This story/review will take place in parts, and as I write this first part, I can’t tell you how it will end.
This is a review of the Callaway uPro gps, which is the model which looks kind of like an iPod Nano Video, just thicker, actually it is very much like my Sony W580i phone, complete with circle control pad.
I received a SkyCaddie SG2 for Christmas 2006. I had a love/hate relationship with SkyCaddie- I think that many users might. On the love side, it is accurate; it has a huge library of courses, which Skygolf professionally maps, or users can upload for the courses that don’t have the professional maps. The professional mappers put a wide range of intermediate targets which provide you with a good idea of what’s coming up if you have never or infrequently played a course. The units are fairly small (they are much smaller now than my SG2 was) and are made out of fairly solid plastic.
On the Skycaddie hate side - the subscription system. I am not a traveller, I will play maybe three or four out of town courses a year, so the base price of $29 isn’t so bad for every course in the state. The problem for me is that Memphis, where I live is zero miles from Mississipp and zero miles from Arkansas. 3 courses I regularly play are in Mississippi, one is in Arkansas (I will play once a year), and then we will usually take one sojourn to Alabama for the RTJ courses a year - so then the cheapest plan is $50. Why I can’t just pay $30 for the first 15 courses or something I don’t know. Second, you license for the period of the subscription only the courses you download. At the end of my first year, I downloaded the ten courses I would most likely play and then was set for my subscription to expire, and then surprise, 20 days after the expiration, my Skycaddie would not let me access those courses until I paid again. The capacity- why is it only ten? This is not a huge amount of data, seems like 10 courses is a little slim.
And then there is the technologically weak side of why to dislike Skycaddie - for quite a while the website was slow and clunky - it did get better, but it still seems a little clunky. The Customer Service is another weak side - while I have heard that they do a great job in repairs, folks who tell me this also say it was a b*&ch;to get someone on the phone. If you decide to stop using your skycaddie mid-year, or worse you break it, you can’t get a pro-rated refund, or until recently were not able to transfer your remaining time to a new Skycaddie.
Now I will say this too- Skycaddie is probably turning around a bit from the pressure of the building competition. I had signed up for a 3 year plan at my expiration this year which did allow for a transfer, and when I crushed my Skycaddie a week later, they did give me a refund—but only because the renewal was just a week earlier, if 30 days had passed, it would be no joy.
After the mess with the renewal last year (my expiring courses) - I decided to try laser which requires no subscription. I bought a Bushnell Tour V2 with Pinseeker.
The love - everything it is supposed to do, it does excellently. It is exact. It is instant.
The hate - none.
I put in another thread my thoughts on gps vs laser. They do two different things. If you want more on that, reply and I will answer what I think or can. But I will just say in summary, for me I found that gps is a better system - for having intermediate targets, and because distance to the flag is not as important as distance to center of the green is. I have learned that my skill, I should not normally aim for any flags, but instead the center of the green. Handicap is dropping since I came to this realization, so I think its right for me.
So I broke my Skycaddie SG2. I cancelled my 3 year contract, and got back my $130. I decided to sell my Laser on eBay, and try and get either the coolest of the gps’s, the uPro, or one of the new ones with no subscriptions. Turns out the uPro is both; additionally Callaway has bought the company, so it now no longer seems like a startup, but the technology will be supported. I actually got one on eBay for $319, no tax, no shipping, essentially for $25 more than what I sold the laser and got in the refund from Skycaddie. I considered that a win.
The uPro system is noted because it actually has a flyover function of arial photographs (probably satellite) of the golf holes you are playing. You can see the real hazards, and plot distances from where you are to these targets. At least that’s the promo information. You actually pay a one time fee to download any course with the arial view, or as uPro calls it the Pro view.
And then now, uPro allows you to download basic information about the course, similar to what the other GPS’s do with intermediate targets and such- all that is free.
So it arrived yesterday, and I am so excited.
The unboxing. This unit is small. It does not have curves like a Skycaddie, or rubberized grips. It is not slick, slick plastic, it seems like the plastic grips a little, and then the back has large dimples, which aids grip- It is featherlight. In the box- the unit, the battery (of course proprietary), a USB cable, a USB charger, and a earplug?
and that’s it. No beltclip, no mount of any sort. uPro shows guys putting their gps in their pockets, is it going to get a good signal there? It certainly wouldn’t disturb you- it is is slightly larger than my Sony w580i phone, but it is lighter I think. I would have liked a little sleeve to slip it into so it wouldn’t get scratched by keys, tees, or the phone also in the pocket. Of course, all the other accessories are available for a price. But the beltclip, even Skycaddie gives you that.
The packaging itself is very nice. It is just cardboard and foam, but feels like you got something nice.
I took it to work and patiently waited for lunch to try and load it up with my course to then go there and drive around checking it out.
First impression of the website, it is fast and professional. Better design than Skycaddie. The one weakness is that you can’t, while searching, use checkboxes to select the courses you want. You have to click a button, and validate that you will pay for the course whether it is the free basic or the pro which actually costs. The company deals in credits, a pro download looks like it always costs 3 credits, and those are in various package sizes - one at a time it is $10 for 3 credits/1 course, or there are packages which get it pretty reasonable down to a 2-3 bucks I think per course, and of course this is lifetime.
I plugged the gps into the PC, and it sets itself up with XP and Vista, and ends up looking like a thumbdrive to the system wanting to run the sync program.
Here is where I got into trouble doing it at work, the sync program had a problem - and I had to call tech support - he thought it might be a firewall, and I should try from home. I concurred, being a sysadmin for my workplace, our security software is pretty tight and restrictive. Bummer.
But I will say this, calling tech support - man it was a dream compared to that first call to Skycaddie. It took about 5 minutes to get an agent, but the guy was knowledgable and helpful, and offered tips and I felt like he was really taking note of the problem. I never got that sense of caring from Skycaddie - usually those calls ended up like they quoted restrictions to me.
The uPro rep inquired about where I bought,—whoops! am I going to get support here? I payed $80 under current street by buying on eBay. I was honest and told him what was up. He asked a few questions about s/n and such, and I asked “You don’t think it is hot do you?” —which he immediately replied that no he didn’t think so, he was just trying to determine firmware level. It seemed clear that they were going to support me whether I bought from a guy on eBay or TGW or Golfsmith. Good thing too, I already have the unit, and they could tick me off and block me from the site, even if it was possibly hot—or they could let me register and let me buy courses and service from them. Only one choice for them if they want money from me (plus if they cross referenced me with Callaway systems, the dude might not want to tick me off, I have almost all Callaway stuff).
So I went home. Plugged it in. gps started syncing - and it gave me a nice progress meter that it was progressing and done a few minutes later - and how much? 25 basic courses, and 1 pro course. And how much memory was left? About 80% of the 1gb is still free. Wow. I could hold at least 100 basic courses in this.
I did ask they guy earlier if I could put in more than a 1gb MicroSD card, he told me it wasn’t supported. My gues s is they want you to stick with their proprietary cards. Some research I must do, because this calls for putting in a 4gb or so.
So I pulled up the pro version of my home course, which I will be playing Friday and Saturday. And first real disappointment - it isn’t the course! My club has two courses, and I downloaded both, and they appear to be the same course—the one my group doesn’t play often.
I called again - Tech support open until 10pm pacific (WOW! Skycaddie can suck on this one, they close pretty early I recall). At 7pm Central, 5pm Pacific, dude answers first ring, no wait. Told him what was up and gave him the course name- and he told me that someone earlier this week had called on that, and they anticipated a new version of the course by early next week at the latest. We will see how that goes.
He also reviewed my user account, checking my current firmware, and wanted to check to see if I had other questions. I asked about some Robert Trent Jones Alabama courses, which I will probably visit in April, but they don’t have mapped, and he said that it was scheduled prior to April, but he would put a rush on those. He also told me he would have someone email me later this week for a status on both my course and the RTJ. We’ll see- I have been promised emails from Skycaddie, never got one—Something tells me I will see one this time.
So how does the one course look? Well in the ads, it looks like a little HDTV. It seems a little fuzzy, but essentially, it looks good. The flyover gives you a different point of view, and I can see where this might really give some great information and a new perspective.
Technically, it seems slick as goose crap (which on our course we have alot of). I think this might be an OLED screen, as when it goes dim, the pixels seem like they are still turned on. I can’t wait to see how this performs.
BTW- the earphone? It actually has a video instruction built into the gps with audio. Wow.
I will post the conclusion after I go out with it this weekend. But I think I am going to be really happy.
Ok, so I went out the first time with the new uPro today. Before I went, I reviewed the limited documentation again, and found that it suggested actually turning off all backlighting for the screen and then viewing with the sun shining directly on the unit.
I turned on the unit about 20 minutes before tee time, and then noted that on the first hole, it looked like battery power was down to 80%. Hmm. That’s a concern. I went ahead and turned down the backlight at that point (you can adjust from 100% to 0% backlight). Now, with that little change, there was very little change on the battery meter for the entire rest of the round. Now in reflection, I think that the battery meter just may show Full, 3/4, 1/2, 1/4, Empty. After there was enough to no longer be considered full, it showed 3/4, and was pretty much there the rest of the day.
Also on battery power- I am used to the Skycaddie, which stays on all the time. The uPro goes to sleep within a minute or so after it is used. The next time you go to it, you press a button and it wakes up- wake up time is rather quick, and within about 10 seconds it reaquires your location and shows current distances.
Now what features did I find useful? I have to say, we played the course we always play (the club has two courses, we play one of them 80% of the time), and there is nothing tricky about the course, so the flyovers were not necessary for me. The distances seem right on. Compared with a partner’s skycaddie and another partner’s laser, as well as the 150 sticks - the distances are spot on.
As far as viewing the hazards and intermediate view - I like the pro view, which shows the overhead satellite and then distances to various points on the harzards—- but if you don’t like where it has marked a distance, you can also move a pointer to another location on the overhead, and it shows your distance to there. Also, I like the proview green view, which provides an overhead picture, with the green outlined, and various distances marked on it.
The basic view is useful too - but you have to learn icons to read the distances, where the skycaddie actually gives you in text what your distances are. A few icons aren’t that hard to learn - so I will need to do that. (some are obvious).
One thing that Skycaddie does is when aapproaching a green, it rotates the diagram of the green so that you can see the orientation of the green directly from your position. The uPro doesn’t do this.
I will leave it there for now. We play again tomorrow morning and I will write more after that.
Ok, so today it was not as productive on the course as yesterday - after breaking 90 for the first time yesterday, I was back in with a 94 today. It was quite a bit windier, but I don’t blame that - I went waterhazard > waterhazard twice today after the first drive being fairly good. I also scored a bogey on a par 5 which I was within 30 yards of on the second shot.
So about the uPro. One of the last things I raised in the last update was the lack of the “intelligreen” feature which the Skycaddie rotates the green so it is in line with your attack. The uPro does not do this, because it uses satellite imagery which I assume doesn’t rotate as well- or it could be a patent that Skycaddie has on that method—in either case, the uPro achieves the same effect by marking the green in a way which shows your angle into the green and displaying the yardage to the front, center, and back.
Further, where the skycaddie shows a little information on the bunkers around the green, the uPro actually has the bunker’s pictured. This could be useful if there is a bunker on the side or back which is obscured in your line of sight, or if there are multiple pot bunkers, you could see if some are grass or sand bunkers (assuming that hasn’t changed since the last satellite update).
On the power management, I clicked up the backlight to 30% today, so I didn’t need to worry as much about the lighing when viewing the unit (which really isn’t bad at all for any functions other than the flyover). The limited backlight had little effect on the battery power. It read 100% for the first few holes, and 80% through #17, then it read 60%. This would be comporable to a Skycaddie SG2. It does have a standard USB mini connector, and I will probably pick up one of the cheap battery extender’s portable rechargers (they are less than $30 for some models I think) - which takes AA’s, for when I go on a trip where I am going to play 2 rounds in a day. The uPro might made these days, but on crowded slow courses, I have had the Skycaddie run out of juice in the second round - no reason to try and push it with an easy solution for it.
I did use a feature on the uPro today which is not possible with the Skycaddies or laser. Finding myself in a strange area, with a lake directly ahead, followed by a sizable landing area with another lake to the side, I bought up the pro view, to show the satellite imagery, and then I scrolled over the area I wanted to land in, and it showed the distances to a hill which could catch my ball, I could check the distances across the far end of the lake ahead to see if I could clear, and get a clear view of how far left I could go before I ran into trouble with the second lake. I could use non-pinseeker mode on a laser to give some of this information, if I could get a view of the far bank, but I was below the horizon and some other bumps on the course, and that would have been difficult. The Skycaddie would tell me how far to clear the first lake, but it wouldn’t give me much of an idea on the rest of the landing area. I would likely have not tried the shot I did without the information of the uPro, but with it, I knew that I had a reasonable chance of success, and as it turned out, I did land safely in the desired landing area.
The other example in my course where I can see this uPro only feature being very valuable, is the 18th on the course we don’t play that much. It is a dogleg right par 5, which turns at the 150 pole with a fairly narrow fairway, split by a creek, and with a 30x40 yard pond in front of the green. To make matters worse, the view of the 150 - 80 yard area is completely obscured by 2 pine trees. A laser won’t work to tell the distance to this area, other than hitting the trees. Skycaddie gives distance to the creek and the lake and the distance to the trees, but exactly where the creek and pond are marked is unknown. By using the uPro pro measure mode, you can take the cursor and move it around the desired landing area and it will show you distances to the cursor.
The uPro measure mode can also help you measure how much will be left for the next shot. Lets say you are 350 yards to the green, and you want to go to a landing area off to the side around a troublesome bunker. You can measure the distance to that, and then it will tell you the distance to the center of the green.
The uPro ads say that the free basic courses provide as much information as other gps’s, that isn’t quite right. The intelligreen of Skycaddie is more functional than than the basic mode of the uPro. Further, the descriptions of the hazards in the Skycaddie can be pretty good, and while there is an icon to indicate the hazard type in the uPro, I don’t think it is quite as useful as the information in the Skycaddie.
But the Pro mode I haven’t seen on the other gps’s, although I understand there are some new models coming out, including one that looks very iPhone-esque—some of these will undoubtedly have these features. I will also say that the pricing structure of the uPro I like much better than Skycaddie. I really like the fact that my service will never expire; one of my playing partners yesterday had his Skycaddie expire Thursday, and on Friday he played 3 holes when the Skycaddie locked him out of the course. Probably the wrong time to do that when I was trying out my new uPro right next to him.
I was a little hesitant to go with uPro, but now they are owned by Callaway, it would seem they have the support for the long haul. With all the various gps’s entering the market, there will certainly be a squeezing out of quite a few of them- I bet that other than Skygolf, Bushnell, Garmin, and Callaway—the others could all be out of this market in a couple years.
I will stop short of saying I am crazy about the uPro, but I do like it. With functionality of both lasers and the Skycaddie, as well as functions that neither can do through the pro mode, I am pretty happy with this.
The SG2 was an awkward device, size-wise - but it did feel like it was thick rugged plastic, which did take a couple drops in it’s life. I wouldn’t want to drop the upro, especially on a cart path. The way it fits like a cell phone in your hand makes it I think a little less likely to get fumbled, but I am sure it will be at times. I also won’t just leave it in the bag regardless of conditions as I am a little more concerned about temperature changes on the LCD screen and scratching the LCD screen (which might be OLED, but either way).
The Skycaddie SG2 also was awkward on your belt - sticking out about two inches off your hip, with the buttons exposed on the side to get rubbed against the cart chairrail. The uPro is not much bigger than the smaller phones, I got a leather case which completely protects it, and it just feels like a cell phone which sticks out less than 3/4 of an inch from my belt. I wore it for both rounds and didn’t notice any discomfort (which normally I wear a cell and blackberry, so this seemed like nothing). The newer Skycaddies SG2.5, SG3.5, and SG5 all are quite a bit smaller than the old units, but I think bigger than the uPro.
If you are looking for a Rangefinder, either Laser or GPS, I think you should consider the Callaway uPro.
Once you buy the course credits, you just get that in your account, you can download whenever. Current terms say there is no expiration, so if you bought 50 courses but if it takes 5 years to play and select that many, then the credits are good all that time.
Also their current FAQ states that if you lose, damage, or get your gps stolen, that you can deactivate it from your user page and activate a new one, and then reload all your courses.
A couple weeks back I lost my uPro. It was so small and light, I never noticed that the gps and case had left my belt and stuck to my desk chair. Didn’t notice it was gone until I was on the course a few hours later. Couldn’t find it all weekend, and ran myself ragged trying to find it. Luckily, when I came to work on monday, my eyes fell upon it immediately. The uPro being so light, as the case fell off my belt, the magnetic latch had stuck to the arm of my chair, and there the uPro sat all weekend. Whew!
Since then, I have played two more rounds with it, and I am loving it more and more. I was a little concerned about the calibration, but I found that if I thought things might be off, I could just go to pro measure mode and it would show me exactly where it thought I was and I could see it was right in about 4 checks I did. The distance to center of green was about a yard or two off from the fellows with Skycaddies, but that is a difference in mapping. I never found it, in perhaps a dozen checks against gps or laser, to be off by a significant amount, the most was 2 yards from a Skycaddie.
As last Saturday was overcast, I also ramped up the backlighting, and when I finished the round I had 60% or better (it goes in 20% increments) battery. This is comperable to what a SG2 would use on battery.
Also, as I had my incident where it was lost, er um, misplaced. I did call uPro at 7:30 pm central on Friday and got an answer from techsupport on the first ring. Awesome. There is only so much they could do to help me, but it was still cool to get a knowledgeable tech support person that quick, late on a Friday. And then on Monday when I called to report the unit found, they were attentive and marked it as such with the same rare professionalism I am now expecting from uPro.
I am loving this gps! the only drawback is that I think that I am not crazy about how featherlight it is. The clip on belt mount I don’t like because it leaves the uPro pretty exposed. I am searching for another case for it, and I will be fashioning my push cart mount in a few days—I suppose I would like carrying it in my pocket, except that pocket (front left) is reserved for my iPhone, and I would not want to carry anything else in the same pocket with the uPro or the iPhone.
BTW - I was wondering the makeup of the screen if it was OLED or LCD. The uPro CSR answered that question - it is just a plain old LCD, but it is slower decay (and thus better power saving) than your run of the mill LCD.
The last two days I used by uPro without charging in between to determine what the battery usage would be. I probably used it around 12-14 times each round, and after about 9 hours of use total, it had 20% charge remaining.
Beautiful day today (and yesterday). about 68 yesterday and 70 degrees today.
I don’t have any personal experience with the UPro, but I have spoken to a few people in the last few months who have, and they have all had very positive feedback. I still use my old-school Bushnell’s. (I’m too cheap too replace it)
Well, at the time I got the uPro, I had a iPhone 3G, and the Apps were a little more limited then. I was finding that the iPhone was slow to settle on a position - where the units like the uPro and the SkyCaddie with dedicated GPS chips were more exact.
The uPro like the iPhone apps relies upon mapping via satellite. The uPro at that time marked courses in house from satellite photos, and most iPhone apps will go from public databases.
Another factor was battery life. the iPhone 3G could easily get its battery pretty eaten by a single round of golf, and if you didn’t start with a full battery, you might have none at the end of the round. SkyCaddie SG2 and the uPro both go 2 rounds on a charge, but if they do die, you are not losing phone capability. My wife is understanding about my golf but she DOES expect to reach me.
However, since I wrote a lot of the above, I now use an iPhone 4, and the battery is good for a round and a little more.
Ironically, I actually earlier tonight downloaded the Golfshot GPS App. I will write later on that.