After reviewing 18 laser measures over the past three years, I think small refinements are now making the biggest splash. When Bosch introduced the economical and feature-rich GLM 50 C laser measure late last year, key selling points included a bold new display and intuitive menu navigation. I’ve been evaluating this laser for a couple of months, and I think it sets a new standard for ease of use.
The GLM 50 C can measure lengths from about 6 inches to 165 feet. It’s accurate to 1/16 inch and shows fractions down to 1/32 inch. The backlit display shows bold white numbers on a dark blue background instead of the usual black on white. This advanced display is easier to read in most interiors but can be harder to read in the bright outdoors. Given that these laser measures are mostly used indoors, that’s a reasonable tradeoff. The display can be set to rotate automatically for an easy read regardless of orientation.
The GLM 50 C offers many of the same functions as competing models. You can measure a distance by simply pointing and clicking, of course, or take a continuous reading while moving toward or away from a target and click when you’re ready to hold a measurement, which also freezes the minimum and maximum distance measured (Bosch calls this the “Real Time” mode). But the former is usually the default mode when you power up a laser measure, while the latter is usually a menu option. With the GLM 50 C, however, Real Time is the default mode so the laser more closely mimics a tape measure. In Real Time, you can also either display the numbers in a large font with the minimum and maximum measurements omitted for an easier read, or display them in a smaller font along with the minimum and maximum.
The GLM 50 C can also calculate square and cubic feet, add or subtract dimensions and calculations, and lay out a series of equal intervals. A built-in inclinometer provides digital leveling, but it also works in the background to make indirect vertical or horizontal measuring exceptionally easy where direct measurements are impractical or impossible. The laser’s memory stores the last 30 dimensions or calculations in order, and you can delete individual entries or the entire memory.
During my target practice, I seemed to burn through the two included AAA alkaline batteries in a hurry. Switching to AAA lithium batteries would probably help. Too bad the device isn’t powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, like the longer-range Bosch GLM 100 C.
Unlike the other deluxe laser measures I’ve tested, the new GLM 50 C is a joy to navigate. Other than the measuring reference button (which sets the device to measure from the front, the back, or the tripod socket) and the Bluetooth button, all basic settings and measuring functions live under the function button. Quickly press and release this button, and you pull up a revolving menu that shows the measurement options plus the memory. You cycle through this menu by pressing the + or –buttons, then select the mode you want by hitting the function or measure button. Press the function button for about a second instead, and another revolving menu appears that allows you to, for instance, turn on the bold Real Time display or switch the units of measurement to metric.
Thankfully, there is only one button combination required; while viewing the memory, you can wipe it clean by quickly pressing and releasing the clear/on/off button while holding down the measuring reference button.
Bosch offers two free apps that allow the laser to interact with compatible iOS and Android devices. I downloaded the “GLM measure&document” app with my iPhone 6 and gave it a workout (stay tuned for a review of the “GLM floor plan” app, which works with tablets only). The Bosch manual doesn’t address the two apps, so I learned this one on the fly, tapping the help icons for more information.
The GLM measure&document app can manage your measurements in various ways. For instance, you can quickly transfer the laser’s memory to your mobile device, where you can delete or name individual measurements, perform calculations, and email the edited list as an Excel spreadsheet. Raising the bar, you can create and name a project folder, snap one or more photos with your mobile device, draw dimension lines on the photos with a finger, and then shoot the measurements with the laser measure. Follow the simple rules, and the app automatically places these measurements next to the appropriate dimension lines while also listing them under a separate tab. You can also drop text and audio memos into each photo, where they appear as virtual Post-it notes. When you’re ready, you can email a PDF of the project that includes everything but your audio memos. You can even insert your company logo and address in there. I created several test projects and emailed the PDFs and spreadsheets to my laptop, which was easy. You can also email the labeled photos or the measurement list separately.
I did encounter a couple of minor glitches with this app. For instance, it showed 5’4” as 5’3”1. Also, the app’s calculator defaults to metric during some operations.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I wish the Bosch GLM 50 C had a rechargeable battery, and you need to make sure you press the buttons firmly to register all of your entries. But this laser measure is a breeze to use, offers all the measuring functions I can imagine needing, and has a Bluetooth module that makes it easier to manage and share measurements. The standard $150 price tag would work for me, but the laser currently costs even less at amazon.com.
GLM 50 C Specs
Power: two AAA batteries
Bruce Greenlaw is a contributing editor to JLC and Tools of the Trade.