OVERALL RATING: 93. GRADE: A-. The GX-3 brings several changes and improvements to the Leupold line of golf laser rangefinders. The solid aluminum body of the GX-3 makes a bit of a fashion statement, and an all-new red OLED display makes distance and other information readable against the darkest of backgrounds. The new body and display are the primary differences between the GX-3/GX-4 and the GX-1/GX-2 (with the GX-2/GX-4 providing additional slope-adjusted distance information), The GX-3 packs all of the latest Leupold technology into a lightweight and portable package that is one of the smallest on the market.
We do note that we had slightly greater difficulty locking on to targets with the GX-3/GX-4 series than with Leupold’s GX-1/GX-2 – perhaps as a result of the new OLED display technology, although we can’t be certain of the cause. Nonetheless, we love the GX-3’s performance, design, display and size, and even though it carries a higher price tag than some of its competitors, we still place it among the top devices in our rankings.
Retail price: $400
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Leupold GX-3i
EASE OF USE
The GX-3 continues Leupold’s tradition of pleasingly compact rangefinders. It is the smallest rangefinder in the Leupold lineup, just a hair taller than the GX-1/GX-2 though not as long or as wide. The aluminum body adds some weight, but the GX-3 is still one of the lightest laser rangefinders we’ve tested. The included carry case has a slot through which a belt or strap can be threaded, but we miss the simple clip that came with the GX-1. The case has a magnetic latch to close, which we prefer to the string that you have to loop over a latch to close the GX-1/GX-2.
The vertically-oriented device is extremely easy to hold – the aluminum body is trimmed with rubber to provide a solid grip. The Leupold GX-3 form factor and design is virtually the same as the GX-4, with the difference being that players can swap the GX-4 chrome faceplate (that provides only line-of-sight distances) for the “Smart Key” bright yellow faceplate, which enables slope-adjusted distance readings and club recommendations.
The 6x magnification of the Leupold devices is the second highest magnification of the rangefinders we have tested, behind the Bushnell 1600 Tournament Edition (which provides a whopping 7x magnification). The user focuses the display by twisting the eyepiece – we found the Leupold GX-3 to be slightly more difficult to focus with a single hand than some competing 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 allows the user to change modes and modify settings. To modify settings, the mode button is initially held for one second to enter the menu, then is pressed to cycle between different functions. The power/laser button is then used to toggle between settings for a specific function. The GX-3 allows the user to select either yards versus meters as the standard unit of distance. In addition, the GX-3 provides settings for the user to turn on fog mode.
The Leupold GX-3’s “panning” mode enables the user to scan the course to obtain distances to different points by simply holding down the power/laser button. In our testing, the device smoothly refreshed the data with updated distance readings as the user panned across new targets.
We much prefer the red OLED display over standard black/dark grey rangefinder LCD displays, which can be difficult to read against dark or shadowy backgrounds. We do note that the OLED display winds up showing things with a greenish tint, which, while it became unnoticeable after awhile, is still a bit of an adjustment from the non-OLED displays that show natural colors. A nice decision by Leupold was to move the distance display distances away from the edges of the display to slightly below the crosshair, which makes the information much more readily accessible at a glance (without having to look to the edges of the viewfinder).
The Leupold GX-3 takes one CR-2 Lithium battery (good for 10,000 actuations if you are counting). A battery meter is positioned in the lower center of the viewfinder, along with an indicator of yards or meters to its right.
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder ease of use.
The Leupold GX-3 has a “pin-locating” feature, which Leupold calls “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). In addition, Leupold uses “pin-locating” mode all of the time, including while the user is panning across multiple objects – some of the other rangefinder manufacturers force the user to switch back and forth between a panning mode and a “pin-locating” mode. The GX-3 also includes a “Fog Mode” that improves performance in fog and rain to help readings.
To make obtaining distances to flagsticks even easier, the GX-3 features “Prism Lock,” a feature that is always enabled when scanning at distances over 25 yards. When the GX-3 identifies a flagstick equipped with a reflective prism, it will “beep,” show brackets around the cursor and then freeze the display at the measured distance (curiously, it can be just a hair more difficult to lock on compared to the GX-1). We didn’t encounter any issues with unintended activation of “Prism Lock,” even when we were attempting to get readings behind and slightly to either side of the flagstick. It’s a fabulous feature – now if only more golf courses would add flagsticks with reflective prisms…
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of laser rangefinder features.
OBTAINING DISTANCE READINGS
Leupold’s marketing materials state that the GX-3 is rated to accurately provide distances to flagsticks and reflective targets at up to 450/800 yards under optimal conditions, distances that should satisfy even the longest hitters. Distance readings will continue to be displayed on the OLED display for approximately 8 seconds after the firing button is released. The Leupold GX-3 will allow users to continue to fire the laser for over 2 minutes without shutting down, so go ahead and pan across as many targets as you like!
Ease of Locking on a Target:
- At up to 175 yards, the Leupold GX-3 easily picked out flagsticks, as did most of its competitors.
- At more than 200 yards, the Leupold GX-3 had slightly more difficulty picking up flagsticks against a challenging background, though it still performed at a very high level (80%+ of the time)> Beyond 200 yards it didn’t seem to have any additional difficulty up through 300 yards. At these longer distances, the GX-3 slightly lagged the top-performing Bushnell 1600 Tournament Edition.
Locking onto flagsticks with reflective targets/prisms is significantly easier for all rangefinders. We have not done a comparative test across all devices on reflective targets/prisms, but our on-course experience revealed that the GX-3 easily and quickly locks onto prisms at distances well in excess of 300 yards. The Prism Lock feature is great to have at your disposal, and we appreciate the “beep” to indicate that it had locked on to the flagstick.
The Leupold GX-3 does not update distance readings as rapidly as the competition when panning, and is a bit slower than the GX-1. Speed was as the same as the GX-4, so users don’t gain any speed advantages by foregoing the slope adjusted distances available on the GX-4.
- 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, we found it to be the slowest of the bunch.
- 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. This 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 $400, the Leupold GX-3 is still on the high-end of USGA approved laser rangefinders tested. Budget-conscious buyers may want to consider the GX-1, but the combination of the GX-3’s performance, the new red OLED display and that aluminum body make the GX-3 awfully tempting.
Only problem I have, is that for $400 you would think a few dollars would be spent on the instruction booklet…
My prism lock feature didn’t work on my brand new unit. They “repaired” it only to still not have it work! Since I didn’t even have one round with it, Leupold should have replaced it with a new unit. Waste of time and money.