Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Garmin Edge 800 - Full Real World Review

As you may know for the last month I have been using a Garmin Edge 800 GPS cycling computer almost every day. Garmin UK were kind enough to let me borrow one for this period of time to test it out.

I am very grateful to them for allowing this and I have to say that they put no conditions on what I did with it and what the final review would be like - good or bad. The only condition was the time I was allowed to keep it.

What you get inside the box

The box is fairly compact and the unit that was sent to me is certainly the one I'd opt for. This was the top of the line City Navigator bundle. With this you get:







Quick start guide and instructions

City maps for UK and Europe on a Micro SD card


Handlebar mounts - which work really, really well

Heart Monitor

This is surpassingly easy to set up. The elasticated and adjustable band goes round your chest and the small plastic coated sensor you can see in the picture below clips on. An option on the Garmin then allows it to look for the sensor and once found it collects data.

I used this a couple of times (only a couple as the Garmin wasn't of course mine and only on loan). I saw the Elite riders at the Nocturne last year and in January using these when warming up. I imagine it is a very clever training aid that allows you to get to know you body, what it is capable of and how far to push yourself.

Heart monitor


Cadence Sensor

This is again quite easy to set up and despite its smaller wheels does work on a Brompton. It measures your pedalling cadence as you ride. It measures and reports to the Garmin your pedalling stokes per minute, providing valuable feedback on your performance. This is clever stuff and will allow you (together with the ride data and maps from the Garmin Connect Website) to see how your cadence changes over different terrains and points along a ride. A great way to improve your performance, whether it be to ride further, increase your speed, improve endurance and pedalling efficiency.


Candence sensor 
USB cord and wall charger with UK plug and European plug


The actual Garmin Edge 800

The Garmin edge 800 is small and compact with a big, bright screen that is a touch type. The screen can be operated with gloves on and is very easy to use.  The edges overall dimensions are 5.1 x 9.3 x 2.5 cm.

It is waterproof and has rubber flaps to cover the two ports on the back. It is definitely waterproof as I cycled home a few times in terrible downpours and even heavy snow and all worked perfectly fine. It is a tough little machine and I suspect it would cope with the odd drop or two.

The Garmin Edge 800
The unit Garmin sent to me came with the City Navigator maps loaded on to a micro SD card. These maps are brilliant. In much the same way you use Garmin car satnav you can enter points of interest, postcodes. locations and the Edge 800 will quickly calculate a route and guide you there with turn by turn directions. It is all very clever stuff but its real benefit for cyclists is the ability to download (in seconds) routes/course you have made yourself on a wide range of online maps which you can open and follow. (See Garmin Connect Website below).

The City Navigator maps are a must


User interface

The user interface is easy and intuitive to use. The
home screen has four icons that launch a variety of other menus and options.

Where to - allows you to type in a postcode, location or place of interest and navigate to it.

History - stores some or all of your rides so that you can come back to them at your leisure.

Training - this is where you can set training goals. I recorded my daily commute and then used the Egde 800's Virtual Training Partner to tell me whether I was ahead or behind that stored ride. This is a really good feature. I also used it at Richmond Park and was able to see if I had improved.

Courses - allows you to navigate routes you have downloaded, created or been on before.





GPS / Navigation / Accuracy

Turning on the Edge 800 you will see that it automatically tries to lock on to satellites. I found this to very quick and by the time I had fully unfolded my Brompton I was ready to go. I am one of those people who is hopeless at navigating and usually gets lost. Having the Edge 800 on my bike gave me the confidence I needed to go cycling to areas I was not familiar with.

On Saturday I used the Edge 800 to navigate from the Royal Festival Hall all the way to Cambridge. You can read about that here. It did its job brilliantly and never faltered. If I made a wrong turn it was due to me and not the Garmin. In terms of accuracy I could see no difference to my iPhone 5 using Google Maps. It updated where I was quickly and I could see the street name easily.


Navigation is simple, fast and accurate

Battery life

The quoted battery life is 15 hours. That is possibly in ideal conditions. On Saturday it was freezing cold, made worse by 14-17 mph headwinds. In addition, perhaps stupidly, because I wanted to be able to look down and see the screen as bright as possible at all times, I left the backlight on permanently. Despite this it got me to Cambridge and then when I returned to London, from Kings Cross to St John's Wood. In fact the battery was showing an incredible 43%


Mounting to bicycle

The Garmin Edge 800 has the same bicycle mount as my little Edge 200. You get a couple of mounts in case you use more than one bike and several industrial strength rubber bands. The small circular mount is placed on the handlebar or frame and the Edge 800 fits in the groves, is rotated 90 degrees and it is firmly held in place. An anticlockwise 90 degree turn gets the unit off. It is a simple buy highly effective design. In the month I had the Edge 800 I didn't encounter a problem with the mount and in the seven months I have owned the Edge 200 I have not suffered any problems.


A very clever mounting system

Screen options

There is a great level of user customisation in terms of what the screen displays. You can keep it on your favourite screen and with a swipe you can have several others at your fingertips.

One of the screen I liked a great deal was the elevation screen. This shows the realtime progress you make as you travel along. I found that on the Cambridge ride this was fun and useful as I could see how close I was to reaching the top and whether I'd be lucky enough to get some coasting in afterwards.


Look at that hill!
My other favourite, apart from having the map on display is the information screens. You can have more than one of these but I had mine set to show:

Speed

Average speed

Elapsed time

Calories

Distance travelled

Distance to destination

Maximum speed

Elevation


This info was great to have at ones fingertips and being able to regulate your speed at a certain pace proved to be very useful on all rides.


Love this screen with all this information!


Garmin Connect Website

One superb feature is the ability to interact with the Garmin Connect Website. There is a tab called 'explore' on which you can search thousands of ride locally or anywhere in the world. These are rides that people have made themselves or been on and then shared with the Garmin online community. Using the Edge 800 for this alone is worth buying it as it is excellent.

When you connect your Garmin Edge 800 to your PC or Mac you have the option of connecting to the Garmin Connect website which allows you to transfer the data the Garmin collected on a ride. The information provided is quite breathtaking and I love viewing it after a long ride. It is worth pointing out that the information can be totally secure, shared with people you want or available to all. You can of course have different combinations.

The website, once you log in to your account, is like your very own library of rides and data to be view whenever you wish.


Elevation data

Speed

Temperature

Detailed maps - Google or Bing

You can connect with friends and other Garmin users and share routes and courses and is an excellent tool and a killer feature of owning a Garmin GPS unit.


What I think could be better

Screen
- The screen is very good but coming from an iPhone 5 with a Retina Display, I'd like a future Garmin to have a higher resolution screen that was slightly bigger. Saying that it might mean that the battery wouldn't last as long and that is probably more important to me.

Wifi - Garmin have addressed this with their new Edge 810 which allows you to connect it to your smartphone.

Spoken directions - it would be good if future units had this as an option you could turn on and off. Turn by turn directions that were spoken you mean you wouldn't have to take your eyes off the road. I think it would be very useful.


The competition 

The rise of the smartphones with GPS and good mapping apps now means that they can perform some of the same functions. There are however a few caveats. The biggest is that my iPhone for example is not waterproof. In addition the battery on my iPhone will not last as long. The mounting system for the Garmin is excellent and takes up little real estate on my handlebars. A phone mount would. I am the sort of person who likes the right tool for the job and the Garmin is certainly this.

There are other manufacturers that make similar GPS cycling computers to the Garmin Edge 800 but from what I have seen, for me, they are not as good or as heavily feature laden. Add the Garmin Connect website and you have a winning formula.

Overall

I rate the Garmin Edge 800 very highly. I found it useful on all trips and didn't want to give it back to Garmin. In fact as I write this having sent it back only yesterday, I miss it and missed on my commute today!  It is easy to use and the navigation system is genuinely useful, especially for someone like me hopeless at finding their way. Battery life seems to be very good and it lasted a full day of cycling.

Would I buy one? Yes I would. I cannot afford one at the moment but it is on my list of near essential items. There is as I have mentioned the newer 810 version but I am told by Garmin that the 800 will not be going off the shelves anytime soon. The 800 can be picked up at very attractive prices at the moment  and whether you get this or the 810, you can't really go wrong.

Special thanks again to Simon at Garmin UK and Garmin UK for letting me borrow this Garmin Edge 800.

You can click on the link below to take you to Garmin's website where you can find out more about their range of products.

Click here for Garmin's Website









4 comments:

  1. Having used 2 of them for Land's End to John O'Groats - I can thoroughly recommend. They make you become very lazy as people become irritated if you miss a turning by a meter, but they were great. Battery only ran out once on a 14hr day.

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  2. Great review! Very keen on getting one when my Brompton arrives (due 28th March and hubsters on the 8th April) for us to take out touring with us. Thanks for taking the time to go through all the features.

    And congrats on the new bike! Can't wait to see pics of it when it comes.

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  3. Thanks for the review!
    One question, did you manage to install both the cadence magnet (pedal) and the speed magnet (wheel)? I'm interested in the Garmin Edge 800, but after looking at the manual, I'm not sure if the main sensor can be placed so that both magnets can be detected, because the wheel are too small :/

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    1. Hello many thanks for your comment. No you are quite right. The Brompton wheel is too small for the wheel sensor. It works fine with the pedal magnet. I know of a few Brompton user that they bought a strong magnet on ebay that attaches to the inside of the pedal without the need for cable ties. It works just as well and the magnet has not come off on some demanding rides.

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