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Most Golfers Should Buy the SGX Instead
on December 14, 2011
The SGX-W is the newest SkyCaddie from SkyGolf. However, newer isn't necessarily better, and in this case, the SGX would be a better choice for most golfers. The WiFi feature of the SGX-W won't help you to play better golf, and while it is a nice feature, as long as you have WiFi available on your laptop, you already have WiFi access on the SGX, using the USB cable connection. You cannot delete courses through the SGX-W WiFi feature---you can only add courses up to your 50 course limit.
Unfortunately, SkyGolf is using the same battery in the SGX-W as in the SGX. That's good for the SGX and bad for the SGX-W, as the SGX-W uses a faster processor which cuts the bootup time in half, but also drains the battery almost twice as fast, even with WiFi turned off. SkyGolf rates the SGX-W at up to 10 hours of battery life, while the SGX is rated at up to 14 hours of battery life. Both of these ratings are based upon a 0% Backlight setting which no one will ever be able to play golf with. The SGX-W ships with a 60% Backlight setting, while the SGX ships with a 100% Backlight setting, because they look prettier and are more readable with a substantial Backlight setting, if there is no direct sunlight to help backlight the transreflective screen. In practice, both will get you through one round of golf and need to be recharged thereafter, but you might get two rounds out of the SGX, while it is highly unlikely you'll ever get two rounds out of the SGX-W
Now for the biggest drawback of the SGX-W: the interface. SkyGolf chose to change the wonderful Joystick control on the SGX to an Optical Trackpad on the SGX-W, which cannot be used to make any selections on the SGX-W, unlike the Joystick on the SGX, which can be pressed to make a selection at any time of the highlighted menu option, just like a regular mouse. On the SGX-W, you must make selections with separate keys, as pressing on the Optical Trackpad does nothing. The intuitive movement of the cursor on the SGX screens to move the pin or the target in the fairway with the Joystick is now gone. To use the Optical Trackpad to move the cursor in these situations, you first have to unlock it, then move it with the Optical Trackpad, and then relock it to do anything else. The alleged reason for changing to the Optical Trackpad was that one or two SGX users had difficulty using the Joystick with a glove on. Why they are wearing a glove on the hand they don't play golf with is beyond me, but, be that as it may, early reports from golfers using the Optical Trackpad with a glove on are that they still needed to remove the glove to operate the Optical Trackpad! Greater precision was also touted as another reason for changing to the Optical Trackpad. However, in use, the Optical Trackpad is so sensitive that it flies all over the screen with much less precision than the Joystick on the SGX, which is a bit more sluggish, but that is what gives you more precision in its movement. So, both reasons for switching to an Optical Trackpad that can't even make selections are moot, and simply don't work to accomplish their purported purpose. SkyGolf should have stuck with the original Joystick from the SGX, as the SGX Joystick can, in fact, be used with a gloved hand, and it is, in fact, more precise than the Optical Trackpad on the new SGX-W.
That leaves us with RangeVue as a new feature on the SGX-W. While it sounds like it might be helpful in theory, in practice, it just clutters up the screens and makes them unreadable. You can get the same information on the SGX by simply moving the cursor to any point visible in the screen to measure the distance from your present position to that selected point, which is all RangeVue does with a series of arcs like topo map lines on the screen, that you will quickly decide you would rather not see. Fortunately, you can turn them off, and indeed, you must turn them off, to reposition the pin on the green using the measurements to the edges of the green from the pin, which cannot be seen, until you turn off the RangeView.
RangeView also gives up the functionality of the Info button on the SGX which allows quick access to the scorecard without using the buggy AutoVue, where you rotate the SGX to Landscape View either left or right, one of which displays the Intelligreen screen and the other the Scorecard. However, you have to enter the score from Portrait view, so you might as well stay there, because every time you change the orientation, there is a 2 to 3 second lag, while the accelerometer recognizes the change and rotates the view. However, the Landscape View should not be used for precise movement of the flag on the green to a known distance, because while in a horizontal position, the GPS antenna is horizontal and the least accurate, according to SkyGolf.
SmartPins, originally promised for the SGX, will supposedly be available on the SGX-W in January 2012. SmartPins are useless, unless your golf course supplies a daily pin sheet showing the exact location of the pin on every hole. If you play in tournaments where they supply them, this might be useful, but most SkyCaddie owners carry a laser measuring device to properly position the pin on the greens without needing someone else to tell them where they are. SkyGolf owes the implementation of SmartPins to all SGX owners, based upon previous promises, so it should be available on the SGX, too, although SkyGolf refuses to comment on this, and refuses to comment on the availability of SmartTags, which were also promised for the SGX over two years ago, and have never been released. Unless an advertised feature already exists on any unit when you buy it from SkyGolf, don't count on their ever delivering on it. They have a history of not following through.
Between the SGX-W and the SGX, you will spend about 10 more minutes during every round fiddling with all the buttons on the SGX-W, which you won't need to do on the SGX, because the Joystick allows effortless selections, without fiddling with several other keys that you have to read above, and to figure out which one needs to be pressed, to make the correct selection with another key. Also, you cannot lean on the Optical Trackpad, like you can on the Joystick, to keep scrolling down in a lengthy menu, like all the courses that match your first letter selection of the name of a golf course within your state, which can be well over a thousand, because you can't select the letter---you can only select a two letter grouping like A-B, C-D, or E-F, of the first letter of your course. If the course you are looking for is in the middle of that two letter grouping, you will have to swipe on the SGX-W some 125 times, as you can only swipe 4 courses with one swipe, whereas on the SGX, you just lean up or down on the Joystick until it gets to the right course, without any carpal tunnel stress on your thumb from 125 swipes, just to get to the advanced course you want to download via WiFi, or choose as a Preloaded Course to play, on either unit. There is a "Nearby courses" option which helps, but it is useless if you are at home and want to check out any course that is more than 10 miles away, or if you cannot get a GPS signal indoors for it to locate your location.
Several other gotcha's during the free 30 day trial. You cannot delete any courses via WiFi and you must download the free 10 courses via WiFi, so choose them carefully. Any course with three sets of 9 holes counts as THREE of your 10 courses. Also, the scoring features before activation during the free 30 day trial only keep your score until you power off the unit. You cannot save any scores on the unit during the free trial. SkyGolf really wants you to activate the unit and not use the free trial, and activating requires signing up for a minimum 1 year subscription, which is NOT refundable if you return the unit within the 30 day free trial.
Club SG BETA is just that: a Beta product which has been in Beta now for over two years and can be shut down at any time by SkyGolf without notice or obiligation, according to the fine print disclosures in the box. Their Forum prohibits any postings that are even the slightest bit negative about any SkyGolf product, or even hint of any criticism of SkyGolf, or any of its policies or its censorship of user postings, which are summarily deleted for any reason they want, rarely with any notice. Posts just mysteriously disappear. Any thread without a new post within the last 30 days is always deleted along with all the relevant content within it. Bumping threads to keep them alive is prohibited. Most threads are immediately locked by SkyGolf, if SkyGolf responds, however incompletely, preventing any further follow up questions, and any further discussion. Support through the Forum is at SkyGolf's whim. Requests for help regarding the SGX-W and the SGX often go for days or even weeks without any response from SkyGolf, if they aren't summarily immediately deleted.
SkyGolf has also been known to put out multiple buggy Optional Updates without disclosing that they are Optional and encouraging users to download the buggy Optional Updates for weeks after they have been informed of their buggy nature, pouring gasoline on a burning fire. Earlier this year, it took several months for known issues causing scores to be corrupted to get fixed, while SkyGolf pretended that the problem was isolated to only a few users, and yet every user who had been duped into downloading the Buggy Optional Update had the problem. SkyGolf refused for a month to even provide a rollback option to the last stable release, and once it was available, one had to turn over control over one's personal computer to a stranger in India to attempt to install it, to fix the buggy SkyGolf software on its unit attached to the computer, and before beginning such an online chat session, one had agree that if the stranger messed up your computer or your data on it in any way, SkyGolf could not be held responsible in any way. Many users went through all this, and found that the online techs in India weren't even properly trained and failed to accomplish the rollback, after spending hours online in one of these failed chat sessions. Many SGX's were bricked in the process. SkyGolf replaced them, but this never would have been necessary if SkyGolf had pulled the Buggy Optional Update as soon as they became aware of it, instead of pushing out the "virus" to the masses, which also caused premature Activation expiration messages that weren't resolved for months.
The battery in the SGX-W and the SGX is not user replaceable and will cost $90 to have replaced by accepting a refurbished unit with a "new" battery in it. SkyGolf has been known to install "old" batteries as "new" which can only be ascertained by opening up the unit to see the manufacturing date on the battery inside (you'll need a #10 security torx screwdriver--about $10 online). If the battery manufacturing date is more than 3 months from the date of assembly by SkyGolf, the battery has already lost some of its useful life, which is 2 years from date of LiPo battery manufacture, even if it was never used, assuming it was also stored properly by SkyGolf upon receipt from the battery manufacturer until installation in a SkyCaddie, which is also questionable, as new units have shipped with no measurable battery remaining. 6 to 10 month old batteries have been installed in units as new, and there have been numerous reports of premature battery failure, which, as long as the units are still under warranty, including the extended warranty, are taken care of through a free refurbished unit with a newer battery in it. Typically, a 10 month old battery is replaced with a 6 month old battery that SkyGolf claims is "new" as it has never been used. Unfortunately, LiPo batteries begin dying on the day of manufacture, regardless of use.
All this being said, the SGX is a great unit, but I cannot recommend the SGX-W which is a real battery hog, with a terrible user interface, that will get in your way and just frustrate you to no end, especially if you compare it to the wonderful SGX joystick. SkyGolf has rejected numerous user suggested improvements to the SGX, because they claimed they would slow down play, and require pushing too many buttons to implement. Well, in the height of hypocrisy, they have now given birth to the SGX-W, the SkyCaddie with the absolute worst interface in 10 years, which requires more button pressing to play with than texting War in Peace (with apologies to Leo Tolstoy, who wrote a great novel)! Even SkyGolf's original SG2 from a decade ago, which still offers 90% of the golfing functionality of the newer units had a much better interface with a central point of control for moving the cursor that didn't require unlocking to move the cursor, and relocking after every movement of the cursor to continue.
SkyGolf is offering a free $75 accessory package for anyone activating an SGX or an SGX-W before January 1, 2012. However, be aware that they are deliberately delaying the shipping of the protective safety accessories until 4-6 weeks after activation, so you should pay the extra $13 and buy the protective silcone skin from Amazon in the mean time, so you don't break your new toy when the belt clip stays unlocked and allows you to lift out the SGX or SGX-W accidentally when bending over. If it happens in the parking lot on concrete or asphalt, you will damage it, unless you have it in the silicone skin.
SkyGolf also offers a $20 6-month extension of the 6-month included warranty, making it a year. No matter which SkyCaddie you buy, purchase it. If you don't, it will cost you $90 out of pocket to replace your unit out of warranty every time SkyGolf can't "fix" your unit over the phone. SkyGolf does not repair SkyCaddies. They, instead, send you a refurbished unit, even under warranty, after the first 30 days. Be aware of this, and don't get too attached to "your" original new unit. SkyGolf treats them like new full propane tanks that are exchanged with a slightly used (but new looking) tank full of propane, when the propane needs "refilling" because the SkyCaddie no longer works properly, for whatever reason. Even a replacing a scratched, clear plastic cover screen on the original SG2, which is just a clear piece of plastic of the right size, will require paying $80 for a refurbished SG2, as SkyGolf refuses to sell you the piece of plastic, which is easily replaced by unscrewing a few screws with a regular Philip's head screwdriver.
SkyGolf's "online" support is outsourced to India after normal business hours in Mississippi, and you cannot speak to these online technicians, so you won't know that you are chatting with an "English language challenged" person until they start taking control of your computer, while forcing you to release them for all liability for damage to your computer caused by their negligence while trying to repair your SkyCaddie over the internet. Their names are all American "phone names", but they can barely insert boiler plate text into a chat session, let alone understand English, and will be chatting with multiple other people at the same time, so expect to be in a chat for an hour or more, in most cases, to get any help, which sometimes have been known to brick SkyCaddies and corrupt the user's computer. I wouldn't trust them to even watch my golfbag, let alone take over my computer! My recommendation: never use the online chat. Instead, call SkyGolf's Customer Service on the telephone Monday through Friday before 3pm CST, when the most senior and competent people are available. Unless it it something really simple, 99% of the time, SkyGolf will simply send you out a new looking refurbished unit, and you send them back your unit with a prepaid return label (pretty good deal!), which is why you will need the extended warranty for $20, if you don't want to keep paying $90 every time this happens out of warranty. Some users have gone through three or more bad units to get a good one, as quality control can be lax at times in the refurbishment process, as the refurbishers have no idea what problem the unit was returned for, since it isn't documented. Many problems simply won't show up on a bench test, and only will become apparent during play with the unit, and some may not show up immediately, even then, if the unit was abused during the previous owner's frustration, in a way which causes premature failure, but is hidden inside a new case.
Finally, any user mapped courses stored on your SkyCaddie will be lost when you accept a Refurbished unit in exchange, and you will have to remap all of them again. Get over it. :) SkyGolf claims that the reason they only offer the ability to self map 5 courses is to make room for more advanced courses, and yet there is sufficient memory on the SGX-W and SGX to store over 30,000 Preloaded Courses which contain the same exact information that any User mapped course would contain. There is room on both units to store 29,995 more User mapped courses, if SkyGolf wanted to allow it. The SGX-W boasts room to store 40,000 Preloaded Courses but it only ships with 30,000 so it has room for 10,000 user mapped courses when it ships, but you can't use the memory for more than 5 User mapped courses, which is the only way to use the unit and avoid paying an annual fee.
Lastly, even though there are 30,000 Preloaded courses on both the SGX-W and the SGX when it ships, as soon as you activate a membership, the Preloaded courses remaining on the device will be limited to those within the same geographic area as the membership you selected to activate. The $30 annual Birdie membership gets you access to all the courses within your state, so the only preloaded courses you will be able to access are those in your state---the other 29,000+ Preloaded courses will be automatically deleted. You can't use the Preloaded Courses outside of your state without upgrading your annual membership to a $50 annual Eagle membership, which includes all of the United States. If you want all 30,000 preloaded courses after activation, you must buy the International Double Eagle Annual membership for $60 per year. Multi-year discounts are available, but with the ubiquity of GPS in every Smartphone, and $20 Golf apps which are competing effectively with standalone devices, SkyGolf, which is a privately owned company, may not be around in three years, if they continue down the path they are headed with the SGX-W. Buy one year at a time. Many who have bought multi-year subscriptions have regretted the loss they had to absorb when another device came along that delivers today, what Skggolf promised, but still hasn't produced, which fraudulently induced them to buy a SkyCaddie in the first place, to their detriment.
Use the 30 day free trial available on the SGX-W and the SGX, if you are still unsure about which is right for you, or whether you want to even commit to SkyGolf, as I have, but I don't trust SkyGolf, and neither do most users. However, their SGX is still the best Golf GPS, even if it is missing some features, like a needed 3rd level of SkyGolf Zoom on all Par 5's, to see the same 135 yard detail on Par 5's as you see on all Par 4's before you go to the Intelligreen screen. Currently, the closest HoleVue screen on Par 5's still encompasses 250 yards of the hole, with no ability to zoom in any further, other than the Intelligreen. Unfortunately, the Intelligreen is often missing large pieces of the greenside bunkers that would help you to better see the greenside hazards in larger detail, and better figure out where the pin is on the green, using the hazards around the green for a frame of reference from your location.
Buy an SGX instead of an SGX-W and save yourself a lot of grief. It will help you play better golf without getting in your way. Fortunately, although it has taken 2 years, SkyGolf has finally gotten all the bugs out of the SGX firmware, so it is now a stable unit, and sells for $125 cheaper than the SGX-W. Save the extra money, and take a golf lesson instead, which will help your golf game more than WiFi!