[Editor’s Note: The review below has been revised to reflect our impressions of SkyCaddie’s 2011 software update for the SGX.]
The SkyCaddie SGX is the latest offering from SkyCaddie, which still reigns as the best-known GPS company in the game. The SGX includes new features such as a digital scorecard, statistics tracking, overhead hole maps with the ability to select a point and receive distances both to that point and from that point to the green (HoleVue), and detailed green maps with contours and false fronts (Intelligreen Pro). But the availability of HoleVue and Intelligreen Pro is sparse (see our golf course coverage test for details), and the syncing process is abysmal. And let’s not forget the top-end price tag for the unit and a steep yearly subscription fee to access the course database.
Our conclusion – the SGX is a nice unit that provides SkyCaddie with something that is competitive with the top devices. The problem is that it doesn’t surpass those other devices, which makes the premium pricing difficult to swallow.
- Bright and easy to read color screen
- Full graphic hole views and unmatched green detail (when HoleVue and Intelligreen Pro are available)
- Large number of user customizable settings
- Highest 3-year total cost in our test
- Course coverage still evolving
- Syncing process is awful
- Interface still needs additional polish
The Good: Detailed step-by-step instructions make setup straightforward.
The Bad: The SGX took longer than any other device tested to set up, largely due to required software updates and the SGX freezing on us during the initial update attempt. An update of the software was required once during initial setup, then again two weeks later with the release of yet another software update. We had issues with connecting the SGX nearly every time we attempt to sync the device, though this is usually fixed by trying the “sync” button multiple times and/or unplugging and plugging the SGX back in again.
We revisited the SGX after their latest 2011 software release of a new software update. Unfortunately, what resulted was a comical 30 minutes that included a failure by the CaddieSync app update the software during the initial attempt, a crash when we attempted to reinstall the software update as instructed, and then multiple pages of errors when we attempted to open CaddieSync. We had the pleasure of uninstalling and re-installing the application, powering on and off the SGX, and then on the third try had success with the software upgrade. Just when we thought we were out of the woods, the CaddieSync app crashed again, requiring one more attempt before a successful sync. Needless to say, if you like a smooth syncing process, this just isn’t the device for you (and with the number of devices available today with all courses included out of the box, you have the option to select a device that doesn’t even require syncing).
- Required steps. Setting up the SkyCaddie SGX is similar to many other devices we tested, and involves:
- registering on their web site to create an account;
- choosing and purchasing a membership plan (ranging in price from $29.95 to $59.95);
- installing course management software (CaddieSync) on your computer;
- searching for and selecting the courses you want to load to the SkyCaddie and adding them to your “Favorites” list; and
- connecting the SkyCaddie to the computer via a USB cable and “syncing” the courses to the device.
- Time required for setup. The initial setup process took about 40 minutes in total. This included the time to create an account online and select a membership plan, download and install the course management software, a required software update (30 minutes alone, and not an enjoyable experience), and loading courses.
What’s in the Box: The SkyCaddie SGX comes with:
- USB cable
- Wall charger
- Belt clip
- LCD protectors
- Quick Start Guide
- LCD polishing cloth
Required Downloads: :
- SkyCaddie SGX User Guide
- CaddieSync management software
Critical Golf Test: The low rating/grade for the SkyCaddie SGX is based upon the current lack of courses for which HoleVue and Intelligreen Pro are available – the SGX scored near the bottom of our golf course coverage test, which doesn’t seem like enough progress from our initial score of 42% in 2010. We do note that the SGX provided 98% coverage for standard distance information. We believe, however, that the appropriate comparison point, given the premium price that purchasers will pay, is the course coverage for the device’s top feature set. We are disappointed in this continued low course coverage score, and if you are considering purchasing the SGX, we would recommend doing a careful check on whether the courses you plan to play have HoleVue and IntelliGreen Pro available through the SkyCaddie website.
Manufacturer’s Claims: SkyCaddie claims to have nearly 30,000 courses available in its course database, placing it among the top devices tested. This number refers, however, to coverage of standard distance information – SkyCaddie doesn’t break out for HoleVue and IntelliGreen Pro coverage.
EASE OF USE
The Good: The device has an exceptional display that shows well even in bright sunlight.
The Bad: The SkyCaddie SGX, at 5.5 ounces (as tested), tied with its sister device, the SG5, as one of the heavier devices in our test. We wish that SkyCaddie had incorporated a touchscreen display to keep up with the competition. The interface was confusing at times, with situations where you expect to be able to use one of the softkeys on the device, but instead need to use the joystick to select an option. There is no ability to zoom out one level when in hole view – users need to zoom in all the way to the green, then zoom out to the highest level of zoom and start again. In addition, we not only experienced the above-mentioned errors in the CaddieSync process, but also had the pleasure of frozen screens during play and an error message that required restarting the device and losing our recorded scores in the middle of a round. Awful, just awful.
- Buttons. The device features a joystick (which can also be pressed down to select menu items), two soft keys, and buttons for power, mark shot, menu, course information, and hole selection. The joystick works particularly well for pinpointing targets, though it would benefit from being slightly harder to depress, so users don’t accidentally push the joystick when attempting to nudge it left/right or up/down.
- Screen. The SkyCaddie SGX has a high resolution 3” screen that is clear and easily visible even in bright sunlight.
- Form Factor. The SkyCaddie SGX weighed 5.5 ounces as tested, making it one of the heaviest devices we tested.
- Starting a Round. To begin a round, users can scroll through the list of courses they have loaded onto the device, or choose from a selection of “Preloaded Courses ” that SkyCaddie loads on the device at the factory (which are displayed based on proximity to the player’s location). Note, however, that the “Preloaded Course” maps only contain basic distances to the front, center and back of the green, and do NOT include HoleVue, Intelligreen Pro, or even the distances to bunkers, creeks and other hazards. After selecting the course, the user selects the hole on which to start the round. Users can easily resume a round if they exit the course during play.
COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING
The Good: New overhead hole views (HoleVue) provide a solid amount of detail, including the mapping of trees. The green rotates based on player position, and is a very accurate representation of the shape.
The Bad: For some courses where IntelliGreen Pro was available, we found contours and false fronts mapped for only some of the holes. Whether this was an oversight, or whether SkyCaddie didn’t think that the contours were significant enough to map, isn’t clear. In addition, the start of some holes were cropped and not visible upon initial viewing of the hole and not accessible via scrolling.
- Views. There are four different views available – a hole view, a target listing view, a “safe route” view, and a green view. Users can cycle quickly among the target views, and the Skycaddie SGX allows users to customize the rotation and remove any views they don’t utilize. Each view shows battery level, signal strength and the current time.
- Full hole view (“HoleVue”, available on select courses) – HoleVue shows a graphic of the hole, including trees, hazards, and even cart paths, and the distance to the green. A cursor is automatically placed in the center of the screen, and the user may use the joystick to move the cursor and select any point on the hole. The distance to that targeted point is then displayed, as well as the distance from that point to the green. There are generally three levels of zoom available in HoleVue (click on the image to the right to see a picture of HoleVue).
- Green view (“IntelliGreen”; “IntelliGreen Pro” available on select courses) – Displays the true shape of the green, and will rotate to match the angle of the player’s approach. Distances to the front and back of the green from the player’s position are displayed, along with the distance to the target crosshair, which can be moved with the joystick to match the flagstick location. “IntelliGreen Pro”, available on select courses, takes all of the functionality of IntelliGreen and adds major tiers, contours, false fronts and mounds. The target crosshair in IntelliGreen Pro will also indicate the distance from the selected point to each side (front, back, left and right) of the green (for a picture of IntelliGreen Pro, click on the image above and advance to the second photo). The SGX will default to IntelliGreen Pro if it is available for the course.
- Target list view – Displays a list of distances to hazards, carries and layups. Up to five distances can be shown at a time (we don’t know why the SGX will often display fewer than 5 target distances when selecting this view on a hole when 5 or more are actually available, requiring users to immediately scroll to see relevant points) and the user may scroll through the distances or let the SGX automatically update the list. The distance to the center of the green from the target selected is shown, along with a graphic indicating the target.
- Safe route (“QuickVue”, available on Advanced courses only) – Shows the route SkyCaddie has determined is the “safest” route of play, in a 3-D view, when HoleVue is not available. To our information junkie review staff, this just seemed to be a really dumbed down set of information, so we generally scrolled right past it (for a picture of QuickVue, click on the image above and advance to the third photo).
- Hole Information. The hole number, par and hole handicap are all shown at the top of the view screens.
- Custom Mapping. There is no ability to map custom points with the SkyCaddie SGX.
Suggestion Box: Full hole views should allow users to zoom in and out as they desire, but the SGX forces you to rotate through all of the zoom levels in progression, zooming all the way down to the green view before you can cycle back around to the highest level of zoom. This may result from the fact that the SGX’s user interface is overwhelmed as it is, and would have problems accommodating another function.
The Good: The SkyCaddie SGX provides most of the general features you would expect to have in a golf GPS device, as well as a wide array of user-adjustable settings.
The Bad: We would prefer to see statistics from the current round during play. It would also be nice to be able to track sand and penalty strokes (not that we ever have those!).
- Shot Tracking. Users can easily mark their shots to measure distances.
- Scores and Statistics. Users can now track score, putts and fairways hit. There is no option to record penalties or sand shots, two other statistics options found on a number of other devices. There are indicators that those may be in the works, since ClubSG (the online software to which users must sync their scores and statistics) allows you to display penalty strokes and bunker shots on your statistics graphs…even though the SGX doesn’t yet allow you to enter them. Users can also see their fairways hit and GIR, along with scoring and putting averages.
After entering the score for the hole, players see a round summary that displays where they stand relative to par, total score and total putts.
Users can only view their score on the SGX. In order to view statistics, users need to sync their SGX with their CaddieSync software, which then will update their (free) “ClubSG” account online. ClubSG aggregates scores and key stats, and lets users share information and connect with other players. The SGX can only store up to 10 rounds before the user must sync with the computer to offload the scores and statistics data. This limitation is a bit odd, in our view, particularly in this day and age of inexpensive memory.
- Auto-Advance. Users can choose between automatic or manual advancing between holes.
- Preferences. The SkyCaddie provides a wealth of user settings for the SGX, including whether to show targets first, whether the front or the center of the green is the green reference distance, the distance at which the device will automatically switch to the green view, the distance at which the device will no longer show a target, power save functions (auto power off and backlight) and which views to display.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.
Device Accuracy: We experienced no distance accuracy issues in our test of device accuracy, with all distances within the acceptable range of plus or minus 4 yards.
Mapping Accuracy: We tested the SkyCaddie SGX on a variety of courses and had limited problems with the accuracy of the course mapping. As distance readings are available at any distance from a target or the green, we were able to develop confidence in the SkyCaddie SGX’s accuracy. We did find some key targets missing from holes, such as bunkering (added approximately a year ago), and trees in fairways that are in play (that are decades old). SkyCaddie’s advertising emphasizes that they work with local golf course professionals to be notified when a layout has changed, and that they physically walk each course to create the mapping, so it’s difficult to overlook these errors, especially given the steep annual subscription fee for access to the course database.
Retail Price: With the release of the SkyCaddie SGXw, the SkyCaddie SGX now retails for $349.95, in the upper half for golf GPS devices tested.
Fees for Access to Course Database: SkyCaddie owners must choose one of three membership plans to access the course database, which are priced at $29.95/year for unlimited courses in one state, $49.95/year for unlimited courses in the United States, and $59.95/year for unlimited courses worldwide.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: At $499.80, the SkyCaddie SGX falls at the upper end in our test of the three-year total golf GPS cost, which makes assumptions on the number of new courses a user will want to access each year.
Value: While the SkyCaddie SGX incorporates some features which users will find appealing, the lack of polish in the interface, no touchscreen ability, the poor course coverage, and buggy desktop software make this device difficult to wholeheartedly recommend at a cost of approximately $500 for 3 years.
Updated (course coverage): March 2013