Arva Neo Pro Review
Cons: Bulky, bracketing takes more patience, tones are ear-piercing, old school plastic housing looks "cheap"
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Arva Neo Pro
$299.97 at Evo
|$297.93 at Amazon|
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|$340 List||$350 List|
$271.97 at Evo
|$265.92 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Great performance and features for the price, cool analog feature, very good at multiple burials, intuitive design, ultra long range, fast processor, super featured||Very fast processor, crushes in the fine search, easy to use, light and compact (great for beacon-in-pocket users), low-stress sounds||Easy to use, Bluetooth compatible, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionality||Easy-to-use, configured with Bluetooth and an app, good range, fast processor, great multiple burial and flagging functionality||Lightning fast processor, top-tier bracketing performance in the fine search, effectively differentiates between close proximity burials, low profile designs, easy to use interface|
|Cons||Bulky, bracketing takes more patience, tones are ear-piercing, old school plastic housing looks "cheap"||Display screen is so/so, multiple burial function un-flag the last marked beacon after 1 min, can only mark one signal||Bulky for a pocket, slider toggle is stiff, harness tether is somewhat short||A little on the chunky side for pant pocket beacon wearers, slider toggle is stiff||Mediocre range, flagging/marking feature works, no option to update software|
|Bottom Line||This ultra-capable beacon packs in a ton of features and great performance at an awesome price||Takes previous Tracker's top-notch ease-of-use, speed, and intuitiveness, and adds a marking function and a low-profile design||One of the better basic beacons on the market, especially for the price||Will suit most recreational backcountry travelers well, from beginner to advanced||An capable, easy-to-use beacon with a lightning-fast processor|
|Rating Categories||Arva Neo Pro||Backcountry Access...||Pieps Powder BT||Black Diamond Recon BT||Backcountry Access...|
|Single Victim Search (20%)|
|Fine Search (20%)|
|Multiple Burials (15%)|
|Specs||Arva Neo Pro||Backcountry Access...||Pieps Powder BT||Black Diamond Recon BT||Backcountry Access...|
|Weight||246 g / 8.6 oz||215 g / 7.6 oz||225 g / 7.9 oz||225 g / 7.9 oz||165 g / 5.8 oz|
|Number of Antennae||3||3||3||3||3|
|Manufacturer's Range||70 meters||50 meters||60 meters||60 meters||55 meters|
|Battery Life (in "Send")||250 hours||250 hours||200 hours||200 hours||250 hours|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Arva Neo Pro is a pro-level beacon at a very reasonable price. At the time of publication, no other beacon featuring this model's level or range, multiple burial functionality, or the ability to switch into an analog-only search function can be found at this price point. We found the Neo Pro quite intuitive and a top performer at nearly every stage except the fine search, which took a bit more practice. With that said, the Neo Pro is a top-tier beacon that is priced more in line with the basic "all-around" transceivers on the market.
The Arva Neo Pro was one of the faster beacons we tested, especially among "pro-level" beacons. This model didn't bog down with multiple signals and even with quick movements, it was able to quickly recalculate and align itself with a new flux line.
In our side-by-side testing, the Neo Pro proved faster at acquiring a signal due to its extended range — in the course search, it was able to quickly calculate its distance and direction even with overlapping signals. During the Fine search, it performed fine but was just a touch slower during the bracketing stage, mostly due to the directional arrows disappearing at 3m.
Ease of Finding a Single Victim
With a long-range, fast processor, intuitive design, and an easy-to-interpret display, the Neo Pro performed fantastically at nearly every stage of the search. It is no doubt packed full of features; however, unlike a lot of other feature-heavy beacons, the Neo Pro is easy to use and the interface is essentially the same as even the most basic of beacons. This means that despite the ability to scroll through victims and switch into Analog mode, this beacon defaults to a very simple design with additional buttons to assist the user in switching into more advanced settings, should they so choose.
The Neo Pro uses 5 basic directional arrows that can use the combination of two arrows to best assist its user to stay on the flux line. It also has the built-in feature that when you pass the signal and go too far, you get a "U" indication on the screen and a loud audible tone that helps alter you that you've gone too far and need to turn around.
Ease of Use in Fine Search
The Arva Neo Pro's directional arrows disappear at 3m. We generally find that beacons whose arrows disappear at 2m are easier to achieve precise bracketing with. Still, among those with arrows that disappeared at 3m, this beacon was consistently among the easiest models to come in right over the top of a buried signal.
The Neo Pro consistently provided precise bracketing and was more frequently directly over the buried signal, minimizing how much horizontal distance (side-to-side) was needed to finalize our bracket. The Neo Pro's audible tones are quite loud, bordering on-ear piercing, especially when we first tried the beacon out in the comfort of our home. However, outside they weren't quite as bad, and it is nearly impossible to recognize the change in pitch, cadence, and volume helping the searcher to stay on track.
The Arva Neo Pro has a whopping 70m range in digital mode and 80m range in analog mode. This puts it equal to the models with the absolute longest ranges. To access Analog mode, the user simply pushes down the up/down keys at the same time. The Neo Pro does not display a direction arrow when in Analog mode. We don't think this is a big deal, as folks generally only use Analog mode while initially searching for the signal, while using a multiple burial technique like the micro strip search, or in a group check mode. For most of these modes, the arrow is nice but not essential. Due to the lack of a directional arrow and displayed distance, we think that all but the most experienced users will need to practice with the Analog mode. Still, we think this is a nice feature that is well worth getting familiar with.
This technique requires two hands (and two thumbs), but it's useful while searching for a signal and we didn't find it that challenging while running or skinning over low-angle debris. The Neo Pro recommends a 70m search strip width but has a built-in sensor to sense other interference and will recommend a narrower search strip width.
Ease of Use in Multiple Burials
The Arva Neo Pro is one of the top-scoring models for multiple burials and performs well enough that we'd recommend it for avalanche and backcountry professionals training for and participating in avalanche rescue exams such as the AMGA (4 beacons in 8 minutes, no digging, just probing), ACMG (3 beacons) and the rescue component of any provider of a PRO1 Operations course.
The Neo Pro will display 1-3 "person" icons on the left side of the screen to identify how many signals it sees. If there are more than 3 signals it will display a "+" to show there are more than 3 victims. When there are multiple burials this model gives its user the ability to "scroll" through signals indicated by their respective signal symbol (person icon on the side of the screen) flashing. This lets the user identify which signals are where and how far away to assist in complex rescue scenarios with multiple burials and multiple searchers.
As a whole, this model was among the best for multiple burial situations. It was difficult to "trick" this beacon, and it differentiated multiple and overlapping signals extremely well. We found that it would sometimes present a "ghost" signal, but that signal was never stronger than actual beacons we were picking up and was generally short-lived. However, it happened more frequently with this model than with other transceivers.
This model features an easy-to-initiate Group Check mode when the beacon fires up. While its signal lock wasn't so strong that we couldn't reasonably pull off a traditional beacon/function check at the trailhead, the Group Check mode made this pre-departure check far quicker and easier if we were running it.
This model features a standby mode which allows the user to keep their device switched ON while shoveling, probing, or tending to an injured person without interfering with another person's beacon. The idea is that you are neither transmitting nor receiving, so you won't interfere with the searcher's ability to find and/or follow the signal, but the motion sensor is still activated (unlike if the beacon were to be turned "OFF"), so if you don't move for long enough it will switch back to SEND mode.
The Neo Pro also has the ability to sense electronic interference and it will suggest a narrower search strip if the beacon deems it necessary. For example, this model recommends a 70m search strip width but if it senses interference, it will only recommend a 40m search strip width. We think this is a cool feature, and one that few other beacons offer.
Comfort to Carry
The Arva Neo Pro is slightly bulkier than a lot of the new slimmer models that have recently flooded the market. Still, most people will find it comfortable enough to carry in their pants pocket or using the beacons included harness. Arva recommends this model be worn in the harness with the screen facing out (away from your body), which is the only model we know that has that recommendation as most manufacturers recommend that the screen face toward your body.
Should You Buy the Arva Neo Pro?
The Arva Neo Pro offers a ton of features and professional-level performance for an entry-level price. Sporting a fast processor, mega long range, and one of the better multiple burial functions out there, this beacon is an excellent option for pros or advanced users looking for a more capable beacon. For more casual recreationists and less practiced users, this beacon is will take a little more practice to be proficient with, primarily during the fine search.
What Other Avalanche Beacon Should You Consider?
If you don't need a pro-level beacon, check out the more user-friendly (yet still affordable) Backcountry Access Tracker S. For a slim, low-profile beacon, we recommend the Black Diamond Recon LT. If you know you need a beacon with all the professional bells and whistles, in addition to the Neo Pro we also recommend the Mammut Barryvox S or the Pieps Pro BT, which have all the added features that avalanche professionals need.
— Ian Nicholson
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