Garmin Edge 800 In-Depth Review

 

If you are a bike rider or triathlete who trains on the bike, you probably use some sort of bike computer to monitor distance and speed. If so, most of you have heard about the Garmin Edge line of bike computers. Garmin, a leading maker in GPS products, started selling the Edge 800 in early 2011. The Edge 800 is Garmin’s top of the line GPS bike computer. The Edge 800 has a color touchscreen, which requires pressure to select times on the screen, and can be used with thin gloves. It comes with built in basemaps that show major roads and cities, and with an optional microSD card, the device is compatible with detailed street and topo maps. These additional maps can be purchased from Garmin, and can come preloaded on a purchased microSD card, or they can be downloaded and can be installed on a blank microSD. The Edge 800 also provides turn by turn navigation, just like your car GPS navigation system. You can use Garmin’s free BaseCamp software or other applications like Map My Ride to create a route, and then upload the route to the Edge. Once your ride is complete, your workout can be uploaded using Garmin Connect. It can also be exported to other software programs like TrainingPeaks.

 

Here is a quick introductory video from Garmin that shows some of the high level features of the Edge 800.

The Edge 800 has been out for a while, but since we are a newer website, this is a product that we feel is revolutionary, and we use it on a daily basis, we had to write a review to post on out site.

By  now, many of you have read the FitnessElectronicsBlog disclaimer, but here it is in case this is your first time reading one of our reviews. For the record, we do not work for Garmin, and are in no way connected with them or any of the companies whose gear we review. We do this because we love playing with the latest technology, and we can’t keep our hands off this stuff if we tried.  We purchased the Edge 800, and we have been using it for almost a year. No give-us-gear for a favorable review, or anything like that. We call ‘em as we see ‘em. It keeps us honest. Also, we have a group of 4 people who do the evaluations of all of the gear. One person is the lead on a piece of gear, but everyone gets a chance to evaluate the stuff. We have 2 guys and 2 ladies, so it’s a good mix of people. It gives us better insight, and we get a better review overall. Everyone has an input to the review. If you want to know who these people are, check out our About Us page. We have 4 seasoned triathletes, and 3 Pilates instructors. All swim, bike, run, do Pilates and Yoga, and use all of the gear on a daily basis. So, enough with the babble, and let’s get to the review.

What’s in the box?

First of all, the Edge 800 comes in two versions. The basic version retails for $449.99, while the bundled version with the additional heart rate monitor strap, cadence sensor, and data card with preloaded City Navigator retails for $649.99.

Edge 800 Version

  • Edge 800
  • Bike mounts
  • AC charger
  • USB cable
  • Manual

Edge 800 Bundled Version

  • Edge 800
  • Premium heart rate monitor
  • Speed/cadence sensor
  • Data card preloaded with City Navigator for U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico street maps (maps on a preloaded data card cannot be copied or viewed on a computer)
  • Bike mounts
  • AC charger
  • USB cable
  • Manual
Here is the box and contents of the basic model:
To get an idea of actual size, here are a few images of the 800:
The display is 160×240 pixels, which is adequate for the mapping screen.
The Edge 800 feels solid, and well constructed. There is a carbon fiber looking front panel that looks like a water transfer, and the back has a rubberized paint feel, with water resistant rubber connector covers:
To mount it to the bike, Garmin supplies their standard 1/4 turn mount. Here is a quick video on how easy it is to mount to your bike with the elastic bands and clip (this video uses the Garmin Edge 500, but the mounting hardware is the same):

 

 

If you purchase the bundled version with the speed/cadence sensor, here is a video on how to install it. It is very simple (once again, this video uses the Garmin Edge 500, but the mounting hardware is the same):

 

So what are the features?

Here are the features taken from the Garmin website:

Physical & Performance:

Unit dimensions, WxHxD: 2.0″ x 3.7″ x 1.0″ (5.1 x 9.3 x 2.5 cm), 2.0″ x 3.7″ x 1.0″ (5.1 x 9.3 x 2.5 cm)
Display size, WxH: 1.4″ x 2.2″ (3.6 x 5.5 cm); 2.6″ diag (6.6 cm), 1.4″ x 2.2″ (3.6 x 5.5 cm); 2.6″ diag (6.6 cm)
Display resolution, WxH: 160 x 240 pixels, touchscreen, 160 x 240 pixels, touchscreen
Touchscreen: yes
Weight: 3.5 oz (98.0 g), 3.5 oz (98.0 g)
Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion, rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life: 15 hours, typical, 15 hours, typical
Water resistant: yes (IPX7)
GPS-enabled: yes
High-sensitivity receiver: yes

Maps & Memory:

Basemap: yes
Ability to add maps: yes
Accepts data cards: microSD™ card (some versions include a CityNavigator microSD card), microSD™ card (some versions include a CityNavigator microSD card)
Lap history: 1000 laps, 1000 laps
Waypoints/favorites/locations: 200, 200
Routes: Limited by memory space available, Limited by memory space available

Features & Benefits:

Heart rate monitor: yes (some versions)
Bike speed/cadence sensor: yes (some versions)
Foot pod: no
Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer): no
Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyze, categorize and share data): yes
Garmin Training Center® software compatible: yes
Virtual Partner® (train against a digital person): yes
Virtual racer™ (compete against other activities): no
Courses (compete against previous activities): yes
Auto Pause® (pauses and resumes timer based on speed): yes
Auto Lap® (automatically starts a new lap): yes
Auto Scroll (cycles through data pages during workout): yes
Multi-sport (changes sport mode with a press of a button): no
Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts): yes
Simple workouts (input time, distance and calorie goals): yes
Pace alert (triggers alarm if you vary from preset pace): yes
Time/distance alert (triggers alarm when you reach goal): yes
Vibration alert: (choose between alert tones and/or vibration alert): no
Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals): yes
Heart rate-based calorie computation: yes
Training effect (measures impact of an activity on your aerobic fitness): no
Customizable screen(s): yes
Barometric altimeter: yes
Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units): no
Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible 3rd party ANT+™-enabled power meters): yes (records data approx. 1 per second)
Temperature (displays and records temperature while you ride): yes
Sport watch: no
Additional: Operating temperature: -20°C to +60°C, Operating temperature: -20°C to +60°C

This device has an amazing number of features, screens, and data fields.

Using the Edge 800

There are three buttons in addition to the touch screen. The button on the left side is the power button. The left button at the bottom of the device is the lap/reset button. Pressing this button creates a new lap. If you press and hold, it will save your current ride and reset the timer. The right button is the start/stop button,. Pressing this button starts or stops the timer.

You can swipe your finger across the touchscreen to change pages, or to scroll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the device is first powered on, the stats screen is displayed. You can change bikes quickly, adjust the brightness, and lock the touchscreen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the top of the screen are icons that indicate ANT+  accessories. Pressing these icons takes you to the individual setting screens.

 

When you are ready to ride, press the start /stop button. Here is a typical screen that is viewable during your ride. You can customize data fields for five timer pages, with up to 10 items per screen. There is also the map page, Virtual Partner page, and the elevation page. Here is a shot of a timer page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The data fields that can be chosen are almost too many to list, but I did anyway. Not all of the ones that I will list are available unless you have the optional ANT+ sensor:

  • Battery level
  • Cadence
  • Cadence – Average
  • Cadence – lap
  • Calories
  • Calories – fat
  • Calories to go
  • Distance
  • Distance -lap
  • Distance – last lap
  • Distance to destination
  • Distance to go
  • Distance to next
  • Elevation
  • ETA at destination
  • ETa at next
  • GPS accuracy
  • GPS signal strength
  • Grade
  • Heading
  • Heart rate
  • Heart rate- percent of heart rate reserve
  • Heart rate – percent of maximum
  • Heart rate – average
  • Heart rate percentage of heart rate reserve
  • Heart rate- average percentage of maximum heart rate for the run
  • Heart rate – current lap
  • Heart rate – average percentage of heart rate reserve for the lap
  • Heart rate  – percentage of ma for the lap
  • Heart rate graph
  • Heart rate to go
  • Heart rate zone
  • Number of laps completed
  • Location at destination
  • Location – the next point on the route
  • Odometer
  • Power in watts
  • Power output in percent of functional threshold power
  • Power output 30 second average
  • Power – average
  • Power – average last lap
  • Power in kilojoules
  • Power – average current lap
  • Power – max
  • Power – max last lap
  • Power in watts/kg
  • Power zone 1-7
  • Speed
  • Speed – average
  • Speed – lap
  • Speed – last lap
  • Speed – maximum
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset
  • Temperature
  • Time
  • Time -average lap
  • Time – elapsed
  • Time – lap
  • Time – last lap
  • Time of day
  • Time to destination
  • Time to go
  • Time to next point
  • Total ascent
  • Total descent
  • Vertical speed
  • Vertical speed – 30 second moving average
Wow! There are too many choices. So you can set up to 5 screens of information with any of the data fields shown above. In addition, you also have the map screen, shown here.

 

 

 

 

 

You can create workouts in Garmin Training Center, or right on the Edge 800. If you create one in Garmin Training Center, you just upload the workout to the Edge. If you don’t have anyone to train with, you can use Virtual Partner (VP). Virtual Partner allows you to set a speed, and then Virtual Partner shows you whether you are keeping up. Here is a shot of the VP screen.

 

 

 

 

 

So, out of the box, set your data fields, press start, and you are ready to go. Here is a video on how to change the data fields.

 

Accessories and sensors

The Edge 800 is compatible with the following Garmin accessories:

Garmin Speed/Cadence Sensor

 

 

 

 

Garmin HRM Strap

 

 

 

Garmin Premium HRM Strap

 

 

 

The Edge 800 is compatible with Garmin Vector, Quarq, SRM, iBike, PowerTap, and other ANT+ enabled power meters. Here is a video that shows how to pair, calibrate and check that the power meter is working. This video uses a Edge 705 instead of the 800, but setup is the same.

Connection Software

There are multiple software programs that are made for or can be used to work with the Edge 800. Garmin WebUpdater updates the Edge 800 firmware and keeps it up to date, Training Center for analyzing your rides on your computer, and Garmin Connect for analyzing your rides on the web. BaseCamp can be used to plan and upload routes. Then there are the third party software options, such as Map My Ride and TrainingPeaks. Since some of these are in depth software programs, we will cover these programs in a separate blog post.

Thoughts, Opinions and Summary:

Overall, we think that the Garmin Edge 800 is the best GPS bike computer, bar none. We use it on a daily basis and think it is intuitive and easy to use. We typically would get 9+ hours of battery life in typical use. The size seems right, most of the time the screen is easy to read, and the mounting system works well. We downloaded City Navigator, and loaded it on a microSD card. The maps we very thorough, and we had no problems with navigating on backcountry roads. The training features were excellent, and we had no complaints with excluded features, or accuracy of measurements. If we had any complaints, and this is nitpicking, we think that Garmin Connect is good, but not great, and there are too many software programs when getting started. We would like to see one program that is easy to install, and does it all. For actual workout analysis, we are still fans of TrainingPeaks.

So the question we always ask is, “Would we buy the Edge 800 if it were our money that we were spending?” The answer is, yes. And we did. If you ride and train a lot, this is the bike computer for you. We have been using it for almost a year, and we wouldn’t give it up. If you don’t want the navigation feature, we would recommend the Edge 500.

Pros:

  • Great maps
  • Screen visibility is good
  • Mounting system works well
  • Multiple options with cadence and heart rate options
  • Works with ANT+ power meters
  • Turn by turn directions are easy to use and read

Cons:

  • Touch screen is tough to use when riding
  • Temperature is not always accurate, maybe due to self heating
  • Software options can be confusing
  • Garmin Connect web software is very good, not great
Happy Training
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