an accelerometer, rather than a compass, to
sense subtle changes in direction while searching.
- The S1+ does not include a thermometer or navigation compass.
- The S1+ cannot be switched to analog.
- The menus have been redesigned to have fewer icons and be
more intuitive. (You can upgrade
your S1 to simplify the menus.)
- The S1+ includes a
burial" mode. (You can
upgrade your S1 to have this feature.)
- Ortovox began installing a RECCO reflector
in the S1+ in October 2013. (Read
The remainder of this review was written for the standard S1
avalanche transceiver. These core features remain very similar between
the S1 and the S1+.
Searching: To switch into search mode, you press a button
and flip open the Star-Trek-like lid. During the
signal search (when you
are seeking an initial signal), a little man is shown walking a
zigzag path on the screen. This is a good reminder of what you should
be doing, although someone completely unfamiliar with the S1 might
take the image literally and think they should turn right, or left,
when the little man does. The S1 and S1+ have a
recommended search strip width
of 50 meters.
A supine man is displayed on the screen when you receive a signal.
You then perform the coarse
search by turning the transceiver until the vertical line that
is displayed on the screen is on top of the man. The S1 (and the
Pulse) uses an internal compass
to help sense when you turn.
If you do not hold the transceiver level while searching, a "tilt"
symbol is displayed indicating that you should hold the unit level.
Likewise, a triangular "warning" icon is displayed if
you should stop moving while the S1 processes information.
When you are within approximately
3 meters of the victim, a "patented circular illustration"
is displayed (see below) to complete the
fine search. The illustration
uses a combination of highlighted circles and four arrows to indicate
if you are moving closer to, or away from, the victim. I found this
reasonably intuitive, although I tend to focus on the distance number
which is very responsive. (An
update on 10/2011
enables you to activate this mode sooner for deeper burials.)
The audio feedback
on the S1 increases the cadence of the beep as you near the victim
(as do the Barryvox 3000, Ortovox X1, Ortovox Patroller, Ortovox
D3, Ortovox 3+, and the Pieps). The ARVA, Mammuts and Trackers increase
the cadence and pitch which is a little more intuitive.
I have occasionally seen an oddity during the
coarse search where if
I am near the limits of the S1's range when I first receive
a signal, and I am pointed 90-degrees to the victim (i.e., not getting
closer to the victim as I walk), the S1 will continue to point me
straight ahead until I eventually lose the signal. When this occurs,
the transceiver prompts me to swing the transceiver from side-to-side
(see the illustration to the right) in an effort to relocate the
signal. I'd prefer it if the S1 would shorten its range and
make sure that when it does display a direction indicator it is
locked on solidly. This problem was more pronounced in earlier versions
of the S1 firmware and was improved, but not eliminated, in version
2.1. I strongly encourage you to upgrade.
|"If the S1 again has to
determine the initial signal, the instruction to pivot the
S1 appears on the display."
Likewise, sometimes the little man will jump from the line in
front of me to the horizontal line at the base of the screen (which
means the victim is behind you). I've been told that when the
man jumps below the horizontal line, you should either keep walking
to see if the numbers increase or decrease, or turn around and follow
the man (which should now be in front of you) to see if the distance
numbers increase or decrease.
Multiple Burials: The S1's ability to display the
victim on a map is truly unique. As shown in the illustration to
the right, up to three victims can be displayed simultaneously with
the distances to each. This is a cool display, although during an
actual search, the rescuer is focused on the closest victim and
doesn't really need to see the other victims.
During my testing, the S1's ability to suppress a victim
during a multiple burial was excellent. You press a button to suppress
the current beacon and advance to the next beacon. The S1 (as with
the Pulse) also allows you to unmark a previously marked beacon.
Read the details here.
Spikes: In my testing, the S1 was good at dealing
Controls: You power-on the S1 with the twist of
a dial. To change to search mode, you press a release button and
flip the lid open.
The S1 makes extensive use of icon-based menus. A few icons,
like the one shown to the right, were difficult for me to interpret
without referring to the user's
You navigate through the S1's menus using two buttons. The
bottom button moves through the menu icons and the top button selects
the highlighted icon. You can use the pixel-based screen to display
a compass, check battery levels, display version information, display
an inclinometer, etc. Whether you find the menus and added features
helpful or prefer the simplicity of the 3+, Pieps DSPs or Trackers
is a matter of personal preference.
On startup (or after changing batteries), you are prompted to
calibrate the compass. Via icons, you are prompted to rotate
the transceiver, flip it over, and flip it right-side-up. The process
is relatively easy, but not intuitive (i.e., when you flip over
the transceiver, the screen is no longer displayed to give instructions).
Comfort: The S1's pouch-style harness is outstanding.
The shoulder strap is actually labeled "shoulder" to help
you sort out the inevitable harness tangle, and the waist strap
is non-elastic (my preference, as I dislike the constrictive feeling
of elastic around my torso).
At 360 grams, the S1 is 13% heavier than the Pulse, 10% heavier
than the Tracker2 and 9% lighter than a DSP Pro. (Much of the variations
in weight comes from the harnesses.)
|Revert to Send: The S1 will automatically
revert to transmit if
there is no motion for 90 seconds. This feature can be disabled
or changed to 30, 60, or 120 seconds.
Group Check Mode: S1 has a group check mode (Ortovox
calls it a "quick test") which also confirms the
transmission frequency, transmission period, and period
Compass: The built-in compass works well, although
it does not allow you to set declination. The compass is
not available in the S1+.
Inclinometer: Selecting the inclinometer from
the menus displays the angle of the S1's top lid. You
can use this to measure the angle of a slope for avalanche
evaluation. The inclinometer was designed to be read while
the unit is resting on the snow. Unfortunately, you cannot
sight along the bottom lid while reading the slope (e.g.,
to measure the slope of an entire hillside). You can, however,
sight along the top lid, press the OK button to lock the
display, and then read the slope angle.
Settings: Using the menus, you can change the
volume, the amount of time before reverting to transmit,
and the screen contrast.
Updates: The S1 has an infrared interface that
allows the firmware to be updated.
Learn more about updating the
Summary: The S1 has an innovative interface, a good range,
good multiple burial features, and handles spikes. Some people may
find the menus confusing during an actual avalanche search while
others will appreciate the added control they provide.