Friday, September 30, 2022

BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer Review – 2018 Update

This series of reviews may land me in the hospital, so I hope you all appreciate it. Breathalyzers are no longer exclusively used by cops. Now you can own a high quality alcohol tester of your very own. Last time I got to test out the Vaster Pro, and it works. I can’t say it was all that accurate, but it at least was able to give you a ball park figure on your level of inebriation. The S80 is a little pricier, and as a result one would imagine it is the more accurate tester. I have my results from last time, a good baseline, and will again be using my standard methodology, me and a group of friends getting slowly drunk.

A simple look through the world of breathalyzers will tell you a few things about the core tech behind them. It has allowed me to assign all of them to two basic categories. The Novelty items and the professional items. Novelty breathalyzers will give you a broadly inaccurate result, while the professional grade breathalyzers will be dead on to the thousandth of a percent. The weird thing, from my perspective, is the increase in accuracy, and thus quality, does not really correlate to thee increase in price. The cheapest of the novelty style breathalyzers will cost you around $20, while the cheapest of the professional grade devices will be closer to $100.

The methodology is simple. Me and a small group of friends will be drinking different amounts, all of us are of similar builds, but our resistance to alcohol is very different. There are five of us, and thus five readings. Me at 1, the next guy at 2 and so on until we have five different levels. With the Vaster the company who made it mentions that it wasn’t the most accurate model on the market, marketing it as a novelty more than anything else. This BACtrack S80 is a fully featured product, one that is NHTSA compliant, as such if you are looking for a breathalyzer for safety purposes, this may be the right product for you.

So let’s get to it, break down the features, strengths and weaknesses.

BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer Design and Build Quality

I love this image so much.
I love this image so much.

The Vaster professional left a lot to be desired in terms of function, but the build quality was fairly high. Or at least I thought so at the time, the BACtrack S80. This is a very robust and functional looking device. The mouthpiece is on a bit of an angle, sounds so small a thing, but it makes using it so much easier. The body of the piece is simple, a two tone black design, and overall it is fairly ergonomic. A groove here or there wouldn’t have gone amiss, but overall it is was fine. The display is bright, but not so impressive beyond that. Using it is easy,  I imagine simplicity was at the core of their design philosophy, and in that regard they nailed it. Using it day to day, which I do not recommend, is easy enough. Hit start, wait ten seconds and blow into the mouth piece.

Simplicity must have been at the core of the design philosophy behind this one, and they nailed it. In saying that it comes with a variety of useful features beyond the core. It checks your temperature, allows you to set your own warning levels, and features an internal solenoid breath pump that allows even those with reduced lung capacity to get an accurate reading, up to a point at least. The most impressive feature is the accuracy of the BACtrack, to within a hundredth of a unit. It is all down to the sensor, lower grade breathalyzers use a semiconductor to test the blood alcohol content, the best use a Platinum fuel cell, which is why they cost a little more.

The difference between a novelty breathalyzer and a professional one lies in its sensor. In this case the semi conductor vs the fuel cell. Semi conductor based breathalyzers are less accurate simply because they react to more than just alcohol. Hair spray, cigarette smoke, all kinds of things can get in there and give a less than correct result. Even under perfect conditions the range of resistances, and thus the range of readings, is very narrow, little better than simply telling you whether you have drunk a lot of a little. The fuel cell sensors in the S80 only react to alcohol particles, and the levels of resistance are far finer, allowing it to provide the most accurate result.

BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer Testing

Now to the testing, so we all breathed into the BACtrack before drinking anything, and it judged us sober, so far so good. Then we all had a beer, waited the allotted time and tested again. The spread was a little strange at first look, the Vaster set us all to 0.03, but here the numbers were a little different. My big drinker friend was blowing under, while I as a light drinker, was blowing a little over it. It impressed me. As the night wore on the number proceeded in the same direction as the Vaster, but more nuanced, more detailed.

Unlike the Vaster, this one can be used to verify whether you can drive or not. Personally I wouldn’t risk it, as any amount of alcohol can impair your ability to drive, but the law disagrees, so so long as you’re below, drive away. It comes with 6 mouthpieces, so don’t be thinking a group of guys were all getting drunk and blowing on the same saliva soaked nozzle all night. I would order a ten pack as a back up in any case.

BACtrack products tend to be very high quality, and the S80 is no exception. If you are looking for a great all around package at a good value I’m hard pressed to find anything I could recommend in it’s place.

You can usually find the S80 for sale online for slightly over $100 which is amazing value for what you get. To see the current price at Amazon.com (they tend to discount the S80 fairly often) you can click here. Powering the device is a pair of AA batteries, two come with the S80. Getting replacements is super easy, as I am sure you know.

BACtrack S80 Breathalyzer Conclusion

The core question you need to ask yourself before you invest in a breathalyzer is what do you want it for. If you are looking for a party item, a novelty, then you could get away with a cheaper model. They aren’t all that accurate, but you can find one for well under $30. I stress that you should not trust them to let you know if you can drive, more of a “Hey look how much more I can drink than your”, which is a popular boast over here in Ireland.

If you want something that will grant you some peace of mind then you need a top quality breathalyzer. If you don’t go for the S80, make sure that you get a Platinum Fuel cell sensor type and you should be fine. At the very least they would be 90+% accurate, and at their best, like with the BACtrack S80, they are virtually 100%. Overall, the S80 is probably the best consumer breathalyzer on the market. It’s well priced, amazingly accurate, and the build quality is top notch.

Current Deals, Discounts, & Coupons for the BACtrack S80

If you are in the market for a breathalyzer definitely take a look at the BACtrack S80. You can click here to check out all the available discounts at Amazon.com

Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.
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