This is a review of the Garmin Edge 800 GPS cyclecomputer based on 340 miles of riding. So far, I'm impressed with the unit's bright touchscreen display and its very wide range of functions and capabilities. The Edge 800 includes features not seen on previous Garmins, or any other brand of bike computer.
The Garmin Edge 800 is to sell (beginning in October) for $449, up to $649 for the version including soft-strap heart rate monitor, speed/cadence sensor, and City Navigator or topo mapping on microSD.
Garmin Edge 800 GPS Cyclecomputer: Where it Fits Into the Line
Garmin's sports & fitness division is a fast-growing part of the company. Garmin's determination to continue to rule the sports GPS category is evident in the Garmin Edge 800 GPS cyclecomputer. It's obvious that significant R&D went into the 800, which is the new top model in a six-model cycling line. From its touchscreen (most cyclecomputers are controlled with buttons), to its bright display with large numerals, to never-done-before navigation features, to compatibility with power meters and other accessories, the Edge 800 is a technological tour de force.
In the wireless Edge 800, Garmin takes some of the better features of the smaller, race-bred Edge 500 and the slightly bulkier Edge 705, and adds a touchscreen and a whole new user interface to create something new and remarkable.
The Edge 800 is 3.5 inches long, compared with the 4-inch Edge 705. Yet the 800 has a larger screen, (2.5 inches diagonal, and slightly wider) compared to the 2.3-inch 705 screen. The 800 also picks up the carbon fiber weave finish and the sleeker look of the 500. See the accompanying photo for a side-by-side comparison shot of the three models.
Garmin Edge 800 Touchscreen Control and Feature Set
The Edge 800's touchscreen includes a "menu" position at the bottom, and it's easy to scroll through the function screens with a pair of arrow buttons. Screens in sequence include three completely customizable data screens, a navigation/map screen, and a simulated training partner (if activated) screen.
The main menu includes a "Where To?" button that lets you navigate by tracks, coordinates, points of interest (POI), addresses, and more. This menu looks much like that of an automotive GPS, and if you add the optional City Navigator map with POI set, you get virtually all of the same functionality, including turn-by-turn directions.
A "History" button gives you access to your stored activities list and totals. A "Training" button lets you set time, distance, heart rate, and other alerts. A "Virtual Partner" button lets you set up partner speed. "Courses" lets you create and name new courses.
The Edge 800 has three physical buttons, in addition to the touchscreen controls. One is a power on/off button on the top left, and a pair of buttons at the bottom for lap/reset and workout start/stop. I think it makes sense to keep these frequently used functions as physical buttons.
Data field categories include timing, distance, speed, elevation, heart rate, pedaling cadence, power, navigation, courses, and workouts. There are numerous specific functions under these categories, and all are completely customizable to appear in your display screens.
The Garmin Edge 800: Mounting, Accessories, and Online Service
For the Edge 800, Garmin adopted the same mounting system (see photo) as the Edge 500. This includes a versatile mounting plate that is fits snugly on a handlebar or a stem via a pair of tough elastic O-rings. A bag full of O-rings of varying sizes and a second mount are included. To mount the computer, simply place, turn clockwise a quarter-turn, and it locks into place.
The Edge 800 may be ordered with a soft-fabric heart wireless heart rate monitor strap. I like the soft feel of the strap, and found it to be easily adjustable. The strap includes a compact (2.3-inch-wide) transmitter that snaps off the strap to ease washing and maintenance.
There are no Garmin-made power output meters, but the Edge 800 uses the ANT+ wireless standard to communicate with virtually all power meters on the market. The Edge 800's menu system allows full integration of power stats and power range alerts.
You may also order a wireless pedaling cadence sensor for the Edge 800 to display and store cadence stats.
Like all other Garmin fitness GPS devices, it's easy to upload, store, and analyze workout data from the Edge 800 by using Garmin's free online Garmin Connect service. Garmin has steadily improved Connect, and it has become a very robust and user friendly way to keep incredibly detailed and thorough training logs. You may also graph your data, and share data and graphs online or via e-mail.
The Garmin Edge 800 on the Road
The Garmin Edge 800 has the brightest and largest screen, with the largest numerals, that Garmin has produced in a cyclecomputer. The numerals and words on-screen are also a bit "fatter" and thus easier to see than previous models. The screen was readily visible in full sunlight.
It didn't take long to get used to the unique touchscreen controls, and the fact that the controls are large and well-marked makes them superior to small and difficult-to-read physical side-button controls.
I have extensive mileage on the Edge 800's sister models, the 705 and the 500, and the 800 really is a "cross" between them including the best of both, plus the new touchscreen. Racers will still prefer the more compact (and mapless) 500. Those who are interested in a bigger display with more options and an amazing color mapping and navigation capability will go for the 800.
The Garmin Edge 800 pioneers some new navigation features that wowed me. If you have the City Navigator SD card installed, and ride with the color map screen displayed, names of upcoming cross streets appear across the top of the screen. The map screen will also tell you which road you are on, and your directional heading. The top of the screen also prompts you when you navigate via turn-by-turn directions. Overall, this is best-in-class navigation that borrows much from Garmin car GPS.
The Garmin Edge 800 is a remarkable new cyclecomputer. See the next page for full specs.