Matrix, best known for its golf shafts, shouted its entry into the golf GPS market at the 2012 PGA show with the Matrix SHOTMATE Voice GPS. We aren’t sure whether there was a sudden technological leap that enabled the development of voice golf GPS, but it will be interesting to see how consumers take to this new category of devices.
Relying upon sound as the sole method of communicating with the user is a bold gamble. We found it pretty simple to get accustomed to this new interface mode. One thing we didn’t miss was staring at a screen during our round – we get more than enough time staring at computers from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday.
The SHOTMATE stands out with the pleasant voice of a woman with a British accent that announces distances to the center of the green as well as shot distances. (Click the play button below to hear a sample.)
[powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-enjoy-your-round.mp3″]There is no screen on the device, so all interactions takes place through one main button and two arrow buttons. We found it easiest to use the SHOTMATE when it was clipped to the bill of a cap, though it can just as easily be attached to a bag, belt or shirt collar. Note that while the SHOTMATE is only about the size of a matchbook, it’s still pretty noticeable and nerdy looking attached to your cap (as would a matchbook), so you might want to slip it into your pocket when you head over to hit on the cart girl. You might expect the sound to be distracting to other players, but the volume is adjustable, and we found other players couldn’t even hear the distance readings when the SHOTMATE was clipped to our cap.
The SHOTMATE comes preloaded with 22,000 courses in the United States and Canada and does not charge annual or per course fees for maps updates. Matrix claims up to 9 hours of battery life.
At only $150 retail and with no additional fees, the Matrix SHOTMATE is one of the least expensive golf GPS devices in our tests. The device is incredibly small and light, and is a breeze to use. The primary decision factors will likely be whether you like getting data through sound, as opposed to sight, and whether you feel you need more information than just the distance to the center of the green. While we love the simplicity of the device, we found ourselves longing for additional distance information (beginners may actually prefer just one distance, however).
A video that gives a bit more detail:
- No need to even look at the device – it announces distances at the press of a button
- One of the smallest and lightest devices tested
- Easy to use
- One of the lowest priced golf GPS units available
- Only distance provided is to the center of the green
- No functionality beyond shot distance tracking
Retail price: $149.99
Three year total cost: $149.99
Availability: Discontinued. No replacement product. We don’t expect the company to reintroduce another GPS unit.
The Good: The Matrix SHOTMATE comes with all courses pre-loaded on the device. A light will illuminate when the device is charging and turn off when finished.
The Bad: Instructions could use some additional clarity (and the manual some polish – it is unfortunately has a number of grammatical and spelling errors that don’t make the best first impression). You don’t have the ability to select individual courses for updates. No support for Macs.
- Required Steps. Though courses come pre-loaded on the Matrix SHOTMATE, you’ll want to download the Matrix SHOTMATE Update Program (free) to keep updated with the latest course maps. Unfortunately there isn’t a good set of instructions for this in either the User Manual or on the web site. We blundered our way through, and determined that the required steps include:
- Downloading the SHOTMATE Update Program from the SHOTMATE web site. You might think that you want to click on the link labeled “Update Guide Download”, but you would be wrong! Instead, for some odd reason you need to click on “Course Data Download” to get the zip file that includes the Update Program. If you stumble around a bit and click on a bunch of the unzipped files, you eventually realize that you want to click on the “Shotmate” exe file to install and launch the Update Program (Windows only).
- Downloading drivers so your PC will recognize the SHOTMATE. This time your instincts should lead you to the correct link – just click on “Driver (PC) Download.” Again, you’ll get a zipped file, and have to guess which of the files to eventually launch (the one labeled “Driver Package Installer” did the trick).
- Going back to the Update Program and clicking on “Run to Update.” It only took a couple of minutes to update the program. Curiously, upon its conclusion, the “Progress Message” will read “It’s ready to voice upgrade mode” (whatever that means) – and then up popped a warning box that said “USB is not connect.” Huh? In any event, we seemed to be done at that point. Of course since there’s no way to see what courses are available on the device, we don’t really know whether any were updated or not, but at least we know that we have the latest version.
- Time Required for Setup. It took about 20 minutes to run through the entire setup/sync process the first time, although most of that was just trying to figure out what was necessary. The actual download and reinstallation was accomplished in about 5-10 minutes.
What’s in the Box: The Matrix SHOTMATE voice GPS (which has a built-in clip) comes with:
- USB to micro-USB cable
- AC adapter
- User Manual
- Quick Pocket Guide
Matrix SHOTMATE Software Downloads (required):
- Matrix SHOTMATE firmware
- Matrix SHOTMATE drivers
Critical Golf Test: Up from an abysmal 43% in our initial tests, the Matrix SHOTMATE now has climbed to the middle of the pack in our course coverage test. We initially recommended that players wait until additional courses are added before making a purchase, and at this point we can say this is no longer a main concern.
Manufacturer’s Claims: The company claims the Matrix comes pre-loaded with approximately 22,000 courses. This places the SHOTMATE at the back of the field in our course coverage comparison test of course availability.
EASE OF USE
The Good: Incredibly small and light, with an easy-to-use interface. While very basic, the features provided all work well with a device that is based entirely on voice.
The Bad: Although it has only the most basic of features, one of the benefits is that the SHOTMATE has no real negatives in terms of ease of use.
- Buttons. The Matrix SHOTMATE has three buttons: one main button on the front and two small arrow buttons on the base. The arrow buttons are used for changing the volume, unit of measure, hole, and green (if multiple greens are available).
- Screen. This is a first in our tests…not applicable!
- Form Factor. Amazingly small and light. With the clip, you can attach the SHOTMATE to the brim of your cap or shirt collar. There is USB cable access on the top of the device for charging, upgrading software and downloading course updates. The belt clip, speaker and power button are on the back of the device.
- Starting a Round. After powering up the SHOTMATE, a green light will blink until the GPS satellites are acquired, and the device will announce that it is locating a country club (yes, it literally says “country club” – insert your own joke about your local muni here). [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-locating-country-club.mp3″]After satellites are acquired, it figures out what course you are on, and announces that is has “found a country club.” From there, you need merely proceed to the tee box, where the device should recognize the hole. Note that you actually have to be at a golf course for any of this to work – so you can’t really play around with the device while you’re at home.
- Battery Life. The rechargeable battery is marketed at up to 9 hours of life. We haven’t found the use of the device (whether we frequently requested distances or not) to noticeably impact the hours we get out of a charge, and are able to get one but generally not two rounds on a single charge (averaging 4.5-5 hour rounds).
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS ease of use.
COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING
The Good: With only the distance to the center of the green provided, course detail is not the SHOTMATE’s strong suit, so there isn’t much to tout here.
The Bad: The lack of distances to the front and back of the green made our rounds a bit more challenging. And given our penchant for hitting the ball into those pesky bunkers and lakes, it would be nice to know how far away they are.
- Hole Information. The hole number is provided each time the distance is announced, in this format “First hole to the green, one hundred seventeen yards”. No par information is provided; however, given that there isn’t the ability to track scores, most players will likely have a scorecard with them.
The Good: Voice is the draw here. Shot distance measuring is a bonus.
The Bad: The SHOTMATE obviously doesn’t have the features that most golf GPS devices have, but without a screen, there really aren’t many additional features that the device could offer.
- Voice. Not much more to add here…with no screen, all distances and settings are provided via voice and tones. We like the mild British accent, which is good, since there is no choice of different voices (such as you might find in your car’s GPS system). We were able to understand virtually all distances announced, with the exception of differentiating between distances ending in “-teen” and those ending in “-ty”, such as one hundred seventeen versus one hundred seventy. [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-teen-or-ty.mp3″] Maybe we need to watch more “Masterpiece Theater” or something…
- Shot Distances. The SHOTMATE will track shot distances with a two-second press of the main button, and the device can continue to provide distances to the center of the green while still tracking the shot distance. When the player presses the button for two seconds again, the shot distance will be announced and the SHOTMATE will both stop measuring and reset (so you can’t provide measurements for multiple shots from the tee, for example). [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-driving-distance-is.mp3″]
- Score and Statistics. The SHOTMATE doesn’t have the ability to track scores or statistics (and without a screen or embedded Siri, this would likely be a challenge to implement in a useful manner).
- Auto-advance. The SHOTMATE will automatically advance to the next hole, though no indication will be given when this occurs. The auto-advance is triggered when the player is on a tee box, so it is best to clip the SHOTMATE on something that will always be with you. The player will only know if the SHOTMATE has advanced to the next hole by pressing the main button to obtain the distance, and hearing the hole number as it is announced along with the distance. If the user needs to manually change the hole (we did find cases where the SHOTMATE jumped to the wrong hole when we passed adjacent tee boxes, and also when the device didn’t advance to the next hole when we stood in the middle of the tee box), they can easily do so with the arrow buttons on the bottom of the device.
- Course Storage. All courses in the SHOTMATE database come pre-loaded (approximately 22,000). As mentioned under Setup/Syncing, users should still sync the device on occasion to ensure they have the latest course maps.
- Preferences. The SHOTMATE has just three settings: the ability to select yards/meters, volume control, and left/right green (for situations with multiple greens).
For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.
The Matrix SHOTMATE generally provided accurate distances, though we have found several holes that were off by up to 8-10 yards during our testing, which always shakes our confidence. We did find, that as with most devices, players should wait a few seconds after arriving at their ball before pressing the main button to obtain the distance. There were a number of cases where we received an initial (accurate) distance reading, but if we quickly moved 10-20 yards and hit the button for a new reading, the SHOTMATE seemed to be “stuck” on the earlier distance reading and wouldn’t update to our new position. We found this type of error to be mostly dependent upon how quickly we requested a new reading, rather than how far away we moved. As a result, we recommend pausing for a handful of seconds before obtaining a reading. Without a screen it is extremely tempting to press the main button to receive the distance as soon as you arrive at your ball, but don’t think this is any different than other GPS devices – you still need to wait a moment to ensure an accurate reading.
When you reach 30 yards from the center of the green, the device no longer provides distances and will instead announce that you are on the green edge. The SHOTMATE doesn’t provide distances beyond 500 yards (it will just say “…more than 500 yards”). [powerpress url=”http://www.criticalgolf.com/wp-content/audio/gps/matrix-shotmate-more-than-500-yards.mp3″]
Unlike most golf GPS manufacturers, Matrix provides a claim as to accuracy – to 9 feet (2 meters).
Retail Price: The Matrix SHOTMATE has a retail price of $149.99, which makes it one of the least expensive GPS devices tested, though there are handheld devices with displays available for less. Of the voice golf GPS units on the market, it is the least expensive.
Fees for Access to Course Database: Even at this low retail price, there are no additional fees to receive course updates. Dig it.
Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no additional cost for access to the database for new courses or updates, the three-year total cost of ownership of the Matrix SHOTMATE Voice GPS stays at a very low $150, making it one of the least expensive devices in our comparison of golf GPS device total costs.
Value: While the Matrix SHOTMATE sports one of the lowest prices for any golf GPS device, its functionality is, of course, far more limited than most all other devices. For the player that is looking for the ultimate bare-bones device, this could be right up their alley – there’s no need to even glance at a screen, just tap a button.
But while we liked the form factor and actually found it less distracting to use than using other GPS devices (since you don’t even have to be looking at the device to get the distance), we much prefer to have distances at least to the front and back of the green, and preferably to the near and far points of the green along with selected additional targets. Beginning golfers, however, may be more drawn to the simplicity of having just one distance to focus upon.
Prospective buyers who buy into the idea of a voice golf GPS can stack the Matrix SHOTMATE up against the GolfBuddy Voice (which has a small screen), Voice Caddie VC100 (the most direct competitor), and SkyKap (it’s unclear to us if this product is actually available). For reference, the GolfBuddy Voice provides distances to the front, center and back of the green; the Voice Caddie to the center only, and the SkyKap to front, center and back of green as well as other targets.