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Bushnell Yardage Pro XGC

The Bushnell Yardage Pro XGC is the top-of-the-line GPS unit from the company named the “#1 rangefinder on the PGA Tour.” Their fame, however, arises from the laser rangefinders manufactured by the company, including our top-rated laser rangefinder with slope, the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition, and the Bushnell 1600 Tournament Edition.
The Bushnell XGC, which we have not had the opportunity to review, includes course maps, distances to up to 5 custom points per hole, the ability to determine the distance to any point on the hole, and scorecard and statistics tracking. The device features a 2.2″ high resolution color screen and storage for up to 100 courses.

Unlike other golf GPS devices, owners of the Bushnell XGC need to purchase a yearly subscription from a 3rd party (iGolf). This yearly subscription, which provides access to the course database of hole maps, is $34.99 per year.
Retail price: $349.95

Review of Bushnell Yardage Pro XGC GPS Device

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GolfBuddy World Platinum

OVERALL RATING: 88. GRADE: B+. GolfBuddy has made large strides with the release of the GolfBuddy World Platinum, which incorporates full hole graphic layouts and the ability to target any point on the course for distance readings. The device is extremely easy to use – turn it on and it will find the course and hole and you’re off. Information is presented in a clear manner, and the menus are well organized. On top of that there are no additional subscription fees or other charges for accessing the golf course database – users simply pay for the device. Earlier concerns about course availability have been allayed, as GolfBuddy has made a serious effort to improve the course coverage.

Our biggest complaint is on the hardware itself – there is a noticeable (and frustrating) delay in touchscreen sensitivity. In addition, the screen on the GolfBuddy World Platinum isn’t as bright as we would like. Our experience has been that manufacturers take much longer to fix hardware-related problems, and thus we worry that these are issues that purchasers will be stuck with for some period of time (if not for the entire life of the unit). Our middle-of-the-road rating reflects this concern.

SCORE
88
GRADE
B+
Setup/Syncing
100
Course Availability
100
Ease of Use
89
Course Details
93
Features
94
Accuracy
92
Cost/Value
88

Pros:

  • Easy setup – just turn it on and go!
  • Full hole graphics
  • Ability to add more points
  • Great course coverage
  • No membership or course download fees
  • Intuitive interface

Cons:

  • Lag in touchscreen response
  • Varied consistency among courses on the amount of detail provided

Retail price: $399.99
Three year total cost: $399.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the GolfBuddy Platinum


100 / A+

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: The GolfBuddy World Platinum scored a perfect 100 for setup, because you simply open the box, remove the device and power cable, charge it for 4 hours, and head to the course. No software installation is required, and with courses pre-installed on the device, you don’t have to worry about loading courses from your computer.

The Bad: Now that they have added Mac support, we can’t complain!

Details: Yes, there are times when you want to actually sync the GolfBuddy World Platinum to a PC, such as to add new courses as they become available or to update a course already on your device. To sync for these reasons, you will need to register for a free web account, install GolfBuddy management software on your PC, and sync your World Platinum via the included USB cable.
We should mention that GolfBuddy released a software update package in the fall of 2010 that contained corrupted files and required contacting their technical support to repair. This issue can be fixed, but it seems GolfBuddy needs to improve their software release process.

What’s in the Box: The GolfBuddy Platinum golf GPS device comes with the following:

  • Rechargeable battery
  • Belt clip
  • USB cable
  • A/C power adapter
  • GolfBuddy Platinum Instruction Manual on CD-ROM or available for download

100 / A+

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The team at GolfBuddy has clearly been busy adding new course maps, as they have risen from an initial 46% coverage in our course coverage analysis to a perfect 100%! We only count a course as being covered if full hole maps and green information are offered, so you can rest assured that these are maps that take advantage of the full array of the GolfBuddy World Platinum’s capabilities. Fantastic-

Manufacturer’s Claims: GolfBuddy tells us that they have 34,500 courses available worldwide in their course database, the largest number of any of the GPS devices tested. What we don’t know, however, is if this number is restricted to maps that take full advantage of the Platinum’s premium features (overhead hole maps and green maps), or if it includes courses for which they provide only basic information.


89 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Good: GolfBuddy has delivered easy-to-use products in the past, and the GolfBuddy World Platinum continues that legacy. The device is extremely automated at startup and is easy to navigate, from selecting target points to entering scores.
The Bad: A bit unusual that multiple methods can be used to track scoring and statistics, and the fastest method to enter both is to select to “Enter Stats”. The GolfBuddy doesn’t automatically advance to the green view, so users have to somehow intuit that this is accomplished by pressing the displayed distance to the center of the green (the “349” number in the upper right hand corner of the image below).
Details:

GolfBuddy Platinum Front View

Click for details
  • Buttons. The buttons are positioned on the sides of the device, and include: a power button that also serves to lock/unlock the screen, a menu button, and a “ProPlay” button to directly enter scores and statistics.
  • Screen. The color screen performs reasonably well in various lighting conditions, and the brightness is adjustable. The screen isn’t as vivd as some GPS devices, however, and we would prefer if the device brightness could be set higher. The touchscreen sensitivity (or lack thereof) is truly confounding. Typing on the small keyboard when searching for courses, scrolling lists or selecting soft buttons is challenging – users are best served by using a tee instead of their fingers. The problems are exacerbated by the fact that the touchscreen is inset on the device (i.e. it’s not flush with the face of the unit), and the resulting ridge of plastic obscures access to buttons at the edge of the screen.
  • Form Factor. The unit is a bit larger and heavier than most devices, but it can still be reasonably kept in your pocket during play. The GolfBuddy World Platinum also comes with a belt clip.
  • Starting a Round. The GolfBuddy World Platinum acquires satellites relatively quickly, and automatically recognizes both the course and the current hole. Users can also elect to manually search for a course (by history, country, name or custom courses). Note that once the round begins, the only way to change preference settings on the device, review your scores and statistics from prior rounds, or preview a course is to completely exit the round (losing any scores and statistics that you might have already entered). This seems to presume more foresight than our reviewers typically had.

Suggestion Box: The touchscreen seems to afford the ability to create much more user-friendly ways to navigate some of the more advanced features, such as accessing the preference settings or advancing through different views. Here’s hoping that GolfBuddy will quickly push out a software update with that in mind!

Check out our chart comparing ease of use across different GPS devices.


93 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: The GolfBuddy World Platinum usually provides a large number of pre-mapped targets and hazards, and there is always the ability to add your own custom points.

The Bad: A few course maps, however, suffered from a dearth of pre-mapped targets, so adding additional custom points wound up being critical. We also weren’t able to determine how GolfBuddy selects the number of pre-mapped targets to display, and often would have rather seen more pre-mapped target distances in the hole view than GolfBuddy provides.
Details:

GolfBuddy Platinum Hole Graphic View

Click for views
  • Views. The GolfBuddy World Platinum provides an overhead map of the hole, a “green view”, and a “target view” that is a textual list of targets and distances. Navigating among the different views is easily accomplished.
    • Overhead hole view –The GolfBuddy World Platinum provides an overhead graphic pictorial of the shape of the hole and the location of various hazards (note that it is a drawn illustration, and not a satellite photograph). The device will automatically zoom in to show progressively more detailed views as the user advances closer to the green. Users are able to manually zoom, but in order to do so they have to cycle through the zoom levels in order, i.e. the GolfBuddy doesn’t allow users to zoom in a couple of levels, and then step back a level. We’re a bit surprised that GolfBuddy’s user interface designers didn’t capitalize on the touchscreen interface to provide a “zoom out” button.
      Users can tap on any point on the hole to see the distance to that point and from that point to the green, and can drag their finger on the touchscreen to see the same data at different points.
      The overhead hole view of the GolfBuddy World Platinum also displays radiating circles at distances of 100, 150 and 200 yards to the center of the green. This was a really nice touch, as the radiating circles provide instant context on where one might want to lay up.
    • Green view – The green view is a detailed illustration of the shape of the green and surrounding area and provides data on the width and depth of the green. The GolfBuddy World Platinum provides the distances to the front and the back of the green, and users can touch different points on the green to move the flagstick and receive the distance to that point. We appreciated the fact that the graphic of the green will rotate as the user’s position relative to the green changes.
    • Target view – The GolfBuddy World Platinum not only pre-maps distances to selected targets in the overhead hole view, but also allows users at the touch of a button to pop up a list of additional pre-mapped target locations (identified with text such as “RtBkr2” for the second bunker on the right) and the distances to those targets. A very nice feature is that touching any target on the list will instantly add that point (and the distance to that point) to the overhead hole view. Slick!
  • Custom Mapping. Each hole holds up to 11 targets. So for example, if there are 3 pre-mapped targets on one hole, the user can add up to 8 additional targets.

92 / A-

FEATURES

The Good: The GolfBuddy World Platinum provides a varied feature set that should cover the requirements of most golfers.
The Bad: Data junkies may find that that the set of statistics that can be tracked is still relatively basic.
Details:

GolfBuddy Platinum Scorecard

Click for feature views
  • Score and Statistics. The GolfBuddy World Platinum can keep scores for up to 4 players, along with their names and handicaps, and will also track more detailed statistics for just the primary user, including fairways hit, putts, and sand saves. Note that you can’t actually track how often you are actually in a bunker – instead, the device just presents you with the option to manually check a box entitled “Sand Save.” The device tracks greens in regulation by backing into the result based on the score for the hole and the number of putts. As we note in reviews of other devices, this can result in an incorrect calculation if the user hits the green in regulation, accidentally putts off the green, and then chips in (the device will not give the user credit for a GIR in that instance). Either standard scoring or Stableford scoring can be used, although GolfBuddy seems to utilize its own modified Stableford scoring system (for example, GolfBuddy awards 3 points for a par instead of the usual 2, and 4 points for a birdies instead of the usual 3). If anybody from GolfBuddy is reading this, they might want to note that there is a bug in the statistics entry interface when entering putts – the prompt asks the user to “Enter Score” instead of “Enter Putts.”
  • Shot Tracking. Users can track the distance and location of each of their shots, which can be reviewed later. There is no ability to enter the club used for a particular shot.
  • Auto-Advance. The GolfBuddy World Platinum will automatically prompt users if they are ready to advance to the next hole.
  • Preferences. The GolfBuddy World Platinum has all the basic settings covered: unit of distance, language, time, button sound, and a variety of power management settings including screen timeout, auto-power off, and screen brightness.

92 / A-

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: As is the case for most units tested, the device accuracy of the GolfBuddy World Platinum operated within the standard margin of error for GPS devices.
Mapping Accuracy: The illustrated maps generally portrayed the holes and the greens accurately, and we found the plotted locations of the different targets to be accurate. We did find some instances of missing bunkers that were in play.


86 / B+

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The GolfBuddy World Platinum retails for $399.99, which places it on the higher end of devices tested.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Zippo. No additional annual fees or course download fees. Sweet!

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional annual fees or course download fees, the GolfBuddy World Platinum winds up being less expensive than a number of its competitors when it comes to the three-year total cost of ownership (which is a much better indication of the actual cost to the user).

Value: The reasonable cost of ownership, broad feature set, and much improved course availability make the GolfBuddy World Platinum worth considering. What gives us pause is the clunkiness of the hardware itself.


Sonocaddie V500

The Sonocaddie V500 seemingly has all the features a user would want in a golf GPS device: a bright color screen, both graphic and satellite overhead hole maps, video flyovers, and the ability to track all of the basic statistics. For the most part, these come together pretty well in a nice lightweight package.

But the V500 falls short of being an elite device because of some extremely awkward design/interface elements, a shortage of pre-mapped target points, some occasional bugginess where the device would entirely freeze up, and the worst course coverage we have seen. Note that we only count a course as “covered” if a course map taking advantage of the V500’s full set of features (including satellite images and video flyovers) is available. This is a bit stringent, but what’s the point of buying a device with cool features if none of them work on the courses you play?

It’s not beyond hope, but the best analogy for the Sonocadde V500 is probably a 4 foot putt with a sharp side-hill break on a slick green – there’s still some work to do.

Setup/Syncing
86
Course Availability
26
Ease of Use
84
Course Details
90
Features
92
Accuracy
84
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

  • Overhead map (both graphic and satellite) of each hole
  • Bright color screen
  • Slim and relatively lightweight
  • Scorecard and statistics tracking

Cons:

  • Abysmal course coverage
  • No ability to zoom in on the hole and no dedicated green view
  • Poor video flyover quality and inconsistent satellite image quality
  • Usability could be improved

Retail price: $399.00
Three year total cost: $428.95
Availability: Discontinued. No replacement hardware. Sonocaddie appears to be shifting its business model to mobile apps.


86 / B

SETUP

The Good: The V500 Quick Start Guide provides well-written detailed instructions and screenshots that walk the user through the set-up process.

The Bad: The Sonocaddie requires users to register before using their V500 for the first time, so don’t expect to be able to open the box in the course parking lot and begin using it immediately. Users also need to download a V500 driver during the setup, which adds to the process a bit. Text entry on the V500’s touch screen is painful. There is no support for Mac users – for shame!

Details:

  • Required Steps. The Sonocaddie V500 requires a setup process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
    • registering on their web site to create an account;
    • installing PC drivers for the V500 on a PC;
    • entering a password for their account on the device;
    • searching for desired golf courses on the V500 to download satellite images and video flyovers;
    • downloading selected courses to the V500.
  • Time Required for Setup. The entire process takes a minimum of 15 minutes – 10 minutes to download and install the necessary software and another 5 minutes to download a single course. Obviously it will take longer if you are downloading multiple courses. Note that the Sonocaddie V500 is unique in that the interface for searching for courses and selecting them for download is all on the device itself – the PC basically just acts as a conduit for an internet connection. We found this to be sub-optimal – entering the characters for your username and password on the V500’s touchscreen took forever.

What’s in the Box: The Sonocaddie V500 comes with the accessories listed below. Consumers should note that the device requires Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 and is not supported on the Mac.

  • Belt clip
  • Protective carry pouch
  • Mini USB cable
  • AC charger adaptor
  • User’s Guide
  • Rechargeable battery

26 / F

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The Sonocaddie V500 finished in the basement of our course coverage analysis with few tested courses offering advanced satellite imagery and video flyovers. We note that, as with all high-end devices, we base our coverage rating on the number of courses that are mapped for the device’s most advanced feature set – mere coverage of basic distances to the front, middle and back of the green doesn’t count (if that’s all you want, you can get it in a much lower-priced device). With coverage this poor, we aren’t even going to bother discussing the breakdown by course type or geography.

Manufacturer’s Claims: Sonocaddie claims to have 16,000 North American courses available in its database, which places it average against its competitors (no claims are made for a worldwide figure). This number seems to include any course for which Sonocaddie provides basic distances, so it’s probably not a relevant data point for determining the likelihood that a given course will have both satellite maps and video flyovers.


84 / B

EASE OF USE

The Good: The device hardware is fine, and the interface allows users to quickly access different menu items and settings. We liked having dedicated buttons on the front of the device to quickly advance or go back to different holes.

The Bad: The touchscreen leaves a bit to be desired both in the ability to pinpoint targets on the hole and the way in which scrolling is implemented. It’s perfectly functional, but if you’re used to the slick iPhone touchscreen, you will have to seriously re-adjust your expectations. The interface includes lots of buttons that aren’t completely intuitive – for example, on the main menu, there are buttons for “MyCourse,” “Preloaded Course,” and “Search” – we’ve spent a fair amount of time with the device and with the manual, and we’re not completely sure why they need 3 buttons for that (see below). Another complaint is that once you are deep within searching for a course (identifying the country, state, city, et al) or have actually gone into a course, there’s no easy way to get back to the main menu – we counted an instance where we had to hit the “back” button 6 times.

We also experienced some bugginess, with the device freezing on us a few times during different test rounds. We were usually able to just power the V500 off and then back on to restore functionality, but one time we actually had to remove the battery and put it back in. In all cases, we lost the ability to pick up where we left off and continue scoring the round.

Details:

  • Buttons. The Sonocaddie V500 has four buttons: power, lock screen, and right/left keys for hole selection. We like the simplicity of the “lock screen” – since it sits on the side of the device, right where your grip falls, it’s easy to click the button on and off to keep the touchscreen from being activated when the device is in your pocket.
  • Screen. The 3” color screen is extremely bright and clear, and hole graphics and text are easy to read on a sunny day. As with many devices, however, the satellite images can be extremely difficult to see in the brightest light.
  • Form Factor. The Sonocaddie V500 is about average versus the competition in both size and weight, and is reasonably comfortable to keep in a pocket during play. We were not big fans of the way that the belt clip holder always protrudes from the back of the device – for those of us who just slip the device in and out of our pockets, it would have been nice to be able to remove the protruding piece. The device also feels a bit “plasticky” – it’s nice that it’s light, but it doesn’t feel very solid.
  • Starting a Round. To begin play, users can search for the relevant course one of three ways: (a) looking in the “MyCourse” folder, where downloaded courses (featuring satellite images and video flyovers) are stored alphabetically, (b) looking in the “Search” folder, where preloaded courses (but NOT downloaded courses) can be searched by proximity to current location or alphabetically, or (c) looking in the “Preloaded Course” folder, where preloaded courses are listed alphabetically. We may be missing some kind of nuance, but the “Search” and “Preloaded Course” folders seem to be redundant. Once the course is selected, users then choose the hole on which to begin play – this was a nice touch for those occasions where you’re playing just the back nine or in a shotgun tournament.

90 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: The overhead hole graphics provide a great overview of the hole and show well in all lighting conditions. The Sonocaddie V500 provides an easy interface to add and save 10 targets on any hole.

The Bad: The perspective for the overhead hole maps is looking at the hole from above and at an angle, instead of directly above. This gives the sense that the hole looks a bit “squished” on the screen. There is no ability to zoom in or out on the overhead images. Distances to the green are limited to the front, middle and back points as viewed from the tee box (you cannot touch on a specific part of the green to estimate the distance to the actual flagstick). Users can’t see the par for the hole in any of the hole views – instead, they have to go to the scorecard.

Details:

Sonocaddie V500 Golf GPS

Click for images
  • Views. All courses come with an overhead graphic view of the hole, and users can pay an additional fee to download satellite images and video flyovers for courses. Players can quickly alternate between the different hole views, including an overhead graphic view of the hole, a satellite image of the hole, and a video flyover of the satellite image of the hole. All views appear at a slight “angle” instead of from directly above the hole, which some of our reviewers found distracting.
    In both graphic and satellite image hole views, users have the ability to touch any point on the hole to receive distances both to that point and from that point to the middle of the green. Unfortunately, there is no ability to zoom in on the hole. Not only that, there is no dedicated map of the green (and thus no ability to find the distance to a specific point on the green). The result is that it is difficult to pinpoint locations at the level of accuracy that other devices provide. In addition, you can’t drag the crosshair on the screen – instead, you need to re-touch the screen at the new point. This means if you are trying to plan for a certain distance, you have to repeatedly touch the screen, remove your finger to see if you have pinpointed the correct spot, then retouch.
    Both the graphic hole view and the satellite hole view display the hole number, satellite signal strength (showing the number of satellites being received), battery life, and current time. There is no indication of par or hole handicap.

    • Graphic hole view. The overhead graphic map of the hole provides excellent context on the shape of the hole and where the relevant hazards lie. The Sonocaddie V500 pre-maps distances to certain targets, and uses icons to make it clear what kind of target, and which side of the target, is being identified. For example, for bunkers, the V500 not only has the picture of the bunker, but also a little icon that looks like a bunker with a dot on either the bottom of the icon or the top of the icon to indicate if the displayed distance is to reach the bunker or to carry it. One oddity that results from this system is that the icon can sometimes be as big as the picture of the target itself. The Sonocaddie enables those who find this extremely bothersome to remove the icons from the displayed view, but the pre-mapped distances associated with those icons will also be removed.
    • Satellite hole view. The satellite hole view provides the same view as the graphic hole view, but instead of a drawn picture, it displays an overhead satellite photograph. As previously mentioned, the satellite images can be extremely washed out and difficult to see in direct sunlight, so on the brightest days players may find the graphic hole view to be much more useful. The Sonocaddie V500 overlays the icons and pre-mapped distances found in the graphic hole view on top of the satellite photo. As with the graphic hole view, users can elect to remove the icons, but the pre-mapped distances will also be removed.
    • Video flyover. The video flyover is a 5 second overview of the course. Unfortunately, the implementation of the flyovers is extremely raw – it feels like a 4th grader used stop-motion photography of about 4 images to create the “video.” The choppiness of the animation really makes the feature all but useless. The flyovers weren’t particularly centered on the desired path to play the hole, and often ended some distance from the center of the green. The V500 doesn’t deal well with areas at the boundaries of the course, and will render them as blanks on the screen, or simply crop the video flyover at the edges of the course, which makes for an odd experience. Overall we found the video flyover to be a poor implementation of what could be a useful feature – see, for example, the beautiful flyovers available on the Callaway uPro.
  • Hole Information. The hole number is displayed on all views, but neither the par (ugh!) nor course handicap is shown. The par for each hole is shown only on the scorecard, and hole handicap is not available at all.
  • Custom Mapping. The Sonocaddie V500 allows users to mark additional targets during play, though the interface could be better organized to allow for adjusting the order that targets will appear on the display. And while Sonocaddie is enamored with cute little icons of the various targets that you can add (bunkers, creeks, trees, et al), these pictures can quickly clutter the screen.

92 / A-

FEATURES

Sonocaddie V500 Golf GPS Device

Click for images

The Good: The good news is that there is a wide variety of available features, including a scorecard and statistical tracking.

The Bad: The bad news is that the implementation of the features is uneven – nothing tragically bad, but there is room for improvement on a number of fronts.

Details:

  • Shot Tracking. The Sonocaddie V500 allows the user to easily determine the distances of shots as well as track shot locations.
  • Auto Track. The V500’s “auto track” feature will record the path the user walks during the round – the device will record the user’s position every minute or so, and then plots the points on the hole. At the end of the round, you can review each hole to see exactly where you traipsed, and combine it with the “shot track” feature to show the location of each shot during your round. It’s not perfect (sometimes it overlays some points that don’t seem correct, often with respect to where you walked on your way to the next hole), but it’s a neat way to remember the round.
  • Score and Statistics. The Sonocaddie V500 has two settings for scoring and statistics – “Normal”, which only shows par and your score, and “Pro”, which allows you to also enter putts, fairways hit and whether you were in a greenside bunker. While it is easy to enter your score for a hole, you need to press an additional button to be taken to a screen to enter the additional statistics. Note that scorecards are not available for all mapped courses.
    If “Pro” mode is selected, users can quickly access an analysis of their round which displays Sonocaddie’s calculations of GIR, sand save percentage, putts per hole, and the percentage of holes with par, birdie, eagle, etc.
  • Auto-Advance. The Sonocaddie V500 can be set to auto-advance between holes, or users can select to manually advance using the buttons on the front of the device. The auto-advance does not prompt users to enter their score, so we were often left backtracking to the previous hole, entering our score and statistics, then advancing back to our current hole.
  • Preferences. The Sonocaddie V500 allows the user to modify a number of preferences, ranging from color palette to backlight time and brightness level, although the button combinations necessary to effect these changes during a round will likely deter the average user from doing so.

Suggestion Box: The Sonocaddie V500’s statistical analysis backs-in to whether you hit a green-in-regulation (GIR) based on the user’s number of putts and score, so on occasion their calculation can be incorrect. How can this be so? On a par 4, you could hit the green on your second shot, putt off the green, and then chip it in. The V500 will see a par and only 1 putt, so it will assume that you missed the green and got up and down. Sure, it’s a rare occurrence, but why not just have a “yes/no” entry for GIR? Also, when you are entering your scores/statistics, the V500 will always take you to the page showing the scores for the front 9 holes first – so when you’re on the back 9, you always have to hit the “scroll down” button to enter your scores. Trust us, it gets tiresome.

In addition, you can’t advance to a view of the next hole after entering your score – you have to hit “back” to get to the hole you just scored, and then advance to the new hole.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS features across all devices tested.


84 / B

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: The Sonocaddie V500 indicates how many satellite signals are picked up at any given time, which in turn gives users guidance on accuracy of the distance readings. We found the device to be as accurate as any tested.

Mapping Accuracy: We experienced an instance on a course that had been redesigned where the graphic view was outdated, but the satellite view was correct. Of course, this means that the icons of pre-mapped targets were also incorrect, and when they were overlaid on the satellite view, it became a bit comical (a tree icon in the middle of a busy road!). This doesn’t exactly give us the utmost confidence in the quality control of the maps.

When the V500 was less than five yards from a target, it would no longer provide a distance reading to that target. This seems perfectly reasonable given the standard margin for error of golf GPS devices of approximately 3-4 yards.

When a user selects a point with the touchscreen, the device will indicate the distance to the desired point and from that point to the middle of the green. In order to do so, it will draws a line on the map from the device’s currently location to the desired point and another line to the center of the green – but an annoying bug is that the line to the “center of the green” is often drawn to some random point near the top of the screen. The displayed distance is actually correct, but to many, may not inspire confidence in the device.


84 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Sonocaddie V500 retails for $399.00, one of the higher price points for a golf GPS device.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Users can choose between three types of registration:

  • Free, which limits use to color course layouts only (no satellite imagery or video flyovers) countrywide; the warranty for the device if you purchase this level is only three months
  • $29.95 one-time fee for unlimited color course layouts worldwide and 15 worldwide courses with color course layouts, satellite imagery and video flyovers; the warranty is extended to one year, or
  • $49.95 one-time fee for unlimited color course layouts worldwide and 100 worldwide courses with color course layouts, satellite imagery and video flyovers; the warranty is also one year.

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our calculation of the cost to the user over three years for the Sonocaddie V500 is $428.95, which puts it slightly above average in our cost comparison of GPS devices. The fees to access satellite imagery and video flyovers for 15 courses add to the retail price for the unit itself.

Value: While the Sonocaddie V500 has a lower three-year total cost of ownership than some of the devices with the highest yearly fees, it is starting to compete with devices that don’t charge for the additional “premium” features on the device. The device itself has mapping issues and lacks enough pre-mapped points to make it as useful as we would like. We didn’t see much value in the additional $29.95 for satellite images and video flyovers. While it has all the features, the poor implementation gives it a lower value.

Updated (course coverage): March 2013


Golfscape

Here’s something we didn’t see coming…an augmented reality golf rangefinder. This app comes from the makers of our top-rated iPhone golf GPS app, Golfshot.

To use Golfscape, a player points the iPhone camera in the direction they want to play, and distances to mapped targets and hazards will be displayed on top of the camera. Think Minority Report…on a golf course.

For players already using Golfshot, Golfscape will automatically pull in Golfshot user information such as player name, handicap and layup distances. Golfscape provides the basics – distances to the front, center and back of the green, to up to 40 mapped targets, and to certain layup points. There is no ability to track your score or statistics, no auto-advance, and you cannot select the hole on which you would like to begin (if you are playing just the back 9, or in a shotgun tournament), but rather must scroll through holes if needed. Golfscape provides an indicator to display the confidence it has in both GPS and compass accuracy. Compass reading is the most challenging dependency Golfscape has on the iPhone – if the reading is off (which it often is), the result is that Golfscape will have target distance indicators pointing to areas a significant distance from the actual target, rendering the view confusing at best.

Review of Golfscape Augmented Reality iPhone Golf GPS Application

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Unfortunately, we found the app to be riddled with a variety of bugs during test rounds. These included the app spontaneously quitting, freezing our iPhone and requiring us to restart, distances not displayed on screen, no course displayed on the screen at all (but still distances), and distances noted in meters instead of yards. We tested Golfscape (version 1.1, which was an update which we had hoped would fix some of the bugs) on an iPhone 3GS with the latest Apple iPhone OS.

Since the initial version of Golfshot and Golfscape, the company has followed our suggested of embedding Golfscape as a feature within the augmented reality rangefinder is an interesting concept, though we wonder if it can stand alone as an app, or whether it would be better as a feature within the Golfshot app. Users now simply press the Golfscape icon during play to launch an augmented reality view.

We do look forward to continued testing of the app on the course – once the bugs get fixed. Until that time, we can’t yet recommend Golfscape for purchase.

The app was introduced at a ridiculous $19.99, but has since come down to a slightly more reasonable $4.99.

Price: $4.99

Price: Download Golfscape from iTunes


Tested: v1.1