Although the Leupold name has been around for over 100 years, the name may be new to many golfers. And when we took to the Leupold GX-I to the course, we have to admit to being skeptical about its performance. A small, lightweight, virtually unknown (to us) rangefinder…how good could it be?
The answer – very, very good. In addition to being both the smallest and lightest rangefinder tested, the Leupold GX-I is an exceptional device. It picks up flagsticks at a distance as well as any of the portable vertically-oriented rangefinders, and features respectable 6x viewfinder magnification, a scanning mode to continuously update distances while targeting objects, and even the option for the user to choose from a number of different crosshairs.
All of this, combined with a reasonable price, make the Leupold GX-I a device we can wholeheartedly recommend.
Retail price: $374.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Leupld GX-1
For those who like the look of the Leupold GX-I but are looking for additional features such as slope-adjusted distance, check out our review of the Leupold GX-II.
Ease of Use
Our testers liked the extremely compact size of the Leupold GX-I, which is both the lightest and smallest laser rangefinder we tested. A small carry case is included that clips to a bag or cart and even has a small external pouch for an extra battery.
The vertically-oriented device is easy to hold, with a somewhat tacky rubber exterior. The Leupold GX-I’s body is virtually entirely black. Head to head against other vertically-oriented rangefinders, the 6x magnification of the Leupold devices bests the Bushnell Tour V2, but falls shy of the 7x provided by the Callaway LR1200. The user can focus the display by twisting the eyepiece, though the Leupold GX-I is a bit more challenging to focus with a single hand than other 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 toggles between modes. The user presses the mode button and then pushes the power/laser button to cycle between the different settings for that mode. In the GX-I, the only “mode” to be selected is yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance.
The Leupold GX-I’s “panning” mode enables the user to pan around the course to obtain distances to different points by simply holding down the power/laser button. The device will provide updated distance readings that blink on the upper left of the LCD display as they are refreshed. When panning across multiple targets, the Leupold GX-I does not update its readings quite as rapidly as some competitors, and will on occasion have the same problem we had with the Callaway LR1200, which, while quick to report a distance, will sometimes “skip” one reading if the user pans quickly across targets with large distance gaps (say, moving from a target at 150 yards to one at 300 yards). The Leupold seems to adopt a slow(er) and steady approach to updating the distance readings that we think most users will find to be sufficient for their needs. Note that while some rangefinders update readings significantly faster at shorter distances than they do at longer distances, we found that the Leupold updates at approximately the same rate regardless of distance.
The Leupold GX-I 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.
Our reviewers weren’t fond of having the distance reading displayed in the upper left of the viewfinder, where it was often difficult to see against darker backgrounds (such as a tree line). It is also slightly more difficult to have to look back and forth between the aiming crosshair in the center of the viewfinder and the yardage in the upper left, particularly when targeting faraway objects.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.
The Leupold GX-I has a “pin-locating” feature, which they call “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). But wait, there’s more! The Leupold is one of only two manufacturers (the other being Callaway) 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 Leupold rangefinders were the only laser devices tested that offer the ability to select a different style of targeting crosshair, allowing users to select from seven different options. Not necessary, but it certainly is nice to have a choice.
Some devices will power off if the user is in “panning” mode for an extended period of time. Not so for the Leupold GX-I! It was kind enough to maintain power while our ace laser reviewer scanned back and forth across the landscape for well over a minute before determining that no, he really can’t carry the ball over the bunker that is 248 yards away.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.
Obtaining Distance Readings
Leupold’s marketing materials state that the GX-I is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks, trees and reflective objects at up to 250/600/750 yards under optimal conditions. While these numbers were the lowest among the devices we tested, we believe them to simply reflect marketing conservatism (an oxymoron, to be sure), as the Leupold could compete with the very best of devices at picking up targets at any distance.
Ease of Locking on a Target:
- At up to 150 yards, the Leupold GX-I provided easy locking on a target, as did all of its competitors.
- At up to 225 yards, the Leupold GX-I was competing with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition as the best device for locking on to a flagstick.
- At yardages in the high 200s, with a bright flag the Leupold could still pick up distances against a background of trees on most every refresh of the distance. Remember, the advantage of the Leupold’s combination of “panning” and “Pinhunter” in a single mode is that the user can receive constantly updated distances, and can thus quickly determine which distance is accurate if the device is moving between alternate distances – no need to re-shoot and wait for the device to lock onto the flagstick again.
- At over 300 yards, the Leupold began to slightly lag the Callaway LR1200 and the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition in picking up a flag – although, none of the devices were exceptional at these distances.
The Leupold GX-I finished toward the back of the line in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.
- 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, it came in last (although it was within several seconds of two other devices).
- 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 retail price of $374.99, the cost of the Leupold GX-I is in line with competing vertically-oriented competitors. But as someone once sang, “It’s just the little things you do, that make me want to get with you…” And the Leupold GX-I does lots of little things well, with its portable size, reasonable 6x magnification, and ability to pick out targets. But wait, there’s more! The user can even choose from among a number of different styles of crosshairs. The result is a pretty good bang for the buck.
Oh, and the singers of that beautiful lyric? Wreckx-N-Effect in their touching ballad “Rumpshaker”, which peaked at #2 on the charts in 1992, behind Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. Ah yes…that takes us back…”Check baby, check baby, 1, 2, 3, 4…All I wanna do is zoom-a zoom zoom zoom in a boom boom…”