Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Leupold GX-4

Leupold GX-4

Score

90

Grade

A-

OVERALL RATING: 90. GRADE; A-. The GX-4 brings several changes and improvements to the Leupold line of golf laser rangefinders. The solid aluminum body of the GX-4 makes a bit of a fashion statement, and an all-new red OLED display makes distance and other information readable against the darkest of backgrounds.

The new body and display are the primary differences between the GX-4/GX-3 and the earlier GX-2/GX-1 series. The Leupold GX-4 has a number of features not included in the GX-3, including slope, temperature and altitude-adjusted distances and club recommendations. The GX-4 packs all of this into a lightweight and portable package that is only slightly larger than the GX-3.

We do note that we had slightly greater difficulty locking on to targets with the GX-4/GX-3 series than with Leupold’s GX-2/GX-1. Nonetheless, we love the GX-4’s performance, design, display and size, and even though it carries a steeper price tag than the competition, we still place it among the top devices in our rankings.

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Ease of Use
94
Features
90
Obtaining Readings
90
Cost/Value
89

Retail price: $500
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Leupold GX-4i

Pros:

  • Sleek looks
  • New red OLED display makes yardages easily readable
  • Loaded with features

Cons:

  • Most expensive device we tested
  • Angle of approach will continue to display as negative when you are continuously panning across targets and move from a negative to positive angle


94 / A

EASE OF USE

We have always have appreciated the compact size of Leupold rangefinders, and the GX-4 is no exception. While just a hair larger than the rest of the line, it is still one of the lightest and smallest laser rangefinders tested. The included carry case has a slot through which a belt or strap can be threaded, but we miss the simple clip that came with the GX-1 and GX-2. The case has a magnetic latch (very nice) and a zippered pouch to store whichever faceplate is not in use (see below for a discussion on the GX-4’s removable faceplates).

The vertically-oriented device is extremely easy to hold – the aluminum body is trimmed with rubber to provide a solid grip. The Leupold GX-4 form factor is the virtually the same as the GX-3, with the difference that players can swap the chrome faceplate (that provides only line-of-sight distances) for the “Smart Key” bright yellow faceplate, which enables slope-adjusted distance readings and club recommendations. The bright yellow color is meant to alert others that the “Smart Key” faceplate is attached but the USGA has rejected use of the GX-4 for tournament play even when the non-slope-adjusted chrome faceplate is utilized. What seemed to be a great idea by Leupold has been nipped in the bud by the powers-that-be.

Leupold GX-4 with Smart Key on

Click image to enlarge

The 6x magnification of the Leupold devices matches the highest magnification of any rangefinder available with the exception of the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition (which provides a whopping 7x magnification). The user focuses the display by twisting the eyepiece, though the Leupold GX-4 is slightly more difficult to focus with a single hand than some competing devices.

Like most laser rangefinders, the Leupold features two buttons, one located on the top of the device that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and the other located on the lower left side of the device that allows the user to change modes and modify settings. To modify settings, the mode button is initially held for one second to enter the menu, then is pressed to cycle between different functions. The power/laser button is then used to toggle between settings for a specific function. The GX-4 allows the user to select either yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance. In addition, the GX-4 provides settings for the user to turn on fog mode and/or club recommendation mode and to manually input the altitude and temperature (for slope-adjusted distance calculations).

The Leupold GX-4′s “panning” mode enables the user to scan the course to obtain distances to different points by simply holding down the power/laser button. In our testing, the device smoothly refreshed the data with updated readings as the user panned across new targets, providing updated slope-adjusted distances, line-of-sight distances, and the angle of slope.

We found the red OLED display to be a huge improvement over standard black/dark grey rangefinder LCD displays, which are difficult to read against dark or shadowy backgrounds. We do note that the OLED display winds up showing things with a greenish tint, which, while it became unnoticeable after awhile, is still a bit of an adjustment from the non-OLED displays that show natural colors. A nice decision by Leupold was to move the displayed distances away from the edges of the display to positions slightly above and below the crosshair, which makes the information more readily accessible at a glance (without having to look up, down, or to the sides of the viewfinder).

The Leupold GX-4 takes one CR-2 Lithium battery. A battery meter is positioned in the lower center of the viewfinder, along with an indicator of yards or meters to its right.

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


90 / A-

FEATURES

Leupold GX-4 Laser Rangefinder

Click image for views

The Leupold GX-4 has a “pin-locating” feature, which Leupold calls “Pinhunter” (the equivalent of “PinSeeker”, “PinPoint” or “First Target Priority” mode on competing devices), that makes it easier to determine the distance to specific targets such as flagsticks. The device automatically filters out readings from larger more “reflective” objects (like trees) in the background, and concentrates on obtaining a reading from the closer of the targets that are within the crosshairs (which should be the flagstick). In addition, Leupold is one of only two manufacturers that uses the “pin-locating” mode all of the time, including while the user is panning across multiple objects – other devices force the user to switch back and forth between a panning mode and a “pin-locating” mode. The GX-4 also includes a “Fog Mode” that improves performance in fog and rain to screen out false readings.

To make obtaining distances to flagsticks even easier, the GX-4 features “Prism Lock,” a feature that is always enabled when scanning at distances over 25 yards. When the GX-4 identifies a flagstick equipped with a reflective prism, it will “beep,” show brackets around the cursor and then freeze the display at the measured distance (curiously, it can be just a hair more difficult to lock on compared to the GX-2). We didn’t encounter any issues with unintended activation of “Prism Lock,” even when we were attempting to get readings behind and slightly to either side of the flagstick. It’s a fabulous feature – now if only more golf courses would add flagsticks with reflective prisms…

Click image to enlarge

The GX-4, like the GX-2, features “TGR” (“True Golf Range”) functionality, which provides an automatically adjusted distance based on the slope between the user and the green, and also adjusts distance based on temperature and altitude that is manually input by the user. If desired, the unit can provide recommended clubs for each shot. When users have activated the club selector to provide recommendations, the GX-4 will display the adjusted distance along with the recommend club when the “fire” button is released.

Our reviewers liked that the display of the Leupold GX-4 continues to show adjusted distance above the crosshair (there are three styles to choose from) while in “TGR” mode, along with line-of-sight distance and the angle of slope in the bottom right. There is what we consider a significant glitch in the GX-4: if the user ever continuously pans and picks targets with below where they are standing (negative angle of approach) and then picks targets above their location (positive angle of approach), the angle shown in the display will remain negative (the absolute value of the angle continues to change and is correct, however). The unit will do this regardless of whether you start panning at a positive or negative angle of attack. If you are pointed down 9 degrees, for example, the device will show as “-9″, and then when you move to be pointed up 4 degrees, the device will show as “-4″. While you will likely always know whether you are pointed up or down, and you would be able to confirm by whether the adjusted yardage is above or below the line-of-sight distance (those numbers will be correct). As an aside, the Leupold GX-2 does NOT have this bug.

One minor quibble is that the recommended club is only displayed once the “fire” button is released, rather than while the laser is being fired. Showing the recommended club while the laser is being fired would be helpful in allowing a player to determine direction or targets based on a preferred club.

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


90 / A-

OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS

Leupold’s marketing materials state that the GX-4 is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks and reflective targets at up to 450/800 yards under optimal conditions, distances that should satisfy even the longest hitters. Distance readings will continue to be displayed on the OLED for approximately 8 seconds after the firing button is released. The Leupold GX-4 will allow users to continue to fire the laser for well over 2 minutes without shutting down, so go ahead and pan across as many targets as you like!

Ease of Locking on a Target:

  • At up to 175 yards, the Leupold GX-4 easily picked out flagsticks, as did most of its competitors.
  • At more than 200 yards, the Leupold GX-4 had slightly more difficulty picking up flagsticks against a challenging background, though it still performed at a very high level (80%+ of the time)> Beyond 200 yards it didn’t seem to have any additional difficulty up through 300 yards. At these longer distances, the GX-4 slightly lagged the performance of the Callaway iQ and Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition.

All rangefinders have an easier time locking on to flagsticks with reflective targets/prisms. We have not done a comparative test across all devices on reflective targets/prisms, but our on-course experience revealed that the GX-4 easily and quickly locks onto prisms at distances well in excess of 300 yards. It’s a great feature to have at your disposal.

Speed Test:

The Leupold GX-4 does not update distance readings as rapidly as the competition when panning, though this is not a deal-breaker for us. Speed was as quick as the GX-3, so the additional work required to determine adjusted distances does not appear to impact the speed of the device. We also found it much quicker than the GX-2.

  • Panning Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, we found it to be the slowest of the bunch.
  • Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, it finished in the middle of the pack. Which makes sense, since a great advantage of having a panning mode is that it is quicker to pick up multiple targets.
  • Using Both Modes: The Leupold also finished in the middle of the pack in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison for ease of obtaining distance readings.


89 / B+

COST/VALUE

At a new lower (yes, lower!) retail price point of $500, the Leupold GX-4 is still the highest priced slope-adjusted distance laser rangefinder tested. Given this cost, budget-conscious buyers may want to consider the GX-2. However, the OLED display and that aluminum body sure are alluring…



  • Anfn

    i received a gx 4 as a christmas gift. the unit had to be returned to leupold because the readings were incorrect. leupold said it had a defective module. a month later still no replacement due to product shortage. very poor customer support. a big hastle for an expensive product. leupold is not a nordstrom or callaway whe it comes to customer support.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the community at Critical Golf. Please let us know when you are able to get a replacement unit and whether the second device performs correctly.

  • Anfn

    i received a gx 4 as a christmas gift. the unit had to be returned to leupold because the readings were incorrect. leupold said it had a defective module. a month later still no replacement due to product shortage. very poor customer support. a big hastle for an expensive product. leupold is not a nordstrom or callaway whe it comes to customer support.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the community at Critical Golf. Please let us know when you are able to get a replacement unit and whether the second device performs correctly.

      • Anfn

        now on the rourth replacement unit,the bottom line is,stay away.

        • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

          Talk about a bummer! We have not heard of any issues from the manufacturer, and we haven’t had any issues with our GX-4 (nor have other users we know who have purchased the device).
          Thanks for the information and will we update the review if we find more cases of this.

        • Eric

          Dear Anfn,

          I am the product line manager for rangefinders at Leupold & Stevens.  I was disapointed to read your posting as Leupold and all its employees pride ourselves on customer service and quality products.  So, when this posting was pointed out to me today, I became very concerned.  I did a quick search for any customer who had returned a unit more than three times (you mentioned you were on your 4th) and I was unable to find any?  However, it might be possible you returned it through a store so I wouldn’t be able to track you down as an individual customer.  If this were the case, it doesn’t sound like you gave Leupold service a chance?  If the unit were returned through a store and you were displeased with your experience, you would either be dealing with the service of the store (I think you will find we have the most liberal and accommodating service policy of any sporting optics company) and asking questions to a clerk about product functionality, who sometimes can find it easier to replace a unit than research a question (maybe helping explain the number of units they’ve given you?).  We have had no quality issues with the product that have resulted in abnormal failures.  I monitor our failure rate regularly and we are well below the failure rate of a technology product with similar capability.  I will admit that when we first started shipping, we mistakenly shipped all of the units for sales rather than leaving any for service.   This would have led to a delay in service for the first month of shipment.  I can apologize for that oversight if you were impacted by that.

          If you would like to talk about the functionality of your product or if I was wrong in my research and you wanted to talk about your product issues, please call 1-800-leupold and ask to speak with the rangefinder product line manager and I would be happy to assist you.

          Best wishes. 

          • Wavescan77

            Wow, having Leupold reply here is impressive. It seems the negative review here was done by a competitor!! I have a Leupold riflescope and will be buying a Leupold rangefinder. It is great to see an American company be competitive in a tech market like this, keep up the good work.

  • bzsprinkler

    Warmer weather is approaching fast in my area. Would like to know what you guys think of the GX-4 before I purchase one. One other question, this is the only site that states that the GX-4 is legal for tournament play, where did you get this information? I know you can put the chrome faceplate on to disable slope and other features, but even on the Leupold website it does not say it is legal, unlike the GX-1 & GX-3 that clearly states they are legal. Response?

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      So far our experience with the GX-4 has been quite positive. Regarding tournament play, while the GX-4 was, we believe, initially marketed as being legal (with the correct faceplate attached, of course), it currently is not advertised as such. The GX-1 and GX-3 are both legal for tournament play, the GX-3 is not, and Leupold is currently waiting on a ruling from the USGA regarding the GX-4. As there is no ruling yet, we recommend that players purchasing a Leupold now make the conservative assumption that the GX-4, like all other rangefinders that provide slope information, isn’t legal for tournament play.

      • bzsprinkler

        Thanks for the reply, I guess I am going to take my chances. Great concept to only purchase one rangefinder that works both ways. My reason for wanting slope so bad is that my range is on top of a hill, beautiful setup but when I am hitting a SW to the 150 (which is a 9 iron for me) pin it is very difficult to guess yardages. If Leupold gets this resolved it will be a bonus, I just don’t want to spend that kind of money getting the GX-3 to find out later that the GX-4 became legal.

  • Arube1

    any idea when the review on the gx 4 will be up? is it still raining?

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Rains have passed (for now) and the review should be up shortly. Feel free to follow us on twitter (http://twitter.com/CriticalGolf) to keep up with our latest releases.

      • Jcm

        Regarding the GX-4 this is Leupold’s answer to my question:
        Q:How come the Leupold GX-4 is not legal for tournament play? When you use the Smart Key feature and remove the yellow cap it is just like the GX-3 which is legal for tournament play.
        A:Thanks for your inquiry. Yes, most people feel the same way. We developed the GX-4 in conjunction with input from the USGA. We made adjustments to the product (size of the front key) in order to comply with their feedback. When we submitted the product for “approval,” we were surprised when they rejected the product. We have appealed to many levels trying to get a reversal on their decision. We continue to work to reverse their decision, but we don’t expect a reversal in the USGA decision any time soon.

  • Geebs

    I was in a pro shop and tested the Leupold GX-4 side by side with the Bushnell Pro 1600 with slope. I pointed to a flag pole 209 yards away with an 8-degree slope.  The Bushnell gave me yardage of 243 and the Leupold gave me yardage of 285.  Seriously, 40 yards difference?! At objects with less slope the difference is not as dramatic, but there is still sometimes a club difference between 150-170 yards with a moderate slope.  Can anyone enlighten me on which one is correct?

    • Kuseebass

      Did you ever get a reply to your question about which one is providing the correct/most accurate yardage?

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      We didn’t have the same experience that you did at the pro shop. We tried to replicate your numbers (setting the Leupold to 75 degrees and 0 altitude), and we showed a slope-adjusted yardage of ~258, which is 15 yards higher than your Bushnell measurement, and 27 yards lower than your Leupold measurement. Given that most of these devices are accurate +/- 1 degree (Bushnell states this, we assume the same for Leupold), that one degree at 209 yards can swing the adjusted distance by about 9 yards. Your 243 yard slope-adjusted distance thus seems to fall within the margin of error for both devices (if your reading was low and ours high). Unfortunately we no longer have the Bushnell 1600 with Slope in our inventory so can’t compare side-by-side. In terms of your readings, however, the 285 sounds exceptionally high.

      We did compare Leupold to Bushnell distance examples on their website. The Bushnell 1600 Slope 162 yards at 4 degrees shows a slope-adjusted distance of 173, and 150 at 6 degrees provides an adjusted distance of 166. Testing these against the Leupold we found the same slope-adjusted distance at 162 (moving to 3 or 5 degrees will shift yardages by ~3), and at 150 a slightly lower adjusted distance of 163 (moving down to 5 or up to 7 shifts adjusted yardages by ~3 yards), so this puts the devices within their margin of error during our testing.

  • Interested

    Are the USGA decisions published on the net and, if so, where?

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      USGA decisions are published on the net, though you won’t find decisions that are specific to a device. The Leupold GX-4 is a non-confirming device under Rule 14-3, even with a Local Rule in effect permitting distance-measuring devices, as the USGA has ruled the GX-4 has the ability to provide other information (slope adjusted distance), even with the Smart Key removed.

      • Interested

        Thanks for the reply, but if the USGA doesn’t post its decision anywhere on a particular device, how is it that you know it is non-conforming.  Am I correct in saying that you consider it is non-compliant after reading the rule?

        • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

          We believed it to be non-conforming based on reading the Rules, and then confirmed it is non-conforming by calling the USGA and speaking with them (908-234-2300). The USGA offers a great service fielding questions from players, answering over 15,000 Rules questions each year!

  • John K

    Do you know when you will have completed your evaluation of the Leupold GX-4? I am considering purchasing one, but would like to review you evaluation.

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      We are in the process of drafting the review right now and will be releasing in July (perhaps coinciding with our new website!). Feel free to follow us on twitter to receive updates on new reviews.

  • Sandy

    What is the difference between the GX-4 and the GX-4i?

    • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

      Main differences are that the GX-4i provides distances as accurate as +/- 1/2 yard (the GX-4 is to +/- 1 yard). The distances also update much more rapidly, and blink as the player is panning for yardages, with the GX-4i. We should have our GX-4i review up in the next week or so.