With smartphone cycling apps offering more robust tracking and data reporting, one could question the relevance of standalone GPS cycling computers anymore. Well, Garmin has answered loud and clear, and it’s pretty compelling.
The new Garmin Edge 810 and Edge 510 devices bridge the gap between using a standalone smartphone app and a dedicated GPS cycling computer, giving you the best of both worlds while keeping your smartphone safely tucked away in a jersey pocket and saving battery life for emergency calls.
The killer upgrade is the integration with your smartphone, which adds features like real time weather and alerts, live ride tracking, remote route searches and instant post-ride uploads. The 810 and 510 both send and pull data from your phone via Bluetooth, letting the Edge to the heavy lifting while taking advantage of internet connectivity to provide a more robust feature set.
We spoke with Garmin’s PR manager Justin McCarthy to get the full scoop on the new devices…
PRODUCT FEATURES & DIFFERENCES
Both devices use a touch screen to control all functions, and both have physical Lap and Start/Stop/Pause buttons on the face, and a power button on the side. If you have the movement-based auto-start/pause function turned on, you could use the device without ever using the front buttons.
The basic feature set includes the ability to track speed, distance, time, GPS position, elevation, calories burned, ascent and descent. Both the 810 and 510 sync wirelessly through ANT+ technology with compatible third-party power meters and Garmin/third-party heart rate monitors and speed/cadence sensors. They use a barometric altimeter for finer ascent/descent measurements. When a ride is complete, they display any new personal records achieved, such as farthest distance, most ascent gained and more. The devices will only come in the blacks shown here, but Garmin will have various colors of silicone covers that wrap around them to let you match your kit/bike and add a bit extra protection:
The 510 has a 2.2″ screen that shows a layout and contour of a course, but not street level mapping. So it can show you where you are in relation to a course that’s been uploaded and the path you’ve traveled. What it lacks in visual detail it makes up for in tracking detail. It pulls both GPS and GLONASS satellite data to give you a more accurate position. And, because GLONASS sats sit lower and there are more of them, it can pick up your location about 20% faster and track you better under tree cover or in deep canyons. This last part makes it a better option for mountain bikers, and it includes a short tether as a secondary attachment method for a bit more peace of mind. It’s waterproof, with claims that the touchscreen will work even when wet or with gloves, and it has a 20 hour battery life.
Roadies and bicycle tourers, however, may want the 810. It skips the GLONASS receviers, but adds street level mapping preloaded for the entire globe with mid-level detail. It’ll also have the ability to upload more detailed maps and overlays scanned from other sources. So, if you had a climbing stage in the Alps or were touring a National Park and wanted visual details on the street map, you could scan it in and have it viewable simultaneously over the navigation. It’s also compatible with Garmin’s Topo and Birdseye View maps, sold separately. Screen size is 2.6″ and it has a 17 hour battery runtime.
It’s important to point out that they’re not using the latest Bluetooth Smart (4.0) protocol, and Garmin chose to stick with a simple “enhanced data rate” BT because it’s compatible with more phones, particularly older smartphones. They’re also designed to only communicate with your phone, they won’t talk to any other Bluetooth devices (ex. Wahoo’s BT speed/cadence or HR sensors) so you’ll need ANT+ accessories to fill the data feeds.
Lastly, both devices get new Activity Screens. These let you setup pages with specific metrics displayed based on either the type of activity and/or bike. Before, you could set up different bikes, but that only saved data about the bike. Now, you can save an Activity, say Time Trial, and it’ll show you only the info you want to see for that type of riding. Save another activity for Trail Riding and you’ll probably want to see more about weather, elevation and direction (or whatever), and those screens are ready to go when you grab your mountain bike.
With the 810, if you have a pre-loaded City Navigator SD card in the device, you can pick a destination, enter an address or input coordinates and map your route. Of course, it’ll guide you on backroads and other cycling safe routes rather than highways, but it’ll essentially function the same way as a typical car GPS. Meaning, you could take it with you on foreign travel and get around just fine on bike and walking tours! Without the cards, the device has a stock worldwide base map that can guide you generally from points A to B, but no points of interest or minute detail.
NEW GARMIN CONNECT APP
At the heart of the system is the new Garmin Connect app, which is not the same as the existing Garmin Fit app. It’ll go live January 10 in the Apple App Store and Android Marketplace, and it’s free. Where the Fit app will track your location and acts as a “gateway” GPS cycling computer, the Connect app is meant only to complement the 510 and 810 GPS cycling computers. It won’t track your location on its own, but will allow you to pull up your online Connect account info even without one of the computers. It also acts as the conduit between the GPS and ride data captured by the Edge and weather and other data online, including your social networks and Connect account.
REAL TIME WEATHER
When it’s connected to your phone, the temperature and weather data is provided by Digital Cyclone. Both devices have a weather screen that shows the current conditions, including temperature, precipitation chance, wind direction and speed and an hourly forecast. Both devices will also pop up weather alerts if something bad’s on your way, and on the 810 a full color weather map will show up on your screen with the info. Alerts will pop up with a three hour notice, so you should have time to get home.
Live Tracking lets you invite others to view your ride in real time, watching your speed and location on their phone, tablet or computer. Have a heart rate monitor, power meter and speed/cadence sensor synced up? They’ll be able to view all of that data, too! This makes it a perfect tool for coaches, sure, but for us normal folks it lets us give our loved ones some peace of mind knowing where we are. It also lets us track our riding buddies’ locations so we can meet up mid ride.
The tracking data is, of course, transmitted via cell data, but McCarthy says it doesn’t use a ton of battery power like you might expect. Because the Edge is actually crunching all of the location, performance and tracking data, it means your phone is only transmitting the data periodically. Think of it as simply refreshing a web page rather than running the server. The current Garmin Fit app transmits data every 60 seconds for its live tracking feature, but there’s a fee to use it. The new Connect app updates every 30 seconds and it’s free to use!
Of course, you’ll need to be within decent cell coverage areas, but you should be able to turn off GPS/location services on your phone to further spare your battery.
One of the big complaints and causes for migration to phone-based cycling apps was the desire for cable-free ride uploads. Garmin knew this, and their solution well beyond just uploading your ride data.
If you have the option turned on in the app, as soon as you stop and save the ride, it’ll upload it to your Garmin Connect account. Which can be set up to automatically share your ride on Twitter and Facebook. For now, it won’t send the data straight to Strava, but there are work arounds. McCarthy says there are a lot of new features recently added and coming to Connect that’ll give riders a compelling reason to stick around and use Connect for their primary online training/social platform. Likely, those include performance comparisons (aka ‘bragging rights’), and Connect remains a completely free account.
Beyond just uploading your latest ride, you can now search and download other rides, routes and workouts through the app and send them directly to the Edge. Initially, users will be able to search their own courses and workouts and send them directly to the device. It’ll show you a log of all your activity, so you can dig back and recreate any ride you’ve ever saved to Garmin Connect. Or, you could create a workout on your iPad while you’re, um “getting ready in the morning”, save it, then pull it up on your phone and send it directly to your device wirelessly. That’s just the beginning.
Soon, you’ll also be able to search through Connect’s Explore option to find local courses and workouts uploaded by others and send them to your device. This makes it great for travelers looking for a good local ride, and it even lets you virtually race them. This feature will have safeguards built in, so you’ll only be able to see rides that have been made public, and not someone’s trip home from the grocery story, which protects users’ privacy. It’ll also let you send them a message or hook up for a ride. Given that the device and app will automatically upload rides, this should provide a very big database of rides.
PRICING & AVAILABILITY
The 810 will start shipping today, January 7th. The 510 will start shipping in a few weeks (read: late January, early February).
The 810 device is available on its own for $499, or as a $699 bundle that includes the HR monitor, speed/cadence sensor, Out Front mount and a City Navigator map card for your home country.
The 510 is $329 on its own, or $399 with the complete bundle (sans map SD card). With the Out Front mount running $39.99 on its own, the bundle is a very attractive upgrade for both.
This little video shows how it can all come together: