Hilti PD-E Laser Range Meter 
Hilti Hilti PD-E Laser Range Meter 

Laser distance measuring devices, also known as laser distance meters and laser distance finders, use laser light bounced off a fixed surface to determine the distance from a fixed reference point on the unit to the target at which the device is aimed. 

A handy pocket electronic tool, they allow precise measurements of distances up to several hundred feet. The devices eliminate the issue of obstructions in the path of space being measured. What’s more, they allow measurements to be make in places where it might be dangerous to tread--high ceilings, over water, or wherever a ladder and traditional tape measure would be inconvenient or impossible. Contact points can include the front edge, the rear edge, the threaded bushing on the back side (used for supporting the unit on a tripod), and a fold-out extension. 

As the operator cycles through the functions, an LCD display on the unit shows a graphic of the type of measurement being taken (in one , two, or three dimensions) and a place holder for each measurement to be taken, along with another place holder for the result.

Laser units measure more than linear distance. Many units can calculate area of a room or space, cube and cylindrical volume, indirect horizontal and vertical distances where the target is obstructed or there is no direct access to the target (e.g. on a wall on the façade of a building), indirect measurements on ceilings, and trapezoidal area--useful to measure the length of a roof. A laser distance finder can also save time and boost accuracy when setting out and marking positions for stud framing or other stake-outs. 

Look for these differentiating factors: measurable distance, degree of accuracy, number of measuring modes, memory (number of measurements held), whether the unit supports Pythagoras functions for indirect measurement, inclination sensor (which enables height tracking, use of device as digital level/angle finder, and indirect horizontal distance measurement when line of sight is blocked), side viewfinder which helps in bright sunshine, screen options to optimize indoor and outdoor onscreen readout; type of battery; whether dust and splash proof (to IP54 standard), tripod mount, and Bluetooth technology.

Laser devices offer either single or continuous measuring mode. Single measurement is essentially a point-and-click at the target. Continuous measuring supports rapid updating (several times per second) of the measured distance as the device operator homes in on the target and then presses the button to freeze the measurement on the display. A laser device can also be used to home in on a designated distance.  

The devices allow for adding and subtracting distances. Adding is handy for determining the total linear length of components such as molding, conduit, or fencing. Subtracting would be useful in figuring out the distance between the underside of a duct and the ceiling, eliminating the need to climb a ladder or fit into a tight space with a measuring tool.   
Some units feature Bluetooth technology for exporting data, Many are dust tight, others are water-protected, and several carry an IP rating.    

Street prices range from around $50 for a basic unit to several hundred dollars, depending upon measuring range and advanced features. Most manufacturers offer a range of units—the more features, of course, the higher the price. 
  

The Hilti PD-E Laser Range Meter has an ample screen display for easy viewing of measurements in a variety of conditions.
Hilti The Hilti PD-E Laser Range Meter has an ample screen display for easy viewing of measurements in a variety of conditions.

1/ With a generously sized screen, the Hilti PD-E Laser Range Meter (www.us.hilti.com) features an optical sight on the side of the device for measuring distances greater than 30 feet; this is also handy for outdoors and when the laser spot is difficult to see or completely out of sight lines. The unit has rubber protection on all edges, a sensor automated backlight, an inclination sensor for fast indirect measurement, E-paper technology for enhanced readability in bright light, and LED reference indicators. The tool can measure from five different reference points and includes a fold-out spike that makes it easy to take measurements in inside corners. A “favorites bar” provides quick access to the most frequently used functions.

Product Details

Range: 650 feet
Measuring accuracy: +/- 1/16 in  
Measure reference: 5 - front edge, rear edge, thread on underside, spike, and accessory PDA 72 measuring extension that screwed into the underside of the tool
Memory: 30 results
Functions: single distance, areas and volumes, special functions (inclination, painter’s area, setting out, min/max/delta, timer, offset, data memory, continuous tracking, plus/minus, trapezoid, Pythagoras function, indirect measurement, tilt, favorites bar,  outdoor mode 
Illuminating display: YES
Protection Class: IP 65
Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.4 x 1.1 in. 
Weight: 0.36 lbs.
Type of battery: 2 x1.5 V AAA
Battery life: up to 5,000 measurements
Pouch: YES
User guide: detailed, explaining step-by-step how to perform every type of measurement
Pro: Has very large screen and five measuring points. Very thorough instruction manual; heavy-duty secure carrying pouch  
Con: Lacks Bluetooth


The IP 65 certified Leica DISTO E7400x has been tested to survive drops up to 6 feet.
Leica The IP 65 certified Leica DISTO E7400x has been tested to survive drops up to 6 feet.

2/ The Leica DISTO E7400x (http://disto.leica-geosystems.us/) is a ruggedized unit that is IP 65 certified, with

housing and keypad that are dust tight and jet water protected. The unit has been tested to survive drops onto hard surfaces from up to six feet. It has an integrated 360º tilt sensor, it incorporates fiberglass-reinforced plastic bracing on the interior, and the solid rubber components protect the measuring elements against damage from drops. The unit measures from the front edge, back edge, and – using the integrated endpiece connected to the circuit board – from two additional reference points. When the endpiece is open to 90 degrees, the device measures from the back edge; if the endpiece is flipped open to 180 degrees, the unit measure it measures from the furthest edge, which is useful when measuring from an inside corner. A thread on the base allows for connection of the device to a tripod.

Product Details

Range:  390 feet
Measuring accuracy:  1mm or ~1/16 in  
Measure reference: front edge, back edge, 2 positions from endpiece 
Memory: 20 results
Functions: distance, rectangular and triangular areas, volumes, room dimensions, various types of Pythagoras functions, true horizontal timer delay
Illuminating display: YES
Protection Class: IP 65 certified (dust tight and jet water protection) 
Dimensions: 4.8 x 2.2 x 1.2 in 
Weight: 5.5 oz. 
Type of battery: 2 x AAA
Battery life: 5,000 measurements
Pouch: YES
User guide: YES on disk + fold-up graphical quick start reference  
Pro:  Compact, IP 65 certified, meets ISO 16331-1 standards for distance and accuracy (according to the manufacturer, the only manufacturer on the market to achieve this) 
Con:  Small mostly text-free quick-start guide; manual on disk only and also sparse on text
The Bosch GLM 100 C Laser Measure with Bluetooth® Wireless Technology has a dedicated Bluetooth button and an onscreen icon that activates when Bluetooth is operating.
Bosch The Bosch GLM 100 C Laser Measure with Bluetooth® Wireless Technology has a dedicated Bluetooth button and an onscreen icon that activates when Bluetooth is operating.


3/ 
Powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery, the Bosch GLM 100 C Laser Measure with Bluetooth® wireless technology (www.boschtools.com) performs measurements at lengths up to 330 feet and angle measurements in two axes. The unit syncs with a free mobile measurement app to instantly transfer measurements from the device to smart phones or tablets (Android devices with Bluetooth 2.1/Bluetooth 3.0 and Apple iOS devices with Bluetooth Smart technology). Utilizing the unit’s measurement camera app, a user has the ability to sketch or overlay digital measurements onto jobsite photos taken with a smartphone. The device, which sports a tripod thread and an illuminated flip display with a tilt screen that supports reading and interpreting in all directions, can also be remotely controlled from a smartphone or tablet. In addition, Bosch’s GLM Transfer software (also free) supports transfer of measurement data via USB to the user’s Windows PC. Measured values are assigned a date and time stamp.   

Product Details:

Range: 330 feet
Measuring accuracy: +/- 1/16 in 
Measure reference: 4 – Front, back, extension piece, tripod mount
Memory: 50 results
Number of functions: 10 length, area, volume, angle, min/max, continuous, single indirect height, single indirect length, combined indirect height, multi-surface 
Illuminating display: YES
Protection Class: IP54 water and dust resistant 
Dimensions:  4.375 X 2 X 1.18 in  
Weight: 0.3 lbs.
Type of battery: Rechargeable Li-ion 3.7V  
Battery life: Up to 25,000 measurements
Pouch: YES
User guide: YES
Pro: Bluetooth and mobile app software
Con: Takes about 3 hours to charge battery
Trimble Navigation Spectra's QM 55 screen display includes a signal strength indicator as well as a battery indicator
Trimble Trimble Navigation Spectra's QM 55 screen display includes a signal strength indicator as well as a battery indicator


4/ 
The Spectra QM 55 (Trimble Navigation Limited, (www.spectralasers.com), a compact rugged unit designed for indoor use, features generous overmold and electronic isolation and incorporates a signal strength indicator for accuracy. Featuring nine types of measurements, and four reference points, it sports engineered plastics, generous overmold, and electronic isolation for drop protection up to five feet. The bright illuminating display supports reading in dim lighting. The illuminated display operates by a dedicated button, eliminating the need to scroll through menus to turn it off in bright lighting, helping to prolong the battery charge.

Product Details:

Range: 165 feet
Measuring accuracy: +/- 1/16 in 
Measure reference: Front, center, rear, rear with extension
Memory: 50 results
Functions: Measure, continuous measure, area, volume, Pythagorean, add/subtract, stake out, indirect, double indirect 
Illuminating display: YES
Protection Class: IP54 Dustproof and Water Resistant (protected against water sprayed from all directions) 
Dimensions: 2.0 x 1.1 x 4.9 in. 
Weight: 6.6 oz.
Type of battery: 2 x AAA x 1.5V 
Battery life: 5,000 measurements
Pouch: YES
User guide: YES
Pro: Easy to operate; bright illuminated display; IP54 protected for dust and water 
Con: 
For indoor use only; small screen display; shallow, tight pouch--unit may inadvertently activate when pushed into it  


Stanley's TLM65 Laser Distance Measurer is lightweight and compact and features easy two-button operation.
Stanley Stanley's TLM65 Laser Distance Measurer is lightweight and compact and features easy two-button operation.

5/ Stanley TLM65 Laser Distance Measurer (www.stanleytools.com) is a lightweight compact point-and click unit that measures distance and calculates area and volume. Accurate to 1/8 inch, it’s a basic 2-button unit. One button activates on/off and continuous measuring; the other is pressed to calculate area/volume/units.  The unit includes a handy continuous measurement function, enabling easy accurate location of a specific distance from the target.

Product Details:

Range: 65 feet 
Measuring accuracy: +/- 1/8 in.  
Measure reference: Rear 
Memory:  most recent result only
Functions: Single measure, continuous measure, area, volume
Illuminating display:  NO
Protection Class:  NONE
Dimensions: 6.1 x 316 x 1.1 in. 
Weight: 3.7 oz.   
Type of battery: 2 x AAA 1.5 volt
Battery life: 3,000
Pouch: No
User guide: Yes
Pro:  Inexpensive, simple 2-button operation  
Con: Small screen, one reference point