Affordable Self-Leveling Lasers, Continued
The LeveLite Pro ($420) projects three dots: one horizontal
and two plumb. An adjustable-height foot allows the instrument
to sit on the floor and project a downward dot.
This unit gives a sharp 1/8-inch dot at 20 feet; at 50 feet,
it was still sharp — earning a rating of 8 — and
only slightly bigger, at 3/16 inch.
At both the 20-foot and 50-foot distances, the dot was right
on target. The Pro has fair dampening action and no pendulum
lock. With the unit shimmed to 5/16 inch, the dot blinked but
remained level on target.
thumb dial raises the built-in elevator foot of the
LeveLite Pro, allowing you to read the downward plumb
dot with the unit resting on the floor.
LeveLite Tri Lite
This tool ($550) has almost all the requisite dots — one
horizontal, one right-angle, and one plumb dot up — but
lacks an important one: It won't shoot a plumb dot down. An
easy-to-lose plastic accessory tool must be used to locate and
transfer the position of the plumb dot to the ground. The
locating tool can be used only if the instrument is positioned
on the ground, not on a tripod. The Tri Lite's dot also isn't
nearly as small or clear as that of other units; at 20 feet,
the 3/16-inch dot was blurry. The dot grew slightly to 1/4 inch
at 50 feet.
At a distance of 20 feet, the level was right on, and it was
only 1/16 inch off at 50 feet. The dot rated a 5 for clarity;
dampening action was poor. The Tri Lite has no pendulum lock.
The unit blinked when shimmed out of level by 5/16 inch, but
the dot remained level.
Instead of projecting a downward
plumb dot, the LeveLite Tri Lite relies on a plastic
locator tool to indicate plumb center. This feature
works only with the tool resting on the
The PLS-3 ($395) projects three dots: one horizontal and two
plumb dots (up and down). The unit's base is offset to allow
dot projection on the floor with the unit placed on the
This tool doesn't have a right-angle dot, but it makes up
for that minor shortcoming with its small, clear dot and
I understand that the original PLS can be tilted and used to
shoot a sloped line for stair railing or other angled layout.
But none of the tools I evaluated could be used for that
purpose, due to their "anti-tilt" safety feature.
The PLS-3's dot didn't vary from its 3/16-inch size at 20
feet or at 50 feet; at a distance of 20 feet from the target,
the dot was right on, and it was only 1/16 inch off at 50 feet.
The unit has no pendulum lock, but has good dampening and a dot
clarity of 8. Tilted with a 3/16-inch shim, the unit blinked
and shut off, but the dot remained level.
Pacific Laser Systems's PLS-3
features three dots: one level and two plumb. The PLS-5
adds two more dots at right angles.
This tool ($595) is the Cadillac of multi-use lasers and fits
all the necessary requirements for general trade use. As
indicated by its name, it has five dots: one horizontal dot
plus two more at right angles, and two plumb dots. The
instrument's base is elevated to provide on-the-floor downward
dot projection. The right-angle horizontal dots are offset 1
inch from the plumb dots. The dot is small, clear, and
accurate, even over a 50-foot projection. The pendulum
dampening on this instrument is good. The self-leveling feature
is another story: With a 1/2-inch shim under the base, the
laser shut off, but not before allowing the dot to drift off
level by 5/16 inch at 20 feet. The manufacturer claims that the
instrument will self-level each time it is set up. But if you
bump or tilt the instrument after initial setup, I wouldn't
count on its accuracy. Instead, I'd cycle it off and back on,
forcing it to self-level again before continuing. The dot rated
an 8 for clarity, and maintained its size of 3/16 inch at 20
feet and 50 feet. It was dead on target at 50 feet. The PLS-5
has no pendulum lock.
The Robo Laser ($350) has only one dot, but the dot can be
gradually moved from point to point by means of a small remote
control device, which is especially handy for laying out
cabinets, wainscoting, or other continuous level lines.
Although the Robo Laser isn't a true "rotating" laser —
that is, it doesn't cast a continuous line around a room
— when used with an elevator tripod, this instrument can
save an enormous amount of layout time. The dot was a
consistent though fuzzy 1/4 inch at both 20 feet and 50 feet.
Dot clarity rated a 7. The dot was 1/16 inch off at 20 feet and
1/8 inch off at 50 feet.
The unit features fair dampening and a pendulum lock. The
dot blinked with a 1/4-inch shim but remained level.
Robo Vector (above) and Robo Laser (left) can be
purchased as a kit to handle a variety of layout
applications. Though not a true rotating laser, the
Robo Laser's dot can be moved slowly by remote
This unit ($250) features five dots: One horizontal, two more
at horizontal right angles (left and right), and two plumb dots
(up and down). The base of the instrument swivels to allow it
to rest on the floor while projecting a downward plumb dot. The
Robo Vector is affordable and has all the necessary dots, but
is a poor performer when it comes to dot size: At 20 feet, the
dot measured 1/4 inch, and at 50 feet, almost 5/16 inch. The
dot was off by 1/8 inch at 50 feet, but it was difficult to
ascertain because the dot was so big. I gave this unit a 3 for
After shimming the unit out of level by 3/8 inch, the dot
still seemed level (but, again, hard to tell). The dot blinked
when the shim exceeded 3/8 inch.
The Robo Vector offered poor dampening — when my dog
walked by on the wood-framed floor, the dot bounced around for
a while before stopping.
Stabila Compact Laser
This instrument is in a category by itself because it features
one dot and one line, and has an optional detachable prism.
With the rotatable prism attached, the dot can be split to
shoot right angles. However, the dots shot through the prism
are not level to each other or to the original dot. Therefore,
the prism can't be used to shoot 90-degree level lines, nor is
it calibrated to shoot plumb points. Aside from these
limitations, the Compact Laser ($350, $430 with prism) is an
accurate level with a small, clear dot — 3/32 inch at 20
feet and at 50 feet — and has the best dampening system
(both dot and line) of any of the instruments evaluated. But
the vertical line is no replacement for plumb dots, and the
visibility of the line is also the weakest of the three line
lasers I tested.
Stabila's Compact Laser projects
both a level dot and a vertical line. An optional prism
splits the dot into a 90-degree beam.