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Archive for September, 2010

Bushnell Tour V2 Slope

While we have not obtained a Bushnell Tour V2 Slope Edition laser rangefinder for testing, we believe that it will provide the same level of performance as the Bushnell Tour V2, reviewed on our site. These two rangefinders have the same specifications, with the exception of the slope-adjusted distances available on the Slope Edition version.

The Bushnell Tour V2 Edition provides 5x magnification with range up to 300 yards to flag and is one of the smaller laser rangefinders on the market.

Retail price: $399
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Bushnell Tour v3 Slope
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


Callaway iQ

The Callaway iQ as a golf-focused evolution of the Callaway idTECH, and is part of the current Callaway lineup of four rangefinders. The Callaway iQ features 6x magnification, matching the highest of any Callaway rangefinder currently available, slope-adjusted distances (but not the angle of approach), and a new “Active Brightness Control,” which automatically toggles the display in the viewfinder from a black LCD readout to an orange LED readout depending on the lighting conditions. The iQ quickly updates distances during panning, picks up targets at a distance better than most of the competition, and has an exceptionally bright and clear display.

While the Callway iQ, with its crisp optics and strength in picking out targets at a distance (and with precision down to 0.1 yard increments, though it has a claimed accuracy to the level of +/- 1 yard) is a significant improvement on the older Callaway idTECH, we were disappointed by the short amount of time the iQ allows users to continue to fire the laser while panning across targets, the lack of information regarding the slope angle, and the reduced 6x magnification (down from 7x in the discontinued Callaway LR1200). We also found that the much ballyhooed Active Brightness Control didn’t kick in as often as we would have liked.

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
92
Features
90
Obtaining Readings
93
Cost/Value
89

Retail price: $429.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Nikon COOLSHOT AS.
Amazon.com price: Check price now

Pros:

  • Active Brightness Control displays yardages in different colors depending on brightness of background within the viewfinder
  • Easy to lock on targets, even at long distances

Cons:

  • Active Brightness Control didn’t always activate in situations where we would have liked a brighter display
  • Continuous scanning for distances limited to 5 seconds


92 / A-

EASE OF USE

The Callaway iQ is one of the larger vertically-held laser rangefinders tested, at 4.6” x 1.6” x 2.9”, though it weighs in at 7.0 oz. It comes with a lightweight soft case designed to be kept on the device during use (with “Nikon”, the manufacturer of the device, branded on the side) and a carabiner clip to attach the iQ to a bag or cart (though reviewers tired of having to clip and unclip the carabiner each time and would have preferred a pouch similar to the Leupold devices). The “case” features a removable lens cover with a button on one end and magnetic latch on the other. Users can either remove this cover entirely during play, or simply pull the cover away for each reading.

The Callaway iQ displays the line-of-sight distance in the upper portion of the viewfinder, an icon to indicate if the target is above or below your position, and the slope-adjusted distance in the bottom right hand portion of the viewfinder. Most iQ purchasers will be focused on the slope-adjusted distance (under our presumption that you wouldn’t spend the extra money for a slope-adjusted rangefinder unless you were going to use it), which is placed within the display where it can easily be seen.

In many laser rangefinders the distance information is displayed in the viewfinder with black or dark grey numbers. Against a dark background, trees or shadows, these numbers can be challenging to read. The Callaway iQ addresses this problem with its “Active Brightness” technology – the information displayed in the viewfinder changes from a black LCD readout to an orange LED readout (the full display will change to a light orange tint) depending on the brightness in the background. When it works, it is quite a nice feature, the Active Brightness feature didn’t activate often enough for our liking, leaving us with the black LCD display against darker backgrounds where we would prefer the orange LED readings. It would be a great addition for the user to be able to decide when to turn on the Active Brightness feature if it didn’t automatically enable. We also note that while the orange display is helpful when it’s activated, the crosshair and distance readings are still nowhere near as bright as the OLED display of the Leupold GX-3 and GX-4 in comparison.

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.

The iQ rapidly generates distance readings, with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition the only competitor that provides slope-adjusted distances more quickly. Unlike all others, the Callaway iQ provides distances down to 0.1 (!!) yard increments. Talk about precise! No other manufacturer we tested ventures to less than 1 yard increments. Sadly, our games aren’t to the point where we’re deciding use the 175.2 yard swing or the 175.3 yard swing. But it’s nice to know that the Callaway iQ is ready when our game improves to that point. LOL!

Compared to the others in the group, the Callaway iQ’s eyepiece is relatively easy to focus with just one hand on the device. There are two buttons controlling 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 and meters as the standard unit of distance.

The Callaway iQ takes one 3-volt Lithium battery. A battery meter is displayed in the bottom right of the viewfinder at all times.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.


90 / A-

FEATURES

Callaway iQ Laser Rangefinder with Slope - Side View

Click for more images

The newest (and most heavily promoted) feature on the Callaway iQ is its “Active Brightness” technology, which we’ve reviewed in detail above under “Ease of Use.”

The Callaway iQ also features a “pin locating” mode (Callaway calls it “First Target Priority” mode) that helps the user lock in on a flagstick or other object, which is active at all times. As with “pin locating” modes on competitive devices, “First Target Priority” mode means that if the device detects multiple objects when the laser is fired, it will provide the distance to the closest object. As a result, if the user is targeting a flagstick in front of a grove of trees, First Target Priority should help the device return the distance to the nearby flagstick, rather than the trees in the distance.

Although the iQ in always in First Target Priority mode, it still allows the user to pan to different targets on the course and receive constantly updated distance readings by simply holding down the power/laser button. Unfortunately, continuous scanning is only available for a mere 5 seconds, after which the user must re-fire the laser. This is a bit of a pain for players that want to obtain multiple distance readings prior to playing their shot.

The only adjustable setting is to select whether you would like distances displayed in yards or meters, making the iQ about as straightforward a slope-adjusted distance finding rangefinder as you can find.

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.


93 / A-

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

Callaway’s claims that the iQ can obtain distances from 11 to 915 yards, but doesn’t provide “performance ratings” of maximum distance readings for different types of objects.

Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At 150 yards, the Callaway iQ was quick in delivering readings, as were all of its competitors.
  • Between 200 to 300 yards the iQ was tops in its class along with the Bushnell 1600.
  • Over 300 yards, the Callaway iQ stayed at the top alongside the Bushnell 1600, although the 1600 provides the benefit of greater magnification (7x versus 6x). It’s a shame that Callaway ratcheted the magnification power of the iQ down from the 7x provided by the discontinued Callaway LR1200.

Speed Test:

In our speed test we found that the Callaway iQ was about average among devices tested.

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the iQ in its one mode against other devices in their “panning” modes, the iQ finished in the middle of the pack.
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the iQ against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, the iQ was one of the faster rangefinders available.
  • Using Both Modes: The iQ was one of the fastest in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of devices with multiple modes, required pushing buttons to cycle between panning and pin-locating modes).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison for Ease of Obtaining Distance Readings.


89 / B+

COST/VALUE

At $429.95 retail, the Callaway iQ list price falls in the middle of the pack of laser rangefinders with slope, though it is one of the lower priced top rated rangefinders.

Above $400, purchasers should expect an awful lot, and while the device provides exceptional optics and ability to pick out targets at a distance, the relative infrequency with which the Active Brightness Control is applied, the 5 second limit on measuring targets panning, and the lack of slope information (in degrees) keep the iQ from reaching its full potential from a value standpoint.

Bag Boy Automatic

OVERALL RATING: 85. GRADE: B. The Bag Boy Automatic is a perfectly reasonable golf push cart to consider purchasing, but it didn’t strike a chord with our review staff in any way that makes it a “must buy.” The area in which it excels is the ease with which it can be unfolded (which is the reason, we presume, for the “automatic” moniker). This is nice, considering that the complexity of unfolding some carts can make your head explode.

On the flip side, the Bag Boy Automatic is a bit bulky when it’s folded up, and has a distinct shortage of storage space for all of the various accoutrement that golfers lug around with them.

It might be a good pick-up if quick unfolding is of utmost importance to you, or if you find it at a great price, but otherwise it doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from the field.

SCORE
85
GRADE
B
Size/Weight
83
Ease of Set-Up
96
On Course Impressions
88
Storage/Accessories
76
Style
83
Value
86

Retail price: $199.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Bag Boy Quad

Pros:

  • Piece of cake to unfold and get rolling
  • Brake is easy to engage

Cons:

  • Not much additional storage space
  • Somewhat bulky when folded up

83 / B-

SIZE/WEIGHT

At 17 lbs. (as tested), the Bag Boy Automatic falls into the middle among the push carts we tested (compare this to the lightest cart, the Tour Trek Tahoe, at 10.5 lbs., and the heaviest cart, the Sun Mountain Speed Cart V2, at 20 lbs.). It’s pretty bulky when it’s folded up, so you may need an engineering degree to figure out how to stow it in your trunk along with a couple of sets of clubs and all of the other junk that you keep back there. Our solution was to toss it in the back seat, although this leads to the danger of smearing mud, dirt and other grit and grime on your soft Corinthian leather seats… Side note – did you know the term “Corinthian leather” had no intrinsic meaning (or association with Corinth)? It was just something made up by the marketing folks at Chrysler – probably because it sounded so exotic when rolling off the tongue of Ricardo Montalban. Which reminds us – “Quien es mas macho – Ricardo Montalban o Fernando Lamas?” Montalban…o Lamas…Quien es mas macho?”


96 / A

EASE OF SET-UP

The Bag Boy Automatic is tops among the carts we tested in terms of how easy it is to set up. You simply pull on the handle – as you do so, the cart will unfold until it automatically locks into the fully deployed position. The only additional step is to secure your bag to the cart with the upper and lower velcro straps. Our only complaint is that the lower strap seems to be ridiculously long – when we cinched it snugly around a standard lightweight stand bag, the end of the strap was dragging on the ground. Still, kudos to the designers at Bag Boy for making the set-up process so simple!


88 / B+

ON COURSE IMPRESSIONS

  • Our review staff generally felt that the performance of the Bag Boy Automatic was fine as we tooled around on the course – we experienced no concerns about tipping over, and the cart was on par with its competitors in rolling through different terrain. We note that Bag Boy’s marketing literature touts its “G-Force” performance wheels as having lower rolling resistance than two unnamed competitors, and that there was up to 56.45% of additional resistance in one competitor. We didn’t attempt to replicate their tests, so we’ll leave it to you as to how seriously you weight Bag Boy’s data in your buying decision…suffice it to say that we didn’t notice any real difference in how easy or hard it was to push the Bag Boy compared to the other carts we tested.
  • The brake lever is positioned underneath the right side of the push handle. Pull it all the way back to release the brake, or flip it forward to engage the brake.
  • Instead of a friction-based bicycle brake, the Bag Boy Automatic has twelve gear notches around the right rear wheel and the brake is a pin that inserts into the nearest notch to stop the wheel from rolling. Other carts we tested that used similar brake mechanisms could be fussy, requiring you to push the cart slightly forward or pull it slightly back to position the gear notches where the “brake pin” could be inserted. Not so the Bag Boy Automatic – the sheer number of notches made it a cinch to engage.
  • The tires are made of solid foam, so there is no danger of winding up with a flat.
  • The handle is unique in that the angle of the handle cannot be pivoted up or down. Instead, Bag Boy accounts for users of different heights by making the length of the handle adjustable by up to an additional 8 inches – i.e. the handle telescopes up and down. Interesting way of solving the same problem – it seemed to work just fine on the course. Note that like all of its competitors, the Bag Boy Automatic requires finicky users (or just tall users) to re-adjust the handle every time they unfold the cart – the cart cannot maintain your prior handle height (in order for the Bag Boy Automatic to sit properly when it’s folded, the handle must be retracted all the way down).

76 / C

STORAGE/ACCESSORIES

The storage and accessories available on the Bag Boy include:

  • an extremely small valuables tray with a magnetic lid. The tray is so small that it’s almost useless – by way of example, we were unable to fit a SkyCaddie SG5 in the tray by itself, and there was absolutely no WAY it was going to fit our “test case” of 2 golf balls, a GPS device, an iPhone, a set of keys, and a wallet . Thumbs down from us on this front – don’t the folks at Bag Boy realize that we’re extremely disorganized people who have a pathological need to store junk everywhere? (See, e.g., the proliferation of mini-storage facilities throughout this great land of ours.)
  • a metal clip attached to the lid of the valuables tray that is designed to hold down a scorecard and secure a pencil
  • 2 brackets on the underside of the push handle that will hold a single golf ball each
  • an umbrella mount that holds an umbrella upright to provide you with shelter when it’s raining. The design of the Bag Boy Automatic requires the user to first unscrew a “nut” from the bottom of the holder, then pass the holder through the mount, then tighten the “nut” to secure the holder. This struck us as an odd way of doing it – the competing carts allow the user to just screw a holder directly into the cart.
  • a small cup/bottle holder – we had problems fitting wider bottles into the holder.

We found the Bag Boy Automatic to fall significantly short in this category, not only because of its lack of storage capacity, but also because it lacked simple luxuries such as holes to provide quick access to extra tees and a strap to store an unused umbrella.


83 / B-

STYLE

We had mixed feelings on the styling of the Bag Boy Automatic – the aluminum tubing looks rugged enough, but the 3-spoke wheels are reminiscent of those you would see on a jacked up Scion. On the plus side, the Bag Boy Automatic is available in some reasonably cool-looking color choices – black (with red trim), red (with black trim) and silver (with blue trim).


86 / B

VALUE

The Bag Boy Automatic’s retail price of $199.99 placed it in the middle of the pack among the units we tested. And while the Bag Boy is a nice enough cart, at that price, there isn’t enough “oomph” to it to provide any sort of extraordinary value for the money. But if you find it heavily discounted somewhere, it might be worth a look!


iPhone Battery Packs: The Perfect Companion

So you’ve learned to live with AT&T service. But you haven’t learned to live with the short battery life of your iPhone. Well, neither have we. Since the iPhone battery hasn’t evolved to the point of being able to keep up with our needs during the day, we purchased a handful of iPhone battery packs and gave them a thorough testing. We don’t know what a mAh is, nor do we want to. All we wanted to know was which is the best.
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