Recently someone was kind enough to ask my opinion on which Garmin they should choose and I thought it could make a helpful blog post, as it’s a question many of us wrestle with at least once. With this post I’m trying to keep it simple and stick to what I think are the key points to consider.
As I’ve written before I eventually chose the Garmin Edge 800 and felt sufficiently passionate about it to award it my 2011 Cycling Product of the Year: http://girodilento.com/my-cycling-product-of-the-year-2011-garmin-ed
For many of us, the real question is how much can I afford to spend on a Garmin? They’re not cheap and some of the lower cost models offer much of the functionality of the top of the range 800, so many people look at this problem as more “how much do I really need to spend to get what I need?” and “what do I really need?”
I’m not going to actually review the devices in this post as many have done this far more thoroughly than I could – so I’m posting links to a range of reviews and talking about the differences between the units in broad terms that I hope will help you frame your own decision.
Effectively right now, the Garmin Edge series offer 3 levels of functionality:
Entry Level: Garmin Edge 200
For a more aggressive price, the Edge 200 sacrifices functionality compared to the more expensive models and is effectively a bike computer that uses GPS rather than magnets on the wheels. It has many similar features but it’s GPS ability is what makes is much more interesting than a typical bike computer as you can use it to log where you’ve ridden using sites like Garmin Connect or Strava to name just a couple. Also because it uses GPS you don’t need a speed sensor on a wheel as the GPS takes care of all of this for you. The Edge 200 doesn’t contain a barometric altimeter like the Edge 500 and 800 so for example the Strava climbing challenge that ran last year would not have counted any of your mileage/metres climbed on an Edge 200 unless you live in the USA. It also won’t let you use a Heart Rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor or other Ant+ devices like power meters. The Edge 200 does offer very basic navigation. You can download routes to it and follow a bread crumb trail. However it’s probably best considered a sophisticated bike computer – and if that’s what you’re after it should be on your list to consider. I guess you could consider it a step up from a GPS app on a smartphone – with much, much better battery life. One cool trick it does have is that if you ride the same loop more than once I believe you can ride against your previous best time, which could be fun.
If you’re not a data freak and aren’t looking to ride in training zones etc and just want to record where you ride and the basic info – then the Edge 200 is a simple and elegant solution that doesn’t cost the earth.
Here are some more detailed Garmin Edge 200 reviews for further reading, if it sounds like it could be the one for you:
Garmin Edge 500 versus 800
To me, for the mid level: Garmin Edge 500 and the high end: Garmin Edge 800 it’s simpler to consider some of the differences between them.
Most people I’ve spoken to about these two are really wrestling with one key question (leaving the money aspect aside) – Do I really need the full GPS navigation with its turn by turn instructions?
There is another factor – size. The 500 is smaller, looks more discreet, is lighter so is a more streamlined solution. It has the majority of the features of the Edge 800 except for the mapping/navigation and the consequently larger screen.
If you are a racer or a rider who rides on known roads/areas then the Edge 500 is cheaper, lighter, smaller and may well be a better solution – especially as it includes a large range of configurability for training, powermeters (or any Ant+ device).
So for the Edge 800, to me, it comes down to – would you like the larger screen and the potential for navigation. You don’t have to use the navigation element but if you think you might go riding in the Alps or over a mountain or in another region/country from where you live – think very carefully before you write off the 800.
If you’re considering either of these devices – please do check out the reviews/videos below, I’m pretty sure you’ll find them helpful….
Garmin Edge 500 reviews:
The Garmin Edge 800:
Garmin Edge 800 Reviews:
There’s a good overview of the Edge 500 and 800 here:
How to buy your chosen Garmin:
My key tip here is that the Edge 500 and 800 come in a variety of different bundles, and choosing carefully from the different options available can make a big difference to the price. As always it’s important to shop around – I regularly see 20% off sales on Garmin’s and on the top of the range bundles (Edge 800 with Navigation, Premium heart rate monitor and speed/cadence sensor) that can make a big difference. Also if you want to save some money – you could consider buying your chosen Edge without a heart rate monitor strap or a speed/cadence sensor as omitting these can bring down the price significantly. You can buy these separately later if it helps you budget in the short term and you will get all of the GPS tracking benefits without them. Obviously if you want to train in heart rate zones you will need the heart rate strap (or at least an Ant+ compatible one. If you do want the full package – then it’s best to buy it as a bundle and to shop around – it’s the cheapest way of buying all of the component parts – e.g. GPS unit, Heart Rate strap, speed/cadence sensor and maps.
I still believe my Garmin Edge 800 is my favourite piece of cycling tech – I absolutely love it and use it all the time. I like the bigger and colour touch screen (my eyesight isn’t brilliant) and I like the fact that I can have up to 10 pieces of data on the screen. I love the turn by turn navigation – I enjoy making courses (I use http://bikehike.co.uk/index.php but there are many others too) and then simply following the directions as I ride – especially in areas I don’t know well as it means you can just enjoy the ride and the sights without worrying about getting lost/doubling back. I don’t mind the “bulk”. For me these reasons were worth the extra money when I bought it. I had a friend who bought a 500 and eventually sold it and replaced it with an 800 as the mapping was something he had really missed on a cycling holiday in France.
My last but not least point is that I hear that a new Garmin Edge may be being released soon. If this might change things (but it really needn’t as the 800 is a very good piece of kit) – do some Googling and keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested but as and when it’s released I’ll cover it here.
Once you’ve taken the plunge you can start uploading your ride data to Garmin Connect to see more of the detail recorded: http://connect.garmin.com/ or you can enter the highly addictive world of Strava and if you do that – you might want to check out this previous post: http://girodilento.com/stravacom-a-fantastic-tool-but-beware-it-can
UPDATE September 2014:
I’m now reviewing the new Garmin Edge 1000 and have posted a first look review here: http://girodilento.com/garmin-edge-1000-first-look-review/
I appreciate that the products in this post have changed/been updated but I think the general advice holds.
Thanks for reading