Bushnell NEO XS Watch
The NEO XS is Bushnell’s latest iteration on an entry-level golf GPS watch. Bushnell has improved the prior generation NEO-X watch by adding two additional hazards that can be listed for each hole (increasing the total to four per hole). Aesthetics are always subjective, but we found the sleek round design of the NEO XS to be vastly superior to the blocky look of the NEO-X.
It still doesn’t keep score or pair to a mobile device through Bluetooth, but what it does do it almost always does extremely well (the exception is the initial set-up for syncing courses, described in “Setup/Syncing” below). Bushnell has made a fine professional product, so if you’re looking for a low-priced alternative in the golf GPS watch field, the NEO XS is the one to get.
- Strong course coverage
- Reasonable pricing
- Lack of scoring and statistics
- Clunky process for initial course database update
Retail price: $199.99
Three year total cost: $199.99
Amazon.com: Check price now
- The charging clip is basically the same as the one for the previous generation Bushnell NEO-X watch – there are two little plastic “guide pins” that fit into corresponding holes on the watch that lock the clip into place. It still takes a little bit of wiggling around, but when everything is where it should be it’s pretty secure.
- No wall charger is provided, so the only way to charge the Bushnell NEO XS is by plugging the USB cable into your computer. (This is not unique to the NEO XS – it seems to be the case with almost every watch we test.)
- We followed the instructions for obtaining course updates, first registering with iGolf, Bushnell’s golf course database provider and then downloading the iGolf Sync browser plug-in to a desktop computer (in this case, a Mac). We had issues opening the installer because it wasn’t recognized as “safe” software – but after following the instructions given by the Mac on how to circumvent the security protocol we were eventually able to get iGolf Sync installed. We then headed back to the Bushnell/iGolf web site to download the device driver. Again, our Mac didn’t want to open the file, but our newfound familiarity with circumventing the security protocol let us open and install it. Next we were asked to restart the computer. When that was done we trudged back to the Bushnell/iGolf web site to the “Courses” page, connected the NEO XS…and then couldn’t figure out what to do next. Ah – the trick is that you actually have to select a course (literally any course). Then and only then does the page refresh and indicate that the device is connected and that you have the ability to download the latest GPS course file. This was neither intuitive nor well described in the instructions. Had we known what we were supposed to do, the process probably would’ve only taken about 15 minutes, but as it was we were wandering through the desert for what felt like 40 years (and was actually about 45 minutes).
- Once you’ve gone through the setup process, just charge up the battery and you’re good to go.
- The NEO XS comes with a small plastic soft-bristled brush for cleaning the charging contacts on the watch, which is a first among the products we’ve tested.
- Critical Golf Test: The Bushnell NEO XS watch leverages the course database from Bushnell’s partner, iGolf. Course coverage is 99% in our course coverage test, where we select a random cross-section of courses across the country and evaluate whether those courses are available within a manufacturer’s database. Note that our test only counts a course as “covered” for the NEO XS if it has both front-center-back information and hazards.
- Manufacturer’s Claims: Bushnell’s web site claims that more than 33,000 worldwide courses are available on the NEO XS, which places it near the bottom our course coverage comparison test. As always, we recommend a greater focus on the Critical Golf Test, as the Manufacturer’s Claims are based solely on what is listed on their web sites and in their marketing materials. As an example, the NEO XS manual only claims 32,500 courses. And TomTom, which uses the same iGolf course database for the TomTom Golfer Watch, claims more than 34,000 courses…It seems that the good folks at Bushnell need to update their press kit!
EASE OF USE
- The screen does not take up the entire face of the watch – it only occupies a square area of about .8” x .8”, making for about 0.66” square inches of viewing area. This is one of the smaller screens we’ve tested, although given the simpler data presented by the NEO XS, it doesn’t adversely affect the user experience. The NEO XS screen has the same suboptimal backlighting as the prior generation NEO X – when any button is pushed, the LCD is illuminated in a way that isn’t obvious in bright lighting conditions, but if viewed in the dark will show the letters and numbers in green. The “backlight” remains on for approximately 10 seconds after a button is pushed. There is no ability to modify the default time the screen remains backlit. The backlighting works fine if it is extremely dark, but we found it less effective when lighting conditions were just dim. In addition, the backlight is only relevant to the watch features – it is disabled once you begin a round.
- The Bushnell NEO XS weighs a mere 1.95 ounces (as tested), placing it among the lightest golf GPS watches we have tested. The watch is available in three color combinations – charcoal gray body /charcoal gray rubber band and orange trim, black body/black rubber band with neon yellow trim, and white body/white rubber band with blue trim. A “keeper” loop holds the excess length of the band in place.
- Operation of the NEO XS requires the use of five fixed buttons on the watch – golf menu, menu, up, down (which also doubles as the power button), and select. There is no touch screen. With the simple feature set available on the NEO XS, there isn’t too much navigation that you need to do, and the user interface is relatively intuitive. This is one device for which you don’t need to read the manual.
- Bushnell claims 12 hours of battery life while using GPS, which it translates into 3 rounds of golf. Clearly they are not playing on the same slow public courses that we are, where a 5 hour round is counted as lightning fast. We didn’t get a chance to test multiple rounds on a single charge, but we were able to make it through 3 rounds on the prior generation Bushnell NEO-X watch and would guess that one would have a similar experience with the NEO XS.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of ease of use.
COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING
- The NEO XS “two-ups” the prior generation NEO-X, providing distances for up to four hazards per hole. Bushnell/iGolf has been relatively good about making use of the additional real estate as we frequently saw four mapped hazards on a hole.
- Hole View – Shows the hole number, the par for the hole, and the distances to the front, middle and back of the green.
- Hazard View –Displays up to 2 hazards on the screen at once (if there are more plotted for that particular hole, they appear on a second hazard screen). The hazards are identified by text abbreviations, which are usually self-explanatory (LFB for Left Fairway Bunker). Of course there are more obscure abbreviations like MFW and MFWC. Any guesses? You’ll have to dig up the manual to learn that they stand for Middle Fairway Water (a layup distance) and Middle Fairway Water Carry. The second hazard screen will also display the distance to the center of the green – it’s a mystery why the center distance isn’t displayed on both hazard screens. After a few seconds of displaying either hazard screen, the watch will automatically revert to the Hole View.
- Round Information – This view displays the current time, the elapsed time since the round began and an odometer reading of how far you’ve walked (which is nice for justifying an extra beer at the 19th hole). The NEO XS begins measuring both the elapsed time and the distance traveled when you first hit “Play Golf” on the watch. The device will automatically return to Hole View after a few seconds.
- Shot Measurement View – Pressing the “Golf” button will begin the shot measurement feature. Going to any of the other screens will end the measurement, and thus you cannot determine the distance to the green or a hazard while continuing to measure shot distance.
- Battery Level View – To see the battery charge level you will need to toggle to a different dedicated battery screen, which is accessed through the Menu button. You don’t have to exit your current round to check the battery level.
- Hole handicap information is not available on the Bushnell NEO XS.
- Auto-Advance. The Bushnell NEO XS will automatically advance to the next hole during play. Manually changing holes is easily done through the up/down buttons. There is no way to disable the auto-advance feature.
- Scoring and Statistics. Scoring and statistics tracking are not available on the Bushnell NEO XS.
- Shot Tracking. As mentioned above you can measure shot distances on the NEO XS., but cannot save the distances nor link them to a particular club.
- Auto Round Start.The NEO XS has the same “tee time” function found in the earlier-generation NEO X to program in a start time (up to one week in advance). The watch will automatically initiate a search for satellites seven minutes before the programmed tee time. This is a useful feature that enables you to have your GPS watch ready to go when you’re on the 1st tee, instead of needing to frantically push buttons on your watch when you are hustling to the tee box.
- Odometer. The odometer feature on the watch (which is separate from the odometer that appears on the “Round Information” view) will measure the distance you have moved, your speed (in miles per hour) and the elapsed time.
- Watch Features. The NEO XS has traditional watch features, including an alarm, stopwatch and countdown timer.
- Waterproof. It’s waterproof! So let the rain fall down! (This is admittedly a terrible song – but my how that Lizzy McGuire has grown up!)
- Preferences. The Bushnell NEO XS has a number of adjustable settings. From the “Golf” menu, you can select the unit of measure for your distances (yards or meters) and the length of time (starting from commencement of the round) before the device automatically shuts off (which can range from 1.5 hours to 9 hours, or be shut off entirely). The “Menu” button provides access to a different group of settings, including time (whether you want to set time manually or have it determined by GPS, whether or not daylight savings time is in effect, and the format (12 or 24 hours) in which time is displayed), the unit of measurement for the odometer (miles or kilometers), language (choose from English, German, French, Spanish or Italian), sound (whether or not a tone sounds every time you press a button), and GPS status (which will display your precise latitude and longitude coordinates, the number of satellites locked on and the strength of the signal).
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.
The Bushnell NEO XS generally returned distances within our standard expected range of variance for GPS devices, usually plus or minus up to 4 yards from actual distances (based on marked sprinkler heads).
Retail Price: The Bushnell NEO XS golf GPS watch retails for $199.99, which puts it at the low end of the range among the golf GPS watches in our tests.
Fees for Access to Course Database: There are no additional fees for course map updates to the NEO XS.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional yearly fees to download the latest course information, the three-year total cost for the Bushell NEO XS remains $199.99. At this price point, it is among the least expensive golf GPS watches in our tests.
Value: Like the prior generation NEO-X, the Bushnell NEO XS provides solid functionality and stylish design at a reasonable price. It doesn’t track scores or statistics, but the addition of even more pre-mapped hazard information (with four hazards now available on a given hole) makes the NEO XS a good buy.
For more detail, check out the Bushnell NEO XS demo, or the marketing video below.