Garmin Edge 820 Review
This Garmin Edge 820 Review finds a cycling computer that is laden with bike features you never thought you would need. But do they work?
The Garmin Edge 820 is a great device.
If you bought one for a Christmas present for just about any cyclist they would be happy.
There will be a few oddities where certain people want subtly different features to what the 820 can offer. But those people will be few and far between.
However, the initial release has several software bugs. Edit: October 2017. I like the 820 BUT there are still some MAJOR bugs with this device specifically the touchscreen and navigation performance.
Recommendation: Buy or upgrade to the Edge 820 once the bugs are fixed. Do not consider the Edge 820 Explore.
The picture is not so clear-cut when it comes to cyclists just looking to upgrade from the 810/520. The 820 isn’t going to make you any faster but it might make you happier or safer with many new non-performance related features.
ESSENTIAL READING: Edge Feature Comparison 520 vs. 810 vs. 820
Polar M450, Garmin Edge 820, Garmin Edge 810, MIO Cyclo 505HC
Where to start?!
- Nice screen resolution, same as 520
- Battery life can be extended to ‘up to’ 24 hours in UltraTrac mode but the 15 hour normal battery life is more like 10 hours in real-life navigation scenarios.
- GLONASS has been added to GPS for improved positional stuff. I always found the GPS-only of the 810 more accurate than many other Garmin devices
- You can have multiple bike profiles
- Smartphone/Bluetooth related: Has livetrack for your partner to stalk you and GroupTrack for your cycling buddies to know where you are when you’ve sped ahead and stopped for a coffee. You can shares courses and workouts with your friends Edges via Bluetooth. You can receive weather conditions and alerts. Note your GroupTrack will work from your 520/810 friends’ LiveTrack sessions for up to about 10 miles (not tested). GroupTrack will likely make it onto the Edge 1030/1000.
- Has lots of interesting but peripheral physiological niceties – VO2max, lactate, performance condition, stress score.
- Can control your lights/radar, Di2 gears, FE-C trainer and turn on the coffee machine when you enter your home street (it can’t really).
- Will fully support the 2016/7 Connect IQ app capabilities
- Incident detection – ideal to make your loved one worry EVEN MORE about you.
- Can plan routes and round-trips on the pre-loaded regional maps. Trails are supported.
- Comprehensive navigational features including: back-to-start (same route or most-direct-route); bearing-and-distance navigation; roundtrip routes; recent destinations; turn-by-turn navigation (even using street names)
- Battery save mode for when the battery gets low
- WiFi uploads
- Audio prompts sent for your smartphone to relay to you. This will use headphones if you have them plugged in whilst cycling…which you won’t…will you?
- ‘Proper’ barometric altimeter (although you might find it drifts throughout the day)
- Has STRAVA segments as well as Garmin ones. You will need a paid-for strava account for the former.
- With HRV-enabled. FIT files are compatible with Firstbeat-type HRV tools eg FB Athlete. HRM required and HRM-TRI/SWIM/RUN all work fine.
- Will obviously support lots of power meters and the cycling dynamics of the Vector. I’d recommend the Favero ASSIOMA power pedals or the Watteam Powerbeat for a cheaper choice)
- Support for 2017’s Connect IQ improvements will continue to give you lots of mostly free ‘apps’. Most of them are currently of only very marginal utility.
On the other hand, here are some negatives..
- It is a size that most cyclists want. However it is a navigational device. The screen is small for more detailed trail-navigation uses. Despite having a smaller form factor than the 810, the 820 has an effective screen size that is NOT THAT much smaller. AND, in any case, the 820’s resolution is improved over the 810. I’m OK with all of this, you might not be. An Edge 1000 has a larger screen.
- There’s probably a few features missing. I couldn’t think of them 🙂
- The touch screen is really not great; even in summer with dry fingers. I have continual miss-presses/unrecognised presses and I am not quite sure if it is too sensitive or, sometimes, not sensitive enough. It is better than several other cycling watch touchscreens and certainly usable. I can only imagine what gloved fingers on a cold, wet winter’s day will be like. Hopefully this is firmware updatable. Note that I specifically DO NOT expect the 820 to perform like a smartphone’s touchscreen…in any case, it clearly doesn’t perform half as good as that.
- Loading and processing a course downloaded from Garmin Connect can take minutes. It is slow, REAL slow eg 5 minutes for a 120km route. The 820 took twice as long to load as the 2 year old MIO 505HC on the same course. For a 1km (one km) course the 820 took less than a minute to load/process but only if the course was loaded/processed whilst physically at the course start. (Edit: V3 firmware cites improvement in this area, not tested but it IS still slow even on later firmware versions)
- The screen has a nice resolution BUT Garmin cram too many lines and colours on to it in the MAP VIEW. Whilst it looks nice, it’s not that readable in the sense of actually directing you to where you want to go. Something like the WAHOO ELEMNT or HAMMERHEAD KAROO are better in this respect.
- A complete device setup takes 10s of minutes for a full, personalised configuration if you include all the alerts, device names, bluetooth and wifi settings. The thought of having to re-do that (factory reset) fills me with dread. With ever-increasing device complexity, Garmin need to seriously consider how ALL device/peripheral settings/preferences are backed up and transferred between devices. For example Polar have web-based sports profiles which are near-automatically copied to new Polar devices.
- Consider these instructions as a partial and existing Garmin solution for copying settings/rebuilding a device.
- The Garmin Edge 820 is a well-made unit. I would have liked a little more of a feeling of build-quality. Nevertheless it is ‘sound’. I would certainly keep it on my road/TT/turbo bikes.
- Annoyingly doesn’t come with a mount for aerobars (Zip do a cheap one on Amazon)
- The complexity and newness (Aug 2016, v2.30) of this Garmin product has brought teething issues. There are bugs/freezes reported on forums including navigational and screen issues and several general use issues. There is little point in me listing the bugs which may well have been resolved by the time you read this. I am relatively happy from my experience (100s of hours of use).
To be clear: I have an early hardware iteration of the 820. There ARE touchscreen issues with it. More recent reports suggest that these have been rectified to many people’s satisfaction with new UNANNOUNCED hardware changes. ie If you buy one now you’ll probably be fine.
Predominantly, as a triathlete, I can and do easily ‘get by’ with a wrist based device such as the Garmin Fenix 5. This year I have ramped up the road-bike miles and have really appreciated the benefits of a ‘cycling computer’. It can be annoying to manage more than one device when you perform multiple sports. Yet there really are some benefits to be derived from using a sports-specific device.
This year I have been changing how I complete triathlons and have been using a tri watch AND a cheap bike cycling computer (Polar M450) – luckily I’ve not had it stolen in transition! So I’m using the tri watch for end-to-end tri-recording and for the run metrics/alerts, then using the bike computer just for the screen metrics.
The Edge 820 is probably the best-featured ‘cycling computer’ ever made (until the Edge 1030 is released 😉 ) and it would be ridiculous to argue otherwise based on a few narrow feature omissions such as the inability to rotate a screen or the screen not being as large as others. The ONLY real criticism to hinder mass appeal is RELIABILITY. You might throw in ‘battery life’ as a criticism but the UltraTrac mode mostly counters that argument.
For the sheer wealth of features I have included it in my review the ‘Best Cycling Computers‘, linked to below.
Q: Would I recommend you buy one?
A: No, not yet. But I will once the forums suggest I will get through 100 miles with zero tech issues. As from December 2016 that is still not the case. Caveat Emptor.
- More robust MTB/CX device – Lezyne Super GPS
- Bigger screen size for navigation – Edge 1000, Edge 1030
- Similar (lower) functionality but cheaper – Edge 520, Wahoo ELEMNT
- Cheap as chips to show power data – Polar M450 (4iiii Viiiiva to convert ANT+), others
- In the sale, 2 year old model – Edge 810
- In the following linked post I look at the key devices worthy of YOUR consideration for the BEST cycling computer…
PRICE, DISCOUNT & AVAILABILITY – Garmin Edge 820 Review
In the USA the Edge 820 is available with a 10% store credit from PowerMeterCity (checkout code: the5krunner10) and you help this blog in a small way by purchasing from there. It should be the equivalent of about $10 cheaper than the normal Amazon price.
Current/live Amazon prices are shown below but pelase note that some Amazon stores only have BUNDLE deals for the 820 for some strange reason.