||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 S1+ include:
- 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
- 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
- The device has a rubberized coating that makes it easier to hold
- 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 new "deep
burial" mode. (You can upgrade your S1 to have
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
|"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 with
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
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 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 the same weight as the Pieps DSP. (Much of the variations in weight comes from the
|Revert to Send: The S1 will automatically revert to transmit
if there is no motion for 90 seconds. This feature can be disabled or set 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 length.
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 send, and the screen contrast.
Updates: The S1 has an infrared interface that allows the
firmware to be updated. Learn more about
updating the S1.
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.