Today’s multi-pronged release of cycling gear by Garmin is probably the company’s most decisive yet at fending off competitors to its lucrative head unit business. And in some ways, they’re probably even undercutting their own high-end head units to stave off competitors. For starts, we’ve got the new Edge 520 Plus. That takes the previous $249 Edge 520 and adds full-blown mapping to it (including turn by turn navigation), along with a handful of other features like rider to rider messaging. The cost? A mere $30 price increase to $279USD.
Then they’ve got the Edge 130 – which is sorta like an Edge 520-lite, carrying a huge number of features into a relatively tiny lightweight device. That unit appears targeted at the Lezyne product line as well as long rumored Wahoo MINI+GPS units. In many ways, I think I’m actually far more impressed by the Edge 130 than the Edge 520 Plus. But you can read all about the Edge 130 in my full in-depth review.
And lastly, there was the new RTL510 bike-light radar combo-dish. That’s cool too, though not really game-changing. And they don’t face any radar-specific competitors either. Still, nifty stuff.
This post, however, is about the Edge 520 Plus, so let’s dive right into things.
There’s a few ways I expect that folks will try and explain the Edge 520 to potential suitors. Be it a bike shop or another review site, there’s basically two core ways to look at it:
A) It’s an Edge 520 with full-blown routable maps
B) It’s a smaller Edge 820 without the touch screen
Or I suppose, even one more way:
C) It’s a smaller Edge 1030 without the touch screen
But in reality, none of these ways is super exact. The closest is variant ‘A’ above, but it goes a bit more than that. The reason that answers B/C aren’t exactly correct is that the Edge 520 lacks a couple of core things that those units have, specifically:
– Doesn’t have point of interest (POI) or address database searching seen on the Edge 820/1030 (but does have the new Yelp app which kinda fits that hole)
– Doesn’t have advanced FirstBeat training load/recovery metrics seen on the Edge 820/1030
There’s also more nuanced things of course like battery life, WiFi, touch screen, etc… But from a features standpoint, those two items above are really the biggies.
But because you’re here for the details, let’s compare exactly how it’s different from the ‘original’ Edge 520 first:
– Added full map set for display of roads/routing
– Added turn by turn navigation capabilities, also route recalculation
– Has Trendline popularity routing engine overlaid atop the new maps
– Added Rider to Rider messaging (introduced on Edge 1030 last summer)
– Added two mountain bike trail apps loaded by default (TrailForks & Yelp)
– Updated Strava Segments algorithm found in Edge 1030 that is more accurate for racing segments
– Added slight differences in data page/field layouts
– Added new Extended Display mode for Garmin FR935/Fenix 5 integration as a secondary display (Edge 820/1030 will get too)
– Beefs up by 2g more than the Edge 520 (63g vs 61g)
Note that both the Edge 820 will also receive the Strava Segments update functionality as well as the Rider to Rider messaging, and the Edge 520/820/1000/1030 devices will get the new TrailForks app.
But what if you were roughly comparing it to the Edge 820 or Edge 1030? Well, here’s a handful of features that those units have that the Edge 520 doesn’t (beyond the obvious, like a bigger screen):
– Edge 820/1030 has a touch screen, Edge 520/520 Plus doesn’t
– Edge 1030 connects to Bluetooth Smart sensors, Edge 520/520 Plus/820 lack that hardware
– Edge 820/1030 has point of interest database (for things like restaurants, convenience stores, hotels, etc…)
– Edge 820 doesn’t have Trendline popularity routing, Edge 1030 does (820 added in firmware 9.00)
– Edge 820/1030 can route to a specific street address on the unit itself (I.e. 123 Maple Drive, New York, NY), the Edge 520/520 Plus have to have pre-defined routes (Note: The Edge 520/520 Plus can, however, do turn by turn navigation route to previously saved points)
– Edge 820/1030 have WiFi, Edge 520 series doesn’t
– Edge 1030 has latest FirstBeat driven recovery and training load metrics, Edge 520/520 Plus only has a limited subset for VO2Max and Recovery Advisor
– Edge 1030 is compatible with secondary battery pack, Edge 520 Plus/820 are not
As you can see, the list isn’t huge – but it’s certainly different. For someone that always has a route created ahead of time, then the Edge 520 Plus will likely fit the bill just fine instead of the more expensive Edge 820/1030. Whereas, if you’re more of a touring person that starts the morning by manually entering your end address into the unit (or by selecting a point of interest), then you’ll want to sway more to the Edge 820/1030.
Of course – if you don’t need maps at all but still want to stay in the Garmin family, then you may want to consider the also just announced Edge 130. Don’t let the ‘100 series name fool you’, it’s got highly customizable data pages and even supports power meters. Plus course following and a boatload more. I’d actually say it’s the most impressive item from today’s line of new Garmin stuff. Oh, and for how this all compares to non-Garmin options like the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT? Hang tight – I’ll cover that down below in the post.
Now, I’ve detailed all of this and boatloads more in a full video here. This includes hands-on with the device across virtually all the new features.
In any case, let’s get cookin’!
Mapping & Navigation:
As a general rule with the Edge 520 Plus, it’s essentially an Edge 520 with a few extra features. As such, I’m just gonna make this non-review post focused on the new Edge 520 Plus-specific stuff. You can hit up my previous Edge 520 (non-Plus) post for a picture of more general stuff that’s been around for almost two years now. But fear not, in my full Edge 520 Plus In-Depth Review, I’ll dive into the general/usual stuff again for good measure.
So let’s talk navigation. There’s some nuances here that are important to understand, especially if you want to compare this unit to the Wahoo BOLT. See, the Edge 520 Plus contains a complete mapset for the region you buy it in (Europe, North America, etc…). As part of that mapset you get routable maps that have roads and road names on them. In addition, you also get Garmin’s new ‘Trendline Popularity’ routing data overlaid onto it. This basically tells you which routes cyclists are actually using.
The value in that is that historically Garmin or others would route you on the shortest possible route between two points. Whereas with trendline popularity routing they’ll give you what is the most efficient for a cyclist. An example given to me was a runner that wanted to cross a college campus. Below is the satellite view of the campus, and to the right is the Treadline popularity data overlaid atop it. Basically, like heatmap data.
Previously the shortest path was meandering through various buildings to get to the other side. But the popularity routing data showed that runners in that area widely used a ride that just rotated around the campus. The extra distance was small, but the path was far better. You can see the two routes side by side below. To the left is what traditionally would have been given since it was shorter, whereas to the right is what’s returned to the person instead.
That’s popularity routing in a nutshell.
But let’s get to the core of what’s different on the Edge 520 Plus versus the Edge 1030/820: The Edge 520 Plus doesn’t natively contain any point of interest database, nor the ability to route to a specific address.
Instead, you must have a pre-created route downloaded to the device to navigate with. That can come from Garmin Connect mobile, the desktop app, via USB cable, or…most importantly, via Connect IQ apps like Strava or Yelp. These routes show up in the ‘Courses’ section of the unit:
There is, however, one exception to this: Saved points
With saved points, you can save your home, office, or nearby Chipotle on the unit and then route back to it at any point. Most importantly though, it’ll use legit turn by turn navigation to get you back to that point, no matter where you are (no courses required). That’s a huge difference to something like the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT, which lacks the ability to do that on the device. Instead, you need the phone app for that (though, inversely, that has some benefits too).
You can also use these saved points mid-ride, if you just wanna abandon your planned route and get the fastest route home. Additionally, you have the option mid-course to ‘Back to Start’ via either the route you came out on, or via the most direct route. As an aside, if looking at the core menu difference in navigation between the Edge 1030 and the Edge 520 Plus, you’ll notice how the Edge 1030 has both the ability to search for places as well as just wander around the map looking at nearby shops/POI’s.
But let’s talk about how I’ve been using routes and maps on the Edge 520 Plus for the last three weeks, and that’s via the Strava Routes app. That app came out last summer, and allows you to ride any route you have saved in your Strava account. Essentially the app downloads a copy of the route to your Garmin, and then it simply tells the Garmin Edge device to open up the course like any other course. Once it does that it’s no different than courses you’ve synced from Garmin Connect or any other source.
After you’ve selected a route it’ll show you the route stats, like the map, elevation, and distance metrics:
And finally, you can select to ride the route to get it loaded up. Prior to that, you’ll have selected the specific activity profile to use, and as such it’ll launch with that activity profile upon selecting the ‘Ride’ button:
At this point it’ll start to ‘calculate’ the turns for your route. And this is where I’ve been having some fairly significant delays. Far more than past Garmin devices. I could sit for 4-5 minutes outside in the cold, and it’d only have gotten 30% of the way done. In theory you can start anyway, but in reality, it didn’t always work that well. But more on that later in this post.
Calculation timelines aside, you can start riding once you’ve gotten the purple line showing your route.
As you ride it’ll display the upcoming turns, just like an Edge 820 or 1030 would. It’ll show you the name of the street you’re turning on, and the distance to the turn:
And if you miss your turn? It’ll notify you that you’re off course, and after a short period, if it gives up on your ability to turn around, it’ll give you updated instructions to get back on course. And this is another key difference between the Edge 520 Plus and the Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT: The Garmin will give you specific streets in the directions back to course. Wahoo will simply give you a general compass direction back to the route. Also, the Garmin will essentially allow you to skip a section and catch-up, since it’s re-routing with the entire course in mind.
Now, that specific capability may not matter to some, but it exposes some of the differences. The reason that difference exists is because Wahoo actually has a partial map on their devices. Sure, it shows you roads – but it doesn’t actually know the names of those roads. Instead, that data comes pre-loaded from the specific route you’ve added to your device. That’s why certain routes on the Wahoo Bolt don’t give proper turn by turn navigation, because those routing providers don’t include that data. Think of it like a manifest, that manifest includes the turns and street names in the route itself – not on the device. If you go off course, the Wahoo unit no longer has that list of streets.
Don’t get me wrong – plenty of people, including myself, make that work just fine. But it is really important to understand when comparing the products.
In any event, back to the Edge 520 Plus. As I noted, I’ve been routing everywhere and anywhere on my Edge 520 Plus the last three weeks. And by and large, it’s gotten me where I needed to go. I pre-create virtually all my routes on Strava, and then use the Connect IQ Strava app to sync it over. All that works great.
About the only complaint here is that I still lack a good way to just enter in a given point within the Garmin Connect Mobile app and route to it via the Edge 520 Plus (akin to what Wahoo and Lezyne both have). This means in some cases where I don’t care about the route per se, but more about the destination – that I have to do more work. I suspect Garmin would argue that’s what the Edge 820 and 1030 are for…but my wallet would disagree.
However, there’s a bit of a solution there for that too…and that’s the new Yelp app released today. Before you pass judgment on a review app, understand why it’s so interesting for cycling in the next section.
As far as configuration options go, there’s a handful of those too, which you can see below.
Most of the above have been present on other Garmin edge devices in the past, so they aren’t too much of a surprise.
There’s two new apps that were announced today (both of which are coming to a wider variety of Edge units including the Edge 520/820/1030). These apps are totally designed with the routing and navigation aspects in mind. They are TrailForks (primarily for mountain biking) and Yelp. Yes, the same Yelp you use to rate your least favorite restaurants.
See, what Yelp is doing here is effectively acting as a point of interest (POI) database for your Edge device. You can launch the app to find nearby restaurants, bike shops, and other Yelp-rated things. In some ways, this is better than the generic Garmin POI database found by default on the Edge 820/1030 because you get ratings context as well. To crack open the app you go into the Connect IQ area and select Yelp:
Then you’ll choose a given category. I’d kindly suggest that perhaps they reprioritize Food and Cycling as the top two items in the list, and then put Beauty Salons a bit further down (or not at all). At least you’ve got options for that mid-ride perm.
From there you’ll see a listing of establishments in that category near you:
You can select one of those and you’ll be given a small picture of it as well as a bit more info about it (this part isn’t quite working for me yet for some reason). After that, it’ll create a route to it and hand it off to the usual Edge routing engine to get you there. If on a non-mapping device (original Edge 520), it’ll simply give you a breadcrumb trail there.
(Update: Here’s two screenshots of it on an Edge 1030 with the preview/photo piece)
If you were to have asked me yesterday if I’d find any value in having Yelp on my Edge device, I’d have laughed at you. But in this case, it’s actually a pretty interesting, creative, and most importantly – useful – implementation. Kudos.
Next, there’s the new TrailForks app. This comes from the popular TrailForks platform, which focuses on the mountain bike segment. This too is accessible within the Connect IQ apps section, and also leverages your phone connection via Garmin Connect Mobile.
Once launched you’ll be able to find nearby routes, favorited routes, as well as popular routes:
After selecting a given route you’ll get a bit more information about it, before the app hands off the route to the Edge course engine for routing (identical to both how Yelp and the Strava apps work).
From there you can either start the route as-is, or if you’re not immediately at the starting point you can get routing information to the start of the route.
Again, both of these apps will be coming to other Edge units shortly (like, tomorrow) – so these aren’t Edge 520 Plus specific. I’m looking forward to poking more at the TrailForks app at Sea Otter day one.
Why this post isn’t a review:
In the little world that is my site, I generally categorize product focused posts into four buckets (which preface the start of the post):
My Thoughts On X: This is when I haven’t seen a product in person, and I’ve gotten so many requests for my thoughts on it anyway, I usually give my thoughts here.
First Look: Usually reserved for products I briefly see at a trade show/convention/etc, without being able to use the product in its natural setting (outdoors)
Hands-on: Generally for products that I’ve been using out in the wild, but aren’t ready to ship yet
In-Depth Review: For products that the unit is on the final hardware/software, and is shipping now (or within a couple days).
I’ll admit that sometimes when I’m tired late at night during a trade show week the First Look/Hands-On labels get mixed and matched. But the general intent is above.
As you might expect, the detail that I can dive into for each post is deeper the further you get down that list above. The more time I get with a device, the more I can pick it apart. At the same time, if a device isn’t fully baked, then writing the end-all-be-all review doesn’t make sense if it’s not shipping to consumers. Once a device is shipping to consumers, it’s fair game for a review. Prior to that, it’s silly to ‘punish’ a company because they handed over a beta unit. Obviously, I’m going to note where there are gaps and where things aren’t working. But I’m not going to judge it entirely on that.
With that backstory – as of yesterday morning, my intent was to write an Edge 520 Plus In-Depth Review for today. But that was predicated on the unit shipping ‘immediately’, as in, basically the next few days. Which was also the plan.
Unfortunately, my time with the Edge 520 Plus hasn’t entirely been positive. Specifically, in navigation. I’ve had a hell of a time with the turn by turn prompts and alerts working properly. Specifically, the issue is that I’d get a prompt for an upcoming turn at the 500m prior marker, but the actual information (map/icons) about that turn would be missing. Meaning I’d have no idea what I was supposed to do. And in some cases, I’d get no turn alerts at all.
(You may be thinking the camera is just washing out the above photo, and that’s true…but that’s just because the entire bottom portion of the screen is blank.)
In effect, the one thing the Edge 520 Plus was supposed to do compared to the Edge 520, it wasn’t doing right.
Now, it didn’t fail to enumerate those details every single time. Instead, it failed intermittantly. I couldn’t quite figure out the pattern, and neither could Garmin, despite 41 e-mails exchanged on the topic with their engineering team and countless files and logs shared. Until yesterday.
It’s at that point they were able to pinpoint the cause of the issue, which actually appears to be a result of my new home: Amsterdam.
Specifically, the density of the cycling maps in that area was causing processing delays during rendering, primarily in cases where I would make two turns quickly back to back. The Edge 520 Plus will cache ahead of time an upcoming turn, but it wouldn’t cache the secondary turn that immediately followed. Thus, blank information in dense areas…but more success in farmland. It’s also why, when I went to load a route at the beginning, it’d take a month of Sundays to calculate. Seriously, like 4-5 minutes for even 20-30% of the route to complete (only a 30-mile route). It was incredibly frustrating.
As a result of which is that Garmin has decided to delay the shipping Edge 520 Plus (originally slated for the next few days) until they can sort it out.
Note, this wasn’t the only issue I’ve seen. I’ve also had freeze-ups and phone connectivity issues. I can’t say with any certainty that the phone connectivity issues are the fault of Garmin or my iPhone. In neither scenario was data lost, the unit would simply stop responding to button presses, but the track was preserved. And the track and related data is and has been just as good as on the Edge 520 (many of my recent Strava uploads are from the Edge 520 Plus).
Beyond those two issues, the unit worked great. To be clear – I’ve been doing virtually all of my riding in Amsterdam and surrounding areas the last three weeks with the Edge 520 Plus. I get where I’m supposed to go, my collected data is good. It’s just that sometimes I swear a lot at it while I miss a turn and have to backtrack a few seconds and do it again the right way.
All of which explains why I’m waiting for my full in-depth review since Garmin has delayed the shipments until they can sort out what can be done to address this. Once they start shipping, I’ll dust off my review and let it drop. But I can say the short version of said review is that if they solve this (or, if you don’t live in Amsterdam), then for $30 more dollars than the original Edge 520, it presents a fantastic deal for legit turn by turn mapping. Nobody else offers that anywhere near this price point (see above on why the Wahoo ELEMNT/Bolt is different).
If you just read the section prior to this, there probably isn’t a lot more to say (and if you didn’t read it, please do). But setting aside those pre-production bugs, the Edge 520 Plus is essentially what people have been asking for, for years. A small and inexpensive cycling unit that had mapping. Sure, the Edge 820 checked off the small part, but not the inexpensive piece. That’s where the new 520 Plus hits the spot.
Now as I mentioned up above – there’s a critical difference between the Edge 520 Plus and the Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT. Sure, both can do turn by turn directions, but only one can do it self-sustaining. And only one can re-route you on the fly back to the course or back to a saved point. The Wahoo unit lacks the street level detail to do that. Whether or not those two differences matter to you though is a totally different question however. But for only a $30 difference, it’s going to put serious pressure on Wahoo this cycling season. Of course, that also sidesteps the reality that some people are purchasing a BOLT merely because it’s not a Garmin. This doesn’t really change that portion of the equation.
Nonetheless, the Edge 520 Plus will probably soon become one of the defacto Garmin cycling units that people look to pick up, in the same way that the existing Edge 520 lead the way there too (though the BOLT has been gaining steam). With the maps now built-in and Garmin’s smartphone app for routing getting easier and easier (and more features there on the way), they’re filling in the gaps that people have complained about for years. All this competition has been good not just for them, but more importantly us as consumers.
For me, I rarely use the POI functions of the Edge 820/1030, so in many ways this is perfect unit for me. If I’m routing, I’m doing so via Strava Routes and synced to my device (or, with Garmin Connect routes via Easy Route). Again, this fits that gap. Plus, it means I don’t have to deal with a touch screen (no matter how well it might work). Sometimes I just like buttons.
With that – thanks for reading!
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