We spend most of our time reviewing and writing about tools from the big name manufacturers since they are on the cutting edge of design and performance. But once in a while, we run across a tool from one of the other guys that catches our attention and seems like Pros will want to know more about it. Such is the case with the General Tools 2-in-1 50-Foot Laser Tape Measure – a 16-foot tape and a 50-foot laser measuring tool from a century-old company with a line of specialty hand tools and digital measurement and calibration tools.
Now, there are a lot of laser distance measures from the big guys out there with distances (and prices) greater than the General Tools measure – but few, if any of them, have a tape as well. The usefulness of that will become clear soon if it isn’t already. Let’s see if this one measures up.
The General Tools 2-in-1 50-Foot Laser Tape Measure has a tape measure’s common form factor, but it’s hard to miss the big, red button on the side or the LCD display on the crown. It has pedestrian features like a belt clip, blade brake (but not a lock), and rubberized over mold around the entire edge and diode.
But unsurprisingly, you’ll immediately start playing with the laser before checking any of that stuff out. The electronic part of the tape is run by two AAA batteries that – a tad annoyingly – have a cover held down by a small Phillips head screw. There’s a small screwdriver in the package, so that’s helpful.
Who Doesn’t Like Two-For-Ones?
Laser Distance Measure
While I was getting acclimated to the General Tools tape measure, my Jack Russell went crazy and then we got sidetracked for several minutes as we chased the red dot around the floor, all over the furniture, and up a few walls. Depressing the red button once turns the laser on. A second press shuts the laser off and displays a measurement on the screen.
The measurement takes the 3-1/4-inch tape body into account, so you can butt the back of the tape against a surface and measure from the red dot on the opposing surface. But here’s where the accuracy could get a little dicey: even if the laser is level with the surface you’re measuring, General Tools claims you’ll get within 1/4-inch accuracy at 50 feet. That’s a bit more variance than other laser measures that claim 1/16-inch at 150-feet.
However, the measure’s strength lies in its versatility. A regular tape measure is most accurate when measuring boards or for those lengths where you can hook the tang over one end and line up the tape’s markings with the other end. Obviously, this tape has that capability. A measurement can take on a bit of inaccuracy if you have to bend the tape to against a 90-degree surface when, for example, you’re trimming out an inside corner.
This tape’s 1/4-inch variance at 50 feet aside, it’s much easier to use the laser to measure this distance rather than making a close guess by bending the tape. In any event, using my regular tape to approximate as precisely as possible the laser’s measure, I found the variance to be much less than 1/4-inch.
Traditional Tape Measure
The function of the tape itself is satisfactory. There are a lot of markings that DIYers will find useful. On top, there are standard markings by sixteenths of an inch, but on the bottom not only are there markings by thirty-seconds, but there are fractions printed on the tape as well. It looks a little busy, but it’s really not bad.
When you pull the tape out, you’ll find that it brakes by default. It won’t recoil until you press the release button with your index finger. However, it doesn’t have a blade lock.
The standout is very short – a little over five feet – by comparison to premium tape measures. But I suppose General Tools decided a long standout wasn’t necessary with the laser function.
Given the delicate nature of the laser diode and the feel of the materials, I’m concerned this tape won’t last long on the jobsite. That said, I think many tradesmen, like finish carpenters, might be interested in this measuring combination where they can quickly measure distances between walls with the laser and raw boards with the tape.
The General Tools 2-in-1 50-Foot Laser Tape Measure is likely an excellent choice for DIYers or perhaps even real estate agents that need to quickly approximate distances that are inconvenient to measure with a tape. The caveat here, however, is that there is no memory function on this tape where other laser distance measures can store multiple measurements.
The Bottom Line
The General Tools 2-in-1 50-Foot Laser Tape Measure combines a 50-foot laser distance measure with a standard tape measure that allows the user to make quick and easy measurements between two surfaces or ends. Although it’s not as durable given the laser diode and material choice and it doesn’t boast the same degree of accuracy as premium laser distance measures, it nonetheless combines measuring functions in a way that no other tool does.
It’s worth at least passing consideration by finish carpenters, DIYers, real estate agents, and any tradesman who would like to combine two tools into one. General Tools is certainly on the right track with this measure in concept. If it beefs up the material choice and adds measurement memory functionality, might just find itself a happy niche for Pro users.
General Tools 2-in-1 50-Foot Laser Tape Measure Features
- Button-activated laser for one-hand, one-person operation
- LCD screen with large, clear screen for quick readings
- 50-foot laser capability that makes measuring 10X faster*
- 16-foot tape measure with easy-to-read, 3/4-inch blade and 5-foot standout
General Tools 2-in-1 50-Foot Laser Tape Measure Specifications
- Model Number: General Tools LTM1
- Measurement Range: 50 feet
- Measurement Accuracy: 1/4-inch
- Minimum Measuring Distance: 10 inches
- Laser Output: <1mW (Class II) @ wavelength of 620 to 690 nm
- Typical battery life: >3,000 measurements
- Blade length: 16 feet
- Blade width: 3/4-inch
- Standout: 5 feet
- Size: 3.2 x 2.2 x 3.2 inches
- Weight (Unpackaged): 0.70 pounds
- Price: $32.20