I can hear you already: What the fudge is the SIGMA ROX?
But here, let me make it simple for you: This is the most complete cycling computer to challenge Garmin’s higher end mapping devices yet. End of story.
Of course, the long story is much…much longer. So long in fact that I first used a unit on rides back last December, then again this winter, and then consistently for the past two months. Almost all my rides have been with it, even if just barely out of sight from my regular pictures and videos.
So how’s it the most viable competitor? You mean aside from having full-color touchscreen mapping that’s actually fast and responsive while zooming around? Or were you talking about the sensor support for all the major sensors types? Perhaps it was the full Strava Live Segments integration or the support for WiFi sync of Strava, Training Peaks, and Komoot platform data like routes, and on-unit workouts. Did I mention that it comes with any map set you want in the world, free of charge?
Of course, it’s not without its quirks. There is no silver bullet here. I’ll dive into both the pros and the cons of this device through the review. The point of my intro paragraph is more simplistic: Don’t dismiss the unit based on the company’s long history of putting out boring head units. They got the memo (from me and everyone else). And apparently they also even read the memo we, as the collective Internet of cyclists, sent. The SIGMA ROX 12 is what came of it.
(Note: I was sent a loaner ROX 12 unit to poke at. Actually, I used multiple loaners over the last 7 months. All of which I’ll soon be sending back to SIGMA like I always do with other companies.)
Like most cycling computers, there are two purchasable variants of the SIGMA ROX 12 kit. One is just the standalone unit, while the other is a full bundle with extra sensors and such. In this case, I’m unboxing the bundle variant. So if you don’t have the bundle you won’t get the heart rate sensors and speed/cadence sensors. No worries though, it’s compatible with any ANT+ sensors (Bluetooth Smart sensors are coming), and on the mount side, any Garmin quarter-turn mount too. So basically, between those two…pretty much everything from anyone is compatible.
In any case, here’s the front and back of the box:
Once you remove the outer shell, you can part the Red Sea and find the ROX 12 sitting inside:
We’ll skip ahead to me getting all the parts out on the table and well-organized. A process that probably took longer than drinking a cup of coffee:
Here, I’ll help explain everything. First, in the lower left side, we’ve got the various sensors. This includes a combo speed/cadence sensor and the heart rate strap. Both of these are dual ANT+/Bluetooth Smart.
Next, there’s the Barfly out-front mount (with SIGMA branding), that’s in base and bundle kits. What’s super cool here (aside from them partnering with Barfly/Tate Labs on this), is that they actually give you the GoPro underside mount. Every other company that does out-front mounts cheap out on this tiny bit of plastic and doesn’t include it, pressing you to spend some crazy amount of money for something that costs a few quarters. Kudos to them for including this in BOTH the base and bundle kits.
You’ve also got the standard handlebar/stem mounts (two of them):
These are almost identical to the Garmin quarter-turn mounts. From a compatibility standpoint they are, but SIGMA did a few minor tweaks to increase solidity on them so they are a bit firmer in there. I’ve been using the ROX 12 though with all sorts of Garmin mounts with zero issues.
Next, we’ve got the micro-USB cable. I know, geeks everywhere just sighed and hoped for a USB-C cable. Not today folks, not today.
Oh, then there’s the unit itself. Fear not, there will be plenty of photos of the unit throughout this post:
Finally, there’s the manual and a paper note letting you know about the apps. We’ll talk more about that later. I thought the little table of ranges and performance was kinda neat though. Very German. 🙂
Next, a super quick look at size and weight compared to some other popular units:
Left to right: SIGMA ROX 12, Garmin Edge 1030, Hammerhead Karoo, Wahoo ELEMNT, Garmin Edge 520/520 Plus, Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT, Polar M450/460
And the weight comes in at 125g:
The others weighed in at:
Hammerhead Karoo: 186g
SIGMA ROX 12.0 SPORT: 125g
Garmin Edge 1030: 124g
Wahoo ELEMNT: 103g
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT: 61g
Garmin Edge 520/520 Plus: 60g
Polar M450/460 (non-mapping): 52g
Finally, for lack of anywhere else to plop it, note that the ROX 12 actually has swappable back cases, like this:
You can remove the black shell and easily swap it for other colors. Kinda neat if you want to match your bike. I suppose you could even buy an extra shell and then paint/decorate it yourself.
As noted earlier on, the Sigma ROX 12 is a fully touch-screen equipped device, akin to that of a mobile phone. That’s because under the covers, that’s exactly what it is: An Android device. Which doesn’t mean you should get grand visions of running Snapchat on the unit…at least not yet. It’s a moderately locked down version, so you can’t just tap an icon to access the app store, at least not yet. The vision Sigma has is roughly half-way between that of competitor Hammerhead with their highly customized and locked down Karoo, versus that of an off-the-shelf Android phone.
More importantly, none of this really matters to 98% of folks out there. If you have an iPhone or an Android phone or no phone at all, there’s no difference. That’s because Sigma doesn’t have any direct connection between your phone and the ROX 12. They operate independently of each other (for better or worse).
So let’s start with the basics. After powering it on and completing some basic setup questions, you’ll be brought to the dashboard. Along the way, within setup, you’d have also configured WiFi on the unit. That’s the primary way you’d get data off of it. It doesn’t have a Bluetooth Smart connection to upload via phone. Instead, it’s WiFi or USB for any data offloading or communications. It’s also how you download maps, routes, and upload activities.
The next thing you’re likely to want to do is to setup 3rd party services. Out of the box the company has Strava, TrainingPeaks, GPSies, and Komoot support. This means you can do everything from download and ride Strava Routes, to compete on Strava Live Segments, as well as upload workouts to TrainingPeaks (not yet pull them in from TrainingPeaks). Same goes for routes from Komoot and GPSies. Essentially, this puts them on roughly equal footing to Wahoo and Garmin in terms of ingest of data, though slightly below those competitors in terms of export of data (meaning: Garmin/Wahoo have more data sync partners at this time, though I expect that’ll change quickly).
After that’s all done you’ll probably want to pair sensors. You can pair and store ANT+ & Bluetooth Smart sensors. The following sensor types are supported:
– ANT+ Cycling Speed-only
– ANT+ Cycling Cadence
– ANT+ Cycling Speed & Cadence Combo
– ANT+ Heart Rate
– ANT+ Power Meter
– ANT ROTOR Power Meter (advanced data view, including OCA/OCP data)
– ANT+ Cycling Gear Shifting (SRAM RED eTAP, Campagnolo EPS, FSA)
– ANT Shimano Di2 Gear Shifting
– ANT+ E-BIKE (LEV)
Like most options on the market these days, you can store multiple sensors of the same type as well. Convenient if you have multiple bikes. And like other companies, Sigma has sidestepping having specific ‘bikes’ in terms of settings, instead focusing on sport profiles (similar to Garmin). This means you can customize a swath of settings for different situations (indoor cycling, road cycling, mountain biking, etc…), and then it’ll automatically find the sensors for your bike when you start up. If more than one sensor type is in range when you start it’ll ask you which one to use.
Note that I don’t currently have a ROTOR unit in my stockpile to test, but, I thought it was notable that they are showing ROTOR’s advanced metrics in their head unit. That’s cool cross-manufacturer collaboration where the ANT+ spec doesn’t cover them yet. Here’s what that should look like according to their marketing page:
You’ve also got all the options you’d expect for looking at sensor details and setting a zero offset on your power meter.
One of the things you’ll probably notice sooner rather than later is that sometimes the precise wording the company uses isn’t 100% natural to native English speakers. They’ve done some good work on this since last December on my first ride with it, but there are still occasional nuances to this. Part of this likely comes from being Germany based as opposed to US/UK/etc based. But I suspect another portion of this is actually just them trying not to copy the exact wording of their competitors for certain functions. Unfortunately, that slightly increases confusion because we’re largely accustomed to calling certain things by certain names. For example, ‘cubes’, which means ‘data fields’. Or in intervals, ‘phases’, which means…well…intervals.
Native English speakers will understand roughly what to do here, but the linguistics of it isn’t quite perfect.
The interface itself is heavily touchscreen, but also has buttons for confirmation and up/down style navigation. On the upper right side is a dedicated power button, while the lower half of each side has buttons that can be used for changing the data pages. Meanwhile, across the bottom, there are dedicated stop, start/lap, and home buttons. All of which worked with gloves for me this past winter. Similarly, the touchscreen did work with gloves for me too.
As for rain? The final unit I received has worked without issue in the seemingly always-present Dutch rain. However, some earlier pre-production units were more troublesome. Sigma says they’ve addressed that, and that certainly seems to be the case. Still, I mention this because the only proof here will be lots of users having no issues. I base this on Garmin’s Edge 820 touchscreen woes, which can be heavily attributed to manufacturing quality control issues on the screen layering itself. Hence why one person would have no issues, and the next person wanted to swing a crankset to their own head. Said another way: This unit is working great for me now – but let’s not count the chickens till a few months from now.
Turning to settings for a moment, you’ve got pretty much everything you’d expect to find on a high-end Garmin unit here as well. From backlight timeouts and color modes, to sleep timeouts and altimeter calibration. Imperial/Metric toggles, languages, map customization and management, and sport profile configuration, and crap-tons more. I dig into these settings in a bit more detail within the video linked in this post.
In any event, let’s head out for a ride to cover the basics. The first thing you’ll want to do is decide which sport profile it is that you’re using. By default, it’ll be the Road Bike profile (RDB), but you can change that easily by just tapping ‘Sport Profiles’. Up top it’ll specify which one it is:
Next, tap that big section up top where it says ‘RDB’ to get going. This brings you to the main screen where it’s going to start finding satellites and such. If you want to enable/disable/tweak sensors or calibrate the compass or elevation, you can just swipe-down from the top to quick-access a slew of settings:
Otherwise, you can just press the lower right start button to begin recording:
At this point, it’s recording just like any other head unit. You can swipe left and right on the screen to change data pages, or press the left/right buttons on either side of the unit to accomplish the same. Below I’m using my thumb to scroll through by swiping.
Whereas here I’m simply pressing the left side button to iterate through the pages.
There’s tons of customization of these data pages, either directly on the unit itself or via the desktop app. You can also change any data field at any time by just long-holding that data field to bring up choices for other data fields:
The number of layouts is impressive as well. What you see below is one layout where the map will actually be that tall block on the right, so you can see the part of the road you care about just ahead, and ignore all the other junk you don’t care about on the side.
At this point, everything works pretty much as you’d expect for the basics. Sensor data displays and records, maps are shown by default (more on navigating later in the review), and elevation charts plot too. Again, it just works.
There is a gap though: Smartphone integration.
There’s currently no integration at all. Meaning, no smartphone notifications of text messages or incoming calls, nor any other way to directly have the unit talk to your phone. The company does have a smartphone app for viewing rides and such, but that requires that the unit upload the data first via WiFi. This also means that there’s no live tracking or the like for the unit either. And before you ask, no, it doesn’t have a SIM card slot.
The ROX 12 supports the creation and execution of interval workouts, built on the device itself. You’ll start by specifying whether you want a simple goal (which they call ‘Phase’), or a more complex interval workout:
If we choose the second option, we can specify a given target zone (heart rate, cadence, power, %HRmax), the reps, the recovery duration, and the reps. You can build these out independently though to actually put together some surprisingly complex workouts.
You can keep adding chunks to the workouts as well, albeit there appears to be some minor quirks in adding things like recovery bits where you need to add those first and then specify the work effort portion, else the recovery wipes out the specified work portion. Same goes for inability to use the space bar in between words. Minor bugs I’m sure they’ll fix.
Out on the road (or the trainer), the unit will give you details on each section you’re in and how far to go in each section. Again, all pretty impressive for a new unit at this point.
Once your ride is complete, you’ll go ahead and hit the stop button and then re-confirm again to end the ride.
At this point, the ride is available to sync via WiFi the next time you’re connected and press to sync. In theory, it’s supposed to sync automatically when in range of WiFi, but I found a few cases where that didn’t happen and I had to manually press to sync.
Now you may have noticed the ‘Sigma Cloud’ option within the unit. That ties up to Sigma’s Cloud service. Now, don’t get visions of an elaborate platform like Garmin/Suunto/Polar/Fitbit. Instead, this is as 1980’s as you get. It’s basically just a repository for data so that their Data Center app can access the data. That app is located on your desktop or mobile phone (where it’s called Sigma Link there, but it doesn’t seem to work with the ROX 12 yet). Essentially think of the Sigma Cloud service as a roundabout interchange for data. It’s not really somewhere where you want to hang-out, but is important nonetheless. Just to exemplify what I mean, here’s what it looks like:
Yup, that’s it. The ‘My Data’ tab merely shows my e-mail and name, and the ‘Contact’ tab has a form to contact them.
Meanwhile, here’s the exponentially more capable Sigma Data Center software:
Within this software, you can access data synced via WiFi to/from the Sigma Cloud, or you can also access the ROX 12 via USB cable too. This allows you to analyze rides and do longer term reporting and analysis on your trends.
You can also configure additional sharing connections here, including 2Peak and Facebook/Twitter:
In fact, you can even customize all of your sport profiles and data pages here if you’d like.
All of this is pretty impressive. And here’s the thing you have to keep remembering with Sigma: This isn’t their first barbeque. They’ve been making sport GPS devices for years, both cycling and running. It’s just that till now you probably ignored them because they were clunky and felt dated. While some of the cloud pieces may still feel a bit that way, the underlying data and cycling concepts are well flushed out by now.
That’s a core difference when you compare to new entrants like Hammerhead and their Karoo. They’re having to deal with the death by a thousand cuts paradigm because they don’t have years of users and data experience behind them. For example, their latest firmware update last week addressed issues with two (fairly major) types of ANT+ power meters and how those power meters chat. That’s a perfect example of something Sigma has long ago had to deal with (years ago), and thus doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel there.
Which isn’t to say that Sigma or their ROX 12 is perfect. But to point out that don’t lump them in the same group of up and coming entrants just because this may be the first time you’ve heard of them. If for no other reason than for at least half a decade the company has been at events like Eurobike, Interbike, and the ANT+ Symposium – trying to find just the right piece of hardware to get that viral unit like Wahoo got with their BOLT. I think they finally found it with the ROX 12.
Mapping & Navigation:
Of course, a big part of why you’d buy the ROX 12 over other less expensive cycling computers is the navigation. So, let’s dive into that for a bit. The ROX 12 comes with maps for the region you bought it in (i.e., Europe, North America, etc…), and then easily downloadable maps for other regions (for free). This is akin to Hammerhead and Wahoo, but unlike Garmin, which frustratingly makes you either pay for other regions or forces you to 3rd party sites to download the maps.
For example, the unit had pre-loaded maps for Italy, Netherlands, and France – all countries in my ‘region’. But when I traveled to the US a month or so ago, I needed to download those maps. But that’s easy once connected to WiFi. Just tap through the menu for the area you need and you’re done a few minutes later:
These maps are of higher level than something like a Wahoo ELEMNT/BOLT, the Hammerhead Karoo, or the Edge 520 Plus – that’s because they contain not just address information but also POI (Point of Interest) information, so that includes things like bike shops and restaurants. Only Garmin’s higher end Edge 820 and 1030 units have the full set of capabilities as well.
On the ROX 12, you can enable/disable POI display however within the settings. This is also where you can tweak other map-related settings too:
Also note that individual sport profiles also have additional map routing options you can configure:
Next you’ve got basically a few core ways you can navigate on the ROX 12. They are:
– Specify a street address [However: It does not permit entering a specific house/building number on that street]
– Search for POI (i.e., bike shops)
– Draw a route
– Tap a point on the map
– Pull from favorites (saved locations)
– Follow Sigma Cloud tracks
– Follow a past activity
– Download a route from Strava, Komoot, GPSies
– Specify GPS coordinates
Yes, really. There are that many options. Any more options and Google Maps would probably be getting self-conscious.
In my case, I tended to use routes from Strava, merely because it’s where I’ve centralized most of my route creation. This way I can easily use my routes with devices from all manufacturers – Garmin, Wahoo, Hammerhead, Sigma and probably others I’m forgetting.
To grab Strava routes you’ll have wanted to previously linked your unit with Strava’s service. Once that’s done you’ll crack open the ‘Strava’ tab on the interface, which brings you here:
This is where you can look at Strava Routes or Strava Segments. All of your routes are synced to the device, and can be used offline anytime. It shows the name, route distance, and how far the starting point is from you.
What’s really cool is the display options here. If you have a lot of routes like me you can choose how to sort them, such as by distance or name. This is helpful because my route naming standard is of low quality. I tend to have like 32 different routes named ‘Amsterdam South’, rather than being more descriptive. But this way I can sort by the distance, which is usually how I narrow down routes for how far I want to ride that day.
If you tap on a route you’ll get the overview of the route on the map. You can also do cool things like instantly reverse the route if you want to.
Virtually everything I’ve shown here also applies to the other mapping options in terms of sorting and such. Same goes for what I’m about to show in terms of actual routing. Next, you’ll hit ‘Select’ to load the course up. At this point you can select to route to the starting point if you want, or route to the nearest point on the course. Then you tap ‘Start’.
Beware though that pressing start here doesn’t actually start the recording on the unit. Instead, you have to press the physical start button in the lower right corner. You’ll hear a little chirp sound, and now the unit is actually recording. This is confusing, and something you’ll want to be aware of.
Once you’re up and going you’ve got a few different ways you can see and be notified of turns. First is to stay on the various map pages.
As you approach a turn it shows you the upcoming turn on the upper portion of the screen, as well as zooms in the map.
Here’s the thing that’s hard to convey in text: Responsiveness.
The ROX 12 responds just as fast as your cell phone does when it comes to you interacting with the map. When you move around in the maps, it’s instant. It redraws into more detail in the blink of an eye as I zoom in, complete with all the water and road features around you. It doesn’t spend time re-drawing the maps or pondering life as Garmin Edge computers do. I can scroll around and everything happens as far as my fingers can work. I’ve gotta video coming up shortly that’ll detail this in a more visual way. Hang tight!
Like other computers, even if you’re on a data page dedicated to metrics (and not maps), you’ll get pop-up warnings of upcoming turns as you approach them:
Overall this works fairly well, I’ve never had a warning be missed. In fact, the inverse is true – I’ve occasionally had too many warnings. Like other GPS systems sometimes you get warnings for turns that don’t exist, usually when a road name or trail name quietly changes. However, I find that in general Sigma does it far more than Garmin or Wahoo. In talking to Sigma about it, they’re aware of the issues and have been working to minimize ghost turn notifications (they always say to keep going, so fear not, they aren’t telling you to turn somewhere you’re not supposed to). These notifications have reduced over the time I’ve used the unit, so it seems like they’re making progress here – but it’s still something to be mindful of.
The other minor thing to know is that when you stop at a light or such, the current heading/direction of travel seems to be lost. Meaning, it forgets that you were heading east, and the map rotates a bit while at a standstill. It doesn’t trigger anything on the unit, but it can be confusing when you’re potentially making a turn immediately after the light as to which direction that turn is if the map rotated during your stoppage. Hopefully, this is a minor thing to address though.
Ultimately, I’ve successfully routed on numerous trips with the ROX 12 over the last few months, all without issue. The only other downside to the routing piece just comes from the lack of Bluetooth phone integration in that you can’t transfer routes via phone, only WiFi. Sure, many people can create a hotspot on their phone via WiFi, but not everyone. So if you’re one of those lacking WiFi hot spotting, just be aware of this limitation before you head out the front door.
Strava & Apps:
The ROX 12 supports certain 3rd party integration, which at the moment come from Strava, TrainingPeaks, Komoot, and GPSies. Also, via their desktop SIGMA Data Center app they can sync to 2Peak. On the unit itself, at this time these integrations are developed by Sigma themselves (rather than the 3rd party). For each of these, you authenticate to the 3rd party app like you would most other online sites and then once authorized you’re able to access those platforms via the ROX 12 without further prompts.
In the case of Strava for example, the integration covers both routes (as I outlined in the previous section), as well as Strava Live Segments. Like other platforms the Strava Segment will appear as you approach it for those that are favorited segments, and then give you status information throughout it:
You can dig into a given Segment, see where it is on the map (instantly, no delay), as well as the KOM leaderboard:
In the case of TrainingPeaks, it’s just uploading workouts to them, they don’t yet have in place the ability to execute structured workouts from the TrainingPeaks platform. Given Sigma already has structured workout support on the unit itself, hopefully we’ll see them start to support TrainingPeaks workouts soon.
I didn’t spend much time with Komoot or GPSies, but they’re both routing-focused. And of course, both are popular with various groups/regions.
When it comes to data sync to other platforms, that happens from the unit itself for the previously mentioned platforms. However, SIGMA can also sync via the Data Center desktop/mobile apps, and even in theory via their SIGMA Cloud platform. Right now though you don’t configure anything via SIGMA Cloud in terms of 3rd party apps. But I’d see that as the most logical way for them to quickly add other 3rd parties (for example entities like SportsTracks, MapMyFitness, Today’s Plan, etc…). Hopefully, we’ll see more of that soon.
The bigger question I suspect many people are asking is whether or not SIGMA plans to open up their Android platform to 3rd party apps. And at present, the answer is a bit of a wishy-washy ‘kinda’. They see good opportunities for 3rd parties to more easily port their existing Android apps to run on the ROX 12, rather than straight-up enable support for any Android app altogether.
To me, that’s logical. As much as people think they want blanket access to the Android app store, in reality that doesn’t really work as well as folks want it to. For example, there’s no headphone jack on this device for access to music, nor a camera for that either. Also, finding a way to make the interaction seamless between the SIGMA side of the house and an Android base platform is tricky. After all, there are plenty of far cheaper and more capable Android phones if all you want is an Android phone on your handlebars. True though, this does have ANT+ access on it as well as a touchscreen that actually works in the rain and with gloves.
It does sound like SIGMA is open though to trying to find the right middle-ground here. They didn’t do some super over the top custom build of Android for their platform, which gives them more flexibility for both updates and 3rd party app developers. We’ll have to see how this story plays out over the next year.
GPS & Elevation Accuracy:
So how does the unit track when it comes to accuracy? Overall, pretty darn solid. We’ll look at some GPS tracks first, and then some elevation ones. When it comes to GPS tracks I’m comparing against usually 2-5 other GPS devices. Some Garmin, some Fitbit, some Suunto, some not. Just depends on what I’m testing at the time of that ride. In the case of the ROX 12, I was using the GPS+GLONASS setting, which would drain battery a bit more than just straight GPS alone (but can give better GPS results in many cases).
Keep in mind that when looking at GPS tracks it’s important to usually use satellite view, since that most closely aligns to where the tracks are plotted. Versus regular map view, which may not have bridges and water features perfectly the right size/width, so sometimes it can appear you’re in the drink when you’re not.
We’ll get right into things. Now in some of these examples I can’t quite share all the other units I had with me on the bike/wrists since they’re unannounced. Fear not though, in any instances where there was disagreement I checked in on those tracks to see who the winner was. Typically though, with road cycling it’s fairly rare these days to see broad screw-ups on GPS tracks (mountain biking is more common, but unfortunately I didn’t have any mountain biking during my time with the ROX 12).
In any case, first ride from a couple days ago in Italy on relatively meandering terrain. Ups and downs, plenty of trees in some forested sections, and also the unit was hidden away in my back pocket. So basically the worst possible conditions from a reception standpoint. Here’s the overall route/track, my inability to navigate included:
As you can see at a high level, everything is basically spot-on. So I’m going to dive into the most heavily forested part and see how things look;
Above you can see the switchbacks going up a hill and the purple line of the SIGMA 12 nails it, even stuck in my jersey pocket. It’s super solid.
At the top of that climb it does seem to struggle a little bit on a turn or two, but so does the Edge 520 Plus. This was against a tall rock wall/cliff on one side of the road, so it’s understandable this would be more difficult:
The remainder of the ride was fairly normal and both units performed as one might expect.
Next, here’s a ride around the farmland south of Amsterdam. In this case against an Edge 520 Plus (albeit one started a few minutes later, but that doesn’t impact the recorded track). At a high level everything looks good:
As we dig into some of the turns, I’ll start by picking a tough spot near some tall buildings and then diving under an underpass. It’s a good test of recovery of GPS signal once lost:
In this case above you can see on the left side that the Sigma in purple was actually a better track than the Edge 520 Plus. Admittedly this particular ride was still on non-final Edge 520 Plus firmware, but just focusing on the SIGMA track, it looks super crispy here.
The same story is true of the river here, the Sigma is perfectly on-target.
I can’t find any part of this track where the SIGMA went off-course. It was spot-on throughout.
Next, we’ve got another Amsterdam ride as I go on a bit of a meandering river ride. It might be fun to start with the final distance numbers:
Note that on the average power numbers the units were using different settings for zero averaging, thus why those are different.
In any case, GPS tracks:
Let’s take a look at that same railroad turn that caused the Edge 520 Plus beta firmware some issues, and now compare it to the production firmware:
And now it’s spot-on. Perfect from both units, really really perfect. The rest of the ride is incredibly boring – everything is great.
And that’s basically the trend here if I pull open other GPS tracks as well from it, it’s spot-on in every condition I’ve ridden. Now granted, these were super dense mountain bike trails, but usually some nice tall buildings like I rode past tend to at least challenge other bike computers. Not so here.
So let’s take a crack at an elevation chart. Looking at elevation charts near Amsterdam though is about as exciting as evaluating elevation on a pancake from IHOP. For better or worse, the SIGMA 12 passes that with flying colors – they’re all flat – at least if you remember the entire scale on this is 18 meters. The Sigma in purple had a total difference of 4m to 12m, which is about right as I ‘climbed’ up from the river over a large highway overpass at the end there which you can clearly see. Thus, the only ‘hill’.
So let’s go back to Italy instead, where there were some legit hills. This is Tuscany, so they are indeed hills, not mountains. Still, at 200m of elevation gain, that’s respectable for a hill.
And we see the two units are very very close. Without a reference altimeter reading from a known good quantity we have no way of knowing which one is absolutely correct, but they’re within a few meters.
If we look at the total ascent numbers, they’re also fairly close – about 17 meters off, but I suspect some of that may be settling (as we see a bit of drift over the course of the ride).
Again note that in the case of the average power the two units were doing different things for zero values.
In any case, insofar as road riding goes, I’m seeing really solid results from the SIGMA ROX 12, matching what I see from other head units, and more importantly – matching exactly where I went. That’s somewhat the nice part about looking at GPS tracks of cycling computers on the road, it’s much easier to quickly determine how accurate a track is, since it’s unlikely you’d have gone off-roading (and if so, you’d remember it).
(Note: All of the charts in these accuracy portions were created using the DCR Analyzer tool. It allows you to compare power meters/trainers, heart rate, cadence, speed/pace, GPS tracks and plenty more. You can use it as well for your own gadget comparisons, more details here.)
I’ve added the SIGMA ROX 12 into the product comparison tool, which allows you to compare it against other units I’ve reviewed. In the case of the below charts, I’ve compared it against the Garmin Edge 1030, Edge 820, Wahoo ELEMNT, and Hammerhead Karoo. You can, of course, compare it against other units within the product comparison tool though, just as easily.
The main mapping/navigational difference between the Edge 1030/820/Karoo/Sigma, and that of the ELEMNT/BOLT is that the Wahoo units can’t re-route you if you go off-course (they just point you back in the direction of the course). Nor can those units (without the phone) do much in the way of routing to addresses, points of interest, etc… Essentially, with the Wahoo units, you need to know where you’re going before you leave the house. The others you can decide when you mount your bike. There’s obviously far more features than that, but that’s the 20-second elevator version.
|Function/Feature||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Copyright DC Rainmaker - Updated June 28th, 2020 @ 9:43 amNew Window|
|Product Announcement Date||June 4th, 2018||Aug 29th, 2017||July 13th, 2016||May 2nd, 2017||Sept 15th, 2015|
|Actual Availability/Shipping Date||June 4th, 2018 (Europe), July 2018 (US/Global)||Aug 29th, 2017||Mid-July 2016||Feb 9th, 2018||March 1st, 2016|
|GPS Recording Functionality||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Data Transfer||WiFi, USB||USB, Bluetooth, WiFi||USB, Bluetooth, WiFi||WiFi||Bluetooth Smart, WiFi, USB|
|Battery Life (GPS)||16 hours||20 hours (+ battery pack up to 40 hours)||15 hours||10-15hrs||17 Hours|
|Recording Interval||1-second||1-Second or Smart||1-Second or Smart||1-second||1-Second|
|Satellite Pre-Loading via Computer||Yes||YEs||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Quick Satellite Reception||Great||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Backlight Greatness||Great||Great (slightly less than Edge 1000, but better in daylight)||Great||Great||Great|
|Ability to download custom apps to unit/device||No||Yes||Yes||In future||No|
|Acts as daily activity monitor (steps, etc...)||No||No||No||N/A||N/A||Music||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Can control phone music||No||No||No||No||No|
|Has music storage and playback||No||No||No||No||No|
|Streaming Services||No||Payments||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Contactless-NFC Payments||No||Connectivity||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Bluetooth Smart to Phone Uploading||No (uses WiFi)||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Phone Notifications to unit (i.e. texts/calls/etc...)||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Live Tracking (streaming location to website)||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Emergency/SOS Message Notification (from watch to contacts)||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Built-in cellular chip (no phone required)||No||No||No||Yes (with SIM card added)||No||Cycling||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Designed for cycling||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Power Meter Capable||Yes||YEs||YEs||Yes||Yes|
|Power Meter Configuration/Calibration Options||YEs||YEs||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Power Meter TSS/NP/IF||YEs||YEs||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Speed/Cadence Sensor Capable||Yes||YEs||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Strava segments live on device||Yes||YEs||Yes||No||Yes|
|Crash detection||No||Yes||Yes||No||No||Running||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Designed for running||No||No||No||No||No|
|VO2Max Estimation||N/A||N/A||(Cycling Yes though)||(No for cycling too)||N/A|
|Recovery Advisor||N/A||N/A||(Cycling Yes Though)||(No for cycling too)||N/A||Triathlon||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Designed for triathlon||No||No||No||No||No||Workouts||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Create/Follow custom workouts||Yes||Yes||Yes||Planned||Yes|
|On-unit interval Feature||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Training Calendar Functionality||No||Yes||Yes||No||Sorta||Functions||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Auto Start/Stop||Yes||Yes||Yes||Auto-pause/restart (but not Auto-Start)||Yes|
|Virtual Partner Feature||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Virtual Racer Feature||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Records PR's - Personal Records (diff than history)||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Day to day watch ability||No||No||No||No||No|
|Tidal Tables (Tide Information)||No||No||No||N/A||N/A|
|Jumpmaster mode (Parachuting)||No||No||No||N/A||N/A|
|Weather Display (live data)||NO||yes||Yes||No||No||Navigate||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Follow GPS Track (Courses/Waypoints)||Yes||YEs||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Routable/Visual Maps (like car GPS)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Back to start||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Impromptu Round Trip Route Creation||No||Yes||Yes||No (But can create one-way routes on device)||NO (BUT CAN CREATE ONE-WAY ROUTES FROM PHONE APP)|
|Download courses/routes from phone to unit||Via WiFi, not phone||Yes||Yes||No (only via WiFi from site)||Yes||Sensors||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Pulse Oximetry (aka Pulse Ox)||No|
|Heart Rate Strap Compatible||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Heart Rate Strap Capable||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Speed/Cadence Capable||Yes||Yes||YEs||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Footpod Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Power Meter Capable||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ Weight Scale Capable||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|ANT+ Fitness Equipment (Gym)||No||No||No||No||No|
|ANT+ Lighting Control||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|ANT+ Bike Radar Integration||No||yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|ANT+ Trainer Control (FE-C)||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|ANT+ Remote Control||No||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|ANT+ eBike Compatibility||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|ANT+ Muscle Oxygen (i.e. Moxy/BSX)||No||Via Connect IQ||With apps||Planned Future||Yes|
|ANT+ Gear Shifting (i.e. SRAM ETAP)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Planned Future||Yes|
|Shimano Di2 Shifting||Yes||Yes||Yes||Planned Future||Yes|
|Bluetooth Smart HR Strap Capable||Coming soon||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Bluetooth Smart Speed/Cadence Capable||Coming Soon||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Bluetooth Smart Footpod Capable||No||No||No||No||No|
|Bluetooth Smart Power Meter Capable||Yes for ROTOR, Coming soon for others||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Temp Recording (internal sensor)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Planned Future||Yes|
|Temp Recording (external sensor)||No||No||No||No||No|
|Compatible with Firstbeat HR tools||N/A||No||No||No||-||Software||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|PC Application||Windows/Mac||Garmin Express||Garmin Express (PC/Mac)||No||N/A|
|Web Application||Barely||Garmin Connect||Garmin Connect||Yes||N/A|
|Phone App||iOS/Android||iOS/Android/Windows||iOS/Android/Windows PHone||No||iOS/Android|
|Ability to Export Settings||No||No||No||No||No||Purchase||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
|Clever Training - Save with the VIP program||Link||Link||Link||N/A||Link|
|Wiggle Link||Link||Link||DCRainmaker||SIGMA ROX 12 SPORT||Garmin Edge 1030||Garmin Edge 820||Hammerhead Karoo||Wahoo ELEMNT|
Again, don’t forget that you can mix and match against other bike computers within the product comparison tool here.
It probably goes without saying: I’m impressed.
When SIGMA first reached out last fall or so about the ROX 12, I was pretty straight with them. I said I wasn’t interested in spending time on another boring bike computer that wasn’t remotely competitive with half the industry. I explained I had more important things to do – like eating ice cream. They replied not to worry, they had something unique.
And sure enough – they very much did. While Wahoo has taken lead in recent years on challenging Garmin’s dominance, I’d say that Sigma has instantly dropped itself into the ring as well with the ROX 12. It’s easily bested Wahoo when it comes to mapping and navigation, though it doesn’t beat the overall simplicity and cleanliness of the Wahoo BOLT for most basic operations. Similarly, when it comes to challenging Garmin, the SIGMA does a superb job in the mapping realm as well as just being a solid and flexible bike computer, especially for touring folks.
Where SIGMA struggles a bit is around the overall integration story. They have a capable (if slightly dated feeling) desktop app, that syncs via a cloud service that apparently floated in from the 1980’s. No worries, Wahoo’s cloud service is equally as questionable. However, the biggest gap for some will the be the lack of companion app for the ROX12, and with that, lack of smartphone notifications. Like Hammerhead and their Karoo, SIGMA has no method of notifying you of incoming calls/texts/Tweets/etc from your phone. That’s something that the company has some potential options on the table to fix, but none of them sound terribly near-term (or great).
Still, if that’s not important to you – then you should definitely consider the ROX 12 if you’re in the market for a higher-end mapping device. It’s hard to say that it outright challenges the Edge 1030, because in a lot of ways it falls short there (such as around advanced training metrics, full app support, advanced sensors, and so on). But where it does do a better/cleaner job is at lower end units like the Wahoo BOLT or Edge 520 Plus…just with a bigger and prettier screen.
The only challenge SIGMA will likely face here is that their USD pricing isn’t as competitive as their Euro pricing. With USD being $475, that puts them trying to compete with Garmin’s higher end units, versus the 399EUR pricing is more competitive in that market. I think if SIGMA had priced the ROX 12 at $399USD (parity, as is common), they’d be selling units like there’s no tomorrow. $475USD makes people pause when talking about a new entrant.
In any event – I’m sure there will be plenty of questions, so I’ll do my best in the comments section below. Also, the unit starts shipping today. Initially, European distribution is fully sorted, though US/world distribution is being worked through and might take a few days/weeks until various global retail partners light up listings. The company says they have plenty of units ready to ship, they just are looking for distribution partners to ship them to.
With that – thanks for reading!
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Thanks for reading! And as always, feel free to post comments or questions in the comments section below, I’ll be happy to try and answer them as quickly as possible.