The Garmin Edge 800 GPS bike computer has been around for about for about a year and I've now had the chance to give it a flogging for a numbers of months.
A couple years ago when I bought my Garmin 500 I had been extremely impressed by this remarkable device and was keen to try out the Garmin 800 as soon as it went to market. Unfortunately it was difficult to get a test unit from Garmin I ended up going through one of their distributors, First Endurance, who happily gave me one to try since June of this year. The reason I was so keen to try this Garmin 800 unit was because I was heading over to Europe in July and if you’re directionally challenged like I am, the mapping functionality was very appealing.
I won’t go through the whole feature set of the Garmin 800. You can read the product specs for that and there’s a very good in-depth review by DC Rainmaker here. In short, the 800 is an excellent successor to the Garmin 705 with additional touch-screen functionality and ANT+. If you already own an Edge 500, you’ll be familiar with the menu options and functionality (minus the maps).
I’ve enjoyed all the features of my compact Garmin Edge 500, but the new form factor of the 800 had caught my eye and having maps on this sleek unit was enticing. I never cared for the looks of the bulky 705 and that was the single reason it never caught my interest.
The full-colour backlit display is 160×240 pixels, which is large enough to make the mapping functionality useful. It’s more than large enough for every other display function. The resistive 37x55mm touchscreen requires pressure to activate the on-screen buttons and can be used with gloves. It’s not like the Apple iPhone where you can use figure gestures however (swiping, zoom pinching, etc).
Ease of Use
The two primary things I used the Garmin 800 for was the Training Display (distance, speed, time, power, etc) and Mapping. The Virtual Training Partner is a cool novelty, but I have no desire to use it.
I find every function I use on the 800 very intuitive and easy to navigate. There is one physical button on the side of the unit and another two buttons on the front for lap/reset and start/stop. Everything else is accessed via the touch screen. The touch screen buttons are fairly user friendly, but while riding I prefer to feel my way around the unit and press hard-buttons to navigate around some of the major menus. The only thing missing here would be a next/previous screen hard-button.
The one thing I really like about the training display screen is that you can press down on any field to select another function to display. This reduced the need for multiple screens to show different fields (like the Garmin 500 does), but you can still have them if you want (up to 5).
The map menus are easy to navigate. The only difficulty is that the navigation route lines presented on the screen are sometimes hard to differentiate at a glance from other map features such as rivers, roads and boundaries. When navigating to a certain destination, the unit does a decent job at notifying you on the screen if a turn is coming up and it will zoom the map to an appropriate scale. I’d be lying if I said that it was anywhere as good as a car navigation unit, but it always got me to where I want to go (sometimes not the most ideal route, but pretty good considering I was mostly on the backroads and goat tracks of Europe). I would never put 100% trust into any GPS and always have a map with me when I’m going on an epic adventure ride. There’s no doubt that this GPS unit gives me much more confidence when heading out into the unknown.
Touch screen zoom and navigation of the maps are not easy to perform while riding and there’s lots left to be desired with how this is done. You probably shouldn’t be doing this while riding anyway. A device that hosts so many features in such a small package will always have compromises and I can’t suggest a way to make things better.
The tour groups I joined along with on the Tour de France (TopBike Tours and BikeStyle Tours) each had Garmin 800′s for all their guests to use. Various guides told me that these were units were lifesavers on trips like this. They would set the daily ride routes on each of the units and set everyone free to ride at their own pace. From what I understand there are some glitches with the pre-mapping software which takes some getting used to, but I’m not familiar with this enough to comment.
I can get about 12hrs of battery life out of the Garmin 800. For my everyday routine this would last me about a week. During a trip like the Tour de France it would only last me a day or two because of heavy use.
Installation is the same as other Edge units. The mount can go on either the bars or stem. The mount is the same 1/4 turn mount that the Garmin 500 uses.
Installation is a piece of cake but with a large unit like this I’m not comfortable that it’s secure while on rough terrain – i.e. mountain biking. However, other people I’ve spoken with had no problems with the unit falling off over some unforgiving trails.
One problem I did hear about from multiple people is that their units got waterlogged during wet conditions and stopped working. As you can see from the photo above, the flap sticking out on the right-hand side is the USB slot (and memory card slot behind it). The rubber flaps don’t seal very well and are quite finicky to get into position. This is probably where the moisture gets in.
You can buy the 800 in a couple different bundles. The basic package includes the head unit, mounts, USB cable and AC adaptor (RRP A$449). The “Performance and Navigation” bundle includes extra gadgets such as a HR monitor, speed/cadence sensor, memory cards preloaded with local maps, mounts, charger and AC adaptor (RRP A$649).
If you buy the basic bundle you’ll need to purchase street maps separately and download onto a micro-SD card that simply slides into the unit. Additional country maps can be purchased from Garmin here.
The Garmin Edge 800 is awesome if you want nearly every data and navigation function you can imagine on your bike. I have to think very hard about anything negative to say about this gadget. However, if you're on the backroads with no clue of where you're going, it doesn't replace the need for a good old fashioned map in your back pocket and a phone to call your partner when you get into trouble.
- Big buttons, easy navigation, good user interface for the most part
- Sleek form factor
- need to keep an eye on the battery life. 12hrs is about 3-4 rides.
- navigation route is sometimes hard to navigate at a glance from other map features such as rivers, roads and boundaries
- could use a couple more hard-buttons
great product, feature set and everything you need for power.
It would be great to be able to side mount it, easier to see when chewing on the bars. new mounts from quarq, bar-fly, k-cnc make it better.
also good for multiple bikes with multiple power meters.
I've based my review on my first week of use, while it has worked well, I am still in a learning curve.
That said, the back lighting stopped working yesterday, but is working again today.
Now, I can't transfer from the GPS to the Garmin Connect site. The site can see the GPS connected to my PC, but when I attempt to upload, it does not find any activities.
I've emailed the reseller, no response yet...
Unfortunately some of the features have gone backwards from the 705 - including the software implementations to retrieve data such as elevation.
The press-and-hold method of changing panes on the display can be annoying, as you inevitably end up with different data displayed after you put it in your pocket - after all, who actually locks their 800, given how cumbersome it is to lock/unlock.
Awesome device. Easy to use. Couldnt live without it now with all riding i do. Also came in handy overseas when hiring a car !!
Invaluable piece of cycling equipment, especially when riding in new locations. Pairs easily with power meters and copes easily with swapping between bikes.
I have mine set up with three different pages, one for general riding, one for training repeats and one for racing. Each shows the required info for the relevant activity and as Wade mentioned, it is easy to change the data displayed on the go if so desired.
Does take a while to work out how to operate but as with most new devices, once you get your head around it it is quite straight forward. There has been the rare occasion when it needed to be rebooted due to the unit seizing and this results in the unit returning to factory settings. this is a minor grip though as it doesn't take long to set up again.
Garmin also have some issues with HR straps (check the Garmin Forum) but they seem to be getting on top of this now. I had to returned mine to Garmin and they were quite helpful; It was replaced with little hassle.
The attachment set up is well designed as it is particularly easy to put on and take off your bike.I have used it regularly on a MTB races and rides and it has never been close to coming off, even after the odd spill.
I have also been caught in the rain many times with my Garmin (gotta love racing in Vic & SA winter) but have never experienced any issues such as mentioned in Wade's review. This issue may have been avoided as I have the silicon cover available from Garmin.
After 18 months of owning the 800, I now wouldn't leave home without it!
Hey Tim Rowe - Turn it off before you put it in your pocket!!
Lovely piece of gear. Easy to setup and drive. Great to be able to use open maps when travelling. Gets a GPS fix much quicker than the 500. The only reason I don't use it more is the size. For racing/training/commuting, I generally don't need maps/nav, so stick with the smaller 500. For touring or travelling, it really comes into it's own.
Very nice training partner. Since I've been using the garmin edge computers i've been training more and more. It helps to motivate me, measure progress and compare with others.
The product itself has everything I ever wished for. The only thing I miss is a wireless data transfer.
I've had my Garmin Edge 800 for some time now. It has all the features I want and then some. I am kind of a 'numbers' guy so having the ability to (over)evaluate my performance from ride to ride, season to season, enables me to improve. Overall, the Garmin Edge 800 design and presentation is quite nice. The device itself is reasonably small and the screen is easy to read in daylight and on dusk/dawn rides. I have a minor quibble with the USB plug. It is difficult to get it stick and stay on the USB. There are an awful lot of screens to customize the Garmin Edge 800 to my needs. It would be nice to have a way of setting up the Garmin from my computer and uploading the settings. When I bought my Garmin Edge 800, I was an early adopter so it was a bit pricey and buggy. I probably would have rated its 'value for money' as a 5. Over time, the firmware has stabilized to the point where I've rarely encountered an issue and the value I get from analyzing my rides, has increased.
As a previous 705 owner, this was a logical upgrade for me. Combined with additional features for cyclists who train with power such as Normalized Power, Training Stress Score, and Intensity Factor on the go, it has lots of customisation available. Number of screens, number of panels on each screen, and the touch/swipe nature of the interface is a great improvement on the previous models. Finally, the feature to load previous routes, or upload routes, and view elevation profile of what is coming up is a great new addition.
would be a 10/10 if it had longer battery life (epic euro rides of 10hrs + need to be careful on batt life to make the end!)
needs to come with a SRM type (k-edge) front mount to be perfect!
Paul Le Fevre
The unit really is very good and I love using it. Agree with a few others that the whole menu system is a bit clunky and some things are in bizarre places but you get used to it and it works.
I bought the Performance Bundle and what has really disappointed me is the HRM. I've had the 800 for 10 months now and I am on my 3rd strap. Here's what my first two straps did and they did exactly the same thing:
The HRM strap worked a treat for about 3-4 weeks. As long as I wet the contact patches first, it seemed accurate from the moment I turned the head unit on. After this initial period, I noticed that I'd get very low or very high readings for the first 5-10 mins of a ride and then it would settle down. Week by week, this behaviour would steadily increase until the readings never settled down to accurate figures, ie. it was all nonsense.
I contacted Garmin support on both occasions and after periods of up to 2 weeks, they suggested various remedies including reinserting the battery into the transmitter upside down for 10 secs and then putting back in the right way up. Resetting the head unit, replacing the battery, moving the strap round my body in various positions, I tried it all. Nothing made the slightest bit of difference. Garmin assured me that they hadn't heard of any trouble like this with their straps to date and following that, they simply stopped responding to my emails...
I had contacted Garmin support initially because I wanted to understand what was going wrong and whether there was anything I was doing to cause this problem. I assumed they were the experts in their own products. Regarding getting a replacement strap, I turned to the company I bought it from - GPS R US in Queensland. After emailing them the saga that had transpired so far and preparing myself for a long wait and battle to get satisfaction, they emailed back within the hour and suggested I mail the strap back to them and they'd replace it straight away. WOW! I had my replacement strap within 3 days. They did this again for the second strap which behaved just like the first. When I asked them about the rate of failure with these they said they had gotten a number of faulty batches from Garmin and that the problem was well known. Uh-huh.
Strap #3 is still going well so far and I have spoken to others who have had no trouble with their Garmin straps, so I'm hoping mine is now like theirs.
Garmin Edge 800 - Fantastic
Garmin HRM strap - Lottery
Garmin Support - Epic fail
You can swipe the screen left to right and vice versa to change which page it displays.
I've never had an issue with it falling out of the mount, and I'm a mountain biker. One race I stacked it in a rock garden, the crash hit the start/stop button pausing the recording of my ride and also twisted 1/4 turn so it was loose. I got back on and rode over a number of jumps, log-overs, hard turns and it was only part way up the next climb, some 2 or 3 km later that I realised it was about to fall out. Considering what it had been through, I was lucky to still have it hanging on. I have heard that others have not been so fortunate.
My only issues are that sometimes it decides to just turn itself off, losing half your ride data. Usually when you're using the navigation functions and you decide to go a different way.
Great performance but bulky and the mini-usb cover that wont stay closed is annoying.
The screen quality is a real letdown, especially when trying to interpret maps. I have occasionally used to navigate new routes, with some success. Data capture (speed, location / tracking, HR, cadence) seems pretty good compared to other products I've used. Still it's pretty good kit. I use it every ride I take.
Have given my unit a flogging over the last 2.5yrs. Its been used in lord knows how many countries and still going strong. We use them to there absolute max a professional guides and they do a great job.
Can they improve the product? Yes, definitely. But thats what continuous improvement is all about. I'm looking forward to the next model and will buy it as soon as it's available it a work and play tool.
Am on my 3rd unit first on on off switch faulty
Returned to me fixed but wasnt
Current one sometimes takes up to 5 min to locate satelites but in view of the weeks it takes garmin to return repairs will live withit
Also battery life nowhere near 12 hours
My rating poor product with lousy backup by garmin
FOR SALE CHEAP