Reviews of Best Golf GPS Devices – Garmin Approach G3

OVERALL RATING

The Garmin Approach G3 is the latest Garmin-branded golf GPS device, and delivers everything that the predecessor Garmin Approach G5 unit does, in a smaller package and with a lower price. “Breathtaking. I shall call him… Mini-Me. “

The G3 is a solid unit (maybe a little too solid when you slip it into your pocket, since despite its small size, it’s still relatively heavy at 5. 35 ounces – compare this to the Callaway uPro at 3. 1 ounces). Like the G5, it suffers from one of the problems inherent with touchscreens, which is that it can be difficult to accurately pinpoint your desired targets (particularly if you have large fingers), Garmin S60 Premium but the touchscreen also makes navigating among the G3’s different features simple and intuitive. Garmin’s use of illustrations of holes, as opposed to actual satellite photographs, is really starting to grow on us – the illustrations are much brighter than photographs, and are thus viewable in all light conditions. An added bonus is that the Gamin Approach G3 requires absolutely no set-up time at all, with all courses pre-loaded on the device.

One of our few complaints is that we wish the device had the ability to track statistics – an unfortunate oversight for a premium device. And while we’re nit-picking, the combination of the G3’s bulky shape and weight make it a bit of a brick in your pocket. A 20% smaller and lighter brick than the G5, but a brick nonetheless.

Pros:

Matches the G5 with the best user interface we tested
Can determine the distance to any point on a hole
No set-up required – courses are all pre-loaded
No fee for access to the course database

Cons:

No tracking of any statistics (fairways hit, GIR, putts, sand saves, et al)
When the user touches the screen to determine a custom point, the pre-marked points are not viewable
Course availability still lags a bit
Short battery life

Retail price: $349. 99

SETUP
SCORE: 100
GRADE: A+

The good: The Garmin Approach G3 scores a perfect 100 for setup – all the user does is install a pair of AA batteries (not included) and turn on the device. Courses are pre-loaded so no downloads are necessary.

The Bad: Absolutely nothing.

Details:

Required Steps. None – there isn’t anything that the user needs to do. Garmin’s web site provides a free application (the WebUpdater) that can be downloaded to the user’s computer – once the Garmin Approach G3 is connected to the computer with a USB cable, WebUpdater should automatically find the latest software and sync it to the device. In addition, Garmin has promised to make periodic updates to the course database available for free from its web site.
Time Required for Setup. None, other than the time it takes you to find a pair of batteries.

What’s in the Box: The Garmin Approach G3 comes with:

USB cable
Quick Start Guide
Belt Clip

Required Downloads:

None

COURSE AVAILABILITY
SCORE: 79
GRADE: C+

Critical Golf Test: Garmin keeps adding courses to its database, now scoring 79% in our course coverage test. Unfortunately, that still keeps it as second to last among its competitors. An encouraging sign for Garmin is that its course availability is now within striking distance of the other devices that also display overhead hole maps (illustrations or satellite photographs).

Manufacturer’s Claims: Garmin claims to have over 12, 000 courses in the database, which currently places them tied for last in our course coverage comparison test.

EASE OF USE
SCORE: 95
GRADE: A

The good: Nice simple interface to access different features. Courses are all stored on the device, so the user doesn’t have to decide which ones to swap on or off of the device’s memory. The touchscreen makes finding distances to a targeted point (as well as the distance from that point to the middle of the green) as easy as touching the screen and moving a cross-hair over the desired point.

The Bad: Pre-marked distances are not viewable while the user is using the touchscreen to determine a custom distance. While targeting a desired point your finger may block the view of the cross-hair and distance. Two words of advice to Garmin Approach G3 purchasers: rechargeable batteries. We kept getting a warning screen that the battery power was “too low for full backlight”, even when the battery meter was showing between 1/2 and 3/4 of a charge remaining.

Details:

Buttons. The Garmin Approach G3 only has a single button, the power button, which powers the device on/off if held for a few seconds, or if pressed briefly when the device is on, will display a screen showing the date/time, a battery meter, and a button to touch to lock the screen. All other information and controls are accessed through the touchscreen. The interface on the touchscreen is intuitive, and the ways to access different functions are clearly labeled.
Screen. The color screen is bright, and we had no problem viewing it in sunny conditions. The G3’s screen size is about 20% smaller than the G5, but we didn’t notice any difference in usability.
Touchscreen Sensitivity. We had a bit more of a problem with the touchscreen of the Garmin Approach G3 than we did with the G5 – on occasion, we had to push a button multiple times before it would activate. This is more of a minor annoyance than a tragic flaw. We note that we still had the occasional issue with the device accidentally advancing to new screens or new holes when jostled around in a pocket. You can solve this by clicking on the power button to move to the “standby” screen, but that then necessitates hitting a button when you want to get back to the display of the hole.
Form Factor. The device comes in at 5. 35 ounces, making the G3 one of the heavier GPS devices we tested. The length and width of the Garmin Approach G3 are actually quite compact. Unfortunately, it’s a thick little sucker – while its length and width are comparable to a Callaway uPro, it is basically twice as thick.
Starting a Round. After powering up the G3, the user needs to manually select the desired course. Courses are listed in order of proximity to the current location. Once a course is selected, the device defaults to displaying the first hole of the course – if you are playing just the back nine or in a shotgun start, you have to manually press the “>>” button multiple times to advance to the relevant starting hole.
Battery Life. Battery life is relatively short, though we were able to make it through two rounds before the batteries died. The device does automatically reduce the brightness of the screen after one minute of inactivity to conserve battery life. One really annoying glitch – when the G3 batteries are near the threshold charge level for triggering a warning screen that battery power is insufficient for full backlighting, the device seems to frequently change its mind about whether there actually is sufficient power or not… and thus, it will re-display the warning screen 2 seconds after it just showed it to you and then again… and again. Once the charge level drops comfortably below that threshold, the problem seems to go away.

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