I began this series of reviews with the Vaster Professional, an ironically named Novelty breathalyzer. I moved onto a high grade actual professional model from BACtrack, I was greatly impressed with their offering. The tech used was top notch and the price was on pint. Now I feel I must go through the back log of BACtrack breathalyzers, working my way through their product line, finding the niche for each of these models.
I touched on it briefly there about with the novelty comment, but I’ll go into more detail here. There are two kinds of breathalyzers on the market at the moment, with few outliers. The novelty breathalyzers, and the high grade professional breathalyzers. The weird thing is the difference in quality does not correspond to a commensurate difference in price. The cheapest of the novelties is around $29, while the cheapest of the professionals are around $50. The Novelty models will not measure accurately, I’ll go inot why further down, but suffice it to say that the professional grade breathalyzers will be accurate down to the thousandth of a percent. I am sure you can see the utility.
Today I will be going into detail on my time with the BACtrack Mobile, and its companion app. It’s a high grade fuel cell based breathalyzer, and the gimmick here is that handy app. Cheaper models will either not save the data of previous tests, or will have a small amount of memory, saving perhaps the previous ten. Here we have access to an app that records all manner of data, and will allow you to monitor your drinking habits on the fly.
I will be using my usual methodology to test the accuracy of the device, but will be able to go into detail on how versatile and useful the app is as well. In terms of drinking, I and a small group of my friends will be testing out our blood alcohol levels after 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 drinks, all beer of the same strength. I will be comparing the results to my previous tests with other breathalyzers, mostly also from BACtrack, and seeing if it matches up. Granted, going a little bit truth by consensus on it, but I have little choice in the matter.
So let’s break this little machine down, see how it compares to others on the market.
BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer Design and Build Quality
I tend to compare the aesthetics and quality of the build to my first reviewed product, that would be the Vaster Professional, and while that item was pretty much serviceable in terms of build, it doesn’t hold a candle to the quality of the BACtrack Mobile. The thing is quite sturdy, and is heavier than the other models I have tried out. The mouthpiece is not quite as angled as the BACtrack S80, nor is it as spirit leveled straight as the AccuMed BAC-178. Here there is a slight angle to it, and it really does make a difference, blowing into it is very easy.
All the other models I have reviewed have had an issue with ergonomics. None were so uncomfortable that I got a sore hand in the minute or so of use, but here I feel they took ergonomics into account. The body of the build is curved in just enough places to be both easy to hold, and to fit nicely into a reasonably sized pocket.
The look of the build is one of my favorites. Gone are the iPod esque screens of the other models, in favor of a screen less look, a white body with just enough cool looking glowing blue perspex parts. The details of your blood alcohol level are sent straight to the phone after all, so there is no need to have a screen on it. The mouthpieces for this model are different from the S80, so I had to buy some other ones for testing purposes. They are priced the same though, with a ten pack coming in around $8.
As for what’s inside the build, well, let me tell you, the tech on offer here for the price is absolutely astounding. The BACtrack Trace used a slightly less accurate Fuel cell, when compared to the S80, but here the lower price does not mean the fuel cell takes a hit in tech, with the same Platinum fuel cell present here as in the S80.
I’ll take a moment here to stress the importance of the fuel cell models over the semi conductor based ones. Semi conductor based breathalyzers are what I call the novelty items. The tech is very sensitive to other particles, not only alcohol, so even hair spray and cigarette smoke can create false positive results. Diabetics can’t even use them, and the results are not broad, they can tell you if you’ve been drinking a little or a lot under perfect circumstances. Fuel cell based builds only react to alcohol, and the resistance on the circuit created by the oxidation of the alcohol products can be measured across a broader range, that is what makes them so accurate.
Actually using the BACtrack Mobile is simple. Just press the button, wait around ten seconds and blow into it. There is no read out, as I mentioned, so all the date gets sent via Bluetooth to your phone, and compiled by the handy companion app, I’ll go into detail regarding the app in the next section. At its core the BACtrack Mobile is about product integration. It adds an extra layer between you and your results, that can’t be denied, but in doing so it creates a user experience that is still easy to get to grips with, and far more rewarding in the long run.
Overall there is a lot to like here, the build has some nice heft to it, and is overall quite rugged. There are a plethora of features included, which is always nice to see, but for me the quality of the fuel cell is all that matters, and with the BACtrack Mobile we are getting one of the best on the market.
BACtrack Mobile Professional Breathalyzer Testing
Now a look back over my time actually using the BACtrack Mobile. The testing methodology is as listed above. We all took our mouthpiece and each blew sober into the BACtrack Mobile. Base line zeroes all round, always a good start that. Next we each had the one beer, waited the allotted time and tested. The result came back at variations of 0.04, on average. A quick look back over my results from previous tests showed that this was on par with the other BACtrack models, and even matched up with the old Vaster, so far so good. The BACtrack Trace gave us more varied results, but well within a standard deviation. Here it was closer to the S80, which is what I expected. As the tests went on the results matched up even more closely. Overall i was quite pleased with its performance.
The quality on offer here is fantastic, but I would be remiss if I were to not point out the inherent danger of relying on any breathalyzer to tell you you’re okay to drive. This will give an accurate result, and I realize there is a legal limit, but any amount of alcohol will impair your driving, lower reaction times and increase the likelihood of an accident. I feel it is best to look at items like this as peace of mind, rather than vox dei. All that said, you know you.
Now a look at the companion app, and it seems the good people over at BACtrack have been keeping an eye on modern design trends at the very least. It is very minimalist, the buttons are nice and big, likely to compensate for inebriated phone use, and accessing necessary data is quick and easy. There are a few fun features included, for example when your BACtrack is warming up the app will ask you what you think you blood alcohol content is, allowing you to progressively get better at ball parking it.
It records all uses over the long term, and I recommend you use it throughout and evening to calibrate it’s ZeroLine tech. If you do it will be able to estimate when your blood alcohol content will be back to zero, and excellent little feature. Lastly, if you are so inclined, you can share the details of your blood alcohol content over the internet, or to your phone book. That last one may sound odd, but I imagine a suspicious parent might see some utility in it.
I feel like I’m gushing over this model. I was very taken with the BACtrack Trace, due to its quality and price, but here is this build that is both higher in terms of quality and the same price, give or take a few bucks. You can get this model for right around $100 in most places. That said to see the current price with all the available discounts at Amazon.com you can click here. Remember that you should probably buy a few replacement mouthpieces while you’re at it. You can grab them on Amazon.com as well by clicking here.
BACtrack Trace Professional Breathalyzer Conclusion
There is so much good in this little package. The lack of featured screen is a bit of a downside, as it tethers it to a phone, but who leaves the house without a phone these days? It does not take batteries, instead charging via USB. The app is compatible with iOS and Android, cleverly designed and easy to understand. The fuel cell quality is up there with BACtrack’s finest, and thus so too is the accuracy. If you want something a little more independent, then the Trace is more your speed, but if you want top of the line gear, with phone integration, you have to get the BACtrack Mobile.
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