We were anxious to receive and take a look at the SportDOG® Brand TEK 2.0. A few months ago we checked in with SportDOG trying to catch a glimpse or make sure they were on target to step up to the plate. Quite frankly, we were not impressed with the TEK 1.0. With all the marketing we were seeing, we will admit even we were beginning to wonder what they had up their sleeves. SportDOG Brand obviously felt that they did not need our help with this product for input. I tried to keep my ego in place and patiently wait for the new product to hopefully impress me.
We always like to start with the Pros. We really like the rising stimulation option and think this is a great tool, to start with a low stimulation and by continuing to hold the button you can increase the stimulation. Our opinion is that rising stimulation is most useful in short distances where you can visually see the dog’s reaction so you’re aware of when you’ve given appropriate correction. If the dog is out of sight, you might prefer the fixed stimulation level setting so that you’re able to give a measured dose of correction where you can’t see the dog’s instant reaction.
Another feature that we appreciated was the thumb dial, it was easy to adjust the stimulation level with the dial over using a touch screen it’s much faster to change your stimulation level when correcting a dog.
One large difference between the TEK and the Garmin® Alpha™ is the method for paring a dog collar. After spending a week with this product we believe we’re beginning to understand the logic of how SportDOG pairs dogs with collars and colors. We believe there are groups of professional bird dog trainers that will appreciate the ability to input many dogs and then allow you to easily pair those dogs between a few collars. For example if a trainer has 15 dogs, and 2 TEK collars, perhaps they would prefer to see the correct dogs name on the screen while they are training with that specific dog. Once properly configured, they would be able to pick “DOG A” out of their truck and place the blue collar on that dog. They could then pair “DOG A” with the blue collar so that they are tracking and more importantly displaying “DOG A’s” name on the screen. After a training session, the trainer would grab “DOG B” and could place the blue collar on “DOG B”. Next using the handheld he would then remove “DOG A” and now pair “DOG B” with the blue collar and the handheld would correctly show “DOG B’s” name. If that makes sense to you, We’re going to assume you’re a dog trainer and who’s had difficulty renaming dogs in your system every time you switch dogs. The TEK 2.0 may be the correct system for you, however you should be prepared to download and study the owner’s manual and master the TEK 2.0 pairing process.
We gave this system to several houndsmen and concluded that it was very hard to understand the process. SportDOG has created a matrix of collars, colors, and Dogs. To properly configure the system you first create the collar. On the unit we tested as far as we could tell the only names collars could be named were the factory “Collar 1”, “Collar 2”, “Collar 3”… etc. After you created a generic collar the next step was to pick a color for the collar. For example “Collar 1” could be associated to the color blue, and “Collar 2” could be associated to green, “Collar 3”, red and so on. (We think SportDOG intends you to match the color to the strap band, and we would definitely agree with that.) If you associate the color’s it will save you a lot of grief! However, if you’re dumb houndsmen like ourselves and have two black collars and two red collars out of the box, it gets very confusing quickly. Once you assign the color to the collar, you will need to go back into the system and create a dog. While you are creating a dog the system is going to ask you about 8 questions, training, alerts, update rate, bark detection. One very important question was the color, which we did not realize the importance of at the time. If you’re like us you might not remember what color you picked so you’ll have to close out of the set up and go check for your color.
We will admit, no one that we gave this system to for the first time to pair a collar was successful, including ourselves. This brings us to our next point. SportDOG missed many opportunities in describing basic steps to use this device especially pairing the collar. For example, the TEK 2.0 asks us to place the collar in Pairing mode, however they do not mention how to do this, the customers are expected to go online and download the owner’s manual. On page 25 it explains how to place the collar in pairing mode. Our recommendation for SportDOG is to give the user this information on the screen, and include this information in the “Quick Start Guide”. It was frustrating to find a basic training manual explaining to us how to “Train Your Dog” while directing us online to download the instructions for the device. We feel it would be much more beneficial for SportDOG to include this in an instruction manual or at least the Quick Start Guide. We would much rather go online to download the basic training tips and would prefer the owner’s manual printed.
These issues could have easily been fixed with field testing and feedback during product development. This was an early indication to us that the SportDOG TEK 2.0 was likely not vetted properly for ease of use by real hunters in the field as strongly as it needed to be.
Strike one for SportDOG. The TEK 2.0 is not the easiest to understand or set up. However, with several phone calls into SportDOG support we were able to press on with our review, we still had HopTek, as well as the new and improved maps to play with.
We were hopeful that when SportDOG partnered with Delorme, paired with offering lifetime map updates, the TEK 2.0 mapping would compete with Garmin. Yes, the TEK 2.0 has 100K maps, with roads, elevations and rivers. Our experience with their mapping was not as grand as anticipated. Again we would attribute this more to the lack of “REAL LIFE” testing and feedback than functionality. Let us explain; the TEK 2.0 has 2 screens that show maps, the Map screen and a Tracking screen. The Map screen shows just the hunter, without the dogs, where the Tracking screen shows the dogs as well as the hunter.
Our issue that we experienced is that once the dogs trailed away from you, it was not easy to pan over and zoom the map showing the terrain the dog was in. On the Map screen it was easier to scroll around and pan the maps, however, as you recall the Map screen does not show the dogs, the Tracking screen displayed the dogs on the map. The issue was that we were only able to zoom from the center of our location and not the dog’s. Further, on the tracking screen we were not able to pan around on the map. Hunting in the West often requires us to look ahead of the dogs on the map to try and figure out what road the dogs are heading towards. With the TEK 2.0 it was virtually impossible when my dogs were 2 miles away from my location to easily check the map to view the area around my dogs. Our options were limited to zooming out from the handheld location on the tracking screen which shows all the dogs, however there was not much detail in the map because we had to zoom out to 2 miles. After several phone calls into SportDOG they showed us that we could select one dog and could center the map on the one dog in the tracking screen while zooming in or out from the one dog. We were still not able to pan, or to scroll over to see where the dog was heading.
The TEK 2.0 system is capable of 21 dogs, we don’t think this option would work well since customers would be required to do this for each individual dog equating to a lot of time.
Again, unfortunately we believe this could have been better handled and think it clearly shows a lack of practical testing and feedback from western big game hunters.
As we have been anticipating this release, we’ve seen a few messages on SportDOG’s Facebook page marketing the new HOPTEK technology. We expected it to be a welcome and powerful performance advantage to their competition. Would this be the ticket for SportDOG to level the playing field? Unfortunately, a few quick tests deflated any hope of ours that SportDOG would live
up to their claims of the furthest performing tracking collar on the market. At Double U we regularly test collars and power outputs for them in our lab and on our custom distance test course, tracking distance is a very serious issue for our customers and we do everything possible to get the most distance using the best antennas on the market for them.
Our first order of business was to place the TEK2.0 collar on our Spec-Analyzer, it was interesting to
see how the HopTek technology in action, in the image (bottom left), you can see the frequency changes and the output was as expected. With all the collars paired up we set out to do a side by side comparison against their competitor.
Unfortunately all the hype and promotion of the HOPTEK Technology was shattered minutes into our distance tests. The TEK2.0 collars were the first to drop off the receiver between ½ and ¾ of a mile depending on which of the three collars. We held our breath for the units to reacquire the signal, however it was fruitless, the competition dominated the side by side test with both of the competitor’s collars tracking over 2 miles (2 miles and 2.4 miles to be exact.) It was deflating, frustrating and confusing. How could a company be so bold, and clearly not have any idea that they would not perform up to our standards? We took them out hunting the next day and collared up one dog with the TEK 2.0 and the competitors TT 15. Watching and comparing the collars side by side again and again showing the TEK 2.0 struggling to keep up while the Alpha consistently and reliably updated us with almost every step of the dog while it was at more than a mile away.
If you would like to review our full distance test, visit www.dusupply.com. We explain our course and expand on how our distance test was based. We also used the TEK 2.0 in real life hunting situations and our findings were always conclusive to the same results, simply put, the TEK did not perform well in a side by side comparison.
Glitches and Errors:
We experienced our share of glitch’s and errors while performing this extensive review. On one occasion both of our TEK 2.0 handhelds were not functioning for different reasons. One was locked up and wouldn’t respond to any buttons, while the other had lost the handheld GPS fix and would not report the location of the dog. We had to reboot both systems to continue our hunt. Another example was when the handheld is turned off all of the tracks are erased. So if you are in the middle of your hunt and you power off your device you will notice all the previous tracks are removed. Another issue is when you turn on your handheld it always shows the device back in Nashville TN, so for a few minutes while you are booting, it shows the dogs are, in our case, 2,100
miles away. During our test we have plenty of notes of little glitches and problems with the TEK 2.0, too many to list here. Some were minor inconveniences while others are more troubling. In our experience with product development, most products have glitches and software errors that can be ironed out. We feel SportDOG would have benefited by using field testers in real world hound hunting environments before their product release.
Our opinion about the SportDOG TEK2.0 is that the product was probably rushed to market and based on our customer support calls during testing, we feel that SportDOG customer service is not ready for this product and the issues that are arising from the TEK 2.0. SportDOG has some serious work ahead of them to fix a lot of these issues. Many of the glitches that we have found could be fixed with simple software updates and we are hopeful that SportDOG will address these fixes quickly. Their plan to offer free software updates to users is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately we don’t think the SportDOG TEK 2.0 is going to set the hound world on fire with its new features.
You can purchase the SportDOG Brand TEK2.0 with Training abilities for 799.99 at DuSupply.com, with tracking only collars for 649.99