The Bushnell Neo provides an excellent blend of basic golf GPS functionality and an extremely attractive price point (it is the least expensive device we tested). In an environment in which manufacturers seem to be competing solely on the number of fancy bells and whistles, the Neo is a throwback, providing basic distances to the front, middle and back of the green, and to up to four hazards/targets, and doing it for 1/3 of the price of the more sophisticated units.
It has a basic appeal, particularly for those who don’t want to have to read a manual to figure out how to use their golf GPS device. If you’re looking for a straightforward, easy-to-use GPS device, this is the one for you.
You are the One, Neo. You see, you may have spent the last few years looking for me, but I have spent my entire life looking for you.
Yes, there will be quotes from “The Matrix” throughout the review. What did you expect when the device is named “Neo”?
- Simple and easy to use
- Small and lightweight – you barely notice it in your front pocket
- Great value, even when recurring subscription fees are included
- Limited functionality
- Holds only ten courses at a time
- A couple of inaccuracies found in course mapping
Retail price: $149.99
The Good: Quick and easy process, and everything you need is included in the box – no external downloads necessary. You can get the Neo up and running in no time.
Agent Brown: The name is Neo.
Agent Smith: We’ll need a search running.
Agent Jones: It has already begun.
The Bad: Nothing we can think of!
- Required Steps. Setting up the Bushnell Neo is a process similar to those for most other devices, involving:
- registering on their web site to create an account;
- using the included CD to install “desktop manager” software on a PC;
- searching for desired golf courses through the web interface;
- downloading the courses to your PC; and
- using the desktop manager software to transfer (or “sync”) the courses to the device.
- Time Required for Setup. The entire setup process took us about 15 minutes, including syncing courses.
What’s in the Box: The Bushnell Neo comes with:
- Wall charger
- USB cord
- Quick Start Guide
- Bushnell Neo Owner’s Manual
- Belt clip
- Software Installation CD
Required Downloads: None! It was nice to have the software installation CD and a printed owner’s manual, saving us from the web downloads that many manufacturers require.
Critical Golf Test: iGolf (the company that provides maps to Bushnell) has been hard at work, and the Bushnell Neo now comes in with 93% coverage in our test of course availability across a representative group of 100 courses, which put it average among devices tested. Note that we only count a course as “covered” if mapping of hazards/targets is available along with custom points – which excluded a few courses where only distances to the front/middle/back of the green were plotted. For $150 plus the annual subscription fee, you ought to know how far it is to the fairway bunker! The Neo’s overall ranking was slightly lower for new courses (only 16 out of 20).
Manufacturer’s Claims: Bushnell’s course database is provided by its partner, iGolf, and iGolf claims to have more than 22,000 courses in the database. This places it in the middle of the pack.
Our conclusion? Course coverage will be critical for the more basic units, and that staying in the middle of the pack would ultimately be crippling to the success of the Neo (or any similar device).
Trinity: Please Neo, you have to trust me.
Trinity: Because you have been down there Neo, you know that road, you know exactly where it ends. And I know that’s not where you want to be.
Ease of Use
The Good: There’s a lot to love. The Neo is as intuitive as it gets – the buttons are clearly labeled and the menus are easy to navigate. The device is so small and lightweight that you barely notice it’s in your pocket. Tremendously long battery life means you can go multiple rounds without needing to recharge.
Neo: Am I dead?
Morpheus: Far from it
The Bad: Smallest screen among the devices we tested. And deciphering the three-to-four letter abbreviations for the marked targets can sometimes be akin to cracking the Enigma Code of the Nazis in World War II (you get doozies like “MFW” for “Middle Fairway Water Lay Up” and “MFWC” for “Middle Fairway Water Carry”).
- Buttons. There is a row of six rubber buttons on the bottom of the Neo – power/backlight, selecting the view, up, down, OK/mark shot and escape/menu. The buttons are a bit small and tightly spaced, so those with large hands may have a bit of trouble.
- Screen. There is a price to be paid for the compact size of the device, as the black and white screen on the Bushnell Neo was the smallest one we encountered in our testing. While the font size of the yardages was sufficient, 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.
- Form Factor. The length and width of the Neo is roughly the size of a credit card (of course it is a little thicker), making it the most compact device we tested. At 3.1 ounces, it was also the second lightest device, coming in 0.15 ounces heavier than the IZZO SWAMI 1500.
- Starting a Round. Getting started on a round is as simple as turning the device on, selecting “Play Golf” from the menu that appears, and choosing the course from the list of courses that are loaded on the device (the Neo holds up to 10 courses).
- Battery Life. In our experience with the Neo, battery life was a dream. After four (yes, that’s right, 4) rounds of golf, the battery meter still displayed 50% charge remaining. Even if the meter is a bit ambitious, it’s pretty clear that you don’t have to charge the Neo very often (which is excellent if you happen to forget to bring the wall charger with you on a weekend golf trip).
Check out the Critical Golf comparison of ease of use.
Course Detail and Mapping
The Good: The Neo one-ups simpler devices (like the IZZO SWAMI 1500) that only show distances to the front, middle and back of the green by also providing distances to up to 4 hazards/targets.
The Bad: The number of hazards and targets actually mapped was usually less than four, leaving our information junkie reviewers craving more data, particularly when we were playing an unfamiliar course.
Morpheus: Neo, sooner or later you’re going to realize just as I did that there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
Or knowing the distance to clear the bunker and hitting into the bunker.
- Views. The Bushnell Neo provides two different types of views:
- Target View: The target view is text only, using three-to-four letter abbreviations such as “RFB” for “Right Fairway Bunker” and shows 2 hazard/target distances along with the distance to the center of the green (there are two such screens per hole, giving the user distances to up to 4 hazards/targets per hole). The abbreviations can be a bit cryptic, and there were typically only 2-3 points mapped per hole (as described below in “Features”, users can custom map their own points to fill any empty slots in the allocated 4 points per hole). In addition, when there are multiple fairway bunkers on the right, the mere description “RFB” isn’t particularly illuminating.
- Green View: The green view (which also only displays text) shows the distance to the front, middle and back of the green.
- Hole Information. All of the views display the current hole, but there isn’t a notation of par or hole handicap anywhere.
- Custom Mapping. Users can customize an existing course map or even create their own new course map. As noted above, additional hazards/targets can be added on an existing course map (up to the maximum of 4 hazards/targets), and the user can also delete a previously marked hazard/target and replace it with a custom point. A new course can be created, with up to 4 hazards/targets marked on each hole along with the front, middle and back of each green.
The Good: Users can track how far they hit their shots – can you really carry your driver 225 yards? Might be good to find out BEFORE you try to carry the creek 225 yards away.
The Bad: Alas, shot-tracking is about all that the Neo does. A skimpy feature set is the price you pay for not paying much of a price. Perhaps we’ll see more in the next version of the Neo?
Oracle: Sorry, kid. You got the gift, but it looks like you’re waiting for something.
Oracle: Your next life, maybe. Who knows? That’s the way these things go.
- Shot Tracking. The Bushnell Neo enables users to measure the distance of their shots through the process of pressing the “Shot” button to activate that feature, pressing “Shot” again to mark the starting point and “Shot” one more time to mark the finishing point. None of the shot distance data is saved by the Neo.
- Score and Statistics. The Neo does not track any scores or statistics.
- Clock. There is no clock on the Neo.
- Auto-Advance. There is no ability to auto-advance on the Neo – the user must manually push the “up” or “down” arrow to advance to the next hole.
- Preferences. Neo users can adjust the screen contrast, the basic unit of distance (yards or meters) 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 there is no vacillation between distances when you’re standing still).
Check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.
Device Accuracy: We experienced no distance accuracy issues in our test of device accuracy, with all distances within the acceptable range of plus or minus 4 yards.
Mapping Accuracy: When we took the device out for some real-world rounds on a variety of different golf courses, we found readings were generally within the acceptable margin of 3-4 yards from marked sprinkler heads and our laser rangefinder readings, but saw a couple of glitches where the device was approximately 10 yards off. These came on a higher-end course (Chambers Bay, site of the 2010 U.S. Amateur and 2015 U.S. Open). Our unscientific conclusion is that mapping tends to be best on municipal courses, because users will complain if there are inaccuracies on courses that they play on a regular basis. Higher-end courses tend to have fewer errors because there’s little incentive for a user to follow-up with the manufacturer about incorrect data. Inaccuracies are also often found on courses with significant topography – the satellite images that course mappers use flatten everything out into a 2D map. Unfortunately, we live in a 3D world.
Morpheus: Welcome to the real world.
Retail Price: The retail price of the Bushnell Neo is $149.99, one of the least expensive devices tested.
Fees for Access to Course Database: Bushnell charges an annual subscription of $34.99, which pays for unlimited access to its course database over the course of the year.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: The Bushnell Neo comes in at an attractive three-year total cost of ownership of $254.96, which makes it the least expensive device we tested.
Value: Our conclusion is that the Bushnell Neo provides an unprecedented combination of simple user-friendly functionality with a great price point. Bargain-loving users with simple needs will gravitate toward this device.
Trinity: Neo… nobody has ever done this before.
Neo: That’s why it’s going to work.