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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

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.


  • Kevinobrien2006

     The Callaway IQ has the “slope” feature, which means it is not USGA approved.

  • Kevinobrien2006

    The Callaway IQ is listed on this website under the heading of rangefinders that do not have the “slope” feature. However, it does have the “slope” feature, which means it is not USGA approved.

    • Thanks for the catch – the iQ overview (in advance of our upcoming full review) has been moved to the Slope section.

  • EC

    Any idea when full review will be available?

    • Today! Sorry for the delay, we were in the process of releasing our new website. Enjoy the review!

    • Today! Sorry for the delay, we were in the process of releasing our new website. Enjoy the review!

  • Kevin

    Why does the Leupold Gx4 have a lower feature rating than the 2 or 3?  Also, do you find the Gx4 hard to see in bright light? And third, do you have an opinion using street values instead of MSRP.?
     -Thank you 

    • We brought the Leupold GX-4 score down primarily due to the glitch mentioned in displaying the angle of approach (the GX-4 and GX-2 also have fewer crosshair options than the GX-3 and GX-1).

      We provide MSRP, which best describes the value that the manufacturer places on their device. In addition, we find that the relative ranking of laser rangefinders (found in our “How We Test” section) remains much the same regardless of whether MSRP or street price is used.