The latest and greatest of Garmin’s cycle-specific GPS computers is more than just a colour tweak and screen res upgrade.
Which is lucky, because while it does get the former, it doesn’t get the latter – it has the same screen size and resolution as its 800 precursors. Having been hoping for a crispy new screen, we might have been edging for the door at this point, were it not for promised UI enhancements and new Bluetooth connectivity options.
Hanging out on bars
Unboxing reveals two handlebar mounts that affix using tough rubber bands, and hold on to the Edge using Garmin’s easy quarter-turn attachment. We were also sent the new Out-Front mount, a £30 plastic accessory that puts your computer a few inches in front of your bars. Handy, if your bike is compact, or crowded in the bar department.
There’s an expanding ecosystem of third-party mounts for the quarterturn system too, so there’s no excuse for not having the thing in your eye-line. Control layout also remains the same: power button on the lefthand edge; lap and play/pause buttons under the screen; USB and microSD card slots under rubber flaps on the rear.
Maps on board
Why do you need a microSD card slot? Maps, sir! For this is a navigation device, not just a computer. The Edge 810 supports both CityNavigator road maps and GB Discoverer 1:50k Ordnance Survey off-road maps.
Tape up our specs and call us a geek, but we find the idea of having complete European sat-nav on our bike computer very exciting. You can only have one or the other loaded at a time, but the GB Discoverer does have NAVTEQ road data, so can turn-by-turn you over the Ordnance Survey map – not on trails, obviously.
Being geeks, we had the top-whack Edge 810 Performance and Navigation Bundle (£480) that includes CityNavigator Europe maps, as well as the heart-rate and speed/cadence sensors that the Performance Bundle (£430) lauds over the basic £380 device-only kit. We should point out, through our enthusiasm for all this, that GB Discoverer mapping downloaded from Garmin is, um, £200. Though you can get regional versions for (slightly) less.
I see pixels
As aforementioned, the screen is a carry-over from the previous model, so 2.6in and 160x240 pixels. Doesn’t sound like a lot, and it isn’t – the maps look OK on the small screen, but text in menus is clearly pixelated.
Were it not doing such awesome things, we would be more disappointed. It is plenty bright in all but the most unBritish sunshine, easily adjusted and responsive, and works with gloves on if you give it a decent prod.
And plenty a decent prod will you give it, as the new UI allows you to set up custom profiles for different activities and bicycles, with a cornucopia of data fields and screens that can be assigned to each. The first night of Edge ownership will see many hours of prodding and mumbling, weighing yourself and all your bikes. This is by no means a criticism. This is happy time.
We can see you've stopped
And yet still you are not ready to ride. Now you need to download the new Garmin apps for iOS and Android, which connect to your Edge 810. They let you download courses from your Garmin Connect online account, as well as automatically uploading your activities once you press ‘stop’ on the timer.
But the new Flake of functionality – making the 810 into a glorious ‘99’ of a bike computer, not just a plain cone – is LiveTrack. Keeping a constant Bluetooth connection to your phone, you can share your ride before you set-off, allowing your Twitter and Facebook followers to click on a link and track your ride in real-time. Will you use it after the first few times? Probably not, but it is cool nonetheless. Live weather info is also a useful connected extra, if not essential.
Out on the black stuff
So now you are finally out on your ride. If you’re using navigation, there are no voice instructions, nor can you connect to a Bluetooth headset. Turn instructions on-screen are punctuated by beeps. It works. The Edge 810’s claimed 17-hour battery life is achieved by having the screen’s backlight timeout after some seconds; turn instructions also turn the light back on.
No problems there, although the Edge’s small screen and use of car sat-nav style fancy direction arrows sometimes prove awkward bedfellows at a particularly complex junction. Scrolling between various data screens is a simple finger swipe, and you can set custom alerts for calorie, distance, heart-rate zone, and so on. You’ll never get bored on long rides again.
Back at the ranch
As soon as you collapse back at the house/café/pub, your ride, track and data will be uploaded to Garmin Connect. If you don’t take your phone on rides – and you should, in case you find a rabbit with a sprained ankle – you can connect the Edge to your PC or Mac via USB and upload data via the web client. Recharging via USB as you do, you clever thing. You can save your ride as a course, and then race your evil virtual self next time out.
Post-ride analysis (Verdict)
All the way through this review you’ve been screaming at the screen about apps like Strava, and free maps from Google… and you’re right. We were just ignoring you until the right moment. Yes, the Edge 810 is expensive, but there’s no doubt that the customisation and level of data recording will make it worth it for enthusiastic cyclists.
And we love having proper offline sat-nav on our bike. We’ve even used it on a motorbike. There’s the cheaper Edge 510 with no maps, and there’s rivals from the likes of Mio, Bryton and Cateye, but none can match the Edge 810 for its matching of functionality and ease of use. If you want the king of bike-navs, this is it.