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Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser

The Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS combines basic GPS functionality (essentially a Bushnell neo+) with a laser rangefinder. This review analyzes the Hybrid from the perspective of a prospective GPS purchaser, while in our laser rangefinder section we separately analyze it from the perspective of a prospective laser rangefinder purchaser (see our Bushnell Hybird laser rangefinder review).

We wrestled with how to rate the Hybrid, and ultimately concluded that as a GPS device, it is merely very good. It is undoubtedly quite cool to have a laser rangefinder built in to your GPS device, but the thrill of that added feature is offset in large part by the low-end GPS capabilities (which are identical to that of the Bushnell neo+), large form factor and high-end price tag (the MSRP of $499 make the Hybrid the most expensive GPS device on the market). It’s a nice concept, but we look forward to future generations with greater integration between the GPS and rangefinder functions.

[Editor’s Note: We’ll admit that we borrowed liberally from our Bushnell neo+ review in putting together the text reviewing the GPS capabilities of the Hybrid. We’re just following the lead of Bushnell, which uses identical text in its respective user manuals.]

SCORE
89
GRADE
B+
Setup/Syncing
96
Course Availability
93
Ease of Use
92
Course Detail
94
Features
92
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
86

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Excellent built-in laser rangefinder!
  • No yearly fees
  • All courses come pre-loaded

Cons:

  • Large form factor – which is to be expected from what is essentially a Bushnell neo+ fused to the side of a Tour V2 rangefinder
  • High price for a GPS device
  • Basic GPS functionality

Retail price: $399 (down from $499 at introduction)
Three year total cost: $399
Availability: Though no longer manufactured, the Bushnell Hybrid GPS Laser is still widely available; replaced by the Bushnell NEO XS watch and the Bushnell Tour v3 JOLT
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


96 / A

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: With all of the courses already pre-loaded onto the Hybrid, all that is required is to charge up the device (the battery provides 14-16 hours of use on a full charge) and head for the course.

The Bad: None. If only this was the case for all GPS devices!

Details:

  • Required Steps. While you can use the Hybrid right out of the box, you must register for a free account within 45 days at iGolf.com, Bushnell’s provider of course data, which will enable you to update the Hybrid for any course additions or changes. Setting up an account is reasonably straightforward. If you don’t register within 45 days, the GPS portion of the Hybrid will stop functioning until you do. The necessary steps include:
    • Going to iGolf.com to register (using the serial number of the device);
    • Plugging the Hybrid into your computer through the USB cable; and
    • Clicking “Sync Device” on the iGolf site – note that the first time you sync, you will receive a message on your computer asking if you want to allow an applet from L1 Technologies to access your computer. Click allow, and the sync will begin.
  • Time required for setup. The initial process is accomplished in minutes. The time required for subsequent syncs is dependent on how many courses need to be pushed to the device, but it never took more than a few minutes.

What’s in the Box: The Bushnell Hybrid comes packaged with:

  • Soft Case with clip
  • USB-mini cable
  • Wall charger
  • Manual
  • 1 page (2-sided) quick start guide
  • soft wipe cloth

Required Downloads: None for initial use. And just a small applet to sync latest course data.


93 / A-

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: iGolf (the company that provides course maps to Bushnell) has been hard at work, and the Bushnell Hybrid comes in with 93% coverage in our test of golf course availability across a representative group of 100 courses. Note that we only count a course as “covered” if mapping of hazards/targets is available – which excluded a few courses where only distances to the front/middle/back of the green were plotted, and custom targets are available. The Hybrid’s overall ranking was just a hair lower in the Best New course category than others.

Manufacturer’s Claims: iGolf claims to have more than 25,000 courses in the database worldwide, which puts it in the bottom half among the devices we’ve tested.

For greater detail, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS course availability.


92 / A-

EASE OF USE

The Good:

  • The GPS portion of the Hybrid is as intuitive as it gets – the buttons are clearly labeled and the menus are easy to navigate, and the one button operation of the laser rangefinder is even simpler.
  • Extremely long battery life (the advantage of having a bulky device is you can have a big battery!) means you can go multiple rounds without needing to recharge.

The Bad:

  • Smallest screen among the devices we tested.
  • Big and bulky – which is to be expected, since there’s an attached laser rangefinder.
  • Deciphering the three-to-four letter abbreviations for the marked targets can sometimes be a bit tricky (try and guess what “MFWC” means). Also, marked points are still displayed after you pass them on the hole – this can result in confusion (where you may pass a hazard but there is another similar hazard on the hole and you are equidistant from each) and also means that users will always have to cycle through screens with irrelevant hazards when toggling between the green view and target view screens (see below).
  • Details:

    • Buttons. There is a row of six rubber buttons on the bottom of the GPS portion of the Bushnell Hybrid: power/backlight, screen view, up, down, OK/mark shot and escape/menu. The buttons are a bit small but still reasonably easy to press with the tip of a finger.
    • Screen. Like the Bushnell neo+, the Hybrid has the smallest screen in our tests. The font size of the yardages was sufficient, but the font size for the menu options is a bit small. Brightness was never a problem, as the screen was clearly visible in all lighting conditions (there is the option to turn the backlight on/off as desired).
    • Form Factor. The Hybrid is, shall we say, “husky.” It essentially looks like a Bushnell Tour V2 with a neo+ fused to the side, so suffice it to say that you won’t be slipping it in and out of your front pocket. At 8.2 ounces (11.6 ounces including the case), it was by far the heaviest GPS device tested.
    • Starting a Round. Getting started on a round just requires turning the device on, waiting until the satellites are acquired (bars will appear in the top right of the screen – this can take up to 5 minutes), and then selecting “Play Golf” from the menu. Users can then select from a list of 10 courses ordered by proximity to their location, or choose to manually search for a course. If you select to “Play Golf” before satellites are acquired, you will only have the option to manually search. The device won’t prompt the user for a starting hole, but rather defaults to the 1st hole. Given how quickly you can advance between holes, this doesn’t cause any issues if you happen to be playing the back 9 or participating in a shotgun tournament.
    • Ease of Use of Rangefinder. The laser rangefinder function of the Hybrid is straightforward – just look through the viewfinder, point the aiming circle at the desired target and push the button at the top of the device. An LCD display at the bottom of the screen will show the yardage. The eyepiece can be rotated focus the viewfinder. On the down side, magnification is limited to 5x.
    • Battery Life. In our experience with the Hybrid, battery life was exceptional. Bushnell claims up to 14-16 hours of battery life, so you can expect to squeeze out multiple rounds in between charges.

    Check out the Critical Golf comparison of ease of use.


    94 / A

    COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

    The Good: The best thing about the Hybrid is that in addition to the information available on the GPS device (distances to the front, middle and back of the green, and pre-mapped distances for up to 4 hazards/targets), you can use the laser rangefinder to find the distance to anything you can see.

    The Bad: We wish that Bushnell would uniformly give us the distances to four pre-mapped targets (sometimes a lesser number is provided), but with the handy dandy laser rangefinder, this winds up being a non-issue.

    Suggestion Box: We hope that there is better integration of the GPS and rangefinder functions in future generations of the Hybrid. It would be ideal to see the GPS distances displayed within the rangefinder’s viewfinder, or conversely, the GPS screen could show the most recent laser reading. Either method would provide some context between the position of the pin and the front and back of the green.

    Details:

    • Views. The Bushnell Hybrid provides two different types of hole views. Both text-only hole views are accessible by pressing the “screen” button:
      • Green View: The green view (which only displays text) shows the distance to the front, middle and back of the green.
      • Target View: The target view is also text only, using three-to-four letter abbreviations such as “RFB” for “Right Fairway Bunker” and shows 2 hazard/target distances at a time, along with the distance to the center of the green (there are two of these screens per hole, providing the user with up to 4 hazard/target distances in total). There were often only 2-3 points mapped per hole, although users can custom map their own points to fill any empty slots in the allocated 4 points per hole, or write over pre-mapped points. Lastly, when there are multiple targets in one area, it can be difficult to discern which distances are provided – such as where there are multiple fairway bunkers on the right side of the hole and there is only one “RFB” distance provided.
    • Hole Information. All of the views display the current hole number, but do not provide par or hole handicap.
    • Custom Mapping. Additional hazards/targets can be added to an existing course map (up to the maximum of 4 hazards/targets), and the user can also delete pre-mapped hazard/targets and replace them with custom points of their choosing. A new course can also be created if yours isn’t mapped (for example, if you have your own private golf course), with up to 4 hazards/targets marked on each hole along with the front, middle and back of each green.
    • Laser Rangefinder. The beauty of the Hybrid, of course, is that the laser rangefinder can provide you with distances to anything within your line of sight. The rangefinder does not have a “panning” function, whereby one can get distances to different targets by holding the button down, so if you want to scope out a number of points, you will have to aim and shoot multiple times.

    92 / A-

    FEATURES

    The Good: Laser rangefinder lets you find the distance to anything you can see (of course if it’s a blind approach, you have to rely on the GPS).

    The Bad: No scoring or statistics tracking.

    Details:

    • Laser Rangefinder. The differentiating factor of the Hybrid is, of course, the built-in laser rangefinder, which can be used to target anything for which there is direct line of sight. The Hybrid’s PinSeeker mode is meant to make life easy for the user in those situations where the target has other objects close behind it, like a flagstick with trees behind it (note that despite its name, PinSeeker mode can be used to determine distances to targets other than a flagstick). PinSeeker mode identifies when there are multiple objects being picked up within the crosshairs and ignores the background targets even though they may be larger and thus more reflective. The Hybrid displays a small icon of a flagstick in the lower left of the display when PinSeeker is has locked on to the closest of multiple objects (the user doesn’t have to activate this functionality, it is always “on”). Once the device has located the closest of the targets in the area of the aiming circle, it will display a circle around the flagstick icon and show the distance to the closest object. For more on the specific features of the laser rangefinder portion of the Hybrid, see our Bushnell Hybrid laser rangefinder review.
    • Shot Tracking. The Bushnell Hybrid enables users to measure the distance of their shots by pressing the “Shot” button to activate that feature, then simply pressing ESC to stop measuring. When measuring shot distances, both the shot distance and the distance to the center of the green will be displayed on the screen. Shot distance data is not saved by the Hybrid for later review.
    • Score and Statistics. The Bushnell Hybrid does not track any scores or statistics.
    • Clock. There is no clock on the Hybrid.
    • Auto-Advance. The Hybrid can be set to auto-advance to the next hole, or users can choose to manually advance between holes. While the auto-advance does work the majority of the time, we found a number of occasions where the Hybrid didn’t recognize that we were on the next hole and we needed to manually advance by pushing the “up” arrow.
    • Preferences. Hybrid users can adjust the screen contrast, the basic unit of distance (yards or meters), auto-off (at 45 minutes of no activity) and the rate at which the device refreshes GPS distances (you can elect to have the device stop refreshing distances once you stop moving, so distances won’t fluctuate when you’re basically standing still).

    Check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


    86 / B

    ACCURACY
    We experienced no issues in our test of GPS device accuracy, with all distances within the acceptable range of plus or minus 4 yards.
    Course maps were accurate with the exception of one course that was remodeled approximately 5 years ago (a popular resort course), where the Bushnell Hybrid displayed distances to bunkers that no longer exist, and lacked distances to new bunkers. One green that has been modified in the past year did not have updated distances.


    86 / B
    COST/VALUE

    Retail Price: The retail price of the Bushnell Hybrid is $399.99, making it a relatively expensive golf GPS device.

    Fees for Access to Course Database: There are no annual or per course fees. Bushnell (via iGolf) provides course updates at no additional cost through the iGolf.com site (which requires a free registration).

    Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no yearly fees, the Bushnell Hybrid stays at a three-year total cost of ownership of $399.99, which makes it one of the more expensive GPS devices tested.

    Value: It’s tough to say that a nearly $400 device is a good value, but it all depends on how much you cherish the convenience of having a laser rangefinder and a golf GPS device blended into a single unit. While we think the idea of a combination device is great (and these devices will probably support premium pricing), the lack of any real integration between the GPS and rangefinder functions and the absence of features such as score tracking and statistics make the value of the Hybrid only moderately compelling.

    For full cost details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device price and cost of ownership.



    • Gmck

      Is there a way to find out what courses are loaded in the hybrid.

      • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

        There isn’t a way to know what course update might be included with a particular Bushnell Hybrid laser you purchase. The list of all courses that are available (all should be on the device when purchased, but often we find we need to do a course update as soon as we purchase) can be found at Bushnell’s course database partner, iGolf.com: http://www.igolf.com/course/advanced_search.html