Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Number of features, screen size, touch screen works with gloves, quickly finds satellites, mounting options.
Cons: Screen resolution, limited Bluetooth capabilities
Best Uses: The Edge 810 is best suited for athletes interested in tracking a wide range of data to analyze performance and athletic progression.
The Edge 810 is Garmin's top-of-the-line bike computer, and took our Editor's Choice award for a combination of ease of use and the amount of functional features. After testing in a variety of conditions, the Edge 810 held up in snow and rain, navigated us through unknown roads, and kept us focused during workouts. Although the data collected is similar to our Top Pick, the STRAVA app, the Edge 810 outperformed while on the bike since it is more tailored to cycling use than a smart phone. The biggest drawback is the $499 price tag, by far the most expensive of the computers we tested, and $270 more than the Garmin Edge 200, the lower-level cycling GPS by Garmin. If you prefer something simple and a do-it-all GPS computer is not what you're looking for, check out the basic Cateye CC-RD300W Strada Wireless Bike Computer, our Best Buy award winner, for around $40.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Ease of Use
The Garmin Edge 810 is a complex computer with numerous features, and a read through the included 'Quick Start' manual is the best place to get started. Once you have an idea of the options available and a general introduction to the computer, setting and using the 810 is fairly easy and intuitive. The Quick Start covered mounting the device on the bike, turning it on, acquiring satellites, beginning the ride, pausing, and customizing displays. The full manual, which we feel is definitely worth the read, is available online.
The battery was full out of the box, so no charging was required, compared to the Garmin Edge 200, which needed to charge for several hours out of the box. Once turned on, the 810 will guide you through a short set-up, asking age, weight, sex, and size of bike. Once that info is entered, you are ready to ride.
The power button is placed on the side of the computer with lap and start buttons at the bottom. The rest is done through the touch screen. Not once in our testing did we accidentally hit the wrong button or turn the computer off. You'll be on your way quickly - satellites sync in about 20 seconds, but don't forget to press the start button. Riding with the 810 is easy and enjoyable.
The screen is large at 2.1 x 1.4 inches, and the default screen shows four separate metrics – elapsed time, current speed, distance, and the time. You can adjust the information you would like to view on the home screen, and we settled on speed, distance, time, average speed, cadence, and heart rate. All six numbers were legible and discernible at a glance. Paging through screens that display time, elevation, map, and calories burned is easy using a swipe and the touch screen was responsive despite gloves. Every screen features personalization, allowing you to get to the information you need on your ride.
Aside from tracking tire pressure or letting you know what gear you're in, the Garmin 810 seems to do it all. The GPS accurately tracks the basics like distance, time, elevation, and speed. It will tell you your average, max, and current speeds, in addition to elevation ascent and elevation descent. The 810 will keep track of laps, showing lap speed, current lap time, and lap distance.
With the right accessories, the Edge 810 uses ANT+ (a wireless way to communicate between devices) to show cadence, heart rate, power, and body weight. Our Garmin heart rate monitor from a running device was easily found and paired with the 810. We also paired the 810 with the Garmin GSC 10 in order to keep track of cadence. This could also allow sessions on the trainer to be recorded. If you have a compatible scale, the Edge 810 will be able to collect your weight, body fat %, muscle mass, and more. In addition, the 810 will track and record your power output. Any ANT+ accessory will work with the 810, it doesn't have to be a Garmin brand product.
This leads us to the next big feature, which is access to Garmin Connect, Garmin's online equivalent to STRAVA. This website uploads data from previous rides and breaks down data from each activity into easy to read metrics. The site shows details of timing, elevation, heart rate, and temperature, including graphs for each. The website also shows what computer your were using (in case you happen to be testing and comparing multiple computers like us). The Edge 810 will link to your existing account, or setting a new one up is quick.
Garmin Connect allows you to create Courses to upload directly to the Edge 810. You can create a course from a previous ride, upload a course from a friend or other Garmin Connect user, and load onto the 810. The Virtual Partner option on the 810 will put you against a computer-generated rider that is at a constant pace on that course, or the Virtual Racer will put you against an actual person's effort, whether that is yourself, a friend, or someone you found searching on Garmin Connect. If you follow a Course, the 810 will navigate you through it, giving you a heads up when a turn is coming up, and telling you what street to take.
Garmin Connect also allows you to create Workouts, which you can upload directly to the 810. This is beneficial if, for example, you know you want a warm-up with a heart rate >145 for 5 minutes before doing 5x 2:00 at < 20.0mph and then a cool down with a heart rate of >135. After specifying details on the site, the Edge 810 will prompt you through the workout without the need to hit buttons or keep track of time.
The Garmin Edge 810 also features smart phone connectivity. Bluetooth technology allows you to pair the 810 with your phone and upload rides directly to Garmin Connect without having to plug directly into your computer. Download the free Garmin Connect app for access to previous rides, courses, workouts, and bike routes. Live Track sessions link viewers of your choice to a web application that follows your ride in real time while providing stats and map view. This feature is great for letting your spouse know when you will be home for dinner or cause concern when the tracker hasn't moved in over an hour. It also lets people see your progress over the course of a race. We found that this feature worked okay, but could use some development. The dot representing the rider jumps along every few seconds, and on the day we did testing it didn't give a fluid, real-time vantage of the cyclist or statistics.
The Bluetooth technology that connects the 810 to a smart phone does not allow the Edge 810 to connect to the Bluetooth accessories on the market (chip is too small). This includes heart rate monitors, cadence sensors, power meters, and scales. Although the market seems to be moving toward the Bluetooth connectivity, Garmin decided to stick with the ANT+ technology, limiting our options. We will see how this fares for them in the long run.
The Garmin Edge 810 has some other nice features such as automatically inverting the screen for better visibility in low light conditions, the ability to move from bike to bike without adjusting settings, and a micro SD card slot to load maps or for more storage. Garmin has a paid subscription option to City Navigator maps, which give detailed maps for whatever area you want. You also can find access to free maps through Open Street Maps, which can be uploaded to the 810 as well. The STRAVA website quickly recognizes the 810, and will upload activities directly from there if you wish to combine these two options.
The Garmin Edge 810 uses the standard Garmin method of attachment with industrial strength rubber bands holding the mount onto the bike. It is just as easy to place this on the handlebar as it is the stem. The computer requires a quarter-turn to securely fit into the mount. No amount of bumpy roads or jostling ever bumped the computer free.
The GSC 10 sensor mounted onto the bottom bracket opposite of the drive train using the rubber bands. The spoke magnet easily clipped onto the blade spoke, and the cadence sensor zip-tied onto the crank. It took minor adjusting to get the sensors and magnet aligned, then it was good to go.
The Garmin Edge 810 is best used for serious cyclists who want a computer that is easy to use while riding, gives real-time metrics, and records a data set that can be analyzed and used to improve results.
At $499, the Edge 810 is a serious investment. If you add a heart rate monitor at $60, and a cadence tracker at $50, the price tag is well above $600. There is no question that the Garmin Edge 810 is the gold standard of premium bike computers, but is it is worth the hefty price tag? If you are serious about training and want to keep track of your data, the answer is a definitive 'Yes'.
The Garmin Edge 200, $130, is Garmin's lower end GPS bike computer.
The Garmin Edge 500, $200, is a lightweight GPS loaded with data. The Edge 500 tracks your distance, speed, location and elevation with high sensitivity GPS.
The Garmin Edge 1000, $600, has a color, touchscreen display that allows you to see your text, email, or calls from your iPhone and lets you connect, compare and compete.
— David Mackey
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Most recent review: March 16, 2013
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