OVERALL RATING: 88. GRADE: B+. The Callaway idTECH is part of the new Callaway lineup of rangefinders, and is their top-of-the line device. The idTECH is co-branded as “technology from Nikon”, and indeed, you can see the similarities to the Nikon Forestry 550. We liked the 6x magnification of the Callaway idTECH (the second highest level magnification available among the devices we tested), the “panning mode” for scanning across targets and receive constantly rapidly updated distance readings (in ½ yard increments up to 100 yards), and the idTECH’s ability to pick out flagsticks at a distance.
We were a bit more lukewarm about the slope-related features of the idTECH. Unlike its competitors, the Callaway idTECH does NOT provide the user with an estimate of how far they should play a shot. What it does provide is a lot of information, including the line-of-slight distance (the hypotenuse, if you will), slope, elevation change to target, and horizontal distance (calculated assuming there was no slope), which can help the user in making their own determination of how far they ought to play the shot. Users with low handicaps are probably best positioned to take advantage of the data the idTECH provides, while higher handicappers may want to take a look at other devices that will provide an estimated “as adjusted” distance.
Retail price: $429.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by Callaway iQ.
- Quick to provide yardages
- Excellent (6X) magnification in viewfinder
- Provides angle of slope, but doesn’t calculate a slope-adjusted distance
- Positioning of distance display in viewfinder makes it hard to see against dark backgrounds
EASE OF USE
The Callaway idTECH is average in size and weight, though comfortable to hold while targeting objects. As with its non-slope-adjusting cousin, the Callaway LR1200, the idTECH comes with a lightweight soft “sport case” (picture a wetsuit for a laser rangefinder) designed to be kept on the device during use. A carabiner is also included for clipping the idTECH to a bag or cart – although our reviewers tired of having to clip and unclip the device and would have preferred a pouch like those provided with the Bushnell or Leupold devices). The sport case features a soft removable lens cover (button on one end, Velcro on the other) – users can either remove this cover entirely during play, or keep the lens protected and simply un-Velcro it for each reading.
The Callaway idTECH, like the Callaway LR1200, shines in its ability to rapidly generate distance readings. The Callaway devices are also the only rangefinders in our tests to provide distance readings in 1/2 yard increments (the company caveats that accuracy may not achieve +/- 0.5 yards at distances shorter than 22 yards or greater than 550 yards). Distance readings with the Callaway idTECH were as accurate as the other devices we tested. As noted in How We Test – Accuracy, it was virtually impossible to differentiate the accuracy of one device from another – instead, variations were generally the result of better interfaces that lessened the chance of reading the distance to the wrong object.
The Callaway idTECH displays information both within the viewfinder and on an external display on the side of the device (see image at the top of this review ). Both the internal and external screens continue to display distance information for 30 seconds after the laser is fired.
The internal viewfinder will, depending on the mode, display either the line-of-sight distance (the hypotenuse, if you will), the elevation change to the target, the horizontal distance to the target (calculated as if there was no incline), or the slope. Unfortunately, Callaway made the decision to display the distance in dark numbers above the crosshairs, which can make the readings difficult to see when targeting against a dark background, such as a tree line. Compare this with the Bushnell devices, which place the yardages directly below the crosshairs, where they are typically contrasted against the lighter colors of the green or fairway.
The external screen, which we found ourselves using far less, always includes the slope, the elevation change, and the line-of-sight and horizontal distances. If you’re anything like us (we’ll leave that to you to decide if it is a good thing), you will never use the outside screen for slope and distance information.
Two simple buttons control the device, a power/laser button that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and a mode button to toggle between using yards, meters, and, um, feet (maybe useful for a forest ranger, but less so on the course). The mode button, if pressed and held slightly longer, allows the user to select what piece of information to show on the internal display: the line-of-sight distance, the elevation to the target, the horizontal distance to the target position, or the slope.
The Callaway idTECH takes one 3-volt Lithium battery. A battery meter is displayed at the bottom of the viewfinder at all times.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.
While it provides a nice set of basic functions, the Callaway idTECH does not sport some of the flashy bells and whistles of its competitors, such as club selection advice, multiple options for the style of crosshairs, and adjustments for other factors like temperature and altitude.
As a matter of fact, the idTECH does not even provide a recommended “as adjusted” distance to the user, but rather provides the raw data to calculate the “slope-adjusted” distance and an example of how to do the calculation. Hmmmm…doing math calculations on the golf course…not our idea of a fun afternoon in the sun.
The Callaway idTECH does feature a “pin-locating” mode (“First Target Priority” mode), which helps users lock onto a flagstick or other target and ignore objects in the background. The device is in First Target Priority mode at all times, and there is not an option to turn off this mode.
The idTECH also has a “panning mode”, which enables the user to hold down the power/laser button and receive constantly updated distance readings while panning on different targets on the course. Contrast this with the Bushnell devices, which do not offer the panning mode when their “pin locating” mode is engaged. After about 25 seconds of continuous scanning, the user must re-fire the laser.
As with most other rangefinders tested, the Callaway idTECH features an adjustable eyepiece that focuses the internal display, and is collapsible for those who wear glasses while playing.
The Callaway idTECH is a relatively simple device – no settings to change other than the unit of measurement, and the information to be displayed in the viewfinder. There is no ability to choose from different styles of crosshairs – just one simple version with lines extending from the center of the targeting area, and additional lines emanating from the center that appear when the laser is fired.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.
OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS
Callaway’s marketing materials state that the idTECH can obtain distances from 11 to 550 yards, but doesn’t provide “performance ratings” of maximum distance readings for different types of objects that some manufacturers do (which, in truth, are generally meaningless to the average user).
Ease of Locking on a Target:
- At 150 yards, the Callaway idTECH was quick in delivering readings, as were all of its competitors. It easily locked on to targets at distances up to 200 yards.
- Between 200 and 300 yards the idTECH could pick out flagsticks reasonably well, though as target distances approached 300 yards it trailed the capabilities of the LR1200, Bushnell 1600 and Leupold devices.
- At over 300 yards, where users are pushing the abilities of rangefinders to lock onto flagsticks, the Callaway idTECH was usable, but not as consistent as either the LR1200 or the Bushnell 1600 in picking up flagsticks under ideal conditions. Targeting flagsticks is somewhat irrelevant at this distance, but for those who like to plan their strategy for laying up on a hole, this long-range accuracy can be handy.
The 6x magnification of the Callaway idTECH doesn’t match the golf-standard 7x magnification of the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition, but nevertheless should be adequate for most users.
- Panning Mode: When we compared the idTECH in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, the idTECH came in third quickest.
- Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the idTECH in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, the idTECH is one of the better devices.
- Using Both Modes: The idTECH moved into second in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of most other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).
For comparison, check out the Critical Golf comparison for Ease of Obtaining Distance Readings.
At $429.95 retail, the Callaway idTECH is reasonably priced among the group of slope-adjusting laser rangefinders.
But while it is one of the least expensive devices in its class, the Callaway idTECH also doesn’t provide the “as adjusted” distance. So while the idTECH is a well-made device that comes with the Callaway brand name and provides a wealth of data that would theoretically help a user calculate how far to play a shot, our guess is that most users may be more inclined (so to speak) to look toward those rangefinders that take the additional step to actually provide the user with an estimate on the “as adjusted” distance. At least then we can blame the device, instead of our own calculations, if the shot winds up being 20 yards short of the green!