Want to learn more? This is a great book.

Scores and Stars on BeaconReviews.com

When I first published BeaconReviews.com in 2003, only the original Pieps DSP deserved five stars. At that time the Tracker DTS (and similar two-antenna transceivers) were easy to identify as 4-star transceivers (solid performers, but with shorter reception ranges and without a third antenna to resolve spikes). Using that same scoring methodology in 2013 resulted in 13 of the 16 avalanche transceivers receiving 5 stars. It became obvious that the scoring system needed to be revised.

In an effort to minimize subjectivity, I created a mathematical model in the Fall of 2013 that calculates the scores based on information in the comparison table. I revised the model again in late-2019 to adjust for the cluster of transceivers that received 5 stars.

The current scoring model uses the following factors to determine the number of stars.

  • Whether it displays the distance and a direction indicator.
  • The type of display (e.g., bitmapped, segmented, two-digit, etc) and the helpfulness of what is displayed (e.g., does it show a zigzag pattern during the signal search, does it display a reduced search strip when interference is detected, how intuitive is the prompt for a group check, etc).
  • The type of audio output (e.g., digital and analog, digital only, analog only).
  • The number of switches and controls (fewer is better) and whether you can accidentally switch from Search to Send.
  • The length of its "inline" and "perpendicular" reception ranges.
  • How well it handles spikes.
  • How it supports "marking" during multiple burials (e.g., whether it supports marking of transceivers, if you can mark more than one transceiver, how it indicates the number of transmitters, etc). You can learn more about multiple burials and transceiver marking on AvyRescue.com.
  • Whether it supports firmware updates and whether you can update the firmware yourself.
  • Whether the transceiver has been discontinued.
  • Whether it can auto-revert to transmit and whether the auto-reverting be disabled.
  • Its relative size (smaller is better).


Some of these criterion influence the score significantly and others have minimal impact. The mathematical model gets us close to a final score, but there are still important considerations that aren't contained in the " comparison table" (e.g., ease of use, accuracy of the directional indicator, consistent marking of multiple burials, absence of a continuous carrier, etc). Jonathan and I made a few minor adjustments to the calculated scores to compensate for these factors.

Suffice it to say that any transceiver with a score of 4.0 is a solid contender and would have received 5 stars under the old system. The individual reviews and the comparison table will help you further parse out the features that are important to you.

(Random photo from an avalanche mission)


Please Support our Advertisers