Top critical review
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Very basic functions, discontinued model
on December 29, 2013
This is a review of the Garmin S1 GPS Golf Watch but for comparison purposes I will also describe how the S1 stacks up against the Bushnell Neo X gps watch. Both of these units have similar prices and time-telling functions, so I will focus my comments mainly on the golf functions.
Size: A major appeal of the S1 is that in pictures it appears to be smaller and more streamlined than the Neo X, which is rather boxy. In hand, because of its round shape the S1 continues to look more streamlined, but it is actually heavier and thicker than the Neo X, which also has a narrower band than the S1. Winner: Neo X. (BTW, neither watch was heavy or bulky enough to interfere with my golf swing; after a couple of rounds I really didn’t notice either watch.)
Legibility: Both the S1 and the Neo X display hole number and distance to front, middle and back of green. However, the main figure of distance to center of green is larger on the Neo X. I am farsighted and play golf without glasses; I can clearly read the center distance on the Neo X but not on the S1. I believe this is due to the fact that the display area of the Neo X is larger than that of the S1, so the Neo X can show larger-size figures. Even with glasses on I found the Neo X’s display of course names easier to read than the S1’s. Winner: Neo X.
Special features: Both the S1 and the Neo X can measure shot distances and have an odometer function. However, the S1 lacks the ability to show distances to hazards, which the Neo X does; and the Neo X also has a timer you can set to turn your unit on a few minutes before your tee time. Winner: Neo X.
Cost: The S1 and Neo X cost about the same. Winner: tie.
Battery time: The Neo X battery lasts at least twice as long, 2-3 rounds vs 1 round for the S1. (The Neo X actually claims to have enough battery life to play 3 rounds, but so far I have only played 2 without recharging; after 2 rounds the remaining battery life as per the battery charge icon seems to show enough for a third round.) Winner: Neo X.
Satellite acquisition time: On more than one occasion the S1 has taken 20-30 seconds longer than the Neo X to acquire a satellite lock-in. Winner: Neo X.
Strap width: The S1 strap is wider than that of Neo X. Winner: Probably a tie for men, ladies may prefer the narrower strap of the Neo X. Winner: depends on personal preference.
Color: Both the S1 and Neo X are available in black and white. I prefer black because it doesn’t show dirt and dings as much as white does. Winner: tie.
Charging mechanism: Both the S1 and the Neo X charging mechanisms are poorly designed and awkward; a clip with tiny metal prongs must be carefully aligned with tiny holes on the back of the watch in order for charging to take place. Both watches get a grade of “D” on this criterion, but I find the Neo X mechanism to be easier to insert and less likely to pull loose while charging. Winner: Neo X. (Note to Bushnell and Garmin: Hire away an engineer and a designer from Apple to solve this vexing problem.)
Issues: I have had no problems with the Neo X, but have to return the Garmin S1 because of occasional lapses in displaying the distances to the pin and other readings. I believe this is a quality control issue rather than a design flaw, so if you buy an S1 make sure you can easily return or replace it if it malfunctions (this is one main reason I shop with Amazon whenever possible).
Overall: The S1 is an initial model no longer manufactured by Garmin so it has only very basic functions. Garmin’s later models (S2, S3, S4) have more bells and whistles but cost 2 or 3 times as much as the S1. The Bushnell Neo X costs about the same as the S1 but shows the distance to hazards, has a more legible distance-to-center figure, and has much longer battery life, so the Neo X is the better choice.
Disclosure: I have no personal or business relationships with Garmin or Bushnell.