What is the difference?

Personal Locator Beacon

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon
Floatation Not required to float. Floating versions only float so it can be retrieved if dropped in water. Needs to be held out of the water or attached high on a PFD for best transmission. Floats in an upright position to transmit. Performs best while floating.
Transmission Requirements Minimum of 24 hours at temperatures down to -4°F (-20°C). Longer in nominal temps. Minimum of 48 hours at temperatures down to -4°F (-20°C). Longer in nominal temps.
Activation Manually activated. Either manually activated in or out of the bracket OR Automatically activated when out of its bracket and in the water.
Strobe Light Not required. Some newer versions have flashing LED strobes. Required to have strobe light.
Mounting Options Worn or carried on a person. Mounted in a bracket (automatic or manual deployment), or carried in a ditch bag.
Registration Registered to the person. PLBs are legal to be used on land as well as on water. Registered to the vessel.

For Boaters an EPIRB is the best beacon to have, they are designed for the rough and tough life of living on a boat and the abuse that comes with boating. They are also designed to work best while floating in the water and will transmit for twice as long as Personal Locator Beacons. PLBs are a great beacon, especially if you do any boating by yourself or while alone on deck, but they are predominantly considered in the marine industry as a back up to an EPIRB.
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