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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Built-in memory saves your last 10 readings for comparison
Simple to use and works almost instantly
Professional-grade accuracy, the best out of all BACtrack devices
Sensor will eventually need calibration
Not as portable as some other models/breathalyzers
Lacks ability to connect with phones or devices
If you want the most accurate breathalyzer on the market for consumer needs, the BACtrack S80 is it. It also comes recommended by US government agencies, has the ability to store up to 10 readings at a time, and is incredibly simple to use.
The market for personal breathalyzers is a crowded one. A quick search will bring up hundreds of results from tons of various manufacturers. But BACtrack is one of the standout brands in the crowd, with their S80 breathalyzer being one of the best and most accurate among their diverse lineup. Lacking any sort of app or software to fumble with, the S80 is simple to operate and works quickly to give you accurate results in a flash.
One thing we’d like to quickly note is that you shouldn’t trust these devices 100 percent to determine whether you’re too drunk to drive or just on the edge of the legal limit. A breathalyzer can be a crucial device for many when making responsible decisions while out drinking, but you’re always better off just calling a rideshare service or a cab. Despite the accuracy devices like these can deliver when properly used, it’s always better not to chance it.
The S80 isn’t the smallest or most portable breathalyzer out there, but it’s no larger than most smartphones and can conveniently be stowed away in your pocket, purse or car. The device is constructed of black and grey plastic with a small LCD screen which is backlit and easy to read in dark or light settings. Below the screen are a pair of silver buttons, one reading Start and the other Mode.
Lacking any sort of app or software to fumble with, the S80 is simple to operate and works quickly to give you accurate results in a flash.
While BACtrack does include a small neoprene carrying bag to go along with the device, it doesn’t exactly feel very robust or sturdy, so we’d advise against stowing the S80 anywhere it might get crushed. For something that costs this much, it would have been nice to see some more robust materials being used in case you accidentally dropped it (something that’s certainly more likely if you’ve been drinking).
Fortunately, the included carrying case is of decent quality, also sporting a zippered pouch for carrying extra mouthpieces or even spare batteries. The S80, like most other breathalyzers available to consumers these days, features removable mouthpieces so you can avoid any potential cross-contamination between uses or if you just want to let your friends try it out.
Setting up your new breathalyzer is simple. Just remove the S80 from the packaging, pop in two AA batteries, attach the plastic mouthpiece, and you’re ready to go. The one-touch operation on the S80 is a breeze to use and works out of the box. To operate the device, all you need to do is tap the Start button once and hold it for about a second. The S80 will turn on, giving you an audible beep, and begin warming up.
The breathalyzer only takes about 12 seconds to warm up. Once complete, take a deep inhale and exhale into the mouthpiece for at least five seconds (be sure to keep it at a steady, consistent exhale) and the device will beep and tell you to stop. A few seconds later and you’ve got your results right on the LCD screen.
Utilizing a fuel cell for BAC testing, the S80 consistently outperformed devices with cheaper sensors.
Thanks to the built-in memory, the device saves your last 10 readings so you’ll have no trouble keeping track of your readings. It also displays the total number of tests the next time you boot it up. This way you know when it’s time to have the breathalyzer recalibrated for accurate results. Pushing the Mode button will also change the units of measurement to permille, which shows you how many grams of alcohol there are per 100 grams of your blood.
The same button can also be used for further setting customization, allowing you to mute the warning tones, change the unit’s default blow time, and activate a Low-flow mode, which lets you use a shorter, subdued breath (though we’d advise against this, as it also might affect accuracy negatively).
The device will also tell you when you’ve made an error during testing. The S80 will indicate when you didn’t give a proper breath sample and even notify you if the conditions are too harsh for accurate results. According to BACtrack, the S80 only works between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
A breathalyzer really needs to excel in one realm—accuracy. Luckily for the S80, this is where the device really shines. Out of all the breathalyzers we tested, this one was the most accurate. Utilizing a fuel cell for BAC testing, the S80 consistently outperformed devices with cheaper sensors. The takeaway here is that no matter which device you end up buying, ensure it uses a fuel cell for testing, or the accuracy will undoubtedly suffer.
Note that you need to wait at least 15 minutes between eating, drinking or smoking to get accurate results.
We tested the S80 after a few drinks at various levels of inebriation and discovered it was consistently within the ballpark of where results should be based on BACtrack’s estimates, give or take 0.01 or so BAC (according to an online BAC calculator). Just note that you need to wait at least 15 minutes between eating, drinking or smoking to get accurate results.
Because of its accuracy, the S80 is approved by the US Department of Transportation (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), as well as the Food and Drug Administration. The device meets all their requirements for breathalyzers. As far as we’re concerned, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.
A few years ago, breathalyzers with a similar set of features would’ve cost hundreds of dollars, but now you can now get most of them between $100 to $200. The S80 is $149.99 (MSRP) on the manufacturer website and less on Amazon, making it a bit more costly than other options, but it won’t break the bank. Considering the accuracy of the device, the price tag feels fair, especially since it includes a carrying case, batteries, and multiple mouthpieces.
The main thing consider is that the S80’s sensor will eventually die, forcing you to send the device in for recalibration. According to the manufacturer, these units are expected to last around three to five years, or 1,500 uses, costing you $20 a piece each time you need the sensors calibrated. That’s not too much, but if you plan to keep the S80 for years or make heavy use, it can add up.
The BACtrack S80’s biggest competitor for personal breathalyzers is the AlcoMate AL7000, which delivers roughly the same results in terms of accuracy. Both devices use a fuel cell sensor, are about the same size (the S80 is a bit bulkier), come with removable mouthpieces and a carrying case. The cost breaks down a little differently depending on where you shop, the AL7000 is typically a bit more, usually $20 to $40 extra.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two comparable breathalyzers is that the S80 requires you to send in the unit once it’s time for recalibration. This means that you’ll pay $20 and be without it for the turnaround. The AL7000, however, comes with a fuel sensor that users can swap out themselves, and it’s this feature that has converted many to jump over to AlcoMate. Whether or not that’s a huge perk to you is your call, but it’s definitely something to consider when comparing two closely matched devices.
Take a look at our list of the 8 best breathalyzers available to consumers today, including our top picks for them based on different categories and features.
An accurate workhorse breathalyzer.
The S80 is a professional-grade, certified breathalyzer that can easily handle your personal needs. The price is fair, it’s simple to set up and operate, has a built-in memory to save readings, and consistently delivers the most accurate BAC test results out of any breathalyzer we’ve tested.
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