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Leupold GX-I Laser Rangefinder Review

Aug. 29, 2008     By     Comments (35)

Laser rangefinders are getting smaller and less expensive, and Leupold has entered the fray.

Leupold GX-I Laser RangefinderI started a Bushnell PinSeeker 1500 review in 2005 with the sentence "Tiger Woods has long said that the secret to good golf is always being pin high." A lot has changed since 2005, but Tiger's advice still rings true.

What has changed is that three years ago rangefinders and GPS units were a rarity. In 2005, these types of devices were illegal. Since 2006, they've been legal for tournament play under a local rule, and it seems as though every serious golfer has one (or more!) in their bags. The market has expanded quickly, and the early guys in - Bushnell with laser rangefinders and SkyGolf with GPS - are being challenged at every turn.

One of the challengers in the laser rangefinder category is longtime rifle scope-maker Leupold (& Stevens) with their GX-I and GX-II laser rangefinders. These rangefinders notably improve upon the venerable PinSeeker 1500 in just about the only ways I think a laser rangefinder can really be improved: by adding features, making it smaller, and shaving a hundred bucks off the asking price.

I've put the GX-I to a thorough test. Read on for my results.

Technology and Specs
The GX-I is a vertically held unit which measures distances in either meters or yards. You point it at your target, press or hold a button down, and read the measured distance. The functionality is very simple: laser pulses are sent from the unit, bounce off of whatever's out there to bounce off, and return to the unit. Because the speed of light is constant, the GX-I (like all laser rangefinders) determines the distance to an object by timing how long it takes for light to be reflected back to the unit.

The GX-I features "PinHunter™" technology, which is a fancy way of saying that the GX-I will report the closest distance it measures. That ensures that the GX-I can pick out the flag against a background of grass or trees.

The GX-I supports Scan Mode, which will continually update the distance measured as you keep the button pressed. Distances are accurate to within +/- yard. The Quick Set Menu lets you change settings (meters/yards and PinHunter primarily) quickly. The GX-I magnifies 6X and includes seven selectable reticles. The optics are multi-coated (to reduce glare and improve accuracy), and the stated limits are 750 yards for reflective targets, 600 yards for trees, and 350 yards for a flagstick/flag.

Leupold GX-I vs. Bushnell 1500 ComparisonThe Bushnell (left) looks like a behemoth next to the GX-I (right). The GX-I is as small as it could be and still be comfortable.

The GX-I is weatherproof, weighs only 6.8 ounces, and measures 4" x 2.75" x 1.5". It comes with a one-year warranty and the included battery is stated to be good for 2000 actuations. The included Cordura carry case comes clips to your bag, and if you prefer to carry a rangefinder around your neck, Leupold has included a strap for that, too.

Note on the GX-II: The GX-II offers "True Golf Range," a formula that measures how much a shot is playing uphill or downhill and, based on yardages you've pre-entered, gives both the "it's playing this long" yardage and recommends a club. This added functionality tacks $100 onto the price, and it's worth noting that rangefinders that measure slope (inclination) are illegal for use in tournament play. We've not reviewed the GX-II and cannot comment on how well the True Golf Range or inclinometer function.

Performance
The first thing you'll notice about the GX-I, particularly if you've used someone's Bushnell 1500, is how small and light the unit is. It's not so small that it won't fit larger hands comfortably, but it is noticeably smaller in every dimension - 4" x 2.75" x 1.5" versus 5.1" x 3.7" x 1.7". Naturally, it weighs a fair bit less as well - 6.8 oz. versus 11.9 oz.

The exterior shell appears to be made of very sturdy plastic, and the top section is a grippy rubber. The eyepiece is large enough for a great view. Twisting the viewfinder adjusts the focus over quite a large range to suit your eyesight. With glasses or the naked eye, the viewfinder is comfortable to use. The subtle ridges and contours on the GX-I make it comfortable and easy to use - the valley in which the power button sits, for example, offers a nice touch and automatically guides your fingers to the right spot(s).

The two buttons are made of a firm plastic. Once I set up the GX-I (which simply involved confirming the pre-determined settings), I never had to use the "Mode" button. The power button on top is used to turn the unit on and to take a measurement. It has a bit of a "clicky" feel that took a little getting used to, but in the end I appreciated over the 1500's softer feel - it let me know when I was actually pushing down.

GX-I

Actual use is simple and straightforward. I hate to borrow a computer phrase, but it's true point-and-click. Yardages are displayed in a fairly large type within the viewfinder, making reading the distance quite simple. In scan mode, the yardage updates every second or so as you pan across an area. I rarely found myself using scan mode simply because I'm usually able to point at the target and acquire a yardage quickly, though I can see scan mode coming in handy in windy conditions or for those who have a little more trouble remaining stable.

The GX-I measures things accurately and quickly. I tested the GX-I on a shooting range and against other laser rangefinders, and the GX-I provided the same yardages as more expensive models. I was able to acquire every flag inside of 300 yards as well as one or two over 400 yards away (just for the heck of it). The stated measurement limits for trees is 600 yards (not that you'd ever really need to measure anything that far away), and I've never found

Obviously, rangefinders require line-of-sight in order to measure, but I've never had to walk more than about 15 steps sideways or crouch slightly to shoot between tree trunks to acquire a yardage to the flag. 95% of the time I don't have to move at all. My GX-I's laser seemed to maintain a rather small spot beam diameter and was nicely aligned, as I never had trouble shooting through even somewhat small holes between tree trunks, leaves, golf carts, people walking in front of the flag, or other objects.

To assist me in aiming, I used one of the nicer features offered with the GX-I - the availability of seven different aiming reticles. Though I never had any problems using the circular reticle on the Bushnell models, I appreciate the extra personalization options, and I settled on the smallest one to help me

Aiming Points
The GX-I allows you to choose from several different aiming reticles. My favorite is the most simple, the Plus Point, shown bottom right, with the Diamond with Plus Point a close second.

The GX-I feels somewhat rugged and has endured a few months of treatment. I've dropped it to the ground, chucked it in the storage compartment of my golf cart, and used it in mists, rains, and both cold and warm temperatures. It shows virtually no signs of wear and still works perfectly.

Despite those months of use, I've yet to have to replace the battery, which still shows a near-full charge in the viewfinder. The battery isn't a 9V or any other "standard" size battery. No doubt this is a size consideration, as the battery - a cylindrical 3-volt "CR2" battery commonly found in small digital cameras - is a good bit smaller than the blocky 9-volt. The batteries sell for about $7 and can be found at Wal-Mart, photography stores, and plenty of other places (Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.).

Accessories
The GX-I ships with a fairly sturdy cord lanyard that attaches to the bottom rear of the GX-I. I never used the lanyard, but I can see how it would come in handy if you were a caddy or a spotter or something. The GX-I also comes with a carrying case. The carrying case can clip to your belt with the attached strap. The case also includes a sturdy plastic clip, and I've used that clip to attach the carrying case to my stand bag. The GX-I is a bit of a tight fit in the case, so I carry the GX-I itself in another more readily accessible pocket on my golf bag (typically the one I'm supposed to keep the scorecard in), slipping it back into the case at the end of the round.

Case and Battery
Here you can see the included carrying case and the CR2 battery. It may well last you over a year, and costs about $7 to replace.

Conclusion
At a retail price of $299, the GX-I compares favorably in size to the Bushnell Tour V2, a similarly sized, vertical laser rangefinder that costs a full $50 more. Again, I personally find a range finder more useful than a GPS, and at $299, I think this one may be the best bargain out there.

The GX-I excels at what it does: finding the distance to the flag or whatever you're targeting with the reticle. It's a no-hassles way to improve your golf game by knowing the exact distance.

The GX-I is small, lightweight, and reliable. It has nice features like your choice of seven aiming reticles, and it works quickly. Battery life is exceptional and rangefinders don't require subscription fees or preparation: they're ready to use out of the box. I've sold my Bushnell rangefinder and am using the GX-I exclusively.

Discussion

  1. goblue107501 says:

    Great review. I use a similar size Bushnell (an old Yardage Pro) and have found it to be more convenient than the larger models. One thing for people to think about is to check out the hunting/outdoor stores (Bass Pro, Cabellas, etc.) for a rangefinder. They usually have a wide variety and will offer a sale here and there before hunting season. Usually it is the same models, just a different name.

  2. They usually have a wide variety and will offer a sale here and there before hunting season. Usually it is the same models, just a different name.

    Yeah, and Leupold has the RX-I and the RX-II. The latter has "true ballistic range." :-) Fortunately, they're the same price and basically the same thing except for an "R" or "G" on the label.

    One word of caution, of course, if you're buying a "hunting" model: don't get one that measures slope as they're still illegal. And if a store offers $20 off (or whatever) either the RX-I or RX-II, they should apply the same discount to the GX model(s).

  3. Greg from Augusta says:

    Thanks for this great review.

    I've use an older laser rangefinder (another brand) for the past several years. It has certainly been handy for both golf and archery. The problem is that it goes through those CR2 batteries at the rate of about one every two weeks. It supposedly has an auto shutoff as well.

    I've had a few Leupold products over the years and have found each of them to be rock solid in both performance and value. They handle the punishment that my use inflicts. I'll sitck with them on future purchases.

    I'm glad to see their name on a laser rangefinder. This is all the endorsement I need to know it'll be a great product. Your review confirms this.

  4. gogolfing says:

    I've been waiting to pull the trigger on a rangefinder. Been looking at the Pinseeker 1500 Tournament addition, but was a bit steep in price, then saw the Bushnell V2 and liked the size, but hesitated because it isn't water proof; I live on Vancouver Island and play in the rain at times, so this set me off the V2.

    After reading the review, I think I have found what I'm looking for. Small and compact, and waterproof.

    Thanks again for the information.

  5. Ray says:

    I have one and it's excellent , Game has improved with it ,
    My golf buddy and I always guess the distance before we check with the range finder and we are much better at f figuring yardages thanks to the leupold.
    very compact , light weight rugged little unit , I would buy another one in a second.

    Ray

  6. El says:

    If you aren't using a rangefinder, you are cheating yourself.

    Make sure it has scan by doing a little research, and pick one up on ebay.

    Best money you can spend on your game.

  7. bryan says:

    my nikon rangefinder has been giving me problems lately. i changed the battery and it improved for a short while, but now again won't pick up flags from further than 140 yds or so, and even those i have to work for.

    hope it's not time for a new one quite yet.

  8. N. Marsiglio says:

    Yeah, and Leupold has the RX-I and the RX-II. The latter has "true ballistic range." :-) Fortunately, they're the same price and basically the same thing except for an "R" or "G" on the label.

    One word of caution, of course, if you're buying a "hunting" model: don't get one that measures slope as they're still illegal. And if a store offers $20 off (or whatever) either the RX-I or RX-II, they should apply the same discount to the GX model(s).

    The RX-I is available at Cabela's for $250.

  9. alex says:

    Actually the hunting models have a a significant difference. The laser technology in the GX is more advanced that the RX series. but it wouldn't surprise me if the technology gets put into new models of the RX.

    It makes sense if you think about it. The laser on the GX hits a pin, the RX doesn't need to be as precise since you'd be aiming at a deer. there's a bit of a size difference.

  10. Actually the hunting models have a a significant difference.

    I emailed Leupold to ask about this, and it turns out you're correct: they're slightly different.

  11. J. Minninger says:

    I'm looking at the GX-I & the GX-II. I know the GX-II is not legal for tournament play. My question is can you switch the slope function on and off?

  12. Tony Covey says:

    Great review as always, Erik. I have a PinSeeker 1500 that's misbehaving at the moment (only good from 100 yards in). I was thinking about sending it in for a tuneup, but I've also got a uPro now, which I'm hoping will be a more than adequate replacement.

    The biggest issue I have with the 1500 is that it sometimes likes to lock on to objects in the foreground (and to a lesser extent the background). Obviously a rangefinder can't be expected to see through obstructions (some ducking and bobby to get a clear look at the pin is tolerable), but do you find the GX-I is any better about focusing on whatever it is you actually want to be focusing on?

    -Tony

  13. The biggest issue I have with the 1500 is that it sometimes likes to lock on to objects in the foreground (and to a lesser extent the background). Obviously a rangefinder can't be expected to see through obstructions (some ducking and bobby to get a clear look at the pin is tolerable), but do you find the GX-I is any better about focusing on whatever it is you actually want to be focusing on?

    To be clear, I never had too much of an issue focusing with the 1500. One time it got sort of out of alignment and I had no idea what it was focusing on. Or the laser got weak… one or the other.

    If there's any improvement to be found in aiming on the GX-I I think it's because of the selectable reticles. With those, I choose a smaller reticle that's inherently a bit more accurate about telling me where it's pointing. That's the edge I'd give it: better aiming due to the smaller reticle.

  14. LarryMcJ says:

    Great review...but I would like to point out some things I have found better about the Leupold GX-1 than the Bushnell Tour V2, it's obvious direct competitor, in case there are some folks reading this that are on the fence between the two, as I was.

    I spent a lot of time researching both the GX-1 and the V2 but all I could find, even in a large city, was the V2 to actually put my hands on. Thus, I had to take a chance and purchase the GX-1 online, but I am SO GLAD I did. If all you want is the short version of this...then go purchase the GX-1 as it's MILES ahead of the V2 in "every" aspect. If you want a few particulars...read on.

    In addition to a product "being" right, I want it to "look" right and "feel" right. The GX-1 does these in spades. Just holding it, you know you're holding quality, and not something made of inferior plastic that will likely not look the same in six months of normal, let alone rugged, use. The GX-1 has a very rugged, rubberized feel that simply feels good in your hands.

    Reticles. We're all different and we all prefer to view things differently through a rangefinder. The V2 has only one reticle (a small circle), while the GX-1 has seven different reticles from which to choose. I found I was comfortable with the default reticle setting, but for those who are not, there are six other available reticles. As opposed to the V2, the reticles on the GX-1 are very fine in detail...more professionally displayed would be a way to describe them. While the reticle on the V2s that I looked at seemed to have thicker lines and were more distracting, with some jagged edges in some cases. I noticed the same thing about the yardage numbers...they were larger and more defined in the GX-1.

    6X magnification (GX-1) vs. 5x with the V2. I think it's just enough of a noticeable enhancement to be worthy of mentioning. I don't see much of a difference in viewing a flag or small target, but there's a big difference when shooting the front/back edges of a fairway bunker that give the GX-1 a big edge here with 17% more magnification.

    Speed of acquiring the target. Here's where the GX-1 one absolutely blows away every Bushnell rangefinder on the market. The GX-1 is almost instantaneous, where the V2 won't display the range for what seems like a couple of seconds. That may not sound like much...but it seems like an eternity when you just want to shoot the flag and get on with your shot. The Callaway/Nikon rangefinders are also fast...but they are still no match in the other categories for the GX-1.

    If you're a hunter, you know that Leupold has been around for a lot longer than Bushnell, making what hunters think are some the best and affordable optics available. The fact is that Bushnell is a very large company with obviously a large marketing budget, so you're going to see more of them and their products, especially in the retail stores. But that doesn't make them the best...only the biggest with the deepest pockets.

    Technical support. I called both companies with a list of pre-sale questions and the person with whom I spoke at Bushnell might easily have been outsourced, though I doubt he was. He simply was not technically conversant in his own products. Contrarily, the person with whom I spoke at Leupold had all the answers, and made me feel comfortable he was an expert in the Leupold products.

    If you want a high quality rangefinder that is better in all aspects than its competition, you simply can't do better than the Leupold GX-1 (tournament legal) or the GX-2 (compensates for slope, temperature, and also tells you what club to hit...after you train it).

  15. Chad says:

    I bought this range finder after doing quite a bit of research. Reading this article is what made my decision for me. I have never even tried another, but this has more than lived up to my expectations. Thanks for the article!

  16. Benn says:

    I'm from Denmark.
    My brother in law bought the GX-1 on a trip to Florida in beginning of april.
    I'm so glad. The GX-1 is so easy to use.
    I feel so confident when the exact distance to the flag is known.
    top product

  17. Mike from Michigan says:

    I just purchased the GX1 unit based on the comments of this site and promptly returned it. I am not sure if it was entirely defective or part defective and part junk. I suspect it was mostly junk.

    For starters the unit could not read one flag correctly or quickly. Sometimes it would not power on quickly enough. Sometimes it would take forever to get a second reading (after giving me an incorrect first reading). I returned it for a more expensive (but after a rebate not much more expensive) Bushnell 1600. No comparison between the units.

    I refuse to believe someone could take this unit and on timely basis (5 seconds) stand on a tee box and get a correct reading. I also refuse to believe that if by some chance the unit works that it will last very long.

  18. I refuse to believe someone could take this unit and on timely basis (5 seconds) stand on a tee box and get a correct reading. I also refuse to believe that if by some chance the unit works that it will last very long.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, Mike, but I've done that thousands of times with the same GX-I. Still have the original battery, too.

    You're making a lot of assumptions based on what seems to be a broken unit.

  19. LarryMcJ says:

    I have to completely agree with Erik. Your review was right on and this is by far the best rangefinder on the market. Additionally, it's solidly made, the batter compartment cover won't fall off all the time like on the Bushnell, and try dropping your Bushnell a few times...you'll be sending it in, but not the Leupold.

    About a dozen people at the two clubs where I play have purchased this same unit and they're all extremely happy. I'd recommend sending your unit back...there must be something wrong with it, but don't condemn all the units.

  20. Mike from Michigan says:

    I will add one more thing as my intent is not a big debate - simply my thoughts on purchasing an oddly defective GX 1.

    I agree the Bushnell 1500 is not worth purchasing simply because of the battery cover. I do believe the 1500 aside from that is a very good and tough unit. I dropped it many times and treated it very poorly and it always worked - the battery cover in the end became the main issue. After returning the GX1 I purchased the new 1600 which is incredibly fast and well made. The battery cover did open up again and the battery popped out, but at least the cover is now attached by a hinge.

    In the end all of us here are just a small sample. I had a bad experience with the GX1 and a good experience with the new 1600.

    If I am the only one that ever reports a bad experience with the GX1 then so be it. It is certainly a good looking unit and I really was counting on it working. If on the other hand a few more people have problems with it then that is good data to have. Nothing more, nothing less.

  21. vbriseno says:

    I have had the Leupold GX-1 for a little over a year. I play golf at least twice a week during the summer and I have not had a single issue with the rangefinder. I debated for quite some time between this and the 1500. I highly recommend this to any interested in purchasing a range finder.

  22. Rob says:

    What has your experiences been like using GX-1 when finding the yardages to various spots on a par 4/5 from the tee? I have not bought a laser or a gps yet. When planning which club to use on the tee box, I would assume the gps gives a better overall picture of the hole. On the flip side I don't want to have to deal with all the negatives (charging, course map, annual due, etc.) in regards to the gps. If the laser can give me a good read on yardages to water/tree/trap/hazards off the tee in addition to exact # to the pin then I would go ahead with the purchase.

    Any comments on foggy conditions? What about trying to aim at a certain part of a hole without much trees/bush/object to bounce the laser off of? How steady does your hand has to be in windy conditions?

  23. Philip says:

    Although I am a late comer to the Range Finder/GPS game, I must say purchasing the GX-I has made the biggest improvement to my game (other then lessons). While I was pretty efficient at walking of yardages and using the pin markers for distances when in the fairway, there was always the guessing game of yardages from bad tee shot and trying to judge layup distances, not to mention the occasional shot from the adjoining fairway. I currently play to a 9.1 and could reasonably say I think the GX-I will help me lower that by a point or two.

  24. Ed from Norhern MI says:

    I've used the GX-1 for a week now and it is every bit as good as advertised. Simply a quality product, as I would expect from Leupold. Compact and easy to use, this belongs in every serious golfer's bag.

    It picks up the pin incredibly fast and the optics are outstanding. Great job Leupold!

  25. SA says:

    Thanks for the review, which helped me decide to buy a GX-1 instead of a Bushnell.

    The GX-1 is compact and easy to use. Been using mine for a month or so now and very happy. Beats finding a yardage marker and either guessing or stepping off the difference.

    Good work "The Sand Trap", you've also told me everything I wanted to know about Mizuno's MP-52 irons. I'll be back regularly to check your reviews.

  26. Kathy says:

    Thanks so much for the review. I know absolutely nothing about range finders and wanted to get one for my dad for Christmas. Your review and everyone's comments have been the most helpful information I've been able to find. I definitely have a better grasp on what it is that I am buying now...thanks again!!!

  27. C D Collins says:

    I purchased a Leupold GX-II this Fall as a birthday present to myself. I debated between a GPS unit and a range finder. After much research I elected to go with a Leupold unit. The TGR does make a difference especially where I play in higher elevated terrain. Some of my buddies play with GPS units often ask "how far does it play". In lower elevated areas or flat courses it may not be as significant compared to line of sight. Never had a problem with the unit and would highly recommend considering a Leupold if you are in the market for a quality range finder.

  28. Bill from Oz says:

    Thank you sand trap for all the good reviews on the Leupold GX 1. It helped me to make the decision between this , other range finders and GPS. I agree with general view re GPS, Bushnell is everywhere here but very expensive. Leupold is hard to get in Australia as only distributor is a game hunting business and they have no knowledge of golf as a sport, so I bought mine sight unseen on ebay from the USA.

    I was concerned about needing a steady hand as units I have tried over the last few years did not hit targets easily. Not required with Leupold GX1 it seems. The PinHunter grabs the good oil straight off. We don't have laser reflectors on flagsticks in Oz but this unit is nailing the pin so easily it is a doddle. Fast too. I have read complaints about speed and I say I turn unit on as I take it from my bag and press it when I have target in crosshairs and I guess it takes 1/4 sec from then to give me my reading. I am hooked and now just want the agency for this beauty in Australia!

  29. Ken says:

    Hi,

    Recently purchased the GX-1 and I'm glad I did.

    I play off 5 to 6 hcp so I'm a reasonable golfer but I must say the biggest benefit with using the GX-1 is the speed and accuracy of getting distances, especially picking up the pin.

    The confidence you get knowing the precise distance is amazing, just pick your club and swing, my distance control has improved greatly.

    Ken

  30. mark says:

    Bought GX 1 in January used one round quit working. Live by the headquarters in Beaverton so hand carried it in as they told me on the phone they would replace on the spot.
    That wasnt accurate after not hearing from them emailed customer no support and they told me it would be a month or two. I complained they said they would ship me new one in couple days. That one worked nicely for about 1 and a half rounds and then same problem. I waited a month or so and then took it back which has been over 2 weeks and although there very nice when I call they keep telling me the person from that department is out today. Needless to say I'm worried it will ever get resolved at this point I wish I just had my money back so I could get one that worked.
    I should have went through the retailer initially but since I lived so close I thought it would be a faster fix going through the company directly. If I had to do it all over again I would buy from local retailer regardless of what brand so I could let them deal with the manufacture instead of myself. If I went back through the internet dealer I would have had to package it back up and insure it. I'm glad many of you have working units it gives me hope that some day I might?

  31. Chuck G. says:

    I have the opportunity to buy a Leupold GX-1 for under 100.00.
    I plan to use this for deer hunting. How will this unit react to a deer? I only plan on using this for up to 100 yards. Thank you in advance! / Chuck

  32. Bill Kesel says:

    Erik,

    I am comparing/buying either the Leupold GX-1 or the Bushnell Tour V-2 for the same price. Which would you recommend & why?

    Thank You.

  33. maxpeterson says:

    Now, this unit isn't available in any stores, i do some research in amazon and find a Leupold Gx-3i version, i think it was upgraded from gx-1.

    This unit is quite high rated, and I had to get one to test with my bushnell tour v3

  1. [... I started a Bushnell PinSeeker 1500 review in 2005 with the sentence "Tiger Woods has long said that the secret to good golf is always being pin high." A lot ...]

  2. [... I started a Bushnell PinSeeker 1500 review in 2005 with the sentence "Tiger Woods has long said that the secret to good golf is always being pin high." A lot ...]

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