We are just back from a first trip using the Garmin Edge 800 as a principal navigation device. Verdict? Well, perhaps 8 out of 10: certainly, I was more impressed than I expected to be and have seen enough to want to keep trying with the Edge.
What I did
I used the Map my Fitness site to plot 3 day routes to use on the trip. MMF makes this easy to do and also allows you to download the route as a GPX file that the Edge can see and read. (see details in the sister post to this one tagged under GPS and Technology.) Each of the routes started from a fixed point that I expected to be able to find easily: e.g. our hotel, a railway station etc.
How things worked
When switched on at the start of the route and the route selected (Garmin refers to Routes as Courses), or any point along it, the Edge, ‘buzzed’ and indicated that it has detected the route. The route is shown as a pink line on the map and your position as an elongated triangle. The triangle moves along the pink line as long as you are on the right line. If you move off route the Edge ‘buzzes’ to alert you and flashes up an ‘off course’ message.
What worked well with the Edge 800
Most of the time the Edge did a great job of keeping us on the planned route. A glance at the map was enough to see where to go at junctions. It was very reassuring to be ‘buzzed’ very early when off route. Seeing junctions ahead and having an indication of direction of travel presented was very helpful and motivating. Being able to anticipate changes of direction was useful. You can also ‘swipe’ from map to a numbers page that indicates your speed and distance to final destination. This was very motivating and encouraging. The Edge was very accommodating when you stop – for a coffee or whatever – and just resumes where you left off. You can stop the supplementary timer if you wish and resume when you set off again. Battery life stood up really well over 4-5 hours, at which point it was more than ‘half full’.
What worked less well with the Edge 800
At first sight the screen size is very small. So small it’s impossible to get a sense of where you are going ‘on the bigger picture’ from the device in the way you can from a map. It’s much better to forget that thinking and rely on your advanced planning and the pink route line.
On a couple of occasions the Edge ‘buzzed’ the off course message when there really was no other sensible alternative route – both times on the outskirts of towns or villages. Ignoring the error message resulted in a second message indicating the the route had been found again. This was not more than a minor irritation on these two occasions.
I found it difficult to manipulate the screen display on the map page: it’s not obvious how you ought to change settings. Some of this might be because my eyesight did not allow me to read the map detail without putting reading glasses on.
Overall Verdict on the Garmin Edge 800
I was impressed on this first outing. On each of the three days the Edge performed well and kept us on track with the minimum of fuss or bother. It was especially good on complicated routes on remote small road with few signposts and many decision points that would have required frequent stops to consult a paper map. This is always a frustration and the Edge removed all of this worry and ‘checking’ as you go allowing you to focus on the cycling and the scenery.