In this post (with videos), we offer an in-depth comparison of the Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT. The Garmin Edge 520 Plus is a major upgrade to the Edge 520, which was itself hailed as pretty much the greatest bike computer upgrade ever. However, the Edge 520 had certain shortcomings, so that the Wahoo ELEMNT was serious competition. In fact, in a previous post comparing the Edge 520 vs Wahoo ELEMNT, our bottom line was that we thought that Wahoo was slightly better.
Right now the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is on sale at Amazon, with the price slashed by $70. They’re selling like hot cakes!
However, Garmin did not take this competition lying down, and responded with a major upgrade – the new Edge 520 Plus. So, how did Garmin do? Is the new Garmin Edge 520 Plus better than its competitor, the Wahoo ELEMNT? This post compares the features of these premium bike computers to help you decide which would be best for you. First, here is a chart that compares their key features.
You might also like: Garmin Edge 1030 vs. 820 vs. 520 Plus
Chart Comparing the Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
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|SIze:||1.9" x 2.9" x 0.8" |
(4.9 x 7.3 x 2.1 cm)
|2.25" x 3.5" x 0.8" (5.7 x 9.0 x 2.1 cm)|
|Weight:||2.2 oz (63 g)||3.5 oz (104 g)|
|Display resolution:||200 x 265 pixels; color||200 x 400 pixels; black and white|
|Screen Visibility:||Easy to see in the sun light, and also at night||Even easier to see in the sun light, and also at night|
|Waterproof?||Yes (IPX7 - able to withstand immersion in water up to 1 m - 3.2 feet - for up to 30 mins)||Yes (IPX7 - able to withstand immersion in water up to 1 m - 3.2 feet - for up to 30 mins)|
|Mount:||You can mount this with any Garmin mount, either on the handlebars or cross bar, or with an out-front mount. All provide for quickly removing the unit when the bike is parked||You can mount this with any Wahoo mount, either on the handlebars or cross bar, or with an out-front mount. The out-front mount is more aerodynamic than the Garmin version|
|Build:||Very sleek and high quality||Not as high quality as the Garmin, a bit heavier, but very nice, all the same|
|Button control or touchscreen?||Buttons – 7 buttons on the phone, along the sides and on the bottom, front. All have multiple functions, so there is a learning curve||Buttons – 3 buttons in the front along the bottom edge, a power button on the left side, and up-and-down arrow/zoom buttons on the right side. You mainly use the 3 buttons in front when riding, and they are really easy to access|
|Battery:||Lithium ion internal (rechargeable via Micro USB)||Lithium ion internal 1750mAh (rechargeable via Micro USB)|
|Battery Life:||Claimed up to 15 hours. But it depends what you do with the unit – e.g. are you using backlight, GPS, connecting constantly to your smart phone, etc.?||Claimed up to 15 hours. But it depends what you do with the unit – e.g. are you using backlight, GPS, connecting constantly to your smart phone, etc.?|
|Can you program it with a smart phone?||No; you use buttons and menus and sub-menus on the unit to program it||Yes, and it is easy and fun!|
|Download Strava segments to unit?||Yes||Yes|
|How easy is it to program?||Quite a complicated menu system, which you have to control with 7 buttons on the unit||Much easier to program, because you can do it on your smart phone, using the excellent Wahoo app|
|Bluetooth Smart (4.0)?||Yes||Yes|
|ANT+ connectivity so you can connect it to other devices, such as a cadence and speed sensor or a heart rate monitor||Yes. You can also use a Shimano wireless transmitter to Garmin Vector 2S Power Meter Pedals, Di2 Dura-Ace 9070, Ultegra 6870 Di2, or Ultegra 6770 electronic gears||Yes. You can pair with sensors that measure heart rate, speed, cadence, and power, and connect with electronic shifting systems|
|Automatic, wireless transfer of data||Yes - automatically upload rides; automatically download routes, workouts, etc., from apps||Yes - automatically upload rides; automatically download routes, etc., from apps|
|GPS and Glonass satellite connectivity?||Yes, GPS and GLONASS (these are the American and Russian satellite systems)||Yes, GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU Galileo, and QZSS|
|Connected features with a smart phone||LiveTrack; GroupTrack; Automatic Activity uploads to Garmin Connect; Course, segment, and workout downloads from Garmin Connect; Device to device transfers; Social media interactions when uploading activities to Garmin Connect; Weather updates in real time; Notifications of phone calls and messages; Messages – reply with preset text messages; Audio prompts; Incident detection – sends message to emergency contacts; Assistance – you can send an automated text message with your name and GPS location to your emergency contacts; Connect IQ™ downloadable features||Live Track; GroupTrack; Automatic Activity uploads; Weather; Notifications of phone calls, messages, and emails; Course, segment, and workout downloads|
|App compatibility||Share routes and workout data via a huge range of apps accessed via Connect IQ, including: RideWithGPS; Strava; TrainingPeaks; Race Notes; Komoot||Share routes and workout data with: Health app (iOS only); RideWithGPS; Strava; TrainingPeaks; MapMyFitness; Today’s Plan (Android); Komoot; Best Bike Split; SportTrack; Dropbox|
|Current, average, and maximum speed; trip distance; odometer; etc.||Yes||Yes|
|Compute calories burned, based on heart rate?||Yes||Yes|
|Customizable data pages||Yes – set them up using the menu system on the unit||Yes - set them up on your smart phone. You can quickly change the number of fields displayed on the fly, by using the zoom feature. Use the Perfect View side buttons to toggle between views of 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 data fields|
|Display and record gradients?||Yes||Yes|
|Cycling-specific VO2 Max and recovery times?||Yes. Reports cycling-specific VO2 max and recovery time when used with power and heart rate sensors||Yes. Reports cycling-specific VO2 max and recovery time when used with power and heart rate sensors|
|Time in Zone?||Yes||Yes|
|FTP (Functional Threshold Power) tracking?||Yes. Tracks FTP, watts/kg and cycling dynamics when used with Vector™ or Vector 2 power meters||Yes, when used with a power meter|
|GPS tracking of routes||Yes||Yes|
|Preloaded maps?||Yes, with Trendline popularity routing (chooses routes most popular with cyclists)||Yes|
|Turn-by-turn navigation guidance?||Yes, but it can only guide you to locations using turn-by-turn directions and off-course alerts IF the location is a saved place, OR IF the location is found on the pre-loaded Yelp app. However, you can add extra navigation if you download routes with cues to the unit from a suitable app, such as RideWithGPS or Komoot||Yes, if you use the Take Me Anywhere feature, or if you download routes with embedded cues that you previously create in apps such as RideWithGPS or Komoot|
As you can see at a glance, both the Wahoo ELEMNT and the Garmin Edge 520 Plus are premium bike computers that offer an impressive range of features. So, which one is better for you? Read on!
Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs. Wahoo ELEMNT, Summed Up
The Garmin Edge 520 Plus, like all Edge bike computers, is a rugged bike computer that will stand up to bad weather, and even a fall into water. Plus of course it will enable you to record your rides and a range of other data and upload it automatically to the apps of your choice. The Wahoo ELEMNT is just as rugged and water-resistant, and will also enable you to record and automatically upload your rides and a whole lot of other data. On the other hand, depending on your preferences, you might find that the Wahoo ELEMNT does have some significant advantages over the Edge 520 Plus.
Satellites and Apps for Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
When the Garmin Edge 520 was first introduced, it was hailed by many as the biggest leap forward in bike computers, ever – as we mentioned in our complete review of the Garmin Edge 520. Now, a couple of years later, it has been upgraded even further with improved maps and navigation. The Edge 520 Plus is GPS and GLONASS-enabled (that’s the US and Russian systems). This enables extremely fast satellite acquisition, and offers wireless transfers of your data to Garmin Connect (or Strava, which you can read about here) – or whichever cycling app you choose. The Edge 520 Plus connects to a wide range of cycling apps, via Connect IQ. These apps include RideWithGPS, Strava, TrainingPeaks, Race Notes, and Komoot.
The Wahoo ELEMNT does not use the propriety Connect IQ. However, it can connect to even more satellites, namely GPS, GLONASS, BEIDOU Galileo, and QZSS. Also, it will connect wirelessly to a wide range of apps, including Health app (iOS only), RideWithGPS, Strava, TrainingPeaks, MapMyFitness, Today’s Plan (Android), Komoot, Best Bike Split, SportTrack, and Dropbox. It too will wirelessly transfer your data.
Live Tracking on the Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
Both the Garmin Edge 520 Plus and the Wahoo ELEMNT offer live tracking – which basically means anyone can check where you are at any time, if you give them access.
Connectivity in Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
Both of these bike computers offers ANT+ connectivity. So you can connect the units to other devices, such as a cadence and speed sensor or a power meter or a heart rate monitor. You can also use Bluetooth Smart (4.) on the Wahoo ELEMNT and the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. These dual options make for wider connectivity options and lower drain on the battery.
However, the Edge 520 Plus has some other connectivity options – you can use a Shimano wireless transmitter to connect with Garmin Vector 2S Power Meter Pedals, Di2 Dura-Ace 9070, Ultegra 6870 Di2, or Ultegra 6770 electronic gears. Again, if you don’t have these expensive add-ons, then you will not need to connect with them anyway!
On the Wahoo ELEMNT, you can use ANT + to connect with electronic shifting systems. The ELEMNT can pair with most ANT+ enabled power meters to display power data in real time. For example, you can pair it with these power meters:
- Crank: Stages, Quarq, 4iiii, SRM, Power2Max, Pioneer
- Pedal: Powertap P1, Favero Assomia
- Hub: Powertap
You cannot pair a Wahoo ELEMNT with an SRM PM6.
Both of these bike computers will measure all of the data you want, depending on which sensors you have. They will also automatically upload your data to whichever apps you have selected, such as Strava or RideWithGPS.
Controlling the Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
Both Garmin Edge 520 Plus and the Wahoo ELEMNT use button control, not touch screen control. Many people prefer button control. Personally, I sometimes find that screen swiping doesn’t work perfectly, especially in pouring rain. Button control gives you complete control, all the time, even with gloves on. It also has another advantage: if the screen gets muddy or wet, you can wipe it clean without having to deal with unwanted menus opening up!
The Edge 520 Plus has 7 buttons, located as follows: 3 on the left edge, 2 on the bottom front, and 2 on the right edge. On the other hand, the Wahoo ELEMNT has three buttons in the front along the bottom edge, a power button on the left side, and up-and-down arrow buttons on the right side. You mainly use the three buttons in front when riding, and they are really easy to access.
Menus vs Phone App
While both have a fair number of buttons, in practice you will use the Wahoo buttons less. This is the key factor that makes the Wahoo ELEMNT look like a more attractive unit than the Edge 520 Plus. You program the Garmin Edge 520 Plus on the unit itself, using buttons to access menus and sub-menus. This is fine if you are good at that sort of thing.
However, you program the Wahoo ELEMNT using the excellent Wahoo app on your phone. Many users love the Wahoo app because it is so easy to use.
Using your phone to set up your bike computer options is so super easy and powerful that it made me question all the hours I have spend navigating bike computer menus (and sometimes swearing as I do it). If you love setting up customized data screens, you are most likely going to have a blast with your smart phone and the Wahoo ELEMNT bike computer! Plus, the process of pairing the Wahoo with my phone was so simple that it’s not even worth writing about it.
In fact, the only adjustments you can make on the actual Wahoo unit are adding sensors, turning GPS on and off; and checking for firmware and route updates.
Zoom Buttons on the Wahoo ELEMNT
Also, the zoom buttons on the side of the Wahoo ELEMNT are much easier to use than the zooming menu options on the Edge 520. These buttons can be used to zoom from 11 sets of data to just 1 or 2 – quickly and on-the-fly. You can also use them to zoom in and out on maps. It is much harder to do this on the Garmin Edge 520 Plus – you will have to stop your bike and navigate menus. Which really means that with a Garmin, you had best decide what screens you want before your ride, and stick with them!
Build Quality in the Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
The Garmin Edge 520 Plus has a beautiful color screen, and a great hand-feel – it feels very smooth, light, and high quality. The Wahoo ELEMNT is no ugly duckling, but it is definitely a little bigger and heavier, and simply feels and looks a little less high-end than the Garmin.
Although the Wahoo ELEMNT is black and white and the Edge 520 Plus is color, it is actually easier to see the Wahoo ELEMNT, both at night and during the day.
This is an interesting video made by a cyclist who switched from Garmin to Wahoo, and had mixed feelings about the change. Tom Bell does international bike racing, and his YouTube channel offers many useful tips for bike training.
LED Lights on the Wahoo ELEMNT
A great little feature that is not seen on any other bike computers are the two rows of LED lights at the left side and top of the Wahoo ELEMNT. The left row is semi-customizable so you can program it to provide a quick way to see if you’re on pace with important performance metrics you set up, like speed, cadence, and power. The top row of LEDs shows notifications and alerts. Most notably, if you are following a route – even just a breadcrumbs route – these lights will blink red if you go off course, and blink green when you get back on course.
Turn-by-turn Navigation with Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
Both the Garmin Edge 520 Plus and the Wahoo ELEMNT come with good, preloaded maps. Turn-by-turn navigation is not possible on either of these units on their own, as their maps do not have this metadata loaded. However, it IS possible to get turn-by-turn directions on both of them if you export a route that contains the required metadata from a suitable app to your unit. Such as RideWithGPS or Komoot. The created route will show up on both your Edge 520 Plus and your Wahoo with turn-by-turn directions! This excellent video from Clint Gibbs explains it. I recommend subscribing to Clint’s YouTube channel for lots of great reviews and insights. Although the video refers to the Edge 520, it is applicable to the Edge 520 Plus as well.
Indoor Bike Trainer Compatibility with Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
The Wahoo ELEMNT can be used to control one of the excellent Wahoo KICKR Smart Trainers. These are high-level bike trainers that work with numerous apps to provide great indoor training options. If indoor training is important to you, note that Wahoo has really perfected this connection and provides outstanding training tools in its KICKR Smart Trainers.
Of course, you can pair your Garmin Edge 520 Plus with an indoor trainer using ANT+ FE-C and a range of training apps. See our picks for 5 of the best indoor bike trainers here.
Bottom Line on the Garmin Edge 520 Plus vs Wahoo ELEMNT
Both of these are excellent bike computers. Personally, I would choose the Wahoo ELEMNT over the Garmin Edge 520 Plus, simply because it is so much easier to program it with your smart phone, rather than navigating the endless menus of the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. It is also so much easier to see more or less data screens on the Wahoo ELEMNT, thanks to the zoom in and zoom out buttons. Plus, those LED lights are useful and fun!
For most cyclists, the Wahoo ELEMNT really does have the “must-have” data covered, and then some. It used to be that the Garmin was way ahead, but really, Wahoo just keeps catching up. So, that factor is no longer important. The differences now come down to color vs. black and white; the zoom-with-buttons feature; programming with menus vs with your phone; and the fact that the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is a little smaller and more high-end looking.
Both are great bike computers – my two personal favorites, in fact. Ultimately it will come down to what you think will work better for you. Good luck with making the right choice for your needs!
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