With a touchscreen display and improved interface, the Edge 800 is an excellent successor to Garmin’s popular Edge 705 GPS bike computer. It’s easier to use and offers signiﬁcant new features over the 705 including compatibility with a wider range of maps (including Ordnance Survey in the UK), temperature, and improved calorie counting.
The new full-colour, backlit display is 160x240 pixels, which is just big enough to make the detail of a 1:50,000 map useful. The resistive 37x55mm touchscreen – it needs pressure to activate it – uses an Apple iPhone-style swipe to switch displays, and provides a big target when you need to press a virtual button. It works ﬁne in full-ﬁnger gloves or with numb hands, making it ideal for winter riding, and makes it easy to spell place names.
Ride data is presented in three customisable screens with up to 10 pieces of information on each, with each digit measuring at least 5mm tall. We configured our test unit to show all of our important ride data on one page, important time info (such as time of day and sunset) on another, and key post-ride data on a third.
Available data now available includes temperature, which is useful for training analysis and for showing off how hardcore you are. A notable improvement over the 705 is heart-rate-based calorie computation: the 800 gives a reasonably accurate ﬁgure for the total work on your ride, unlike the 705’s rather vague estimate.
Main ride data can set in a vast array of configurations, with up to 10 pieces of information spread over five lines
The 800 is compatible with Garmin’s GB Discoverer range of OS maps. A bundle is available with the complete UK 1:50,000 map, and there are 1:25,000 maps for national parks and other major outdoor activity areas. For the extra £50 over the base unit, the 1:50,000 bundle looks like a bargain with a map that costs £199 on its own.
Garmin's City Navigator or TOPO maps can also be used, with a choice of turn-by-turn directions or a 1:24,000-scale topographical view of the surrounding terrain. Both can either be displayed in a new bird's-eye perspective or the usual 2-D environment. Subscribers to Garmin's BirdsEye Satellite Imagery service can even upload high-resolution satellite images to the Edge 800 and combine them with the other navigation data for an even more realistic view.
On-road navigating shows off Garmin's wealth of experience in the area, with intuitive destination selection and an impressive array of points of interest such as convenience stores and petrol stations – critical info if you're close to bonking. The easy-to-follow turn-by-turn directions have also been handy when we've been running errands or even when driving, though in the latter situation the screen is a touch on the small side.
As with previous Garmin GPS units, you can create routes on your computer using the included software and download other people’s rides or save your own at Garmin Connect. After each ride plug the 800 into your home computer and analyse your ride stats to see how far and how fast you rode. Data can then be accessed in graphs and charts.
The Edge 800 offers either turn-by-turn directions on the road or a topographical perspective depending on what microSD card you've loaded - and you can also choose to look at the world around you in a bird's-eye view
The 705's fragile bike mount is gone, replaced with the far better 90° twist ’n’ click mount introduced with the Edge 500. Fitting is easy: secure, twin rubber O-rings attach to your bar or stem in seconds. It’s simple to set up, too. Charge the Edge via its USB or mains charger, ﬁt a mapping chip in the hidden microSD card slot under the unit, then switch it on and spend a minute telling the device about yourself.
There's no calibration necessary, but with a massive array of options on tap it's best to reserve a fair bit of time to get through it all. The unit's new firmware swaps more easily between different bikes for more accurate calorie counts and self-switching system configurations. The new touchscreen interface and updated firmware makes for notably more intuitive navigating of the various menus than before, and the appropriately sized 'buttons' are easy to hit even while rolling along at speed or with sweaty and/or dirty fingers.
If you start riding without hitting the start button, the 800 asks you if you want to start the timer, an improvement over the 705. Battery life is excellent; with a claimed 18 hours we did seven days of riding with power to spare. Power Chimp make an auxiliary battery that’s worth checking out though.
Garmin will offer the Edge 800 as a standalone unit or in various bundled packages. This option includes a City Navigator microSD card, a wireless speed and cadence sensor, and the company's new premium heart-rate monitor strap
The Edge 800 is available in a range of bundles with various options of maps, heart rate monitor and speed/cadence units. UK prices begin at £349 for the standard 800, £399 gets you the cadence/heart rate kit too, and £449 the top-end model including mapping, as tested here. In the US the Edge 800 is available in two configurations: a standalone version for US$449.99 or a preconfigured bundle for $649.99 that adds a wireless speed and cadence sensor, a City Navigator microSD card and a heart rate monitor strap.
There were reports of erratic readings with early versions of Garmin’s comfy, washable fabric Premium Heart Rate Monitor, but ours performed faultlessly. It's not only heaps more comfortable to wear than the previous iteration but it records electrical signals as soon as you put it on (no more wetting of electrodes!) and thanks to the detachable transmitter it's officially approved for hand washing. An ANT+ wireless receiver enables integration with various third-party power meters or the optional speed and cadence sensor.
Overall, the Edge 800 is the best bike-speciﬁc GPS unit we’ve used. It had us hooked on using it every ride. It’s robust, with logical menus, and its touchscreen is both easy and fun to use. The screen didn’t scratch despite lots of prodding with muddy ﬁngers, and it’s waterproof. It supplies all the data we knew we wanted, and some we didn't, but you never feel bogged down in info. The battery life has been addressed and we can pack in the hours without it taking a nap before the end of the ride; a frustration we had before.