This is the showdown so many golfers want.
For all of the warranted excitement about how many great golf launch monitor options we have in the sub-$1,000 category, for the majority of consumers shopping in this class, it really comes down to a choice between the product that started it all, the Garmin Approach R10, and the product that’s challenging for the throne, the Rapsodo MLM2PRO.
If there were a title fight for best affordable golf launch monitor and simulator, this would be the matchup.
It was Garmin that established this product class in 2021 when they released the Approach R10. They were the first to introduce a totally legitimate golf launch monitor that didn’t cost a fortune. And, man, has it been popular! So much so that retailers like PlayBetter.com have at various times been unable to keep them in stock. For a long time, if you wanted a great but affordable launch monitor, you were definitely trying to find a Garmin Approach R10.
The R10 is still wildly popular. Even two years in, after several software and firmware updates, it is more than holding its own.
But it’s no longer got the stage to itself.
There’s a new kid on the block, ready to challenge for affordable golf launch monitor supremacy. And its name is the Rapsodo MLM2PRO.
Like the R10, the MLM2PRO is an absolute head-turner. It introduced an entirely new set of features that have made it the hottest piece of golf technology in 2023.
Reviews for both the R10 and MLM2PRO have been mostly rave, pretty much equally positive about each. And these two products do so many things similarly. The problem has now become: How do you know which one to buy?
That’s what we’re going to answer today. The time has come for these two to duke it out. I’ve scored each product on a scale of 0 through 5 in 10 categories. And I’ve included a breakdown in each category, explaining my findings. At the end, we’ll have a total score. For the sake of consistency, this is the same format I used when putting the Rapsodo MLM2PRO up against the Swing Caddie SC4.
- First Impressions Upon Unboxing
- Setup Process
- Outdoor Use
- Indoor Use
- Simulator Use
- Annual Subscriptions Cost
But before we get too bloodthirsty for battle, let’s remember that even after an exhaustive comparison, we won’t all agree on the winner. Yes, I’ll tell you which one my rating system says is best. But the real value for you is in identifying which of the 10 categories are most important to you. Pay attention to those the most, and form your own opinions accordingly.
Are you ready to decide, once and for all, which of these two best golf launch monitors to buy?
Let’s do this!
Golf Launch Monitor and Simulator Price
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 3; Garmin Approach R10 = 4
For starters, the R10, with a retail price of $599.99, is a hundred bucks less expensive than the $699.99 MLM2PRO. So there’s that. But as you’ll see when we get to the subscriptions section, the gap widens even further. The bottom line is that you’re likely to spend more owning the MLM2PRO than the R10.
I couldn’t quite give the R10 a full 5 rating because a competitor like the Swing Caddie SC4, for $549.99 and with no subscription add-ons, does a lot (not all) of what the R10 does for less money.
And I didn’t go any lower than 3 for the MLM2PRO because $699.99 plus subscriptions is still a hell of a value for all that you’re getting. Remember, it was only a couple of years ago that we could only dream of getting this much launch monitor data and simulator functionality for less than $1,000.
I honestly think that both of these devices represent a steal of a deal. But these scores reflect how they stack up price-wise relative to each other and the other options available.
First Impressions Upon Unboxing
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 5; Garmin Approach R10 = 4
The R10 impresses immediately with its compactness. Right out of the box, you’re left with a feeling of, “how could something that’s only the size of a deck of cards be capable of so much data retrieval?” I also love the all-black look of the R10 unit and the short tripod to which it magnetically mounts.
But the MLM2PRO just screams quality right from the box. It was a bit of love at first sight in my experience. It just looks like an awesome piece of technology. And my initial takeaway from this introduction was also along the lines of amazement that something this compact could do so much but also a feeling of “damn, how can a piece of technology this legit cost so little?”
So, while it’s very close and while both products make a very strong first impression, I’m giving the nod to the Rapsodo.
Golf Launch Monitor Setup Process
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 4; Garmin Approach R10 = 4
Both of these devices are incredibly easy to set up. I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say again after this: We are so incredibly fortunate to be living in an era where we can get technology like this at prices like this and you don’t have to pull your hair out to get them up and running.
For both the MLM2PRO and R10, setup includes charging the device, downloading an app, pairing the app and the device and setting the launch monitor about eight feet behind the ball. Other than charging, the whole process for each launch monitor takes only a couple of minutes.
I do prefer the alignment process of the MLM2PRO over the R10’s. The built-in cameras on the Rapsodo make it simpler and that much faster to get aligned perfectly. But it’s not quite enough to bump it to a different score.
The only way that setup could be any easier is if you didn’t even have to bother with an app. That’s the case with the Swing Caddie SC4, which scored a 5 in this category in a separate comparison post. And it’s the only reason that the MLM2PRO and R10 top out at a 4.
Launch Monitor Portability
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 4; Garmin Approach R10 = 3
The Garmin Approach R10 is smaller than the Rapsodo MLM2PRO, both the unit itself and when each of them are fully assembled on their tripods. The R10 is also lighter.
So, how could the MLM2PRO be more portable than the R10?
It’s because of the carrying cases that are included with each unit. In the case of the R10, for my taste, it’s just way too big and bulky. It takes a tiny product and makes carrying it unnecessarily cumbersome. It’s like carrying a piece of paper in a briefcase. Set next to the R10 itself, the case looks gigantic. And when I store it in the large side pocket of my golf bag, closing the golf bag stresses its zipper. The case is just too wide.
The MLMPRO, on the other hand, comes in a flat, sleek, totally functional case that’s my favorite of any of the golf launch monitors. There’s no wasted space and it fits in my bag easily without bulging out of the side.
Golf Launch Monitor Data
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 5; Garmin Approach R10 = 4
Armed with two cameras and Doppler radar technology, the Rapsodo MLM2PRO delivers an incredibly impressive array of data for this price point. The metrics include:
- Carry distance
- Total distance
- Side carry
- Club speed
- Smash factor
- Launch direction
- Launch angle
- Spin rate
- Descent angle
- Spin axis
- Shot type
The Garmin Approach R10 offers a comparable set of data. But, because it’s a radar-only unit, it is only directly measuring ball speed, club speed, launch angle, and launch direction. Everything else is calculated based on an algorithm. Conversely, the Rapsodo directly measures seven of the metrics.
That’s really what wins Rapsodo the extra point here. Both devices are impressively accurate, even compared to the much-more-expensive Foresight Sports GC3. For both the MLM2PRO and R10, you will need to use special golf balls to get accurate spin data. Rapsodo provides three of those balls with the purchase of the launch monitor, while the Garmin doesn’t come with any. Another minor point in favor of the Rapsodo.
It’s incredible that we can get so much accurate data for less than $1,000. As we’ve talked about, it wasn’t very long ago that you would have had to pay a lot more money for this kind of performance. So both of these devices deserve their high ratings, but the MLMPRO is that much closer to perfect.
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 5; Garmin Approach R10 = 5
There’s so much to love about these golf launch monitors as fun, game-improvement tools for out on the driving range.
Yes, the R10’s carrying case is too big. But it’s technically still very portable. As is the MLM2PRO, of course.
Both of these products will easily read shots hit off of either mats or natural turf. Some units, like the SkyTrak+, really only work off of mats, which is a big drawback for outdoor users. That’s not an issue with the Garmin or Rapsodo.
We’ve talked about the impressive array of data that you get along with the consistent accuracy of the numbers.
And we talked about the simplicity of setup, which is always a big plus when you’re trying to get numbers quickly out on the range, maybe before you play a round.
I think that both Garmin and Rapsodo have knocked it out of the park with how enjoyable they’ve made each of these products for outdoor use. A tie for the highest mark in this category seems appropriate.
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 4; Garmin Approach R10 = 4
Both of these products get docked a number here compared to their outdoor use scores for the simple reason that they both have to be set up behind the golf ball. That means that you need a good amount of room depth, ideally at least 16 feet. Not everybody has that kind of indoor space for a simulator setup, so this score notes that drawback.
Then again, if you’re planning to play indoor golf with both righties and lefties in the same session, having a unit that sets up behind rather than to the side becomes an advantage as there is no need to move the device to accommodate standing on different sides of the ball.
Still, I think that for most indoor use cases, this much room depth requirement presents some challenges. It’s why I think options like the Bushnell Launch Pro, Foresight Sports GC3, and SkyTrak+ make for better indoor options when space is tight. Then again, all of those products are considerably more expensive than these two.
Golf Launch Monitor and Simulator Features
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 5; Garmin Approach R10 = 3
One of the coolest features that I’ve seen in a golf launch monitor under $1,000, or at any price, is the built-in cameras on the MLM2PRO. After each shot that you hit, you automatically get a full video replay. You can choose to see either your full swing or just the moment of truth at impact. And you can slow down the video if you want to study your shot in more detail. I think it’s an incredibly useful feature.
You can also get full-swing (no impact) video using the R10, but you have to use the camera in your phone to do so. Personally, the last thing I want to mess with at the range is setting up my phone and making sure it’s positioned just so in order to record my swing. I love having this as an automatic feature with the MLM2PRO. With the R10, the extra work means that I never use it.
I also love the Combines practice feature with the Rapsodo. It allows you to gamify your practice by recording 24 of your swings with three different clubs and then giving you a full breakdown, including a handicap with each club and tips for improvement. It’s a feature that makes practice fun and focused.
My favorite feature with the Garmin is the included phone mount. This is a two-piece clip/mount solution that allows you to attach your phone to something like your golf bag. It makes it so that you don’t have to bend over to pick your phone up off the ground or wherever you’ve propped it when you want to review data on the app. It’s a brilliant feature. Every manufacturer should develop a similar solution.
I also like the “Ball Impact” screen on the Garmin app. You get a visual representation of your clubface at impact, showing you the clubface angle, spin axis and launch direction. I think it’s a nice visual add-on to all of the numbers you get with each shot.
In the end, I find the Rapsodo features to be state-of-the-art. And while I do like a couple of these extras with the Garmin, it just doesn’t have quite as many bells and whistles.
Golf Simulator Use
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 4; Garmin Approach R10 = 5
Both of these launch monitors give you the ability to have a lot of fun playing simulated rounds. But the Approach R10 gives you access to more golf courses.
With the R10, you get compatibility with E6 Connect, Awesome Golf, the Golf Club 2019, and Creative Golf 3D. Between those leading simulator software providers, that’s a huge menu of golf courses from which to choose. With any third-party software package, you are going to have to pay for a subscription.
The MLM2PRO is compatible with E6 Connect and Awesome Golf. Not bad at all, but not as many options as with the R10.
You do get five free E6 Connect golf courses with the purchase of the MLM2PRO, but to play simulated golf, you’ll need to spring for the premium subscription, which we’ll cover more below.
You also get five free E6 courses with the purchase of the R10, but they are limited to iOS-only use.
Both the MLM2PRO and R10 also give you access to video-game-like, animated simulated golf. And with that style of sim, you get access to pretty much every golf course in the world. With the R10 it’s called Home Tee Hero. On the MLM2PRO, it’s Rapsodo Courses. Both are super cool and a lot of fun.
Annual Subscriptions Cost
Rapsodo MLM2PRO = 2; Garmin Approach R10 = 3
The good news is that you can use both the Rapsodo MLM2PRO and the Garmin Approach R10 without paying for an annual subscription.
The bad news is that you’re probably going to end up paying for an annual subscription.
That’s because so many of the best features and functionality with both of these devices requires a subscription. Especially with the MLM2PRO. With that device, it feels almost bait-and-switch-like. To get pretty much all of the best benefits we’ve discussed in this post, you’ll need the Rapsodo premium subscription. It costs $199 per year.
With the R10, it’s going to cost you $99 a year or $9.99 monthly for the Garmin Golf Membership if you want to play Home Tee Hero, record and store video clips, and get green contour data.
It seems that we’re stuck with something of a “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” scenario when it comes to golf launch monitor subscriptions.
Adding up the Scores: Which Golf Launch Monitor Should You Buy?
The moment we’ve been waiting for: Which of these best golf launch monitor candidates is the best golf launch monitor?
Our final tally has it as:
Rapsodo MLM2PRO: 41
Garmin Approach R10: 39
That’s incredibly close! This is by no means a decisive win for the MLM2PRO, but by my method of evaluation, it is the better product. Barely. And that, to me, makes it the best golf launch monitor under $1,000.
Make no mistake, the Garmin Approach R10 is absolutely phenomenal. And, depending on how you personally weigh the above consideration categories, it very well may be the preferred choice for you. If that’s the case, I say trust your gut. I’m sincere when I say that I don’t think you can go wrong choosing either of these products.
Do yourself a favor and give serious consideration to adding a golf launch monitor to your golf life. These things are so much fun to use, and they can teach you a ton about your golf game. Now that we’ve got affordable choices like these, there’s never been a better time to buy one. They aren’t free, but at least they are now much more reasonable than they were even just a few years ago.
Hey, the holidays are coming up. Which of these two launch monitors is going on your list?