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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Large, Heavy, No GLONASS
Best Uses: The Edge 810 is well suited to all types of riding, but ideal for those who will take full advantage of the routable maps.
The Edge 810 is the most feature-laden cycling computer we tested, and is the winner of our Editors' Choice Award. With GPS, ANT+, Bluetooth, Maps, Shimano Di2 integration, and with some recent updates to the firmware, there is not much this cycling computer does not do. The large color touch screen makes it possible to scroll between page after page of data fields with a swipe of your finger. On a trip and don't know where to ride? No problem, create or download a pre-set course wirelessly using your smartphone and follow the turn-by-turn instructions. We initially thought that routable maps were a feature we would seldom use, but quickly found them to be indispensible for many types of riding. Despite the overwhelming number of features, the Garmin Edge 810 is intuitive and easy to use. If you cannot get enough data, then this is the computer for you. If you are technology-averse this is not the computer for you, try something more basic like the Cateye Strada Slim.
RELATED: Our complete review of bike computers
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Garmin Edge 810 is a unique GPS enabled cycling computer. Comprehensive mapping functions set it apart from its competitors. It is the only cycling computer we tested that is capable of storing detailed maps and giving turn-by-turn directions during a ride. Other GPS cycling computers we tested, such as the Garmin Edge 510, can track your position with GPS, allowing you to view a detailed diagram of your route once the ride data is imported into Garmin Connect or other third party services such as Strava, but they cannot give you directions or alert you to a missed turn. With the mapping features of the Edge 810, you can pre-plan, create a route using Garmin Connect, or upload an established route from Garmin Connect or Strava. This may not sound groundbreaking, but if you are traveling and don't know the roads, this can save you hours, and keep you on roads that are safe and enjoyable to ride. Are routable maps absolutely necessary? No. But once you have them you will wonder how you ever planned a ride without them.
The Edge 810 has a list of other features a mile long, and we will take you through all the bells and whistles below.
The mapping function requires you to purchase a Micro SD Card, to store the maps on, and you will need to purchase maps from Garmin or download maps from a service such as OpenStreetMap.
Ease of Use and Interface
This cycling computer is intuitive and easy to use despite its long list of features. It utilizes three buttons: one for power, start/stop that starts or stops a ride, and a lap button. We love that the Edge 810 uses a dedicated lap button, placed on the front of the computer. The lap button should be easy to press when you are hypoxic and seeing double at the end of a hard interval. The start-up time, including satellite acquisition is about 30 seconds on average, and it is worth noting that the Garmin Edge 510 is 5-10 seconds faster on satellite acquisition due to its use of GLONAS and GPS satellites. The Edge 810 will automatically detect any ANT+ sensors, such as power meters, speed cadence sensors, and heart rate monitors that have been paired with the unit. If you have Garmin Connect enabled on your smartphone and the Edge 810, it will automatically prompt you to enable the app on your phone. All other functions are performed using the color touch screen. We must admit that our initial impressions of the touch screen were not good. If you are coming from an iPhone and expect the screen to operate in the same manner, you will be disappointed. The screen on the Edge 810, as well as on the Edge 510, utilize resistive technology while most smart phones use capacitive technology. Capacitive screens do not work well when wet, so Garmin uses resistive screens (ED. note: the new Garmin 1000 cycling computer uses a capacitive screen). So when using the Edge 810 or 510, we found that performing functions requires a more purposeful finger stroke or tap. After using it for a while, it became second nature and our initial trepidation dissipated.
Once the unit is on, you will select the bike you are riding and the activity profile that fits your planned ride. (We will discuss activity profiles, and bike setting in greater depth in the Set-Up section below.) Battery life was close to the manufacturer claimed 17 hours, and considerably longer when we used it indoors with the GPS turned off. We found the battery life to be more than adequate, and were able to make it through most weeks with only 1 charge.
Overall, the Edge 810 is easy to use. At first glance the multitude of screens and available data fields can be overwhelming, but it is really only as complicated as you make it. Only use what you need, start with one or two screens with 4 data fields each, and expand as you desire more data.
We break set-up down into two tasks: physical attachment and programming. The Garmin Edge 810 is more difficult to set-up than some other computers we tested, but this is due primarily to the massive amount of available features available that require configuration to use.
Attaching the Edge 810 to your bike is simple. Garmin includes two ¼ turn mounts with the computer. The ¼ turn mounts attach to the bike using the included heavy-duty rubber bands. You can either attach the mount to the stem (if you have a long enough stem to accommodate the size of the Edge 810) or on the handlebars. The quarter turn mounts are not perfect, and are prone to rotating around the handlebars when you push the lap button. All of the Garmin units we tested use the same ¼ turn mount, but the larger size of the Edge 810 makes it more prone to rotation. We prefer out-front mounts that place the computer in front of the stem, such as the included mount on the SRM Powercontrol 7. Garmin makes an out-front mount that we did not test, and 3rd party options are available from Barfly and K-Edge. Garmin also makes two different speed/cadence sensor units, we used both during testing. See our summary of the two options in the Buying Advice Article.
Programming and Configuration:
When the Garmin Edge 810 is turned on for the first time you are prompted to input user information. If you have a Garmin Connect Account, which is free, you can input all of this information with a computer into Garmin Connect, and when you sync your new Garmin it will upload automatically to the device. Garmin Connect is also how you will get firmware updates for your device. We recommend you update the firmware on your device before using the first time to ensure you are using the latest software version. All ANT+ sensors must be paired to the computer once, and after that they will automatically be recognized.
Bike Profiles: The Edge 810 allows you to enter up to 10 bike profiles. You can create a name, input the weight of the bike, and associate ANT+ sensors to the bike.
Activity Profiles: These allow you select the number of pages or screens you want as well as the type and number of data fields on each screen, and associate those selections with an activity name such as "Training", or "Racing". Activity profiles and bike profiles must be set up on the device.
Garmin Connect: To get the most out of your Edge 810, you need a Garmin Connect Account, and fortunately it is free. Once you have an account established, download the Garmin Connect App to your smartphone, and pair your Edge 810 with your smartphone. This will allow you to use the Live Track feature, wirelessly upload workout data to Garmin Connect, and get weather updates on your Garmin while riding.
The Garmin Edge 810 is loaded with features. We break them down for you below.
Speed, either from GPS data or sensor.
Distance using GPS or Speed Sensor, the unit defaults to GPS if no speed sensor is available.
Cadence, when used with a dedicated sensor or crank based power meter.
Heart Rate, when paired with a heart rate monitor strap.
Power, when paired to an ANT+ power meter. We tested with both Quarq and PowerTap. Also gives accurate calorie expenditure when using a power meter.
Elevation, calculated with internal barometer.
GPS and Mapping:
This is a big one, and sets the Edge 810 apart from its competition. The Edge 810 tracks your ride with GPS, and can also give you turn-by-turn directions if you load maps onto a micro SD card.
We used a 32G card, but you can get away with much less, as most maps you will load will only eat up 1mb or less of memory. We used Open Street Maps, a free map download/sharing service. It takes a little while because you must get in a queue to upload a map, but the maps are accurate and free. You can also create a route in Garmin Connect, or select an existing route from the database and upload it to your device. Another useful feature within maps is the ability to select a point of interest near you. For example, you can search for the nearest Chipotle or Starbucks (everyone knows burritos and coffee are the primary fuel sources for most cycling activities) during a ride and get turn-by-turn directions to the location. Unfortunately, the mapping functions of the Edge 810 will not help you much during mountain bike rides because the maps do not display details of dirt trails.
Garmin Connect, Cell Phone Integration, and Live Track:
The glass is half full… Garmin Connect is a great idea, but it lacks the user base of third party services like Strava. Very few segments exist on Garmin Connect, and you will likely end up using both Garmin Connect and Strava. Which is ok, because you can link your Garmin and Strava accounts and move workout data directly to Strava. Creating courses on Garmin Connect is a bit cumbersome, but not too bad once you get the hang of it.
The Edge 810 is Bluetooth 2.0 enabled, allowing you to connect your smartphone, but not Bluetooth accessories such as powermeters or speed sensors.
Connecting your phone using the Garmin Connect App allows you to use Live Track. Live Track will send a notification of your ride, with a link to the live view page, to preselected email addresses. We were excited about this feature and its potential to increase solo ride safety. Unfortunately, the feature is hamstrung by the need to have a cell phone connection. If you lose cell service during your ride, the live track stops, leaving friends and loved ones with more questions than answers. So if you ride in an area with spotty service, this feature will not help you. The automatic wireless uploads are nice, and the weather updates are marginally useful.
ANT+ wireless allows you to connect to any ANT+ sensor including speed, cadence, power meters, heart rate monitors, and even smart scales. We tested with all of the available types of sensors except scales, and found the Edge 810 to have no problems pairing or calibrating any ANT+ device.
The routable maps function on the Edge 810 enhances its versatility, making it useful for recreational road riders and touring riders alike. The full host of data fields and ANT+ compatibility make it an ideal tool for the racer as well. While it is a bit heavier than other units we tested, we are only talking about a few grams - hardly a deal breaker. We also like that the Edge 810 is quite functional for speed, distance, and elevation even without any sensors paired. This is nice for the user with multiple bikes who does not desire detailed data when using some bikes, but wants to use a power meter on another. The activity profiles add to the versatility as well. For example, when racing you may only want to see a few data fields like distance, time, and average power. But when out training you may want multiple power settings such as 10second average and lap power, to better facilitate interval work.
The Garmin Edge 810 is IPX7 rated, so it should be able to withstand 30 minutes of immersion at 1 meter. This translated to no issues during testing, even following hours in the rain, and some muddy cyclocross testing.
The Garmin Edge 810 is truly well suited to almost any type of rider, from the beginner to the experienced racer, and everyone in between. If you don't need the maps, then the Garmin Edge 510 might be a better choice.
The Garmin Edge 810 is not cheap. With a $399 price tag that does not include any sensors, it is a big purchase. Despite the price, it is still a good value, and is loaded with features to soften the financial blow.
We love the Edge 810. The maps and loads of features give the consummate pro everything they need, and provide plenty of room to grow for those new to the sport. We hope that Garmin improves the flow and user interface of Garmin Connect in the future, but it is useful in its current state. We also wish that the Garmin Edge 810 was compatible with Bluetooth Smart accessories, but since Garmin owns the ANT+ protocol, the decision is not surprising. Will Garmin make newer versions more versatile by adding Bluetooth Smart in the future?
Other Versions and Accessories
Garmin Edge 200
Garmin Edge 500
Garmin Edge 510
See the buying advice for How to Choose the best bike computer here!
— Curtis Smith
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 23, 2015
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