Sonocaddie V300

OVERALL RATING: 82. GRADE: B-. The Sonocaddie V300 has a lot going for it – there are some great features, and the bright color screen and overhead hole maps are huge selling points. But some serious inaccuracies in distance readings across a number of courses shattered our confidence in the device. Also, while there are rational ways to access each feature, they are not necessarily intuitive (for example, some features are only accessible through buttons on the side of the device, and not through the main menu).

We actually liked the device itself very much, but the repeated significant mapping errors keep us from being able to wholeheartedly recommend it for purchase. If the excellent feature set of the Sonocaddie V300 still lures you toward making the purchase, we would recommend doing some searches on the Internet to see if anyone has experienced problems with the course maps for your favorite courses.

SCORE
82
GRADE
B-
Setup/Syncing
80
Course Availability
95
Ease of Use
87
Course Details
90
Features
88
Accuracy
74
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

Cons:

Retail price: $349.00
Three year total cost: $378.95
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Sonocaddie V300+ (not reviewed)


80 / B-

SETUP

The Good: Excellent Quick Start instructions that lead the user smoothly through the installation of the software, featuring detailed descriptions of each screen the user will encounter.

The Bad: We ran into a hitch at the end of the setup process, when we were syncing the courses from the PC to the device. The Sonocaddie software continued to display a “Linking” message for about 10 minutes, after which we disconnected the unit. The good news is that the V300 had actually already completed loading the courses. It seems there are some issues with notifying the user when the software has completed transferring courses to the V300. There is no support for Mac users.

Details:

Suggestion Box: Sonocaddie sends a confirmation e-mail upon completion of registration for a free web account, which contains a link that must be clicked to activate the account and begin downloading courses. Keep your eye on your spam filter, as the confirmation email sent to us was swept into a junk mail folder.

What’s in the Box: The Sonocaddie V300 comes with the equipment listed below. Consumers should note that the device requires Windows 2000/XP/Vista and is not supported on the Mac.


95 / A

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The Sonocaddie V300 keeps growing its database of courses, and now is above average in our golf course coverage analysis.

Manufacturer’s Claims: Sonocaddie claims to have 16,000 North American courses available in its database, which places it average against its competitors (no claims are made for a worldwide figure).


87 / B+

EASE OF USE

The Good: The design is pretty well thought out, but isn’t particularly intuitive. Once you learn how to access a certain feature, it’s easy to use that feature, but learning to navigate the buttons or menus requires some investment of time.

The Bad: The Sonocaddie V300’s 5-way navigation button is not quite as user-friendly as the joysticks or circular buttons on other GPS devices, and is a bit too easy for users to accidentally push in one direction when they mean to depress the button. As mentioned above, heavy reliance on the side buttons isn’t particularly intuitive for most users, but does make for an easier experience once you get up the learning curve.

Details:

Suggestion Box: Why not make the 1st Hole the default hole when starting a round, instead of forcing the user to choose the beginning hole? Is there some giant target market of people out there who always play in shotguns and need this flexibility as the default setting?


90 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: We love the overhead map of the hole, as it provides excellent context on how to play the hole. The Sonocaddie V300 also provides an easy interface to add and save custom targets on any hole.

The Bad: The data on distances to the green is limited to the front, middle and back points as viewed from the tee box.

Details:


88 / B+

FEATURES

The Good: Great scorecard and statistical tracking that is easy to enter.

The Bad: Not much to criticize here, as the Sonocaddie V300 is one of the more feature-laden devices available.

Details:

Suggestion Box: The Sonocaddie V300’s statistical analysis backs-in to whether you hit a green-in-regulation (GIR) based on the user’s number of putts, though it can be inaccurate for corner cases on those lightning-fast greens where some of us (ahem) happen to putt off and then need to chip up to the green again. A “yes/no” entry for GIR might have been more appropriate. Also, it would be nice to see the par for the hole in the hole views (it currently is only available from the scorecard).

For more details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS features across all devices tested.


74 / C

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: The Sonocaddie V300 indicates how accurate its readings are, determined by how many satellites are being picked up at any given time, a feature that no other unit offers. And our tests showed the device itself to be spot-on in accuracy. That’s the good news.

Mapping Accuracy: The bad news is that we found inaccurate distances created by mapping errors – and these were horrifically off the mark (more than 20 yards off). Our reviewers have a tough enough time hitting good shots – imagine their shock when they airmailed a green by 20 yards because of a bad distance reading.

This course mapping accuracy issue wasn’t limited to a single course. Distance inaccuracies were confirmed on multiple courses in clear weather with full signal strength and the device indicating that it was accurate within 3 yards, and cross-checked against distance markers on the course and other GPS devices. These mapping errors can be fixed through re-mapping the course on your own, but we expect a lot more for $400 retail.

We note that once the V300 was less than five yards from a target, it would no longer provide a distance reading to that target. This seems perfectly reasonable given the standard margin for error of GPS (3-4 yards).


84 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Sonocaddie V300 retails for $349.00.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Users can choose between paying:

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our calculation of the cost to the user over three years for the Sonocaddie V300 was $378.95, which puts it right in the middle of the pack in our cost comparison of GPS devices. The relatively reasonable course database access fees were offset by the high retail price for the unit itself.

Value: Of the higher-priced premium units in our test, the Sonocaddie V300 adds a one-time fee to push it to a price point higher than some of the competition. While still lower in total cost than some of the competition, the interface and mapping errors we encountered affected our perception of the value of the device.

Updated (course coverage): March 2013