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The ultimate cycle computer?
on 13 June 2011
An upgrade to the Edge 705, the Edge 800 cramsa heck of a lot into a small, lightewight package. It's a fully-featured cycle computer that's about the size of a box of Swan Vesta matches and in it Garmin have managed to accommodate, Heart rate, Cadence, Power, a european base map and a bunch of training aids such as virtual partner racing, average pace racing and programmable workouts. I bought this base model (without Heart rate strap, cadence sensor or MicroSd card full of maps) because I was upgrading from an Edge 705 and already had all of the extra bits. So why did I upgrade from a 705?
It's a good question...
The biggest improvements that the 800 offers over the 705 are:
- the screen - seems bigger and clearer
- the user interface - the touch screen is MUCH better to use than the joystick on the 705, it's also more configurable in terms of fields and display options. It's also a lot less fussy about the power switch.
- the bike mount - much easier to clip on/off the bike with a much more secure attachment and less to break
- quicker GPS fix through hotfix records, which works well provided you're not miles from the last place you turned the unit off at
- moderately smaller and lighter
- quicker processing & route calculation
- thermometer to record ambient temperature
In use, it's a dream. The new mount works wonderfully, just one quarter turn and it locks secure into place. A quick press of the power button and it switches on. As soon as it detects movement it asks if you want to start the timer - it really is a helpful little gadget. Multiple bike profiles are supported (more than the 705) and they're easier to select. Multiple computer screens are configurable, more than the 705, and they're easier to set up as readouts are grouped by data type (e.g. speed, heart rate, power) rather than one big list.
The Edge800 seems to be mostly about small but significant improvements. Aside from the touch screen and the new mount there's nothing revolutionary here, it's all tweaks and adjustments to what you found on the 705, and they all add up to making a tool that just works.
So if you've never owned a Garmin Edge before and are in the market for a seriously powerful piece of kit that will help you improve your cycling performance and give you turn-by-turn directions on long rides, then I can heartily recommend it and would award it 5 stars. Likewise, if you're still riding with an Edge305 and are wondering if it's worth the upgrade, I'd say a vigorous "YES" and give it 5 stars (presuming you want street-level mapping, otherwise go for the Edge500).
If you already own an Edge 705 and look longingly at the curves of the 800, wondering how to justify it's purchase, don't expect to be blown away by a vast array of new features. You will find it easier to use, but that's about it. It's still a fantastic piece of kit but it's not a compelling upgrade so for existing owners of a 705 I'd give it 3 - 4 stars. If you already own a 705, consider first whether the £s would be better spent elsewhere on your bike ;-)
**** Update ****
A quick note on the mapping capabilities... the Edge800 comes pre-loaded with a base map of europe, but this only covers the main roads. In the UK that means A-roads and Motorways, so it's not all that useful for a cyclist. The CityNavigator maps of western europe are very comprehensive and include thousands of points of interest that can come in handy when you're on a bike (like railway stations, petrol stations, pubs, restaurants etc), as well as supporting full sat-nav type post-code navigation. That said, there are cheaper, open-source mapping options available.
*** Update 2 *** reduced rating from 4 to 3 stars
After just over 1 year of ownership, during which time the Garmin has recorded over 5,000 miles in conditions ranging from blistering sunshine to -7C the weather finally got the better of my Edge800. Since a recent, extremely wet ride in the scottish highlands my Edge 800 still charges and records activities, howevere it is no longer possible to download records of my rides to a PC. It looks like water got into the USB port and either corroded the terminals or worse. As it's now out of warranty a part-funded replacement will be one hundred and twenty pounds... with no guarantee that it won't suffer the same problem in another year's time, some of the newer, cheaper alternatives on the market are beginning to look attractive.