SRM Powercontrol 7 Review
Cons: No GPS, no Bluetooth, only compatible with SRM ANT+ power meters, expensive
Our Analysis and Test Results
SRM is a German company that makes cycling computers and power meters. SRM power meters were the first crank based power meters to gain wide spread acceptance among the European pro cycling teams. The SRM Powercontrol 7 has been out for over 5 years, but it is still a common sight on professional cyclists' handlebars. The Powercontrol 7 is not a GPS enabled computer, but it is ANT+ enabled. SRM is the only company using a 4-times-per-second power data-sampling rate. Most computers on the market only gather power data 1 x second. This is important for athletes that demand the highest quality data for short intervals, like a 10 second sprint. The SRM Powercontrol 7 also stands out with 120-hour battery life.
Ease of Use and Interface
The SRM Powercontrol 7 uses a three tactile button interface to scroll through data screens, similar to the function of the Garmin Edge 500. The buttons on the Powercontrol 7 are located on the front of the computer and are easy to see and manipulate with gloved hands. An out-front mount is standard equipment, and the only way to mount the Powercontrol 7, placing it in an optimum position for viewing. There are four standard screens or pages that you can toggle through: Sleep, Real-Time, Average, and Max. The Real Time screen is what you will use while riding, and it displays power, heart rate, speed, cadence,and zone, while the top line rotates through altitude, distance, and time. These data fields are preset, and can be changed only using the SRM software that is included with the computer. This is less convenient than the Garmin units we tested. While the SRM is relatively easy to use once you figure out the button functions, it is less customizable than the Garmin computers. Battery life is excellent; we have logged 100 hrs of use and are still going strong. Data downloads are accomplished using the included USB cable and the SRM software, or directly into Training Peaks. You can load the files into Strava, but not directly from the device. However, without GPS you will not be able to take advantage of popular Strava functions such as KOM and Segment time competition.
Set up of the Powercontrol 7 is relatively easy; the included out-front mount puts the computer in an ideal location. We have to give SRM credit here, as they are one of the first companies to offer this style mount as standard equipment. In order for the SRM to provide you with any data you will need to pair ANT+ sensors to the device. We found the process to be fairly straightforward and did not have any problems pairing 3rd party speed, cadence, or heart rate monitors with the SRM Powercontrol 7. If you want to change any of the advanced settings, such as screen layout or data fields, you must download the free SRM software from the website and make the changes using a personal computer.
The SRM Powercontrol 7 is ANT+ compatible and provides accurate speed, cadence, heart rate, time, and elevation data when paired with appropriate sensors. The SRM Powercontrol 7 is also capable of displaying very accurate power data, but only when used with an SRM crank based power meter. It will not read or display power data from power meters manufactured by any other brand. This is a huge draw back, and essentially makes the computer useless for a huge portion of potential users.
SRM claims that the Powercontrol 7 is water resistant, but do not reference a standard such as IPX7. We used the Powercontrol 7 in inclement weather including heavy rain and snow, and experienced no issues. It should also be noted that SRM computers are widely used by professional cyclists in Europe who frequently ride in the most deplorable weather, and we have not heard of any issues with water resistance.
The SRM Powercontrol 7 is not a versatile cycling computer. It is only capable of reading power data from SRM branded powermeters. In the defense of SRM, they do produce power meter cranks that are compatible with a broad range of drive trains, including Shimano, Campagnolo, and Sram. However, we feel that the computer should be capable of reading power data from any ANT+ enabled power meter, which is the standard in the industry.
The SRM Powercontrol 7 is well-suited to serious athletes who will be using the computer with an SRM branded power meter. No other computer on the market is capable of recording power data at 4 x second, making this one of the most precise tools available for measuring short bursts of power.
The SRM Powercontrol 7 has an MSRP of $495 and is one of the most expensive computers we tested. Due to its lack of GPS and limited ability to use with other brands of power meters, we cannot make the argument that it presents a good value. Most users would be better served by purchasing a Garmin computer such as the Garmin 500 that provides more features and versatility for less money.
There is no disputing that the SRM Powercontrol 7 just looks "pro". The data quality is unrivaled when used with an SRM power meter. Unfortunately, it is not cross compatible with other power meter brands and lacks GPS, which limits its usefulness even to those who own SRM power meters. Price is a further deterrent, especially considering that you can by a GPS enabled computer such as the Garmin Edge 500 for less than half the cost of the Powercontrol 7.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Powercontrol 7 is also available with an aluminum case in multiple colors for an additional $100 over the price of the composite case model we tested. SRM recently launched the Powercontrol 8, which is GPS enabled, and should be compatible with all ANT+ computers.
— Curtis Smith