>Well now that folks can actually test these units they are finding out
>that they have all the same quirks of the SPOT system. The reviews are
>dribbling in and they are enlightening. They need to get a GPS fix. They
>don't always hit a satelite. They don't work in canyons or under canopy
>any better than SPOT.
Reviews are not always accurate. For example, PLBs do not need to get a GPS fix; GPS fixes are in addition to Doppler location fixes from LEO satellites. GPS was added for speed, accuracy, and redundancy.
Using a PLB test service is not the same as activating a PLB for a real emergency. Among other differences, in a real emergency your PLB transmits continuously until the battery dies, specified for at least 24 hours; a test runs for a short time to keep from depleting your battery. A real activation is much more likely to reach a satellite than a test.
Like any device that uses satellites, your PLB needs to see the satellites to send a signal, so try to activate in an open area. But 'PLBs also have a built-in, low-power homing beacon that transmits on 121.5 MHz. This allows rescue forces to home in on a beacon once the 406 MHz satellite system has gotten them "in the ballpark" (about 2-3 miles).'
Every device has pros and cons; choose wisely, and be prepared for the real risks of heading into the wilderness.