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.
Retail price: $500
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Leupold GX-4i
- Sleek looks
- New red OLED display makes yardages easily readable
- Loaded with features
- 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
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…