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Not a Home Run
on February 26, 2012
My disclaimer: I am writing this review after one actual round and some playing around on Preview mode.
For the past two or so seasons, I have been a devoted user of the Callaway Upro Golf GPS product, the one that game out before the one with all the problems. I am comparing the G6 to that device. Overall, I give the Garmin G6 (which I was looking forward to greatly) 4 stars, it's a good device, but not a home run.
For starters, the G6 is incredibly small, lightweight and has a good feel to it. The top piece has a carbon-like appearance and the screen is probably about 3 inches long by about 2. The screen is definitely bright enough to read outdoors (my round was on a bright sunny day) but not too bright that it gets washed out. The device came 75% charged with was nice, and charged to 100 percent pretty darn quick. It comes with a USB cable and an electric unit with one of those slide in adapters (where you slide in the plug). I charged it off my Mac computer without incident. It came with a minimum of paper, just a short pamphlet.
The First Round: I took the unit out for a 900 tee time, and have to say that it took longer than the Callaway to acquire the GPS. I turned it on and off a few times to see if I could "jog" it into place, and just when I said screw it, I looked down one more time, it acquired. It thought I was in Kansas City for a while before figuring it out. In contrast, the Callaway UPRO acquired the sats much facter.
The look and feel of the graphics on the Garmin are far different than the Callaway. With the Callaway, it was a photo-realistic image superimposed on top of the GPS data. By contrast, the Garmin's graphics are cartoonish and not nearly as detailed. If you've used one of their other devices, then you will be fine. It displays MOST of the data you need in acceptable fashion, it's just not as clean as the Callaway UPRO. Another thing the UPRO has that the Garmin lacks in distance measurements to trouble. The Garmin will map to the bunkers pretty well, but if you are flying over some junk and want to know precisely how far until the junk or edge of it, you just see green.
The G6 does have, what the UPRO lacks, a touch screen. Navigating around the screen is pretty easy, but I never had problem moving the cursor around the screen on the UPRO, though that wss often slow, particularly when getting a detailed distance from your ball position. It's much easier on the G6, though as far as I can tell, you really only get three views on the Garmin. You get the zoomed out view, the zoomed in view and the green view. The zoomed out view is too distant, and the zoomed in view may be a little two close. What I couldn't figure out how to do (if the device permits it at all), is to scroll along the hole. If you can scroll the hole from tee to green, I couldn't figure out how to do it. Every time I tried to swipe down to scroll, as you would on an iPad or iPhone for example, it just moved the targeting circle all over the screen, giving me handy new (and not useful) yardages every time. This frustrated me for the whole round. As I said before, the UPRO does a better job at giving you an idea of distances to trouble and bunkers after your tee shot too.
The Garmin does a good job at giving you intermediate distances when you lay up. The addition of the Red, While, Blue yardage arcs that the UPRO lacks is also a nice touch. You move the targeting reticle to the spot you are thinking of laying up to and it instantly calculates that distance and then the remaining distance to the green. This is far more fluid and flawless than the UPRO which took some time to calculate same. That way, you can sort of figure out you want to hit "just a 7 iron" and instantly see where it put you to a desired yardage, and go from there.
The green view is a bit of a disappointment, however. And here, it falls below the UPRO again. In green view, you CAN move the flag around which is good (and just as easy on the UPRO), but distance presentation is a little confusing. It gives you distances, but only to the flag in the close up view (and maybe the back, I couldn't tell for sure).
Scorecard: It's a draw here. I did have to pay $25 to obtain that functionality on the UPRO, but it's out of the box on the G. The UPRO was the whole card, which you could always see, easily see what you did going out and coming in and could scroll the whole card. The G6 opts for different presentation. You have to enter the score on every hole but don't get to see the whole card laid out. It calculates your +1 or +4 for the round, but it doesn't let you easily go back and see the whole card, and requires a few key presses. You press the button on the screen of the device to go to score card mode, you then press another button that looks like a pencil to enter your score, and then you have to hit a few checkboxes and back arrows to get back to the main view so that you can advance or auto advance the unit. I didn't think this was necessary. I couldn't simply hit the right arrow from the scorecard mode to advance to the next hole. Over all, tomato, tomoto. It may be that I just am used to what I know. In order to see your numeric total, you have to go to scorecard, and hit a different button to bring up the detail screen.
Statistics Tracking: G6 wins here, no contest. It such a pain on the UPRO, I never did it, and was one of the reasons, I was looking forward to the G6. Right under your score it populates a numeric value for putts (I think the default is 2) and you move it up or down, for a very accurate accounting. I was hoping to calculate other statistics, but I haven't yet added clubs, because I think it will be too much trouble for what it's worth, and may require that you mark/measure each shot. More reading to do here, so the jury is out. For some reason, it had me hitting 10 out of 10 fairways, but I never entered anything or set anything up, and I certainly didn't hit 100 percent of the fairways. More practice here is required. Update: I found the buttons on the hole view that show an arrow to the left and arrow down the middle and an arrow to the right. All you have to do is hit the arrow to indicate you missed the fairway left or right or hit it. Should be pretty easy and fast to do on the next round, so this looks like a nice feature. You can view the scorecard and the statistics you track on a computer, by plugging in the Garmin to your Mac or Windows machine which will mount as a drive and you can see the viewers there which will put the documents into its html viewer for easy viewing.
Battery Life: G6 wins hands down again. I don't know how many rounds I will get out of a single charge, but I can tell you that it's 3-4 more than the UPRO easily. My UPRO barely got a single round, so much so that I kept a USB plugged into my car and just kept it permanently in the console of my car. No doubt the photo realistic view eats some battery, as well as brining up the course which has to be a bigger file than on the Garmin. The G6 charged faster and when I took it home to use the scrorecard viewer, it was still at 85 percent, indicating a pretty acceptable drain for a day on the course. Getting two or three rounds out of a charge will be very nice.
Courses: G6 wins again. The biggest reason I was looking forward to the G6 was because it comes pre-loaded with 25,000 courses on the unit, no downloading or syncing. While Callaway upgraded me recently with an "unlimited" account, I used to have to pay for the more detailed courses and still, regardless of the plan which is now unlimited, I have to engage in a lengthy and not altogether acceptable on a Mac, process of syncing courses. It was never fast, and I could never figure out why it was taking so long to add a single course. No such hassles with the G6. This, alone, might be reason to go with the G6, it's a huge advantage to know I just have to pack and carry it.
Conclusions: The G6 has a better touch and feel that the other units I have tried, and once it acquires the GPS, it's lock solid. I never lost connectivity, and it performed well after the initial hiccup. I think the answer is to turn it on a little earlier when I arrive at the course (which I never did with the UPRO because its battery life was so sucky I didn't want to waste it while putting and chipping). I don't enjoy the cartoonish graphics as well as the photo-realistic graphics I was used to, but honestly, it's all about the numbers anyway and at some point too much information is, well, too much information. I liked the easy of the interface, using the touch screen to move around and to get multiple two shot distances with ease. The cartoony feel of the graphics made me less confident on distance to bunkers and to clear them, but we checked the yardages against a laser (with elevation adjustment) and they were spot on. The green view is the greatest disappointment, but I think you will get used to it.
Strengths: small (enough to fit in a pocket), no dumb button presses even with the touch screen while in your pocket, touch screen, pre-loaded with courses, decent stat tracking, pretty easy interface, excellent battery life (it appears), accurate numbers and competitive pricing.
Weaknesses: cartoonish graphic presentation lacking detailed distances to out of bounds and forced carries, multiple key presses for score keeping, was slow (in the one trial) to acquire the satellite, and not great green presentation.
UPDATE: following several rounds, I still give the unit a 4 out of 5 stars. It's like a triple, but not a home run, and I still am struggling with the lack of photo realistic imagery. The numbers are solid, the unit is relatively easy to maneuver and the battery life is phenomenal. It's so great to know that I don't have to charge it for 3 to 4 rounds and that I don't have to mess with thinking, "hey, remind me to download the course I am going to play" or to wait 10 minutes for the course to download as with Callaway. After several rounds, the only thing that really bugs is still the lack of great distance to the trouble to clear the trouble, it's a little harder than it should be to really figure out what a new hole is doing. To be fair, I've been putting it to the test. Been playing lots of new courses because we are bored of the old ones. Solid unit with great advantages, some minor disadvantages that are more tied to preference than function.