OVERALL RATING: 82. GRADE: B-. The Sonocaddie V300 has a lot going for it – there are some great features, and the bright color screen and overhead hole maps are huge selling points. But some serious inaccuracies in distance readings across a number of courses shattered our confidence in the device. Also, while there are rational ways to access each feature, they are not necessarily intuitive (for example, some features are only accessible through buttons on the side of the device, and not through the main menu).
We actually liked the device itself very much, but the repeated significant mapping errors keep us from being able to wholeheartedly recommend it for purchase. If the excellent feature set of the Sonocaddie V300 still lures you toward making the purchase, we would recommend doing some searches on the Internet to see if anyone has experienced problems with the course maps for your favorite courses.
- Overhead map of each hole
- Vibrant color screen
- Scorecard and statistics tracking
- Poor mapping accuracy
- Front and back points of green are fixed and don’t move relative to the player
- Clipart for targets creates a confusing picture of the hole
Retail price: $349.00
Three year total cost: $378.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sonocaddie V300+ (not reviewed)
The Good: Excellent Quick Start instructions that lead the user smoothly through the installation of the software, featuring detailed descriptions of each screen the user will encounter.
The Bad: We ran into a hitch at the end of the setup process, when we were syncing the courses from the PC to the device. The Sonocaddie software continued to display a “Linking” message for about 10 minutes, after which we disconnected the unit. The good news is that the V300 had actually already completed loading the courses. It seems there are some issues with notifying the user when the software has completed transferring courses to the V300. There is no support for Mac users.
- Required Steps. The Sonocaddie V300 requires a setup process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
- registering on their web site to create a free account;
- installing “desktop manager” software on a PC (the software will automatically search for any necessary updates);
- searching for desired golf courses;
- downloading selected courses to the PC; and
- transferring (or “syncing”) the courses from the PC to the device through a USB cable.
- Time Required for Setup. The entire process took about 30 minutes, among the longest for devices in our test, though the actual time would likely have been on the order of 20 minutes had the V300 correctly notified us when it had finished transferring courses
Suggestion Box: Sonocaddie sends a confirmation e-mail upon completion of registration for a free web account, which contains a link that must be clicked to activate the account and begin downloading courses. Keep your eye on your spam filter, as the confirmation email sent to us was swept into a junk mail folder.
What’s in the Box: The Sonocaddie V300 comes with the equipment listed below. Consumers should note that the device requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista and is not supported on the Mac.
- 2 belt clips
- Protective carry bag
- USB cable
- Wall charger
- Quick Start guide
- Sonocaddie V300 User’s Guide
- V300 software CD
- Rechargeable battery
Critical Golf Test: The Sonocaddie V300 keeps growing its database of courses, and now is above average in our golf course coverage analysis.
Manufacturer’s Claims: Sonocaddie claims to have 16,000 North American courses available in its database, which places it average against its competitors (no claims are made for a worldwide figure).
EASE OF USE
The Good: The design is pretty well thought out, but isn’t particularly intuitive. Once you learn how to access a certain feature, it’s easy to use that feature, but learning to navigate the buttons or menus requires some investment of time.
The Bad: The Sonocaddie V300’s 5-way navigation button is not quite as user-friendly as the joysticks or circular buttons on other GPS devices, and is a bit too easy for users to accidentally push in one direction when they mean to depress the button. As mentioned above, heavy reliance on the side buttons isn’t particularly intuitive for most users, but does make for an easier experience once you get up the learning curve.
- Buttons. The Sonocaddie has the largest number of buttons of any GPS device tested, including a 5-way navigation button, left and right soft keys, and buttons for power, scorecard, escape/back, hole selection, course layout, and mark shot.
- Screen. The color screen was vibrant and clear, and is one of the strong suits of the Sonocaddie V300. We had no issues seeing the displayed information, even in bright sunlight.
- Form Factor. Though it is one of the larger golf GPS devices, the Sonocaddie V300 can comfortably be left in a pocket during play. The rubber coating around the outside of the unit makes it easy to hold, but the fluorescent green (good luck matching your golf attire) trim had a remarkable ability to attract dirt and grime.
- Starting a Round. To begin play, the user needs to select the course to be played from the alphabetical list of courses stored on the device, and then choose the hole on which to begin play.
Suggestion Box: Why not make the 1st Hole the default hole when starting a round, instead of forcing the user to choose the beginning hole? Is there some giant target market of people out there who always play in shotguns and need this flexibility as the default setting?
COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING
The Good: We love the overhead map of the hole, as it provides excellent context on how to play the hole. The Sonocaddie V300 also provides an easy interface to add and save custom targets on any hole.
The Bad: The data on distances to the green is limited to the front, middle and back points as viewed from the tee box.
- Views. The player can quickly rotate through the three hole views, including an overhead map showing the full shape of the hole (“course layout” screen), a green view, and an informational view of the hole displaying obstacles along with their relative position (“target view”).
- While the overhead map of the hole proves excellent context, you can’t zoom in on individual points on a hole, or differentiate an individual bunker within a cluster.
- One serious shortcoming of the device is that on the green view, the front and back points of the green are fixed points that do not move in relation to the player. So if you aren’t dead-center on the fairway, you will have some additional guesswork to do to determine the distance to the nearest and farthest points on the green from your location.
- Up to four targets are pre-mapped by Sonocaddie on the target view. Users can add additional targets until the maximum total of six targets (including both pre-mapped and user-mapped targets) is reached.
- On the target view, distances to marked points continue to be displayed even after the user passes them, leaving the screen more cluttered than necessary.
- Hole Information. Par for each hole is displayed on the scorecard, but hole handicaps are not available.
- Custom Mapping. The Sonocaddie V300 enables users to quickly mark additional targets during play on the course. Note that while Sonocaddie is enamored with cute little clip art pictures of the various targets that you can add (bunkers, creeks, et al), these pictures can clutter the screen. For example, if the distance to reach a bunker is already mapped, and you want to add the distance to clear the bunker, you will get overlapping bunker clip art on the target view. On the plus side, the Sonocaddie V300 will retain the custom mapping data stored on the device unless the user edits or erases the data on purpose, which is a huge help for those of us who are so focused on the 19th Hole that we forget to click “save” for all the points we mapped during the round.
The Good: Great scorecard and statistical tracking that is easy to enter.
The Bad: Not much to criticize here, as the Sonocaddie V300 is one of the more feature-laden devices available.
- Shot Tracking. The Sonocaddie V300 can track the distances of shots. It also has a unique “auto track” feature that will record the path the user walks during the round. Users can later view this path on each hole to see just how wayward they went, and combine it with the “shot track” feature to show the location of each shot during their round.
- Score and Statistics. The Sonocaddie V300 has two modes for scoring and statistics – “Normal”, which only shows par and your score, and “Pro”, which allows you to also enter putts, fairways hit and whether you visited any bunkers around the green. If using the Pro mode, an analysis view will show you a variety of statistics, all shown as percentages aside from average putts per hole (though we would have preferred to have the option to view the statistics as “X out of Y”). The analysis view is extremely thorough, though not all of the statistics shown are particularly useful (the percentage of the time I have a double eagle during a particular round sadly isn’t particularly relevant to my game). As a side note, scorecards are not available for all mapped courses.
- Auto-Advance. The device does have an auto-advance feature, but the prompt to auto advance comes before you can enter your score and statistics. As a result, if users want to enter their score and statistics, they need to decline the auto-advance and manually advance to the next hole after inputting the data.
- Preferences. The Sonocaddie V300 allows adjusting a variety of preferences, ranging from color palette to backlight time and brightness level, although the button combinations necessary to effect these changes during a round will likely deter the average user from doing so.
Suggestion Box: The Sonocaddie V300’s statistical analysis backs-in to whether you hit a green-in-regulation (GIR) based on the user’s number of putts, though it can be inaccurate for corner cases on those lightning-fast greens where some of us (ahem) happen to putt off and then need to chip up to the green again. A “yes/no” entry for GIR might have been more appropriate. Also, it would be nice to see the par for the hole in the hole views (it currently is only available from the scorecard).
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS features across all devices tested.
Device Accuracy: The Sonocaddie V300 indicates how accurate its readings are, determined by how many satellites are being picked up at any given time, a feature that no other unit offers. And our tests showed the device itself to be spot-on in accuracy. That’s the good news.
Mapping Accuracy: The bad news is that we found inaccurate distances created by mapping errors – and these were horrifically off the mark (more than 20 yards off). Our reviewers have a tough enough time hitting good shots – imagine their shock when they airmailed a green by 20 yards because of a bad distance reading.
This course mapping accuracy issue wasn’t limited to a single course. Distance inaccuracies were confirmed on multiple courses in clear weather with full signal strength and the device indicating that it was accurate within 3 yards, and cross-checked against distance markers on the course and other GPS devices. These mapping errors can be fixed through re-mapping the course on your own, but we expect a lot more for $400 retail.
We note that once the V300 was less than five yards from a target, it would no longer provide a distance reading to that target. This seems perfectly reasonable given the standard margin for error of GPS (3-4 yards).
Retail Price: The Sonocaddie V300 retails for $349.00.
Fees for Access to Course Database: Users can choose between paying:
- $29.95 one-time fee for unlimited courses within the United States, with courses outside of the United States priced a la carte at $5 per course;
- $49.95 one-time fee for unlimited courses worldwide; or
- $5 per course with no lifetime fee (and 5 free initial courses).
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our calculation of the cost to the user over three years for the Sonocaddie V300 was $378.95, which puts it right in the middle of the pack in our cost comparison of GPS devices. The relatively reasonable course database access fees were offset by the high retail price for the unit itself.
Value: Of the higher-priced premium units in our test, the Sonocaddie V300 adds a one-time fee to push it to a price point higher than some of the competition. While still lower in total cost than some of the competition, the interface and mapping errors we encountered affected our perception of the value of the device.
Updated (course coverage): March 2013