With the launch of the Garmin Edge 530, choosing a premium bike computer got a whole lot easier. Especially since it was launched at an attractive price point and has stayed at that point. In this post we sum up the upgrades, so you can decide if these upgrades have value for your own cycling needs – and if this bike computer is the one for you. The respected cycling authority, DC Rainmaker, has said that the Garmin Edge 530 “looks like the best bike computer ever.” Read on and see – you just might agree. Certainly, it has become our top pick as well. And if you are a mountain biker, this may turn out to be a no-brainer …
The Garmin Edge 530 is more like a new bike computer than a simple upgrade. I am not sure why they didn’t just rebrand with a new name. In any event, previous to the 530, if you wanted a premium-performance bike computer, you could be forgiven for being a bit confused. There were many options that sound very similar, notably in the Garmin Edge 500 and 800 series. But with the launch of the Garmin Edge 530, the choice got a lot simpler.
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The Story of the Garmin Edge 500 Series, So Far
This well-loved series first launched with the Garmin Edge 500 in 2009, followed by the Garmin Edge 510 in 2013. At that point, it was pretty much the budget option. That is, if you had to have premium, but you didn’t want to splash out on a Garmin Edge 1000. However, it lacked many of the premium features found in the 800 and 1000 series.
The Garmin Edge 520s
However, when the Garmin Edge 520 was launched in 2015, it caused a lot of well-deserved excitement. It was a major upgrade on the Edge 510 – possibly one of the most thorough upgrades ever (until this one). As a result, the Edge 520 was, for a long time, our pick for best bike computer.
But when the Garmin Edge 520 Plus was launched in 2018, there was yet more excitement. This bike computer combined all the sophistication of the 520, with much better maps and some (limited) navigation abilities. This positioned the 520 Plus as a more affordable alternative to the top Garmin Edge models – the Edge 830 and Edge 1030. So, for a long time, it has been our pick for best bike computer. Almost as good as the 830 and 1030, but way cheaper.
I published my in-depth comparison post comparing the Edge 1030 vs. 820 vs. 520, and it was extremely popular. I thought my work here was done, but then in less than a year, Garmin released the Edge 530. Garmin, can you give a guy a break? Do you know how much work goes into keeping track of these constant upgrades?
Performance Issues with the Edge 520 Plus
Jokes aside, it is interesting that the 530 was released less than a year after the 520 Plus. Apart from making my job more difficult, what was Garmin’s aim? Rumor has it that it was a response to performance issues with the Edge 520 Plus. The Edge 520 Plus should have annihilated competitors like the Wahoo ELEMNT, but it didn’t. Partly because many users complained that adding on the maps slowed down the performance, which kind of took away from the “it can do (almost) everything” glow.
Double the Speed with the Garmin Edge 530
The Garmin Edge 530 dealt with that performance issue in no uncertain terms, as it comes with a processor that is claimed to be twice as fast. And in actual use, it sometimes feels even faster than that. Beyond that, it comes with an entire raft of awesome abilities, which have led several reviewers (including this one) to say that this looks like the best bike computer ever.
In this post, I am just going to summarize the most important upgrades, so you can decide if these upgrades have value for your own cycling needs.
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Upgrades offered by the Garmin Edge 530
Upgrade no. 1: Speed
The processor is twice as fast. This is by far the most important upgrade, in our opinion. Who hasn’t been irritated by having to stand astride your bike, waiting for your bike computer to get done processing, so you can ride your bike already?
Upgrade no. 2: Full Navigation Maps
Thanks to the pre-installed Garmin Cycle Map, you can re-route on the fly while cycling if you go off course! You also get back to start routing. But it still doesn’t let you input an address direct to the unit and then have it calculate a route. You still have to pre-download your routes (with some exceptions, such as using the Yelp app).
Upgrade no. 3: ClimbPro
The Garmin Edge 530 has a feature called ClimbPro. This upgrade is awesome for those who like to cycle up hills. On the 530, it only works on downloaded routes. But it’s really quite awesome – it basically shows you graphically the grades that lie ahead, as well as the grade you are currently climbing. This could be immensely useful on long-distance, hilly rides.
Upgrade no. 4: Mountain Biking Metrics
The Garmin Edge 530 is a whole lot better for mountain biking. Several of the upgrades are directly related to mounting biking, notably:
- Grit rating – this shows you how difficult a route is.
- Flow rating – this shows you how well you descended a tough route. This gives you a metric to try and beat the next time!
- Hang time – this shows you on the fly how long you were in the air after a jump. Later, you can analyze every single jump in great detail on Garmin Connect. How far did you jump, how long were you in the air, and how fast were you going?
- Trailforks – this app is integrated into the unit. This means that maps for 130,000 mountain bike trails are included in the unit, along with their difficulty rating. So, you can see the difficulty level of the trails you are cycling on. If the trail forks, you can make an informed decision as to which trail to take. For example, if you’re tired, you can choose a trail with a lower difficulty level.
Upgrade no. 5: Enhanced Performance Metrics
If you choose this bike computer, you get even more data. These performance metrics include:
- Performance power curve – this will track your power over various periods of time. This is very useful if you are training and want to track improvements. Of course, you need to hook up a power meter.
- Heat acclimation – how well are you adjusting to heat?
- Altitude acclimation – how well are you adjusting to high altitude?
- Water and calorie requirements – this bike computer will remind you to drink and eat on a long bike ride, based on your individual profile. You can even meticulously record all the hydration and nutrition you take on board.
Upgrade no. 6: Better Structured Workouts
The workouts built into this bike computer rival those offered by dedicated apps. So, if you are interested in training, this could be super useful for you. It’s like having a training coach on your handlebars.
Upgrade no. 7: Bluetooth Smart
The Garmin Edge 530 has Bluetooth Smart connectivity, so you can use sensors that connect via Bluetooth Smart. This is of course in addition to ANT+ connectivity. Bluetooth Smart is very fast, and is also becoming almost universal.
Upgrade no. 8: Longer Battery Life
The built-in battery offers 20 hours (up from 15). More importantly for long-distance cyclists, the Edge 530 can be used in conjunction with a Garmin Edge Charge Power Pack, so you have power for more than 40 hours! In practice, if you were navigating and running multiple sensors, this would be more like 10 hours.
Upgrade no. 9: Bike Alarm and Find my Bike Computer
You can use this in situations such as running into the coffee shop or the washroom. If anyone moves your bike an alarm will go off, and you will get an alert on your phone. Of course, longer than one minute, and you will still want to combine this with a great bike lock.
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Let’s say you do a huge jump and your Garmin Edge 530 manages to come loose and land in the bushes. With this feature you can get it to make a noise, so you can find it.
Personally, I would be more likely to use it to find where I left it. The main reason I wore an Apple watch for a few years was because I could use it to find my iPhone. Very useful feature!
This was such a great upgrade, and yet the price is very reasonable, relative to other Garmin Edge bike computers. If you cycle long distances, if you are seriously into bike training, and most especially if you are a mountain biker, the choice of premium bike computer is simple – get the Edge 530!
Note however that since the 530 first rolled out, the mountain biking features have been extended to almost the entire line of Garmin Edge bike computers. That is one of the best things about Garmin – they extend the new upgrades to the rest of the line.
There are only two reasons we can see to spend more money than the price of the 530. The first would be if you really need state-of-the-art navigation, including inputting addresses on the fly. In that case, you would be well advised to spend the extra $100 to get a Garmin Edge 830.
And if you need state-of-the-art navigation plus you have difficulty seeing a smaller bike computer, then you would need to spend an extra $200 to get the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus. This is about the size of a cell phone, and is the flagship model.
For more bike computer options, please see our popular post on 7 of the Best Bike Computers.
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