The best laser measure
A good laser measure fits in your pocket like a tape measure. But where a tape is restricted to about 25 feet, these tools can exceed six times that.
When shopping for a laser measure, you should decide whether one of the cheap models meets your needs or whether you need a more advanced model with additional features like built-in memory.
We've put together a quick, useful guide that outlines the key features you should consider. We've also chosen a few favorites. Our top pick, the Bosch Blaze, offers tremendous accuracy and distance, plus the reliability and durability that a busy professional demands.
Considerations when choosing laser measures
All laser measures use the same principle: projecting a fine beam of light that bounces off an object and then calculating distance by the time it takes the beam to return. So why are there such variations in the specifications and prices of those tools? It's partly the quality of the optics and software, and partly the feature set. A good starting point is the accuracy and range of a particular model.
Accuracy and range
In general, greater range and better accuracy indicate a more reliable laser measure. While some cheap laser measures have fairly modest range, we'd look for at least 150 feet. Accuracy to 1/16 inches will be sufficient for most, but models that go to 1/32 inch are also available and will produce more reliable results.
Measuring distance is the first thing you think of, but most of these tools offer much more than that.
Area measurement is a common function, as is volume. Most laser measures will also add and subtract one area from another, so you can work out unusual shapes.
More advanced models can also calculate pythagorean values (also called hidden values). This means that given the distance to an object and the angle from the ground to the top of the object, it's possible to calculate the height without directly measuring it. This is very useful if you need the dimensions of something you can't actually get to.
Many models use imperial or metric measurements, and some will give readings as either decimal or fractional.
Many laser measures have a memory, which eliminates the need to write down measurements as you work Capacity varies. A few models can also connect to your smartphone, tablet or laptop to record data.
All of these devices are quite compact, which makes screens small and can affect legibility. If you have difficulty reading, look for a model with a larger display.
Most laser measures are powered by AAA batteries (which are often included), and a few come with rechargeable lithium-ion versions.
The cheapest laser measures we looked at are around $25, though models in this range are generally less accurate and lack features like memory and area measurement. For $50 to $120 are more accurate models with additional features, and professional laser measures with Bluetooth functionality and extreme accuracy cost from $120 to $200.
Q. Are the laser beams in these tools safe?
A. You should never shine a laser at anyone to avoid damaging their eyes -- though with these devices it's unlikely to be dangerous. These lasers are either Class II or Class III (or variations of), the most powerful of which are still rated as "low risk of injury."
Q. Can I use a laser rangefinder for the same job?
A. No. Although technically they use the same principal, a laser rangefinder is designed for much greater distances. As a result, it doesn't have the accuracy required for precise measurement.
Laser measures we recommend
Best of the best: Bosch's Blaze Pro 165' Laser Measure
Our take: A pocket-sized high precision device that is perfect for the jobsite.
What we like: This high-accuracy model provides distance, area, volume and pythagorean functions, plus live readings. Rugged IP54 rated case. Digital level.
What we dislike: Very little. Fractional measurements are difficult to read.
Best bang for your buck: TACKLIFE's HD60 195' Laser Measure
Our take: A surprisingly wide feature set in a tool that's cheap enough for DIY users.
What we like: Capable of a range of readings, including volume and adding and subtracting measurements. Bubbles ensure accurate alignment for vertical and horizontal measurements. Fractional or decimal readout.
What we dislike: Inconsistent quality control. Can produce different readings over the same distance.
Choice 3: Leica's Disto 200' Laser Measure
Our take: A very compact model from one of the world's leading manufacturers of optical devices.
What we like: Excellent range and ISO-certified accuracy. Will calculate distance, area, and volume. Dust and splash-proof, with an IP54 rating. Belt clip, holster, and batteries included.
What we dislike: Bluetooth can be flaky. Users are critical of app. Expensive.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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