[VINE CUSTOMER REVIEW OF FREE PRODUCT. Find out more: https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/vine/help]
I've been meaning to purchase one of these for ages. I do a lot of renovating and love drawing up plans to test out ideas. My struggle with the spring-loaded metal tape becomes frustrating for longer measurements, the hook unfastening and the tape measure rolling up, or it bending and flopping around when I need it straight. At these moments the Bosch Digital Laser Distance Measure was so easy and accurate. I've been able to measure and plot rooms in quick succession. Draw up accurate plans. It has been a Godsend. I've not yet fully played around with all the functions - just the basics. There is a detailed instruction manual which I need to sit down to fully familiarize myself with this product, but even now this laser measure has mad my life so much easier. Now I just need to get a stud finder and my kit is complete.
[VINE CUSTOMER REVIEW OF FREE PRODUCT. Find out more: https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/vine/help]
Lasers! Lasers while cool (especially on sharks but that's a different story) can be dangerous when used incorrectly. Please read the instruction manual before you use the product - especially the parts about what you should never do with a laser based product. It is not a toy, incorrect usage can cause damage to your or others eyesight (including pets and other animals). Know what is behind and around what you may be pointing this device at and let others know that a laser will be in use if there is any chance that someone may walk between you and the object you are pointing the laser at.
Generally it would be a good idea to read the manual anyway if you want to get the most out of the device - it will make it a lot easier to understand everything that can be done with the PLR 50 C. I'm going to refer to it as the device almost everywhere though PLR 50 C is not something that rolls of the tongue or is easy to remember.
This measuring device can do a lot of things. I'll go through them in this review. I also tried out the app (PLR measure&go) on an android phone (it's available for iOS as well) but that will be at the end (communication is over Bluetooth - read the manual - there's some rather dire warnings and reminders about bluetooth on page 26).
What's in the box (photo attached to review - Doh! I got the device upside down):
a) Batteries b) The device itself c) A wrist strap (which I'd recommend using since the manual says that dropping the device may affect it's accuracy) d) A protective cover e) The manual
What can it do (I tested them all):
1. Length measurements (photo of the device in length mode attached to the review) 2. continous length measurements (showing current, min and max) 3. Area (photo of the device in area mode attached to the review) 4. Angle (does not use the laser - the device seems to have an internal accelerometer or gyroscope) (photo of the device in this mode attached to the review) 5. Volume 6. Spirit level (photo of the device in spirit level mode attached to the review) 7. Indirect length measurement 8. Distance based on angle 9. Area for non-square areas (allows you to add or subtract areas) 10. Indirect height measurement (from ground) 11. Volume for non-square areas 12. Indirect height measurement (based on two measurements from the base and the top)
For all of these different things you can set the device to measure from the front of the device, the other end of the device (which is what I used) or with the positioning plate (it's black you can't miss it) on the back extended. Look for the "button" just under the battery level to change this mode.
Before that adding the batteries. It wasn't immediately obvious what to do. You need to extend the black positioning plate and then push the top of the battery compartment cover down (it has the triangle pointing down on the tab). You don't need to use a lot of force - it should come out with very little effort and put the provided batteries in. To turn on press the round red button on the front (with the white triangle on it).
One of the best features is that it has a touchscreen so you don't have a lot of buttons that you need to learn. Because the manual is in a lot of languages they've avoided text on the screen - it makes it easier and simpler. A lot of what you'll be doing though is pressing the big red button rather than the touchscreen.
Now the different measuring modes I mentioned above.
1. Length measurements - This is strict point to point measurement. It does not care about the angle of the device so its good for rough measurements but if you're not holding it close to level the distance will be greater than if it was level.
2. Continous length measurements (showing current, min and max) - This is similar to 1. above but it shows you the current length as well as the min and the max seen. If you're trying to find out how far away something is look at the min length if it's a flat surface.
3. Area - Allows you to measure the length of something and then the width and the device will give you the area (it needs to be rectangular).
4. Angle (does not use the laser - uses an internal accelerometer or gyroscope). This will tell you the incline of something. There's a photo of it in the review placed on a floor tile.
5. Volume - Similar to area but instead of just measuring length and width you add in height to be given a volume.
6. Spirit level (does not use the laser - uses an internal accelerometer or gyroscope) - This will give you a display showing the degrees off level something is.
To get to these functions you'll need to press the white upside down triangle (i.e. down) on the touchscreen.
7. Indirect length measurement - This feature allows you to measure a length and then add or subtract another length. If you can measure a direct instance do that instead it will be more accurate.
8. Distance based on angle (uses the laser and the internal accelerometer or gyroscope) - with this method the angle you hold the device at doesn't matter it will tell you how far away it is using trigonometry (so you don't have to know it).
9. Area for non-square areas (allows you to add or subtract areas) - this is basically the same as 3. above but instead of just a single area you can add or subtract other areas (the +/- is on the touchscreen) and you can keep going adding and subtracting. The manual details the maximum area it can calculate.
10. Indirect height measurement (uses the laser and the internal accelerometer or gyroscope) - the important thing to note about this mode is that the result is the height above where you are holding the device not from the ground. If you want to measure how high something is from the ground use 12. below or hold the device at ground level.
11. Volume for non-square areas - This mode is similar to 5. (i.e. volume measurement) and 9. (adding and subtracting) above except for volumes so you need to measure length, width and height.
12. Indirect height measurement (uses the laser and the internal accelerometer or gyroscope) - This calculates height based on based on two measurements from the base and the top. Since the device knows the angle and the distance to two points it can calculate the height using trigonometry. Because it will be using trigonometry it's important that you not change the height of the device or distance to the object between measurements when using this mode or you will not get accurate results.
Things that may not work as well (this affects all laser based devices though). Take extreme care using the device with a reflective surface. A mirror will reflect laser light. All of the warnings about direct laser light apply to reflected laser light. The device may not be accurate when pointed at a reflective or transmissive surface, for example from my testing:
1. I got some weird or no readings when it was pointed at a glass kitchen splashback (I also saw a reflected laser light) 2. When pointed at a mirror (in such a way that it would reflect back at me) I sometimes got a correct distance and sometimes double or more distance. 3. Windows - sometimes I got no results and sometimes accurate results (which was probably dirt on the window) and once a weird distance. When held directly onto the glass the result was accurate for what was on the other side of the window (taking into account the mode that the device was in).
In general don't do any of the above if you want to be safe and want accurate results. The manual mentions that other surfaces may also cause issues (porous, other reflective or structured surfaces, e.g. insulation material, polished metal, and natural stone). I didn't have anything available to test those surfaces. I did however test brick, color-bond steel, wood, frosted glass as well as walls and they seem to all work fine.
There is a help system on the device that uses simple animations to show you what to do. They are simple and do not include any text. I assume that's because the device is sold in many countries so they chose not to localise a heap of help text (which would also require that you choose a language when first powered on).
Now for the stuff that you may find boring but should really know (but these are the highlights that I got from the manual). If you're after more exact measurements there is a calibration method (it calibrates the angle measuring functionality not the laser - there's a method for monitoring the accuracy of the laser in the manual) and information about general accuracy at different temperatures. There are dos and don't as well in the manual if you want the device to provide accurate results. It can operate from -10C to 50C (continous laser modes will not work above 40C - I wasn't able to test that it was not a hot day) and provides measurements up to 50m.
The manual does say that you should not subject the device to extreme temperatures or variations in temperature and specifically says: "As an example, do not leave it in vehicles for a long time." and goes on to explain that you should not use the device until it has a chance to reach ambient temperature (for extreme variations in temperature).
Then it says that extreme temperatures or variations in temperature may affect the accuracy of the device. I don't know what effect extreme temperatures have in terms of accuracy may have (it's unclear if it's talking about long term issues) but if you're getting it out of a car and the device is hot (e.g. 40C) and you go into an office that is 20C give it a chance to reach the new temperature before using it.
The (free) PLR measure&go app is easy to use but unless you're measuring stuff all the time or need to have a permanent record of it the app is probably not worth it. You will need to pair the device to do that start the app and then press the bluetooth logo on the device. You can take photos and draw things on it and annotate distances or use graph paper and draw things on it. To annotate a distance draw a line or select a line then take a measurement and it will automatically appear on the measurement selected (note that you cannot record an angle on a line or a distance on an angle).
The app (as far as I can tell) is not going to be able to deal with professional CAD software - it looks like the info is mostly recorded to jog your memory about measurements taken. The only way I could find to export the data out of the app (measurements on graph paper) was to share it - I emailed it and got a pdf with the graph paper and then a list of the measurements and when they were taken. I think a mode where you could create something like spreadsheet where you could enter a comment about the measurement and then take the measurement would be a useful addition to the app. There are two screens shots from the app included into the photos for the review.
I actually had fun, believe it or not, putting the device through its paces. It's simple to use, it seems to be accurate and if you're measuring things regularly (e.g. room volumes for air conditioning volumes) or you have a project and you need some quick measurements that would be hard to do otherwise then this device may be of interest to you. For what the device is intended for I think it does it very well and the design makes it very easy to use - that's the reason for 5 stars.
I'm not going to draw any conclusions about if it is value for money that's only a decision you can make. I hope that this review is of interest to you and helps you decide if this device is for you.