This review focuses on the laser rangefinder capability of the Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS as its primary use, and treats GPS purely as an additional feature.
Considered as a laser rangefinder, the Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS fell a bit short. The 5x magnification is lower than most of the competition, though the device picks up readings at a variety of distances very well. Our more advanced laser users bemoaned the lack of a “panning”mode –to quickly obtain distances to multiple points on the course, such as bunkers, trees, or visible points at the front or back of greens.
It is certainly a benefit to have both laser and GPS features available in the same device. We found it quite natural to refer to distances on the GPS screen when we wanted additional information that we couldn’t obtain from the laser. But at a steep retail price, this becomes a difficult product to recommend. Strange as it may sound, we would consider a dedicated laser device and a small GPS unit to be a reasonable alternative (such as a GPS watch, which would keep the pace of play moving and not force the user to constantly rummage around for different devices). While some laser rangefinders can now reasonably fit into a pocket, the size of the Bushnell Hybrid is roughly the same as if you duct-taped a Bushnell Tour V2 to a neo+, which is really what the Hybrid is.
We think this device is going to have a tough time competing successfully with the best in either category of devices – it’s a jack of all trades, but master of none.
- The only device to combine both laser and GPS technology in one
- Less expensive (though not necessarily by a great amount) versus purchase of laser and GPS devices separately
- Inability to pan across targets for multiple distance readings
- One of the largest devices we tested
- Only 5x magnification
- High cost
EASE OF USE
The vertically-oriented Bushnell Hybrid is easy to hold, though its size (2.1 x 2.6 x 4.3″) and weight (over 8 ounces) preclude keeping it in your pants pocket during play. With the carrying case, which has a clip to attach to a bag, the Hybrid tips the scales at nearly 12 ounces.
The Hybrid uses a crisp LCD display that places the distance reading below and in close proximity to the target cursor, generally making it easier to read than in some competing laser rangefinders that place the distance above the cursor. The Hybrid’s 5x magnification (identical to the Bushnell Tour V2), left us missing the 6x and 7x magnification found in some of its competitors. There is no ability to change the style of the aiming circle, but we find it just fine in both size and shape.
The laser functionality of the device couldn’t be much simpler to use. The device features just one button, which powers on as well as fires the laser. The laser and GPS functionalities are completely independent, so laser distances are not displayed on the external GPS display, and GPS distance information isn’t available on the laser display (which would be nice).
The Hybrid has an adjustable eyepiece (+/- 2 diopter) to allow users to adjust the focus of the display. The eyepiece rotates smoothly and easily.
The Bushnell Hybrid uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will last 14-16 hours on a single charge (this with GPS use). The device will indicate when the battery is low on the laser rangefinder display.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.
The Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS has a “Pinseeker” mode that makes it easier to pick a flagstick out against a background of trees or other objects, but is missing a panning mode to enable scanning across multiple targets with continuously updated distance readings. .
Bushnell’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 in front of some trees (note that despite its name, PinSeeker mode can be used to determine distances to targets other than a pin). 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 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.
While the manual notes that you can move from object to object to force the laser to hit multiple objects, you will need to do this by repeatedly firing the laser, as opposed to holding down the fire button and panning across targets while receiving continuously updated distances. We had little success in targeting one object, then moving to another while continuing to depress the firing button – the distances generally would not update for the next object, even if the secondary object targeted was a pin and the device indicated it had locked onto that target with the flagstick icon.
The maximum amount of time the Hybrid laser can be fired is approximately 7 seconds, and the distance reading will continue to be displayed for 30 seconds after targeting (if a target is acquired, the laser may automatically stop firing in PinSeeker mode after only a few seconds, even if the circle is not displayed around the flagstick icon). The device can display yards or meters.
The most notable feature of this laser rangefinder is, of course, the GPS capability. See our review of the GPS capabilities of the Bushnell Hybrid for full details.
We quickly found use for the GPS capabilities of the device, firing our opening tee shot behind a group of trees from where we were unable to use the laser to target distances. We appreciated that the GPS functionality didn’t just include distances to the front, center and back of the green, but pre-mapped targets as well. In addition, the Bushnell Hybrid enables the tracking of shot distances.
The device is generally simpler to use than if you have two independent devices, such as if you are targeting the flagstick via laser (for the most accurate reading), and then looking for distances to the front and back of the green to provide boundaries. One negative, however, is that Bushnell only provides distances to the front, center and back of the green, as opposed to the near and far points (which companies that map the exterior contour of the greens have) that vary based on your position. If you’re looking to have your cake and eat it too, you would be best served to consider combining a laser with a device that you don’t need to pull out of your pocket, such as one of the new golf GPS watches or voice GPS devices.
One key note: you’ll likely want to make sure that you have not changed the settings to keep the GPS on at all times, even during a period of inactivity. Best to leave Auto-Off set to “On” so the GPS will power off after 45 minutes. If you leave this set to “Off”, you run the risk of forgetting power off at the end of the round and can be left with a dead (rechargeable) battery and unable to use either the laser or GPS for your next round of golf.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.
OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS
The Bushnell Hybrid laser is marketed as allowing distance readings from 10 to 1,000 yards, with a maximum distance for most targets of 600 yards. Highly reflective objects may be targeted at up to 1,000 yards.
Ease of Locking on a Target:
- At up to 150 yards, the Bushnell Hybrid was able to quickly and accurately lock onto the flagstick.
- Above 200 yards we would start to pick up background objects behind the flagstick more regularly. The Hybrid started to take a bit more time to lock onto distances as we pushed toward the high 200s, but still could successfully pick up the flagstick most of the time.
- As with virtually all devices, the Bushnell Hybrid struggles beyond 300 yards. We did find, however, that we could lock onto targets and receive accurate readings nearly half of the time.
Even needing to repeatedly re-fire the laser, the Bushnell Hybrid still finished in the middle of the pack in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.
- Panning Mode: Although the Bushnell Hybrid doesn’t have a panning mode, the time of the device to run through the targets in our test was about average compared to devices that offer this automatic scanning mode (though slower than other devices in the Bushnell family that feature this mode).
- Pin-locating Mode: When tested against other devices with “pin-locating” mode, the Hybrid was the one of the fastest devices, and remained in the top half of devices when tested across all devices. This test was not against devices that have Pin-locating functionality included with their panning mode.
The Bushnell Hybrid Laser GPS retails for $399.99 (down from $499.99 at introduction), which makes it one of the most expensive laser rangefinders tested, not surprising given the additional GPS capabilities. One piece of good news is that it comes with a lifetime course update and syncing membership through their partner, iGolf, so there are no additional course fees. Phew!
Spending the additional dollars beyond a top-quality laser-only device gets you additional GPS capabilities, though the cost savings as compared to two separate devices may be negligible. For reference, a Bushnell Tour v3 JOLT retails at $299, and the Bushnell NEO XS retails for $200. So comparing straight-up against some of Bushnell’s other options, you can save a bit of your hard-earned cash.
The Bushnell Hybrid Laser-GPS will wind up being compared against not just Bushnell laser and GPS offerings, but against top-performing laser and GPS devices from other manufacturers as well – both separately and as multiple purchases. In terms of ease of use, the Bushnell Hybrid is probably best compared against a laser used in conjunction with the GPS devices that are easiest to access, such as the golf GPS watches which provides distances at a twist of the wrist.
The Bushnell Hybrid provides an average laser, and an average GPS device, so the
question is: will a device with two sets of features be more attractive to players based on either price or ease of use? We have already seen a small set of players (including readers here) who play with separate laser and GPS devices and like the option of choosing each of the laser and GPS that suits them best, not necessarily from the same manufacturer.
We appreciate the ease of use of the device, but at a $400 price point, we would be more satisfied purchasing either a top-rated laser or GPS device, or perhaps even spending a bit more for both.