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The Garmin Edge 810 has been a constant companion since February: for nine months and nearly 4,000 miles.
It’s an excellent training tool in its own right, with a large, intuitive touchscreen that presents a wealth of customizable data and turn-by-turn navigation.
We’ve been using the Garmin Edge 810 since February – now it’s time to deliver our verdict
The Edge 810 was launched back in January alongside the Edge 510 – the 810 offers navigation, while the 510 doesn’t. The new computers get an upgraded interface. They use the existing ANT+ protocol to connect with heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence sensors, and the like. Garmin has added Bluetooth connectivity to link, in our case, the Edge 810 to a smartphone and, in turn, introduces a number of interesting features, including live tracking.
But there’s obvious room for improvement with the screen resolution, and the 810′s Bluetooth capability seems only to ground breaking and, in some situations, of limited use.
Make no mistake, the Edge 810 is a powerful computer: it gives you all the data you’ll ever need, and the navigation means the world is your oyster (if you have the relevant maps), but it feels like a stepping stone for a more interactive successor and so is likely to be of limited upgrade appeal to existing Edge 800 users.
Interface and data
From the outside and bar updated graphics, the Edge 810 looks the same as the Edge 800 it replaces as Garmin’s top-of-the-range GPS computer. The unit is the same size (5.2 x 9.3 x 2.5cm) and has the same three external buttons (on/off, lap, start/stop), while the screen is still 2.6″ diagonally and all-up weight is exactly the same at 98g. Battery life is a claimed 17 hours.
Garmin has made a number of changes under the bonnet, however, and the Edge 810′s user interface is very slick. The key update is the ability to create profiles for ten bike types (each bike profile can be customized for weight, wheel size, and crank length, and configured with associated ANT+ wireless accessories), with five activity profiles for each, which allows you to pre-define what data is displayed on the five customizable screens for each ride, with up to ten data fields on each screen. Is that enough data for you?
The Edge 810 comes with two preset activity profiles
It’s more than enough for me. As standard, I have three bike profiles (road, mountain bike, cyclo-cross) and a number of activity profiles. For example, for road, I have activity profiles for commuting, training, base training, and racing. The commuting profile just displays the basics (time of day, speed, average speed, and distance). The base training profile (which is getting plenty of use at this time of year) displays more information (elapsed time, time of day, distance, distance to next waypoint (as I am often following a new route), heart rate zone and elevation. I choose not to display average speed as heart rate is the defining training metric when I’m out on a solo base ride). There’s plenty more data available besides that, covered by 11 data categories (cadence, calories, courses, distance, elevation, general, heart rate, navigation, power, speed, and workouts).
The Edge 810 uses the ANT+ protocol to communicate with any compatible cadence sensor, heart rate monitor or power meter, and you can create a user profile with your height, weight, and heart rate/power zones. That really is just to scratch the surface of the Edge 810′s data capability and, chances are, most regular riders won’t harness its full potential.
Each activity profile has up to five screens, with a maximum of ten data fields per screen
Everything is displayed on a screen, which is the same resolution as the Edge 800 (a relatively grainy 160×240 pixels), and we expected an improvement considering the 810′s premium position. Maybe next time, eh? Still, the menus are intuitive, and the touchscreen itself is easy to use and responsive when wearing gloves.
While the user interface is an obvious improvement over the Edge 800, the 810′s headline upgrade is its Bluetooth connectivity. This allows the computer to ‘talk’ to your smartphone via the Garmin Connect app, which in turn offers three main benefits:
- live tracking,
- live weather updates,
- and the ability to automatically and wirelessly upload your ride to Garmin Connect.
The Garmin Connect app provides three main features: LiveTrack, weather updates, and auto-upload
Connecting the Edge 810 unit to your smartphone is simple (we’ve used an iPhone 4S throughout the course of our test period). Download the Garmin Connect app (you will need to register for a free Garmin Connect account if you haven’t already done so), search for the Edge 810 through your phone’s Bluetooth settings and pair the two.
The Edge 810′s ‘LiveTrack’ feature allows you to send a link via the app to friends and family (or via Twitter and Facebook), which lets them track your progress. LiveTrack updates every 30 seconds, and let’s whoever you’ve shared the link with see your location and your past route on a map, along with key data (for example, average speed, time, distance, and elevation gain). Friends and family don’t need a Garmin Connect account to use LiveTrack, only the link the app sent them.
LiveTrack is an innovative feature
It’s a neat feature: you can send out invites in advance (the tracking itself will only kick-off when you start a new activity), and it lets loved ones keep an eye out if, say, on a big solo ride or a night ride. Naturally, it’s a more rewarding experience for the rider than the tracker. The video that accompanied the Edge 810′s launch showed Garmin-Sharp boss Jonathan Vaughters monitoring his riders’ training efforts like a directeur sportif overlord. But, in reality, anyone sitting at home watching LiveTrack is only likely to check it occasionally. Still, it’s a safety-conscious feature which works well – in most situations.
There are two notable limitations. Firstly, LiveTrack requires a data signal to update. So if you’re in a particularly remote area, or you hit a black spot, it won’t update until you have signal again. We’d like to see Garmin implement the technology used on their GTU 10 GPS tracker, which doesn’t need a data signal. Secondly, if you’re riding abroad, then you will need data roaming enabled on your phone in order to use LiveTrack. The one time I really wanted to use it was during this summer’s Etape du Tour sportive. not willing to risk a huge phone bill, I had to make do with a text message at the end to say I’d finished.
The Garmin Connect app also allows you to access live weather updates on the Edge 810. Click the power button, and it will display the current weather and a three-hour forecast at hourly intervals, showing temperature, the likelihood of precipitation as a percentage, and wind speed and direction. You can also see if there are any weather warnings, though we haven’t encountered any during our test.
We found the live weather updates to be of limited use
In reality, the Edge 810′s weather updates probably won’t tell you anything you won’t already know by looking at the forecast before you head out. The updates are pulled in from the nearest weather station. That may not be particularly close, reducing its effectiveness, especially if there’s a fast-moving squally shower in the area. If you live somewhere with more extreme weather than the UK, then the weather updates, and particularly the alerts, may be more useful.
If your Edge 810 is paired with a smartphone, then it will automatically upload your ride to the Garmin Connect website once you have pressed save. It saves connecting the Edge 810 to your computer but, again, we found it to be of limited use. You’ll have to plug the Garmin in sooner or later to charge it. The app only uploads the ride to Garmin Connect. I mainly use Strava to log my rides. It combines the data analysis I need with a little online competition – and so I still have to plug the Edge 810 in after every ride in order to upload.
We’ve been using our Edge 810 with an iPhone 4S
That gives a hint as to the Edge 810′s untapped potential. We’d like to see Garmin allow the same auto-upload feature with Strava (though that may not be in their commercial interest when they have their own online training software) and similar third-party websites. More importantly, if the Edge 810 allowed two-way Bluetooth connectivity then, in theory, your phone’s Strava app could tell you where you ranked on a segment right after you’ve ridden it, or perhaps even tell you how you’re doing against a previous effort while on the segment itself. Bluetooth offers a treasure trove of possibilities. Therefore we hope Garmin is exploring them when developing the Edge 810′s successor (the Edge 900?).
The only difference between the Edge 810 and Edge 510 is the former’s ability to offer turn-by-turn navigation.
Wait, that’s not strictly true. While the 510 uses GPS and GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) to get a location fix when you turn it on, the 810 only uses GPS. GLONASS is a space-based satellite navigation system and Russia’s equivalent to the US GPS. As a result, the 510 is said to have an improved satellite acquisition time, and it seems odd that the lower end model would be the only one to benefit.
The Edge 810 offers turn-by-turn navigation
The 810 is still quick to pick up a satellite and only takes seconds in most situations. However, in a built-up city, where the high rises buildings can block the signal, it can take a minute or two. That’s frustrating at the start of a ride. Especially when ready to leave RCUK HQ for the ride home. I’ve often just begun the ride while the computer is still searching for a signal. It’s a double-edged sword as by moving, I’m making it more difficult for the computer to pick-up a satellite. However, it normally locks on within a mile of riding down the road. It’s not a huge problem – and only one that afflicts occasional rides in the middle of London – but it’s one that exists.
Where were we? Back to navigation. The Edge 810 can offer turn-by-turn navigation but not out of the box. The computer comes as standard with Garmin’s ‘Basemap. That’s essential, showing only key roads – certainly not the country lanes where most cyclists will want to head.
The Edge 810 is a powerful tool for cyclists who train using heart rate or power
You can still follow a basic breadcrumb trail. However you can also do this on the Edge 510, so having bought the premium model you’ll likely want to take advantage of the full navigational features. Maps can be purchased via Garmin or downloaded via the internet. They are plugged into the computer using a Micro SD card. Garmin provided our Edge 810 with European street mapping. This has provided everything we need to head out and follow a new route using turn-by-turn instructions.
You can create a route online using several sites (Garmin Connect, Bikehike, and Ridewithgps to name three). It’s easy to transfer the route to the Edge 810 by connecting the unit to your computer. If you use Garmin Connect, then you can upload the route to the Edge 810 directly. But if you use a third party website, then you will need to save the road as a GPX or TCX file then drop it in the relevant folder. Also, if you use Garmin Connect to create a route and then save it, then you can upload it wirelessly to the unit using the smartphone app.
Garmin’s quarter-turn mount is easy to use and can be quickly swapped between bikes
As well as courses, you can also create workouts. For example, setting up an interval session to act out either on the road or turbo trainer.
Garmin’s new Edge Touring Plus computer also looks an interesting proposition for less data-intensive cyclists. It’s designed, as the name suggests, for touring cyclists. It offers similar navigation to the Edge 810 but only basic data (for example, speed, distance, ascent, elevation, and heart rate).
The Edge 810 is available in three bundles. The basic bundle only includes :
- the computer,
- Garmin’s quarter-turn bike mount (which is easy to use and can be quickly swapped between bikes),
- and a USB cable for £379.99.
THE PERFORMANCE BUNDLE INCLUDES :
- an ‘OUT FRONT’ mount,
- a heart rate monitor
- and speed/cadence sensor £429
- AND THE ALL-SINGING PERFORMANCE AND NAVIGATION BUNDLE ALSO CHUCKS IN THE SAME CITY NAVIGATOR FOR EUROPE MAPS WE USED FOR £479.
THAT’S A SIGNIFICANT OUTLAY, AND £130 MORE THAN THE EDGE 510 – WHICH COMPUTER WORKS FOR YOU DEPENDS ENTIRELY ON WHETHER YOU WANT YOUR GARMIN TO OFFER FULL NAVIGATION.
The Edge 810 is a superb computer in its own right
Why not just use a smartphone app? We still comfortably prefer a cycling-specific computer. The Edge 810 is sleeker andoffers better battery life. It also presents all the data you’ll need in an intuitive and easy-to-use computer which is designed to sit on your stem.
Edge 810 is a superb computer, no doubt about that. As a standalone GPS, it remains the market leader for a good reason. However, it also feels like a stepping stone for Garmin. The Edge 810 is a measured improvement over the 800 but, while the current Bluetooth features are useful in the right situation, we rarely found ourselves using them after the initial intrigue wore off.
New users will find a lot to like. The Edge 810 is an excellent computer, a comprehensive training tool and the navigation is excellent, even if we’d like to see a better screen – but the modern interactive features are unlikely to be enough to persuade 800 owners to upgrade. However, we hope Garmin’s next computer will change that, and the Edge 810 has given us a glimpse as to what might be possible.