After owning the Garmin Edge 705 since April 2008 I've been very happy
with its performance. It does everything it is supposed to, there were
a few dodgy firmware updates which introduced more bugs than they fixed,
but overall it's been a good product. The accessories on the other hand,
not so good. I've had many many GSC-10 cadence sensors die in the rain,
to the point where I was pretty much using one and had another off getting
replaced under warranty as a continuous cycle. The original handlebar mount
was prone to failure which on one occasion resulted in my Garmin leaving my
bike, luckily I was riding on a bike path and it wasn't damaged too much.
The mount design has now been fixed.
At the end of August 2010, Garmin announced the Edge 800. A touch screen enabled upgrade to the Edge 705, with a similar physical design to the Edge 500, albeit bigger. The size is similar to that of the 705, with the same width and depth, but the length has dropped by 1.5cm. The biggest feature is the larger screen which is touch enabled. The screen size increases from 5.6cm diagonal to 6.6cm diagonal. Despite the bigger screen, resolution remains much the same at 160x240. This would be my first gripe. Screen technology has come a long way in the 2.5 years since the 705 was introduced and while touch screen abilities have been added, for a mapping device, the screen resolution was poor in the 705 and it should have been increased on the 800. It's fine for the data pages, but for mapping more detail is required.
Interestingly, the specs of the Edge 800 suggests that it reverts to a Lithium ion battery, compared to the Lithium polymer battery of the 705. Lithium ion batteries has slightly less charge degredation with each charge, meaning your battery should last longer for longer with the 800. Having said that, my 2.5yr old Edge 705 still gets over 9 hours of use from a single charge, which is a long day on the bike in anyones books.
The 800 also retains the IPx7 waterproof rating. IPx7 sealing means your device is capable of withstanding 30 minutes, 1m under water without water ingress. Sounds impressive until you get water in your GPS when riding in the rain, as happened to a friend, at which point Garmin will tell you not to take it out in heavy rain. Having said that, I've taken my 705 in the rain for hours on end and it's not suffered any damage.
I digress. The Edge 800 didn't really take my fancy when first announced. Yes it was cool with its touch screen, but I don't really use the maps on my 705 all that much so if I was going to 'upgrade', I'd get a 500 and keep the 705 for when I did need maps. Then I saw some of the reviews of pre-production units. Several had video of how the touch screen worked. The joystick and some of the physical buttons have been done away with, replaced by on screen buttons and finger sliding. Changing view is done by sliding your finger sideways on the screen, and scrolling around on maps is done by moving your finger around. If anyone has used the joystick to scroll around on maps on the 705 you know it is difficult and slow to the point of being useless.
My interest was piqued, which unfortunately for me means I'm going to buy it. Try as I might, there was no talking myself out of buying one now.
Garmin has always has an international warranty. I bought my 705 from the US and used that receipt to replace many GSC10s and handlebar mounts, as well as get a scratched screen replaced when my first handle bar mount failed. I'd buy the 800 from OS if it suited, but I have heard in the last few months Garmin Aus has been knocking back OS bought GPS units for warranty repairs. Their site is now somewhat vague with regards to international warranty. Still that hasn't stopped me before so I cruised my usual online stores to get an idea of pricing. As expected, most had it listed for close to RRP and expected delivery dates ranging from early Nov to sometime in Dec.
I ended up ordering from a local crowd. I may as well give them a free plug, they kept everyone up to date on the expected delivery date and ran a smooth operation. Expected delivery date was the 2nd week on Nov and the price was full RRP. I've not paid RRP for anything for a long time, but I guess it's the price you pay for getting a new product. I'm going to sell some of the accessories and maps (I already have maps on SD card) it comes with as I don't need everything so that will help out a little.
At the time of ordering there were 2 packages available:
3 weeks after pre-ordering, 2 weeks after full payment and a week after Garmins initial expected delivery date, the Garmin Edge 800 arrived. Since ordering, the UK mail order sites now have stock and are generally $100 cheaper than buying locally, although they sport Europe maps rather than Australia.
The box contains:
Installation is pretty much the same as all Edge units. The handle bar mount can go on either bars or stem, with the stem being the most obvious place (keeps your bike symetrical). The mount is the same 1/4 turn mount that the Garmin 500 uses. I'm still not convinced by this mount, it seems like it would be possible to knock the GPS in the wrong spot and have it twist out, however, it is in pretty tight so it would have to be a solid knock. Still it's a vast improvement on the 705 mount. Time will tell and no one seems to complaing about it on the Edge 500. The mount uses the same rubberised bottom as the 305/705 to prevent it sliding around, but instead of zip ties various sized rubber o-rings are used. This helps in reducing marks on your shiny Ritchey WCS wet black stem and allows for easy removal and installation. As I use a Quarq power meter, a cadence sensor is built into the cranks so the GSC10 didn't get installed. It will instead be sold to recoup some of the initial outlay.
The wall charger is a cheap affair. It consists of the main switching power supply, a removable wall plug which would be changed depending on what region the Garmin is sold, and a short (40cm) USB cable. The USB cable needs to be plugged into the power supply and then into the Garmin. Rather than supply 2 cables, only 1 is supplied so it will need to be removed from the charger to connect your 800 to your PC. It's not really an issue, USB to mini-USB cables are cheap and I have plenty of spares, but it really gives a cheap cost cutting feel to an expensive item. The charger extends sideways to the left from a power point, with the USB cable protruding even further to the left from the end of the supply. Not good if you are using a power board, but you can't keep everyone happy. Some people might not like it if it went downwards from the power point. Once you go get it all connected up, the 800 now indicates % charged while charging rather than just a progressively filling battery icon. My Garmin cam with 95% charge.
A change from the 705 and similar to the 500, the device now allows up to 3 data screens. Not only that, but each screen can now have 10 data fields, up from 8 on the 705. This consits of 5 rows with 2 data fields per row. That is a whole lot of data if all 10 fields are used on each screen. While the screen is bigger than the 705, having 5 rows of data PLUS another row for on screen menu and left and right arrow buttons, the data fields are less pixels high as on the 705. I shall probably stick with the 6 data fields I used on my 705 on my main screen for now, and add nice to know total ride data on the 3rd screen. In addition to the 3 data screens, there is a map display page, and then the altitude history page. If you are using the GPS to direct you somewhere, there are 2 additional displays, one with step by step directions and another showing a compass and your bearing.
Rider and bike profiles are entered in a similar fashion to the 705. Up to 3 bike profiles can be entered into the 800 which is probably more than enough for most people although I could use another one for my TT bike. One thing that is easier to enter on the 800 is your heart rate and power zones. On the 705 you needed to enter the values for both the upper and lower limit for each of your zones. I always though that this was a bit silly and that the software should be able to carry the upper limit from the previous zone as the lower limit of the next zone. The 800 does this. Sure it only save a minute or 2 everytime you change you zones (and how often do you really do that), but it's just neat and results in a more refined product. There is also a handy screen capture mode on the 800.
Despite the addition of more data fields as well as a row of on screen buttons, the data fields on my data screens are still easily readable.
The map screen can also have data fields on it, I normally use 2, 3sec average power and speed. Unfortunately, the map screen now has the top row taken up with the name of the street you are riding on and using an additional row for data would make the map too small. Despite the increase in screen size, I still find it hard to see details on the map screen. As mentioned earlier, the screen resolution (160 x 240) needs to be increased to allow more detail to be shown.
Temperature is a new data field that is available on the 800 (and 500). It appears to update more frequently than on the 500 and will be more useful if you need to know it. The temperature field on the 500 only seem to update rarely. A couple of fields that are missing, and I think easily implemented at 3sec and 30sec avg Power Zones. Power readings fluctuate significantly and a minimum of 3 second rolling average is requirement to make the readings usable. If you want to know what power zone you are riding in, your data is raw and not averaged so fluctuates. Having a 3 second and 30 second average power zone would provide a much more meaningful number.
Another new data field is vertical velocity, indicating how quickly 'm/min' you are climbing. I don't climb enough mountains to use this data, but it could be handy, kind of like a power to weight ratio. An icon for remaining battery has also been added, but it is only a picture of a battery that empties. I understand that on the 500, the remaining battery is a percentage, and while the icon is cool, a percentage is more usable.
There are now only 3 physical buttons on the unit, 2 on the front and a power button on the side. The remainder of the 'buttons', such as MENU and Zoom +/-, are now on the touch screen. The bottom end of the unit has a rubber sealed section housing the mini-USB connection and the micro-SD slot. These rubber seals are not as easy to close as on the 705. I can see a lot of people thinking they have sealed the connections up, when in fact they haven't and eventually this is going to coincide with rain. I certainly wouldn't be trusting the IPx7 rating of the unit.
The new (updated of the existing) premium soft HRM strap is very comfy and a great change from the hard plastic HRM strap I've been using for the last 2.5 years. Supposedly it doesn't even need wetting before use, which seems to be the case from my initial rides. Being a skinny cyclist, I had a lot of trouble getting my old hard plastio HRM strap to work in winter so I'm hoping this new strap will help with that. It's a similar design to the soft Polar HRM strap.
The touch screen is excellent. This unit is much more responsive than the 705. It seems to flip between data screens much more quickly and scrolling around on the maps with your finger is 1,000,000 times better and faster than the 705. Supposedly the screen works with full finger gloves, but as I wear them 2 or 3 times a year I don't expect to be testing that out for a while. I was interested to see how it works in the wet. I know the screen on my phone (no, not an isheep) doesn't work so well in the wet. My first ride with the 800 proved to be wet, and the screen still worked. It wasn't raining tropical thunder storm heavily, but the screen was wet and it responded to my touches the same as when it was dry. Occasionally (in the dry) scrolling between screens just doesn't want to happen. I'm not sure what causes this. Maybe I'm doing to too slow or too quick. I just press the left and right arrows at the bottom of the screen in this case. I'm sure once I use it a bit more I'll get the hang of it.
The interface of the 800 is like the stand alone Garmin GPS systems. It is much easier to navigate than the 705. This is due in part to the new menu system as well as the touch screen. The overall increase in speed of the 800 also makes the new menu system work quicker than the 705.
The visibility of the 800 during the day is not as good as the 705. I never use backlight during the day with my 705 and have no issue seeing the screen, apart from in the mosty directly overhead sunlight. As a result of the contrast not being as high as on the 705, the 800 is not as easy to read in highly lit situations. In fact the screen is very dark. When indoors, the 800 screen needs to be set to 30% backlight to bring it to the same brightness as the 705. The text is also very soft when compared to the 705, most likely as a result of additional filters added to the touch screen. Touch screens generally have a scratch resistant layer at the top and the interface between this and the layer below can increase the reflection of outside light, making what is displayed below harder to see. The side-by-side comparision images below are the 800 (left) and 705 (right).
When outside, the reflective layer is very evident. Side by side with the 705, the 800 clearly has a silver mirror type appearance. This was in overcast and wet conditions. In the direct sunlight the reflectivness of the screen will be even worse. I really don't think that the screen does the 800 justice. Having said that, the slighly blurry text is OK to read, and with the Garmin mounted on my stem, my head blocks out most overhead light so readability of the screen isn't too poor. The photos below make it look a lot worse than it is, but you can clearly see the comparison between direct light (overcast) and shadow in the 2nd picture.
The auto-routing feature on the Edge 800 is faster than the 705. This is particularly handy if you go off course for whatever reason. The 705 somtimes took quite a while to calculate a route. The 800 does not have anywhere near as much delay. One thing that has always annoyed me with some GPS units is that you need to know what suburb your destination is before you can search for a street. Normally it isn't a problem but some suburbs blend into or are part of others, and if you don't chose the correct one you will never find the street name. The 800, as did the 705, allows you to search all suburbs for your street. I'm a big fan of that.
Once a course or route has been started, an immediate difference noticed to the 705 is that the notificaiton 'beep' is not as loud or noticible on the 800. This could easily be changed via firmware. It really could be a problem on anything other than quiet roads as the 'beep' volume is very low.
I had both the 800 and 705 on my bike at the same time on the 800s maiden voyage. The 705 was actually able to boot to the 'finding satellite' screen first, and then had satellite lock was much the same. I have uploaded a short 30 minute ride, recorded with both the 800 and 705. They seem to compare very well, as you would expect. The distance is slightly different because I nearly forgot to start the 705. One thing that is totally off is the calories used calculation on the 800. It's nearly 1/20th that of the 705. My weight and bike weight were entered correctly. Luckily I don't even look at that so I'm not overly bothered and it'll get fixed eventually. I can always the kJ count from my power meter if I need to know that information.
I use WKO+ for my power analysis, but it doesn't give the same graphical output of where you have been as Garmin Training Center or some of the online options. I still use Training Center as a method of backing up my data. As such, I periodically download my data to WKO+, Training Center and occasionally some ride to online sites. With the 705 set to record data every second (a must if you use power) the files could get rather large. The Edge 800 and 500 have done away with the older and inefficient Garmin .tcx file format and now use a binary compressed .fit format. These files are less than 1/10 of the .tcx files, so even the longest ride downloads in seconds. It also means that the internal memory is much less likely to become full, and despite it being supposed to overwrite older rides, just not record anything. I lost all my data from a 230km race a few week back because of this. There is now also an option to save your ride history to the SD card rather than internal memory, with a maximum SD card size of at least 4GB, that's a lot of rides. *File sizes i.e. maps, are limited by the FAT32 file structure to 4GB (a bit less actually).
One downside of this new file type, is that you can no longer use ride history to see the average data for your ride, until it has been saved. On the 705, you can use your ride history to see you max and average data for your current ride, as you go. The data is still available on your data screens.
In addition to the ride history file change, courses are no longer .gpx files. If you have courses as .gpx and want to use them, they need to be placed in the 'New Files' folder on your device and it will convert them for you.
I'm yet to find the ultimate software package. WKO+ is great for power, but little else. Training Center is good for storing data, but not analysis. Sporty Track is OK but not without plug-ins. Ascent is really good for everything other than power data, and I would use it in conjunction with WKO+, but it is for Mac only. As the 800 uses the same file type as the Edge 500, I would expect these programs to fully support the 800. I did notice that ridewithgps does not support the files produced by the 500 and 800 without conversion back to a .tcx.
One newish piece of software available from Garmin is Birdseye which is compatible with Basecamp. This allows the download (not free) and overlay of satellite imagery via Basecamp onto your maps. This brings a whole new level of awesomeness to the 800. Again, it's one of those things that is nice, but do you really need it? I'm not sure if I will spend the money to subscribe to Birdseye. From an initial play for a trial period the satellite imagery does not seem to have the same resolution as Google Earth and certainly not nearmap. Garmin also give you the option to make your own custom maps, and it is possible to piece together Google Earth images. Learing to do this will be another whole world of pain, working out overlays and raster maps etc. I have had a go at it though, found some programs that will pull image tiles from nearly all the online satellite image websites and create an overlay layer (well actually a layer than goes under the Garmin maps) which can be installed via basecamp.
Some trial and error was required to work out the zoom level to download to give good detail without requiring a large number of tiles. Unfortunately Garmin has limited the number of 1024x1024 custom map tiles to 100. They say this is to prevent preformance issue with the 800, but the synic in me says it is to pretect their Birdseye product. With Birdseye you can install as many image tiles as your SD card can fit. I am going to put 100 tiles of my most common rides onto the 800, which is kind of defeats the purpose as I don't need to use the maps for these rides. One thing I did notice, is that the satellite images are generally pretty dark with trees and grass etc, and with the dull and reflective screen I could not really see the maps when the satellite images were overlayed.
So, how is it? It's certainly faster than the 705, the touch screen is a nice addition, but at a cost. The display is dull, the text is blurry and the screen is more reflective than the 705. It's not unusable, but not as good as the 705. The addition of a 3rd data screen over the 705 is welcome and there are a few new data fields available to fill up the extra screen. Overall, it's an improvement on the 705 but probably not worth the cost of upgrading unless you have to have the latest kit, or you manage to sell your 705 for $300, the topo maps for $100 and your cadence sensor for $50, then the $200 upgrade cost is just fine. :)