OVERALL RATING: 91. GRADE: A-. Although the Leupold name has been around for over 100 years, the brand may be new to many golfers. The prior generation GX-I device finished at the top of our rankings last year, and the GX-1 brings subtle changes to the GX-I (yes, the model names are confusing to us) with improved performance in the fog and the ability to lock onto flagsticks with reflective prisms.
The new GX-1 is an exceptional device, just as its predecessor was. In addition to being both the smallest and lightest rangefinder tested, the Leupold GX-1 picks up flagsticks at a distance as well as any of the portable vertically-oriented rangefinders (and nearly as well as the largest units), and features respectable 6x viewfinder magnification, a scanning mode to continuously update distances while targeting objects, and even the option for the user to choose from a number of different crosshairs.
All of this at a reasonable price make the Leupold GX-1 a device we can wholeheartedly recommend.
- Small and lightweight
- Nice performance for the price
- Narrower feature set
For those who like the look of the Leupold GX-1 but are looking for additional features such as slope-adjusted distance, check out our review of the Leupold GX-2. And if you really want to take it up a notch, check out our review of the Leupold GX-3, which offers much the same functionality as the GX-1, but in a body made of solid aluminum and with the addition of an OLED display that allows for distances to be seen more easily against dark backgrounds.
EASE OF USE
Our testers liked the extremely compact size of the Leupold GX-1, which is both the lightest and smallest laser rangefinder we tested. A small carry case is included that clips to a bag or cart and even has a small external pouch for an extra battery.
The vertically-oriented device is easy to hold, with a somewhat tacky rubber exterior. The Leupold GX-1’s body is virtually entirely black. Head to head against other vertically-oriented rangefinders, the 6x magnification of the Leupold devices bests the Bushnell Tour V2, but falls shy of the 7x provided by the Callaway LR1200. The user can focus the display by twisting the eyepiece, though the Leupold GX-1 is a bit more challenging to focus with a single hand than other devices.
Like most laser rangefinders, the Leupold features two buttons, one located on the top of the device that powers the device on/off and also fires the laser, and the other located on the lower left side of the device that toggles between modes. The user presses the mode button and then pushes the power/laser button to cycle between the different settings for that mode. In the GX-1, the only “mode” to be selected is yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance. The new “Fog Mode” is an always-on feature of the Leupold.
The Leupold GX-1’s “panning” mode enables the user to pan around the course to obtain distances to different points by simply holding down the power/laser button. The device will provide updated distance readings that blink on the upper left of the LCD display as they are refreshed. When panning across multiple targets, the Leupold GX-1 does not update its readings quite as rapidly as some competitors, and will on occasion have the same problem we had with the Callaway LR1200, which, while quick to report a distance, will sometimes “skip” one reading if the user pans quickly across targets with large distance gaps (say, moving from a target at 150 yards to one at 300 yards). The Leupold seems to adopt a slow(er) and steady approach to updating the distance readings that we think most users will find to be sufficient for their needs. Note that while some rangefinders update readings significantly faster at shorter distances than they do at longer distances, we found that the Leupold updates at approximately the same rate regardless of distance.
The Leupold GX-1 takes one CR-2 Lithium battery. A battery meter is positioned in the lower center of the viewfinder, along with an indicator of yards or meters to its right.
Our reviewers weren’t fond of having the distance reading displayed in the upper left of the viewfinder, where it was often difficult to see against darker backgrounds (such as a tree line). It is also slightly more difficult to have to look back and forth between the aiming crosshair in the center of the viewfinder and the yardage in the upper left, particularly when targeting faraway objects. Depending on how troubling this it to you, you may want to check out the OLED featured in the Leupold GX-3.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.
The Leupold GX-1 has a “pin-locating” feature, which they call “Pinhunter” (the equivalent of “PinSeeker”, “PinPoint” or “First Target Priority” mode on competing devices), that makes it easier to determine the distance to specific targets such as flagsticks. The device automatically filters out readings from larger more “reflective” objects (like trees) in the background, and concentrates on obtaining a reading from the closer of the targets that are within the crosshairs (which should be the flagstick). But wait, there’s more! The Leupold is one of only two manufacturers (the other being Callaway) that uses the “pin-locating” mode all of the time, including while the user is panning across multiple objects – other devices force the user to switch back and forth between a panning mode and a “pin-locating” mode. The GX-1 also features “Prism Lock” to make distance readings even easier to obtain when playing on a course that have reflective prisms on their flagsticks. When the GX-1 identifies a flagstick with a prism, it will “beep” and then freeze the display (showing a lock icon as well) at the measured distance. Very nice!
The GX-1 also features always-on “Fog Mode” that is activated in fog and rain to screen out false readings (for better or worse, we are located in a sunny part of the country and haven’t had the opportunity to test this mode).
The Leupold rangefinders were the only laser devices tested that offer the ability to select a different style of targeting crosshair, allowing users to select from seven different options. Not necessary, but it certainly is nice to have a choice.
Lastly, some devices power off if they are left in “panning” mode for an extended period of time. The Leupold GX-1 allows users to pan across the course for well over a minute before timing out
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.
OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS
Leupold’s website states that the GX-1 is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks and reflective objects at up to 350/750 yards under optimal conditions. While these numbers were the lowest among the devices we tested, in our tests we found the Leupold able to compete with the very best of devices at picking up targets at any distance.
Ease of Locking on a Target:
- At up to 200 yards, the Leupold GX-1 provided easy locking on a flagstick, as did all of its competitors.
- At up to 250 yards, the Leupold GX-1 started to drop off in ease of locking on to a target, but was still competing with the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition as the best device for locking on to a flagstick.
- At yardages in the high 200s, Leupold could still pick up distances against a background of trees on over 50% of the readings. Remember, the advantage of the Leupold’s combination of “panning” and “Pinhunter” in a single mode is that the user can receive constantly updated distances, and can thus quickly determine which distance is accurate if the device is moving between alternate distances – no need to re-shoot and wait for the device to lock onto the flagstick again.
- At over 300 yards, the Leupold began to drop off, and lagged the Callaway LR1200 and the Bushnell 1600 Slope Edition in picking up a flag – although, none of the devices were exceptional at these distances.
For all rangefinders, the ease of locking onto reflective targets/prisms found in flagsticks is significantly easier. While we have not done a comparative test of all devices on reflective targets/prisms, our on-course testing found that the GX-1 can easily lock onto prisms at distances well in excess of 300 yards.
The Leupold GX-1 finished toward the back of the line in our speed test for obtaining distance readings.
- Panning Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode (since it always has panning and pin-locating available) against other devices in their “panning” modes, it came in last (although it was within several seconds of two other devices).
- Pin-Locating Mode: When we compared the Leupold in its one mode against other devices in their “pin-locating” modes, it finished in the middle of the pack. Which makes sense, since a great advantage of having a panning mode is that it is quicker to pick up multiple targets.
- Using Both Modes: The Leupold also finished in the middle of the pack in the speed test when other devices were allowed to use both modes together (which, in the case of other devices, required pushing the buttons to cycle between modes).
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison for Ease of Obtaining Distance Readings.
At a retail price of $375, the cost of the Leupold GX-1 is in the middle of the pack. And the Leupold GX-1 does lots of little things well, with its portable size, 6x magnification, ability to pick out targets, and the ability for users to select from a number of different styles of crosshairs. With improved performance in fog and the ability to lock onto flagsticks with prisms, the result is a good bang for the buck.