Garmin is the big gorilla when it comes to cycling GPS units. The Edge 1000 has been their top of the range model, but on paper the new Garmin Edge 820 looks to be the superior product. But what about out on the ride?
Garmin Edge 820 Cycling GPS Review
Before we get any further into the Garmin Edge 820 review, I think it’s vitally important to highlight that there are TWO Edge 820 units available, with very similar names; the Garmin Edge 820 (reviewed in this post) and the lower priced Garmin Edge 820 Explore.
So what differences do you get for that additional £50, and do those differences really matter? Vastly so YES! Well yes if you are interested in your racing/biological performance on the bike, as with Edge Explore drops the following software features:
- VO2 max calculation
- Recovery advisor (one of the best Edge features generally IMO)
- Stress Score
- FTP and watts/kg tracking,
- Performance condition,
- Strava Live Segments and
- Advanced cycling dynamics.
But the hardware changes are a little more significant
- No WiFi!!
- No ANT+ Power meter support (I mean REALLY?!, at this price point!)
- No Ambient Light Sensor – shame, but not the end of the world
I’m not sure I’m more shocked at the lack of Wifi or the lack of power meter support, talk about intentionally crippling a product!
So given we’ve that little distinction out of the way so we can basically disregard the Edge Explorer, let’s take a look at the how the fully featured Garmin Edge 820 performs. Then look at answering that burning question; is the Edge 820, better than it’s big brother the Edge 1000?
The Garmin Edge 820 looks very much like an evolution of the Garmin Edge 1000
For me, the surprising thing is the efficiency of the Edge 820 compared to the 1000. The Edge 1000 has a larger screen, but actually lacks some functionality, but is a MUCH bigger machine
On the back, we have the very familiar Garmin Quarter Turn Mount, inside of which we have the ANT+, Bluetooth and Wifi logos.
As usual with Garmin devices, the Edge 820 can only receive data from ANT+ sensors, but can communicate with your phone via Bluetooth for notifications etc.
On the bottom, we have the Lap and Start/Pause buttons –
On the top LEFT the power button
A clean RIGHT side of the unit, as we’ve traded the Edge 520’s scroll buttons for a touch screen
Finally on the underside we have the micro USB charge port
It is only when you see the Edge 820 compared to other similar GPS units, that you get an idea of home impressive the size really is
In the box, we have the usual gubbins. A generous 3 mounts, rubber spacers and bands and a lanyard. After having seen several GPS’s go flying during sportives, I always use a lanyard now
It’s very good of Garmin to include three mounts, giving options. But I’m not a fan of the standard Garmin mount, especially as the Edge 820, is a little chunky, resulting in the unit sitting quite proud
By comparison my regular K-Edge mount, allows the Edge 820, or 1000 to sit flush, inline with the handle bars, which is much more pleasing to my mind
- Size: 73.0 x 49.0 x 21.0 mm
- Display: 200 x 265 pixels, colour touch-screen, ambient light sensor
- Weight: 67.7 g
- Battery life: Up to 15 hours GPS training mode; up to 24 hours UltraTrac mode
- Waterproofing: IPX7
- Sensors: GPS, GLONAS, Altimeter,
- Communication: Bluetooth Smart (phone only), ANT+, Wifi
- Storage: 16Gb internal (no expandable storage slot)
Using the Device
If you are used to using a Garmin Edge device, you are not really going to find much new in the day to day operation of the Edge 820. What you might be pleased about is the overall polish of the unit, both inside and out
Garmin has overhauled the previous grid interface seen on the 1000 with a new home screen that focuses to the basics – Activity, Navigation, and Training. Additional supplimentary buttons icons link to the settings and Garmin IQ tabs at the bottom of the screen
This new approach makes life a lot easier than before. If I’m about to use Zwift, I use the arrows at the top of the screen, to move the centre dial to “training”, which I know will switch off the GPS, conserve battery, and give me a different set of pre-selected activity screens.
You can have the Edge 820 responsive to the time of day, so automatically going into night mode in relation to the ambient light sensor
Group Track is Garmin’s version of a live Strava flyby, in the sense you can see which other users, who you have estabilished connections to on Garmin Connect. The idea is supposed to be that your group can form up during a ride. For example, if Derek who is always late, is once again late to the meet point, the group could set off, knowing they are riding in the direction Derek is coming as he is visible on Group Track. Similarly Derek would be able to see the group, and adjust his course accordingly to redezvou with everyone later up.
It’s one of those specific Garmin 820 features which only works with other Garmin 820’s currently. As a result I’ve not been able to test. However I personally DONT think it’s a driver for Garmin 820 sales on their own, as it assumes other people will be upgrading at the same time, and have the same device needs as you, in order to choose the 820. I think it would be a MUCH bigger driver for Garmin over all, if this update was available for all the current gen Edge devices – it came to the Edge 1000 at the start of October, hopefully it will spread down the entire range, I’d see that as a real drive for people to by a Garmin generally.
Now by comparison, I think the new feature on the Edge 820, which would convince me to buy the 820 specifically is the Incident Detection
Working very much in a similar manner to the recently reviewed ICEdot crash sensor, the Garmin will notify your emergency contact in the event of a crash
Unlike the ICEdot, you register a person – whether they like it or not – as your emergency contact. But Garmin does inform them of the fact
So once you are all setup, what happens if you have a crash?
No I didn’t crash, I was out testing the Garmin Edge 820 and saw a nice open, mown, area of grass, so stopped the bike, and hurled the Edge 820 into the grass – which should be a good simulation of stopping with a bump!
When “a crash” has been detected, the unit starts a quite startling alarm going, and begins to count down from 30 until the emergency notification is sent.
If you are lying, unresponsive in a pool of your own brain matter, when the counter stops, and Garmin goes all Baywatch, and shouts for help
On the other end, your emergency contacts get the following messages:
They will also receive an alert email, if you’ve been using LiveTrack to an email address
Note that both the text and the email contain a GoogleMaps link, so your emergency contact can come and scoop up the remains
However, if you’ve just had a tumble, and not been able to get to your Garmin 820 in time, you can send an “I’m OK” message to hopefully stop the worry
The message they recieve is thus:
It’s worth noting that like the ICEdot crash sensor, the Garmin Edge 820 still needs access to your mobile, and an internet connection. Upshot being if you are in the back of beyond, without signal, you are on your own again!
As mentioned above the Garmin Edge 820 has a very nice loud speaker, certainly more so that the Edge 1000. This comes in very handy for navigation notifications
Navigation is now front and if not center, then slightly to the left on the Garmin Edge series with the new firmware
Tapping navigation takes you into the navigation menu (shocker!),
Gone is the micro SD card slot seen on the Edge 1000, instead, we’ve got 16GB internal storage, with maps taking up about 8GB of space
Having moved to a new area, in Nuneaton, I’ve actually found the search tools, and addresses very effective for finding the best biking routes through town – of which there seem to be plenty
Depending on how far you are going, affects the calculation time. But I found the calculating the 10km route from George Elliot hospital to home, took about 30-60 secs, which I’m not going to grumble at!
You can also get navigation popups, which appear on screen if you are using an alternative data screen.
The battery life on the Garmin Edge 1000 has always been slight variable. Personally, I’ve never had an issue, but some people have had difficulty eking out over a 12hr ride.
The quoted battery life for the Edge 820 is 10 hours, however, Garmin have added a battery saver option, which should increase the battery life to approximately 15 hours, to help you on the longer ride…
However I am demonstrably not a fan!
The first time I used the feature, I thought I’d not charged the device, as I was going for a merry cycle, and then found I what appeared to be a dead unit, on my handlebars
Garmin has decided that in order to increase battery life by 50%, one of the most energy consuming features is the screen, and so switches it off after you have started riding – BUT THEN MY SCREEN IS OFF!!
The screen will still switch on to alert you of directions if in navigation mode, or if you get a smart message from your phone, but frankly, I’d be better off just using a phone app stashed in my back pocket.
When the Edge 820 was launched the screen was soooo sensitive, it could be used in the rain, or with gloves. However, you could also wave your fingers over it, and have the device register touches – which could also be really irritating, when adding names of sensors etc.
Thankfully that has been addressed in the latest firmware, HOWEVER the screen doesn’t register a touch with gloved hands now, personally I’m happy with the trade off, but it does mean I cant tap to wake from battery saver with gloves on, so I keep battery saver mode switched firmly OFF
To put it simply, the Bluetooth on the Edge 820 just works. When the Edge 1000 first was released, smart functionally didn’t work for many people. I had two different devices over about a year, and still it never functioned properly.
In 2016 Garmin seem to have sorted their Bluetooth communication, as the Edge 1000 firmware update has brought effective smart notifications finally. Similarly the Garmin Edge 820 receives smart notifications without issue as soon as you set it up
Unsurprisingly Garmin’s Varia Radar system plays nicely with the Edge 820
This was something I was interested to see functioning, as on the Edge 1000, you have a massive screen to display the alerts on. However over the year or so I’ve been riding with the Varia radar, I’ve found the audio alert to be the most effective part of the radar network. The alert triggering me to then look at the screen.
As a result of being seemingly louder than the Edge 1000, the Edge 820 is a better unit for me to use with the radar, even with the smaller screen
On Zwift/Indoor Riding
The Garmin Edge 820 has ANT+ FEC (Fitness Equipment Control) mode for your indoor trainer
Thus you are able to pair the Edge 820 to your Wahoo KICKR or Elite Drivo in case you wanted to take control of your power for personal training rides on Zwift.
The ANT+ FEC also means that the Edge 820 is able to accurately record power, speed, and cadence if your trainer is able to broadcast them. This then allows the cycling metrics within the Edge 820, to get an accurate picture of what efforts you have actually put in on Zwift, and appropriately record things.
Speaking of metrics…
To be honest there is nothing majorly new here. Merely that Garmin have ensured that the Edge 820 is able to calculate and record the similar metrics which have been rolled out on other Garmins with a focus to training and fitness.
I’m a big fan of Garmin’s recovery adviser – that pops up at the end of a ride. Actually listening to this advise has greatly reduced the feeling of “empty legs” at the start of a ride for me. However it can occasionally give some slightly screwy numbers, advising 72hrs rest, after a 1hr ride
FTP – which can be auto calculated (nice touch)
But can also be added manually, after I completed my last Zwift FTP test
One new feature which has come over to the Edge 820 from the Fenix 3 HR is the Stress Score.
You pair your heart rate monitor and have to stand, relaxed for 3 mins. The information will determine the stress levels you are experiencing as a result of sleep, nutrition, and general life.
This can also have a big impact on races and training. Over time, and with repeated tests, you’ll get an idea of how to improve things – perhaps a few less of the never ending Zwift races!
I moved house two weeks ago – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!! (Plus I’m NEVER, EVER, EVER *EVER* moving house again!)
The Edge 820 is, to put it simply, the device the Edge 1000 should have been. Yes therhas been nearly 2 years of development time on the Edge 820, but not for any particularly groundbreaking features. The Edge 820 just does everything you’d expect – well
But as I have alluded to, the Edge 820 isn’t perfect. The hypersensitivity of the screen (which has now been fixed) was just down right annoying. The “battery saver” is also a highly irritating feature for me, as it largely renders the 820 into a recording only device – I NEED MY DATA! On screen, NOW!
The Garmin Edge 820, is in my mind, the Garmin cycling head unit to buy currently. The Bluetooth Smart features just work, it’s more user friendly than the 520, which desperately needed to have been released with a touch screen, it’s more up-to-date than the Edge 1000, and the battery life seems much more capable of surviving a 7-8 hour ride outside without needing to resort to the new “battery saver” mode.
Realistically, for me there is only one thing the Garmin 1000 wins on, the larger screen real estate, and I’ll let you decide how important that is to you.
The Garmin Edge 820 reinforced my opinion of Garmin as a company. They make truly great devices. But also so surprisingly bad ones – see the VivoActive HR.
Thankfully the Edge 820 is one of the Garmin gems.