Sonocaddie V500

The Sonocaddie V500 seemingly has all the features a user would want in a golf GPS device: a bright color screen, both graphic and satellite overhead hole maps, video flyovers, and the ability to track all of the basic statistics. For the most part, these come together pretty well in a nice lightweight package.

But the V500 falls short of being an elite device because of some extremely awkward design/interface elements, a shortage of pre-mapped target points, some occasional bugginess where the device would entirely freeze up, and the worst course coverage we have seen. Note that we only count a course as “covered” if a course map taking advantage of the V500’s full set of features (including satellite images and video flyovers) is available. This is a bit stringent, but what’s the point of buying a device with cool features if none of them work on the courses you play?

It’s not beyond hope, but the best analogy for the Sonocadde V500 is probably a 4 foot putt with a sharp side-hill break on a slick green – there’s still some work to do.

Setup/Syncing
86
Course Availability
26
Ease of Use
84
Course Details
90
Features
92
Accuracy
84
Cost/Value
84

Pros:

Cons:

Retail price: $399.00
Three year total cost: $428.95
Availability: Discontinued. No replacement hardware. Sonocaddie appears to be shifting its business model to mobile apps.


86 / B

SETUP

The Good: The V500 Quick Start Guide provides well-written detailed instructions and screenshots that walk the user through the set-up process.

The Bad: The Sonocaddie requires users to register before using their V500 for the first time, so don’t expect to be able to open the box in the course parking lot and begin using it immediately. Users also need to download a V500 driver during the setup, which adds to the process a bit. Text entry on the V500’s touch screen is painful. There is no support for Mac users – for shame!

Details:

What’s in the Box: The Sonocaddie V500 comes with the accessories listed below. Consumers should note that the device requires Windows XP/Vista/Windows 7 and is not supported on the Mac.


26 / F

COURSE AVAILABILITY

Critical Golf Test: The Sonocaddie V500 finished in the basement of our course coverage analysis with few tested courses offering advanced satellite imagery and video flyovers. We note that, as with all high-end devices, we base our coverage rating on the number of courses that are mapped for the device’s most advanced feature set – mere coverage of basic distances to the front, middle and back of the green doesn’t count (if that’s all you want, you can get it in a much lower-priced device). With coverage this poor, we aren’t even going to bother discussing the breakdown by course type or geography.

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). This number seems to include any course for which Sonocaddie provides basic distances, so it’s probably not a relevant data point for determining the likelihood that a given course will have both satellite maps and video flyovers.


84 / B

EASE OF USE

The Good: The device hardware is fine, and the interface allows users to quickly access different menu items and settings. We liked having dedicated buttons on the front of the device to quickly advance or go back to different holes.

The Bad: The touchscreen leaves a bit to be desired both in the ability to pinpoint targets on the hole and the way in which scrolling is implemented. It’s perfectly functional, but if you’re used to the slick iPhone touchscreen, you will have to seriously re-adjust your expectations. The interface includes lots of buttons that aren’t completely intuitive – for example, on the main menu, there are buttons for “MyCourse,” “Preloaded Course,” and “Search” – we’ve spent a fair amount of time with the device and with the manual, and we’re not completely sure why they need 3 buttons for that (see below). Another complaint is that once you are deep within searching for a course (identifying the country, state, city, et al) or have actually gone into a course, there’s no easy way to get back to the main menu – we counted an instance where we had to hit the “back” button 6 times.

We also experienced some bugginess, with the device freezing on us a few times during different test rounds. We were usually able to just power the V500 off and then back on to restore functionality, but one time we actually had to remove the battery and put it back in. In all cases, we lost the ability to pick up where we left off and continue scoring the round.

Details:


90 / A-

COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

The Good: The overhead hole graphics provide a great overview of the hole and show well in all lighting conditions. The Sonocaddie V500 provides an easy interface to add and save 10 targets on any hole.

The Bad: The perspective for the overhead hole maps is looking at the hole from above and at an angle, instead of directly above. This gives the sense that the hole looks a bit “squished” on the screen. There is no ability to zoom in or out on the overhead images. Distances to the green are limited to the front, middle and back points as viewed from the tee box (you cannot touch on a specific part of the green to estimate the distance to the actual flagstick). Users can’t see the par for the hole in any of the hole views – instead, they have to go to the scorecard.

Details:

Sonocaddie V500 Golf GPS

Click for images

92 / A-

FEATURES

Sonocaddie V500 Golf GPS Device

Click for images

The Good: The good news is that there is a wide variety of available features, including a scorecard and statistical tracking.

The Bad: The bad news is that the implementation of the features is uneven – nothing tragically bad, but there is room for improvement on a number of fronts.

Details:

Suggestion Box: The Sonocaddie V500’s statistical analysis backs-in to whether you hit a green-in-regulation (GIR) based on the user’s number of putts and score, so on occasion their calculation can be incorrect. How can this be so? On a par 4, you could hit the green on your second shot, putt off the green, and then chip it in. The V500 will see a par and only 1 putt, so it will assume that you missed the green and got up and down. Sure, it’s a rare occurrence, but why not just have a “yes/no” entry for GIR? Also, when you are entering your scores/statistics, the V500 will always take you to the page showing the scores for the front 9 holes first – so when you’re on the back 9, you always have to hit the “scroll down” button to enter your scores. Trust us, it gets tiresome.

In addition, you can’t advance to a view of the next hole after entering your score – you have to hit “back” to get to the hole you just scored, and then advance to the new hole.

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


84 / B

ACCURACY

Device Accuracy: The Sonocaddie V500 indicates how many satellite signals are picked up at any given time, which in turn gives users guidance on accuracy of the distance readings. We found the device to be as accurate as any tested.

Mapping Accuracy: We experienced an instance on a course that had been redesigned where the graphic view was outdated, but the satellite view was correct. Of course, this means that the icons of pre-mapped targets were also incorrect, and when they were overlaid on the satellite view, it became a bit comical (a tree icon in the middle of a busy road!). This doesn’t exactly give us the utmost confidence in the quality control of the maps.

When the V500 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 golf GPS devices of approximately 3-4 yards.

When a user selects a point with the touchscreen, the device will indicate the distance to the desired point and from that point to the middle of the green. In order to do so, it will draws a line on the map from the device’s currently location to the desired point and another line to the center of the green – but an annoying bug is that the line to the “center of the green” is often drawn to some random point near the top of the screen. The displayed distance is actually correct, but to many, may not inspire confidence in the device.


84 / B

COST/VALUE

Retail Price: The Sonocaddie V500 retails for $399.00, one of the higher price points for a golf GPS device.

Fees for Access to Course Database: Users can choose between three types of registration:

Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: Our calculation of the cost to the user over three years for the Sonocaddie V500 is $428.95, which puts it slightly above average in our cost comparison of GPS devices. The fees to access satellite imagery and video flyovers for 15 courses add to the retail price for the unit itself.

Value: While the Sonocaddie V500 has a lower three-year total cost of ownership than some of the devices with the highest yearly fees, it is starting to compete with devices that don’t charge for the additional “premium” features on the device. The device itself has mapping issues and lacks enough pre-mapped points to make it as useful as we would like. We didn’t see much value in the additional $29.95 for satellite images and video flyovers. While it has all the features, the poor implementation gives it a lower value.

Updated (course coverage): March 2013