by the Product Review Staff | 2004-01-30 03:00:00-07
ACR announced its new Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) the Terrafix 406 GPS PLB. At 12 oz (340 g) the Terrafix is smaller and lighter than the units that have been in production for 7 years. ACR claims it is the smallest most functional PLB that can be carried in a pack or pocket and is ideal for hikers, skiers, climbers, kayakers, etc. The Terrafix is 5.6 oz (160 g) lighter than its predicessor, the " GyPSI 406 MHz PLB." Most of the weight of the unit is the battery pack. By specification, PLB's have to broadcast at high energy levels for 24 hours in -4 F (-20 C) temperatures. Until battery technology improves one may not see huge gains in weight savings. The lithium battery unit has a 10 year life and cost $75 to replace. ACR recommends you replace it every 5 years.
The unit retains all the functionally of its predecessor, including a 5 W satellite broadcast on the 406 MHz signal as well as an earth homing signal at 50 to 100 mW at 121.5 MHz. There are two versions of the PLB. The Terrafix I will interface with an external (user provided) GPS unit. The Terrafix IO has a built in GPS receiver. Both will broacast the user's GPS location within a 100m radius. Without GPS assistance the PLB will locate a user withing a 2 mile radius on the first satellite pass and to within 0.5 mile radius within three satelite passes (typically 40 min/satelite pass). The Terrafix has an innovative, flat, stainless steel antenna that stores wrapped around the unit's case. It easily springs out when you're ready to activate the unit.
Our first impression of the Terrafix is that it is definately smaller, and more functional than the old GyPSI 406 MHz PLB. It actually is a handheld unit (see picture). We especially liked the LEDs that tell you the status of the units transmission. We also appreciated the multiple attachment modes of the unit. You can clip it to a carabiner, or attach it to the webbing on packs and vests.
The list price for the Terrafix I is $640.00 and the Terrafix IO is $740.00. An upright floating storage pouch is available as an option.
"ACR Electronics TerraFix 406 GPS Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) First Looks (Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2004)," by the Product Review Staff. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/00299.html, 2004-01-30 03:00:00-07.