SPOT X: Review: A Small, Powerful Satellite Communicator (at a Price)

SpotX Review Satellite GPS Messanger

When you’re deep in the backcountry, you can’t rely on your cell phone. If you find yourself in trouble, you need a satellite communicator like the SPOT X 2-Way Messenger.

Spot is one of the biggest names in the SOS beacon arena (we previously reviewed the Spot GEN3) — but is the SPOT X, their flagship satellite messenger, worth the money?

Satellite Messenger to Text

SPOT Two-way Messaging

The SPOT X can send two-way text messages over most of the globe — and where it can’t, it mostly supports one-way messaging and S.O.S. That includes both your own contacts and Search and Rescue. That’s a nice feature for S&R because you can communicate the nature of your emergency and get confirmation when someone is one their way to help..

I did notice that getting clear line of sight to the sky for reception was difficult at times. If you’re in an area where you often can’t directly see the sky, you may have trouble connecting to the satellite network

Trying to use Satellite Messenger in Thick Trees

You can connect your phone to the Spot X via Bluetooth to import your contacts (messages can be sent to phone numbers or email addresses), which saves you the step of looking someone’s phone number.

The device also has its own phone number, so people can message you directly when you’re off the grid.

One of the things I noticed about this particular device is that the keypad is easy to use and I was able to type quickly. If you’ve ever used a phone with a bad keyboard, you know why this is a big deal.

SPOT Tracker GPS

Choose from 2.5-, 5-, 10-, 30-, or 60-minute tracking intervals to optimize your device’s battery life. In the 10-minute mode, you can get up to 10 days of battery life in optimal conditions.

Following along on Computer via GPS

Your friends and family can see your check-ins, so they know if your adventure is on track. And with programmable waypoints, you can see if you’re on track, too. I liked that my wife could see the elevation of my check-ins — a very cool touch!

Pocket-size durability

Small GPS

Satellite communicators have gotten a lot smaller over the years, and the SPOT X is a great example. At 6.54″ x 2.9″ x 0.94″ and only weighing 7 oz., you can easily clip this messenger to your pack or keep it in a pocket. It comes with a strap and carabiner too, so you can just clip it and go.

Camping with Spot X

This device is also waterproof up to one meter for thirty minutes and totally protected from dust ingress (IP67).

Spot Service Plans

Spot X satellite coverage map

I understand that maintaining a satellite communication network can’t be cheap. But the subscription plans that SPOT offers do seem on the expensive side.

For example, every plan, whether annual or monthly, has a $19.95 activation charge. And if you use a flex plan where you don’t sign up for an annual contract, you’ll have to pay $24.95 per year — which is almost as much as a month of the Flex Advanced plan.

SPOT GPS

Here’s what you get with each plan:

Basic ($11.95 / month for a year, or $14.95 for a month)

  • 20 custom messages (25¢ per message after that)
  • Unlimited S.O.S.
  • Unlimited check-in messages
  • Unlimited predefined messages
  • 10-, 30-, and 60-minute tracking options (reset every 24 hours)
  • No movement alert

Advanced ($19.95 / month for a year or $29.95 for a month)

  • 100 custom messages (25¢ per message after that)
  • Unlimited S.O.S.
  • Unlimited check-in messages
  • Unlimited predefined messages
  • 5-, 10-, 30-, and 60-minute tracking options
  • 30-minute, 60-minute, 4-hour, and 12-hour movement alerts

Unlimited ($29.95 / month for a year or $39.95 for a month)

  • Unlimited custom messages
  • Unlimited S.O.S.
  • Unlimited check-in messages
  • Unlimited predefined messages
  • 2.5-, 5-, 10-, 30-, and 60-minute tracking options
  • 30-minute, 60-minute, 4-hour, and 12-hour movement alerts

That’s a lot of options, which is nice. If you go on a lot of adventures, an annual plan is definitely the way to go. Skipping the $24.95 flex charge will save you a lot of cash over several years.

But if you just don’t need that much uptime, you can go for a monthly plan and pay the flex charge.

It struck me that these plans are expensive. A single year of the Advanced plan is almost as expensive as the device at full price.

And SPOT is quick to turn your device off if you haven’t paid the fee. I lost my service because I owed 26¢ — and my wife wasn’t very happy about that.

Overall Impression

Spot X in Car

The Spot X is a small, durable, reliable satellite communicator. I love that it weighs less than half a pound and that it provides two-way messaging over most of the world.

That said, paying $250 for the Spot X ($239.99 if you get it on sale at the time of this writing) and then several hundred dollars more for a plan every year isn’t the best. That adds up fast. A monthly plan is more reasonable, but you also have to pay a $25 flex fee every year that you use a monthly plan. Which feels like a money grab.

I’d recommend this device if you plan on getting a yearly plan. Without one, you’ll probably end up paying more than you need to, especially when you have the option of something like the Garmin inReach Explorer+ as an option. There are plenty of other satellite beacons that will do the job, too.

But if you want a solidly built option for heavy use, the Spot X has you covered. Just stay out of the thick trees.

4
Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger
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About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. When not on a board, Mike worked for Snowboarder and later oversaw TGR's online publication. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News where he is still CEO and Editor in Chief.

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