I just finished exploring Ridgid’s new Bluetooth model LM-400 laser distance meter, which costs $200 and uses free iOS and Android apps to expand its versatility. It has a full quiver of standalone features, which means it can do everything from calculating square or cubic feet to reading slopes. It’s dust-proof and splash-proof, can mount to a tripod, and has a backlit display, an erasable memory, and a timer.
My iPod Touch easily downloaded the Ridgid Sketch app and quickly paired with the LM-400 via Bluetooth. It took me just a few minutes to view a concise illustrated guide within the app. I think Ridgid is on the right track with this app. For instance, it allows you to draw a right-angle room plan with a finger, and then use the LM-400 to shoot the wall lengths and ceiling height. The app automatically imports each wall length into your drawing and calculates the room’s perimeter, wall areas, floor area, and volume. You can also snap a photo with your mobile device, draw dimension lines on it, use the LM-400 to fill in the dimensions, and add notes. When you’re ready, you can email the annotated drawings or photos. During my sessions, however, the app would sometimes mysteriously delete a sketch or a photo or the dimensions from a photo. It also strips the fractions from all measurements displayed on your mobile device, but shows them in your emailed drawings and photos. Even then, the fractions in these emails aren’t always identical to the fractions that were originally displayed on the LM-400.
The meter also has a few drawbacks. It only displays fractions down to 1/16 inch, doesn’t have a tailpiece for measuring diagonals from inside corners, is comparatively bulky, and emits loud beeps that you can’t turn off in a quiet zone. The unit I tried defaulted to meters when I turned it on, constantly forcing me to reset it to feet and inches (though Ridgid says it has now fixed that problem). Maybe I’ll love the next version of this meter and app, but right now they fall a bit short. —Bruce Greenlaw is a contributing editor to JLC.