Garmin’s cycling computer models include the Edge 200, the Edge 510 (recently upgraded from the 500) and the Edge 810. In short, the 810 is Garmin’s most feature-packed computer and it stands apart from those other models with the inclusion of navigational maps.
A few weeks ago we reviewed the Edge 510 and today we’re asking: is it worth forking out an extra couple hundred dollars for the 810 rather than getting the 510? Is it worth upgrading your Garmin 800 for the 810? What do you get for that extra money?
As far as I can tell, the social features are exactly the same as on the 510. The only real difference is the mapping functionality and a slightly larger screen. If you’re familiar with DC Rainmaker’s reviews, you’ll know how incredibly thorough he is. He’s reviewed nearly every GPS on the market and he tends to agree:
“There’s only one major reason to buy the Edge 810 over the Edge 510 or Edge 500, and that’s maps. Or more specifically, routable maps. Almost every other athletic GPS unit on the market contains some form of GPS track/course functionality, but those utilize breadcrumb trails, and aren’t routable. Breadcrumb means that it’s simply following hundreds or thousands of little markers, without any real understanding that you’re on ‘Main Street’ and turning right on ‘Maple street’. It’s just following little dots. Whereas the Edge 810 supports routable maps, which means it knows that if you missed that turn on Maple street you can instead turn right on Nutcracker street and loop back.”
Improvements over the Garmin Edge 800
There’s no doubt that the 810 is an improvement over the 800. It has:
- quicker GPS locking
- new social features such as LiveTrack
- automatic uploading to Garmin Connect via smartphone
- a cleaner interface
- improved battery life (17 hours compare to 15 hours in the 800)
- USB and Bluetooth file transfer (Bluetooth is new).
The 510 uses GPS and GLONASS for quicker satellite acquisition and locking, but the 810 does not. Still, the 810 is noticeably faster to lock on to satellites than my 800. In my experience, the satellite lock seems to happen within only a few seconds with the 810.
From what I can tell, the Edge 810 screen is exactly the same as on the older Edge 800. Same size, same resolution, same colors, same touch sensitivity.
The EDGE 810 comes with a default map set called Basemap. It shows primary and secondary roads in the country where the unit was sold. Unfortunately this doesn’t provide much value at all for a cyclist who might be needing directions in an unfamiliar city (you won’t want to be riding on busy primary roads). However, it’s probably enough to get you out of trouble if you need some general directions to find your way home.
The maps that are useful are the optional detailed street or TOPO maps including BirdsEye Satellite Imagery. These maps are sold separately (anywhere from $50-$150 and possibly more depending on the map) and you can download them from the Garmin website (you cannot copy these onto another SD card). Because it’s GPS-enabled and its navigation capabilities require no data usage, the Edge 810 will work anywhere in the world.
As far as navigation and user interface goes, the 810 does a reasonable job, but don’t expect the same experience as you’d have with your in-car navigation system. The screen simply isn’t big enough. However, turn-by-turn navigation and detailed maps allow you to get the job done.
One of the biggest selling points of the Garmin Edge 810 (and the 510) is the social LiveTrack feature, as featured in this slick Garmin ad that did the rounds a couple months back. LiveTrack is the same on both the 810 and the 510 so rather than writing the same thing again, we’ve simply copied what we said in our 510 review.
The LiveTrack concept is relatively simple: you use your smartphone to upload real-time data from your ride so that friends, family, or Jonathan Vaughters can track your progress. In practical terms this means pairing you smartphone with the Garmin 810 via bluetooth and then using the Garmin Connect smartphone app to share the ride, via email, with those you want to track you.
After clicking the link in the email, your followers will see a screen like this:
As you ride, your route is overlaid on the map as a blue line, and your real-time stats (such as speed, distance covered, elevation gain, and so on) are displayed above the map.
We only tested this feature briefly but it does appear to have some promise. If you’re heading out for a long ride in the wilderness, it would be quite useful for loved ones to be able to track your progress so they know you’re ok.
But it also has a handful of shortcomings.
For a start, you need mobile data coverage in order for LiveTrack to work — not ideal if you’re riding somewhere that doesn’t have reception. There’s also the question of phone battery. If I’m doing a ride or event that I want people to be able to follow I’m going to be worried that the Bluetooth and constant data transfer over, say, 10 hours is going to suck my phone battery dry. And in that case, I’m going to do without LiveTrack to ensure that I’ve got enough phone battery so I can call out if something goes wrong.
The other question I have is how often I would use this feature. There’s no doubt the Garmin promo video makes LiveTrack look like a whole lot of fun — and it may be for many of you — but I couldn’t see myself using it often.
We originally hoped that LiveTracker would have the functionality to see your group of riding mates on the device itself. A common problem with small bunch rides in the hills is that one person loses contact and there are a flurry of texts and phone calls trying to locate him or her. Once the Bluetooth connection is set up, using LiveTracker is a piece of cake and you can use your mobile device (Android or iPhone) to track your mates. However, there is a ~30-second delay between location updates which may not make this all that useful, depending on what you’re using it for.
Being constructive, it would be great to see in-device tracking in the next iteration of LiveTrack — being able to see where your mates are in relation to you could be useful (for tracking that one rider who’s always late) and fun (when smashing your mates in a training ride and seeing how far ahead you are).
It would also be great to see Garmin and Strava work more closely together. To know your time and place up a particular segment right after you’ve ridden it would be a fantastic feature. Auto-upload to Garmin connect is a handy feature which has been implemented in the 510 and 810, but auto-upload to Strava would be very useful.
There are two main questions I’d be asking if I was in the market for a GPS and undecided between the Garmin 510 or 810, or considering the upgrade from the 800 to 810:
1. Is it worth paying an extra $250 for the 810 over the 510 just for mapping functionality? Well, only you can answer this. I found my Garmin 800 extremely useful while in Europe and elsewhere overseas. For me, I’d definitely pay for this functionality. Just beware, you’ll have to purchase more detailed maps wherever you go (and at home if you want to use the mapping to its full potential)
2. Is it worth upgrading your existing Garmin 800 to the new 810? For me, no. My Garmin 800 has served me well and the LiveTrack and other minor feature improvements aren’t enough to get me to shell out for an upgrade.
Don’t get me wrong — the Edge 810 is definitely a great unit. It’s got all the features you need in a cycling computer — including GPS mapping — and there are certainly improvements over its predecessor. You just need to figure out what the Edge 810 is worth to you.
Full Disclosure: None. This device was provided by FirstEndurance Sports for review and it will be returned. Garmin is not advertising on CyclingTips at this time.
- Maps are good
- Clean interface
- Improved battery life over the 800
- Lots of new features and functions, including LiveTrack and Virtual Racer (which is an upgrade on the Virtual Partner in previous models)
- GPS acquires satellites much more quickly than previous models
- Same size and form factor as the 800
- Automatic uploads to Garmin Connect
- ...and much more
- LiveTrack - is it really that useful? It has great potential, but it's not something I'd use.
- LiveTrack requires mobile connectivity (unavoidable, but is a deal-breaker for me).
- Touch screen seems to lag when trying to navigate
- Maps are great, but screen size limits the use. Don't expect a car-style GPS unit.