Garmin Edge 520 vs Polar M450

Equal in size, which GPS computer is best?

Side by side, Garmin's new Edge 520 and Polar's new M450 GPS computers are similar in size and shape, but quite different in price and feature sets. Which one is best for you depends on your budget and what you intend to do with the little handlebar-mounted machine.

The M450 is about half the price of the 520 – and has about half the features of the Garmin unit. While the 520 can connect to third-party peripherals like heart-rate monitors or power meters on ANT+ and your smartphone on Bluetooth, the M450 is Bluetooth only. The 520 has basic mapping and can give you turn-by-turn directions if you load in a route; the M450 can only point in the general direction of your starting point and its distance away.

But for some riders, more may not be better. If you just want a reliable GPS computer that can record your route along with all your vital metrics like distance, speed, heart rate, power, time, and so on, then the M450 does a good job of catching all this data.

Related reading

 

Garmin Edge 520 

Polar M450 

Size 4.9 x 7.3 x 2.1cm 4.9 x 7.4 x 1.9cm
Screen 3.5 x 4.7cm     3.5 x 3.5cm
Resolution200 x 265p128 x 128p
Weight 60g51g
Price$299  /  £239$169 / £124   
ANTYesNo 
BluetoothYesYes
Wireless uploadGarmin Connect (Strava/TrainingPeaks)Polar Flow (Strava)
LEDNoYes
On-screen mapYesNo
DirectionsFollow route or use turn-by-turnBack to start w/ directional arrow

How they are similar

Both units measure and/or capture most of the same data, including distance, speed, elevation and the standard variations thereof like average, maximum and total. Both have layouts that can be configured by number of fields per screen, and what information goes on that screen.

Both units can pair wirelessly with heart-rate monitors, cadence sensors, power meters and smartphones.

Both units can upload completed rides wirelessly via a tethered smartphone with their accompanying app, which can then be synced to auto-upload to Strava.

Both units rely on buttons for operation instead of touchscreens: both units rely on buttons for operation instead of touchscreens
Both units rely on buttons for operation instead of touchscreens: both units rely on buttons for operation instead of touchscreens

Both record your route for later analysis along with all the above data.

Both use buttons for operation instead of a touchscreen.

Both give you some basic post-ride on-screen analysis, calling out the ride's stats and time spent in various training zones. 

How they are different

The Polar M450 has a little LED light on the front of the unit, which can be turned on manually or by natural light conditions. The Garmin Edge 520 does not.

The Polar M450 only works wirelessly with Bluetooth, which limits third-party options compared to the Edge 520, which also works on ANT+.

While the bodies are the same size, the Edge 520's screen is larger and of higher resolution.

The edge 520 is clearly the better computer, but is it worth double the price of the m450? that's your call: the edge 520 is clearly the better computer, but is it worth double the price of the m450? that's your call
The edge 520 is clearly the better computer, but is it worth double the price of the m450? that's your call: the edge 520 is clearly the better computer, but is it worth double the price of the m450? that's your call

Resolution is twice as good on the Garmin than the Polar

Polar's deep history in heart-rate training shines through with the on-screen information and the post-ride analysis. The Garmin does much better with presentation of power-related fields and analysis.

The Edge 520 has mapping, and can give turn-by-turn directions while following a course. The M450 has no maps, and its directions consist of a compass-like arrow that points back to your starting point and lists the direct distance from that point.

The 520 has Strava Live Segments, FTP testing and Di2 integration. Both have a VO2 Max calculation and recommended recovery time.

Bottom line

The Garmin Edge 520 is clearly the better, more full-featured GPS unit for cycling, but it's also substantially more money. If you are interested in heart-rate training but not power-based training and are on a budget, the M450 is a good option. If you want the better overall computer, the Edge 520 certainly is the one. 

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team, Trek Boone 5, Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4, Marinoni fixed gear, Santa Cruz Roadster TT bike
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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