Bushnell enters the golf GPS watch market with their neo+ watch, leveraging the same database (from their partner iGolf) that they use for their other GPS devices, the Hybrid, Yardage Pro XGC+, and neo+. The watch has exceptional course coverage, and comes preloaded with 25,000 courses, so you can take it right to the course (even better since the syncing process was not available at time of review!).
The neo+ watch provides distances only to the front, center and back of the green, but not hazard distances, and competes directly with the Garmin S1. In a slightly confusing turn, the neo+ watch shares the neo+ name with the handheld Bushnell neo+, but the handheld neo+ provides hazard information in addition to distances to the front, center and back of greens.
The Bushnell neo+ golf GPS watch is quite simple, providing the hole number, par, and distance information on the main screen. It does offer shot distance measurement, but there is no ability to record scores or statistics, and the only additional features are an odometer and an alarm.
The Bushnell neo+ golf GPS watch retails for $199.95 ($50 more than the handheld neo+), and includes course updates at no additional cost.
We favor the convenience of a watch for our GPS information, and the Bushnell neo+ watch is incredibly easy to use for simple front, center and back of the green distances. It’s not much of an advancement on the Garmin S1, which was released last year, as there are now competitive watches with more features (the Garmin S3 enables score tracking, the Expresso (ESN) WR62 provides distances to hazards, and the Motorola MOTOACTV Golf Edition does both), and the blocky styling of the neo+ watch is an acquired taste, but if basic functionality is all you’re looking for, the solid performance and extremely attractive price point place the Bushnell neo+ watch at the top of the list of devices to consider.
- Talk about easy to use…
- Exceptional course coverage
- No fees to update courses
- No hazard information
- No advanced features, such as scoring
- No ability to sync yet
Retail price: $199.95
Three year total cost: $199.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Bushenll NEO-X watch
The Good: With courses pre-loaded, the only prerequisite to beginning play is charging the battery.
The Bad: No wall charger is provided, so the only way to charge the Bushnell neo+ golf GPS watch is by plugging the USB cable into your computer. The clip to attach the watch to the USB cable is a bit fickle. The promised syncing capability wasn’t yet available at the time of our testing (see below).
- Required Steps. The only thing you need to do before heading to the course is ensure that the battery is charged. In order to download additional courses or obtain future course updates, PC and Mac users will need to register on the iGolf web site and then download a driver to the computer. Although Bushnell’s marketing materials and the Bushnell/iGolf web site indicate that you can sync the device to get course updates, we had no luck doing so. We then contacted iGolf tech support, who indicated that the syncing capability isn’t yet enabled, but that a future firmware update will rectify the situation. It isn’t exactly to the magnitude of a “bait and switch”, but why they would discuss the feature in the manual and online but not have it ready at the time of product launch is beyond us.
- Time Required for Setup. Charging the battery takes approximately 3 hours, and involves using the somewhat temperamental charging clip. The charging clip sometimes doesn’t completely latch on to the appropriate contact points on the watch, so don’t walk way until you see the charging/connected indicator on the face of the watch come on and stay on. The charging/connected indicator will read “FULL” and show a full charge meter when the watch is completely charged, but oddly enough, it won’t show the charge level before that. We can’t tell you how long it takes to set up the device for syncing since, as indicated above, that functionality is not supported at the time of this review.
What’s in the Box: The Bushnell neo+ golf GPS watch comes with:
- Cable (USB-to-charging clip)
- Quick Start Guide
- Device software driver (for future course updates).
Critical Golf Test: The Bushnell neo+ watch leverages the course database from Bushnell’s partner, iGolf. Course coverage is 98%, which is extremely high, although that’s what we have come to expect from devices that only need to provide front-center-back of the green distance information.
Manufacturer’s Claims: The Bushnell neo+ watch comes with over 25,000 worldwide courses pre-loaded on the device, which ranks it near the top of our course coverage comparison test. Interestingly, the neo+ watch is designed to only accommodate up to 50 additional course downloads. An unusual limitation, though we will see whether it has any real impact on the typical user.
EASE OF USE
The Good:The Bushnell neo+ golf GPS watch couldn’t be much easier to use – just look at your wrist!
The Bad: More bulky than the standard watches we wear.
- Buttons. The Bushnell neo+ GPS watch has five buttons: front (which also doubles as the power button), back, shot, menu and select.
- Screen. Though the screen viewing area is a mere 0.8 square inches, making it the smallest golf GPS screen available, the black and white screen is easy to read. The backlight on the watch will remain on for approximately 4 seconds any time a button is pushed. There is no ability to modify the default time the screen remains backlit.
- Form Factor. The neo+ watch has a black rubber and plastic exterior, and weighs 1.9 ounces. We aren’t fans of the styling, which looks a bit dated compared to the likes of the Garmin S1 and Motorola MOTOACTV watches. As with other golf GPS watches, there is the fantastic time-saving advantage of being able to access readings with the simple turn of a wrist, which, while it may seem minor, does speed up the pace of play (and will keep your playing partners from telling you to quit digging in your pockets for your GPS device). The watch band is easily adjusted to fit different wrist sizes.
- Starting a Round. Users will need to first select “play golf” from the main menu and then, once the satellite signal has been acquired, select a course from a list of options within a 20-25 mile radius. If you don’t start on the 1st hole, the watch won’t automatically find the hole on which you begin, but advancing to the appropriate hole is a relatively painless process.
- Battery Life. We have been disappointed in golf GPS watch battery life for other devices, so were pleased find that we were easily able to play two 5-hour rounds and still have battery life left. Bushnell claims a battery life of a whopping 14 hours, far beyond what we’ve seen in competitive devices. On top of that, Bushnell claims up to 1 year of battery life when the device is used exclusively as a watch. Curiously, we did experience one case when the battery drained itself overnight, likely because it was continually trying to find a GPS signal while indoors.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.
COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING
The Good: The neo+ watch only provides mapping of the front, center and back points on the green, so this is not an area of strength for it.
The Bad: No hazard information is available. Unlike the competing Garmin S1, Garmin S3 and Motorola MOTOACTV, the neo+ watch doesn’t have the ability to provide distances to the near and far points of the green based on player position, but rather only fixed front and back points of the green.
- Views. The Bushnell neo+ GPS watch provides a main “hole view,” which displays distance information for each hole, and secondary screens for distance measurement, battery level, and time.
- Hole view – This screen displays the hole number, par, and distances to the center of the green (in larger text in the center of the screen) and front and back of the green (in smaller text at the bottom of the screen) points. Pressing either the “Front” or “Back” button triggers the watch to provide only the distance to the front or back of the green for approximately 12 seconds before it returns to displaying all three distances. This additional “feature” seems rather unnecessary, as all three distances are already provided in the main view. We would prefer if the time was also displayed on the main hole view – there seems to be room on the screen for it.
- Measurement view – Activated when the user presses the “Shot” button, this view displays only the measurement of a particular shot. While measuring your shot distance, you can’t toggle to another view – you have to stay in shot measurement until you are done or the measurement will be lost.
- 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.
- Date/time view – Before you begin a round, this is the default view, displaying the date and time. Once you begin a round, you must press the “Menu” button to access the date/time view. Also available are an alarm – you don’t want to oversleep and miss your once-in-a-lifetime tee time at Pebble Beach – and a countdown timer.
- Hole Information. The hole number and par are always shown on the main Hole view screen. Hole handicap is not available.
- Custom Mapping. Users cannot add custom points to the course data, nor can they modify any existing map information.
Suggestion Box: Given that hazard distance information is available on the handheld Bushnell neo+ and on the Expresso (ESN) WR62 (which looks sneakily similar to the Bushnell neo+ watch, and is also partnered with iGolf), we were disappointed to see this missing from the neo+ watch. Rather than having redundant views dedicated to showing just the distances to the front and the back of the green (those distances are already indicated on the main hole view), how about adding hazard distances?
The Good: Shot distance measuring, auto hole advance, and an odometer that will measure how far you have walked and how quickly. And it’s also waterproof to 30 meters!
The Bad: Did we mention that the neo+ watch has a spartan feature set? You won’t find overhead hole maps, the ability to track scores or statistics, or calculation of club distance averages.
- Shot Tracking. The neo+ watch can measure shot distances, though it does not have the ability to save this information or link the results of a specific shot to a club to calculate average shot distances.
- Score and Statistics. Not available on the neo+ watch. Rats.
- Auto-advance. The neo+ watch is supposed to automatically advance to the next hole during play, though we quite often had to manually advance as the watch wouldn’t find the next hole. Manually changing holes is easily done through the use of the Menu button, though it does take 5 button presses to advance just one hole.
- Preferences. The Bushnell neo+ watch has a limited set of adjustable settings, including unit of measurement (yards or meters), sound (whether or not a tone sounds every time you press a button), and time (if you want to set the time before a GPS signal is located, or override the time). You may ask yourself, “Self, why would you ever want to override the automatically determined time?” Well, the Bushnell neo+ watch defaults to determining the time based on the longitude of your location. But since time zones aren’t entirely based on longitude, you may find cases where the default time is incorrect and need to manually set the time or time zone. We’d like to pretend that we just sit around pondering about these types of things out of some kind of natural cartographic curiosity, but truthfully we only know because one of our reviewers just happened to be vacationing in a place where this was an issue. To those of you who live in northwestern Michigan, you’re welcome.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.
In our on-course testing the Bushnell neo+ watch generally provided readings within five yards of course marked distances. We do note, however, that when we took the neo+ watch out on the course with other Bushnell GPS devices, we generally found that the other devices most closely matched each other (and were slightly closer to the marked course distances), while the neo+ generally differed by a few yards.
The neo+ watch will continue to display distances to points regardless of how close you are to those points (some devices will stop showing the distance to a point when you are within a certain number of yards from that point).
We did experience completely inaccurate mapping at one of our tested courses, to the extent that the device was rendered unusable. This is presumably an error by someone at iGolf who was mapping based on a satellite image, as not only were hole numbers incorrect, but tee boxes were paired with the wrong greens on certain holes.
Retail Price: The Bushnell neo+ watch retails for $199.95, making it one of the least expensive golf watches.
Fees for Access to Course Database: As with other “plus” (+) devices in the Bushnell family, there are no additional fees for access to the Bushnell/iGolf course database.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no cost for access to the course database, the three-year total cost for the Bushnell neo+ GPS watch remains $199.95. This makes the neo+ watch watch one of the lower-priced golf GPS devices in terms of overall cost over three years, though it is one of the most expensive golf GPS devices that doesn’t provide hazard distance information.
Value: For players looking for an affordable golf GPS watch, the Bushnell neo+ watch is absolutely one to consider. Basic distances are all that many players want, and the neo+ watch delivers them in an easy to use interface.