The Garmin Edge 520 and the Wahoo ELEMNT are two of the best bike computers in the world. The Edge 520 debuted with a bang as pretty much the greatest bike computer upgrade ever – and since then, the Wahoo ELEMNT is really the only bike computer to emerge as serious competition to the 520. This post compares their features to help you decide which of these premium bike computers would be best for you. First, here is a chart that compares their key features.
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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 8.9 x 2.0 cm)|
|Weight:||2.1 oz (61 g||3.5 oz (105 g)|
|Display resolution:||200 x 265 pixels||200 x 400 pixels|
|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 (IPX 7 - Max immersion for less than 30 minutes at a depth of less than 1 m)||Yes (IPX 7 - Max immersion for less than 30 minutes at a depth of less than 1 m)|
|Mount:||You can mount this with any Garmin mount, either on the handlebars or cross bar, or with an out-front mount||You can mount this with any Wahoo mount, either on the handlebars or cross bar, or with an out-front mount, or with an aero mount. The out-front mount is more aerodynamic than the Garmin version|
|Build:||Very sleek and high quality||Not quite as high quality as the Garmin, 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 17 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 on the unit to program it||Yes, and it is easy and fun!|
|Download Strava segments to unit?||Yes||Yes|
|Can you switch Strava segments and challenges while cycling?||No||Yes, there is a dedicated screen with all your nearby starred segments. You can scroll through and choose one on-the-fly, plus choose whether to chase your PR, the KOM, or the next fastest rider you are following on Strava|
|How easy is it to program?||Quite a complicated menu system, which you have to control with 7 buttons on the phone||Much easier to program, because you can do it on your smart phone|
|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|
|Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Smart) connectivity?||Yes||Yes|
|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, both of them (these are the American and Russian satellite systems)||Just GPS|
|Connected features with a smart phone||Yes, LiveTrack, Weather, Smartphone Alerts such as email, message and phone call alerts, Social Media sharing||Yes, live track, Weather, Smartphone Alerts such as email, message, and phone call alerts|
|App compatibility||Share routes and workout data via a huge range of apps accessed via Connect IQ, including: Ride With GPS; Strava; TrainingPeaks; Race Notes; Komoot||Share routes and workout data with: Health app (iOS only); Ride With GPS; 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|
|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 connected power and heart rate sensors||No|
|Time in Zone?||Yes||No|
|FTP (Functional Threshold Power) tracking?||Yes. Tracks FTP, watts/kg and cycling dynamics when used with Vector™ or Vector 2 power meters||No|
|GPS tracking of routes||Yes||Yes|
|Preloaded maps?||Yes, but pretty basic. It's just to give you a rough idea of where you are. However, you can add free maps from third parties||Yes, and the included maps are very detailed and functional|
As you can see at a glance, both the Wahoo ELEMNT and the Garmin Edge 520 are premium bike computers that offer an impressive range of features. So, which one is better for you? Read on!
Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT, Summed Up
The Garmin Edge 520, 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 will also enable you to record and automatically upload your rides and a range of other data – although, not quite as much data as the Edge 520. On the other hand, the Wahoo ELEMNT does have some significant advantages over the Edge 520, as will be discussed below.
Satellites and Apps for Garmin Edge 520 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 is still very clearly a class act. The Edge 520 is GPS and Glonass-enabled for 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 now connects to a wide range of cycling apps, via Connect IQ. These apps include Ride With GPS, Strava, TrainingPeaks, Race Notes, and Komoot.
The Wahoo ELEMNT relies solely on GPS for satellites, and does not use the propriety Connect IQ. However, it will connect wirelessly to a wide range of apps, including Health app (iOS only), Ride With GPS, Strava, TrainingPeaks, MapMyFitness, Today’s Plan (Android), Komoot, Best Bike Split, SportTrack, and Dropbox.
Advanced Performance Data in Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
The Edge 520 was the first bike computer to introduce new advanced performance and power analysis, including Time in Zone, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) tracking, cycling-specific VO2, and recovery and cycling dynamics. However, these are very advanced features, and require expensive specialized equipment. If you don’t need these advanced metrics, then it will not matter to you that the Wahoo ELEMNT does not have them.
Recently the Garmin Edge 520 has added even more advanced power metrics. WKO4 software, developed by TrainingPeaks, provides WKO4 individual power levels (iLevels), the newest metric for cyclists and triathletes who train with a power meter. iLevels are specific training levels based on an athlete’s unique physiology and current level of fitness. The power duration curve has enabled the introduction of several new training metrics, including Functional Reserve Capacity and Pmax tracking, which you can use to track your specific fitness. Obviously, this has application only to elite level athletes, not your average Joe cyclists, like me!
Live Tracking on the Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
The Edge 520 offers live tracking – which basically means anyone can check where you are at any time, if you give them access. So does the Wahoo ELEMNT, but it is not as sophisticated as the Edge tracking.
Connectivity in Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
Both of these bike computers offers ANT+ connectivity so that you can connect it to other devices, such as a cadence and speed sensor or a heart rate monitor. You can also use Bluetooth Smart on the Wahoo ELEMNT and the Garmin Edge 520. These dual options make for wider connectivity options and lower drain on the battery.
However, the Edge 520 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.
Both of them will do pretty much everything you want a bike computer to do, and then automatically upload your data to whichever apps you have selected, such as Strava or Ride With GPS.
Controlling the Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
Both Garmin Edge 520 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.
The Edge 520 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.
While both have a fair number of buttons, in practice you will use the Wahoo buttons less. This is a factor that makes the Wahoo ELEMNT look like a more attractive unit than the Edge 520. Many users love the Wahoo bike computer because it is so easy to use. Many would argue that it is far more user-friendly than Garmin Edge bike computers, because it channels the mega power of your smart phone.
Unlike the Garmin Edge bike computers, with Wahoo you do most of your programming and settings on your phone. Honestly, this is so super easy and incredibly 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 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.
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 – 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 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
The Garmin Edge 520 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 is color, it is actually easier to see the Wahoo ELEMNT, both at night and during the day.
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.
This, combined with how easy it is to see streets on the map, makes the basic breadcrumb routing (which is offered by both the Edge 520 and the Wahoo ELEMNT) actually very useful on the Wahoo.
Turn-by-turn Navigation with Garmin Edge 520 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
Both the Garmin Edge 520 and the Wahoo ELEMNT come with some preloaded maps. However, they are a whole lot better on the Wahoo – good enough to be useful and functional. The Edge 520 ships with very basic maps, but you can get extra maps free from third parties.
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. At this time, Strava has that information on created routes, but does not export it. However, if you export a route from the Ride With GPS app, or the Komoot app, it will show up on both your Edge 520 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.
Indoor Bike Trainer Compatibility with Garmin Edge 520 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 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 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT
Both of these are excellent bike computers. Personally, I would choose the Wahoo ELEMNT over the Garmin Edge 520, 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. 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. However, if you are looking to record every possible advanced training metric, you will prefer the Edge 520, as it can record some metrics that the ELEMNT cannot record, notably VO2 Max and FTP, and the new iLevels. Similarly, you might choose the Garmin Edge 520 if you really need sophisticated Live Tracking. Or if you value very fast satellite connectivity – with both GPS and Glonass, the choice of two satellite systems does give Garmin an edge (sorry, just had to slip in one pun!).
Ultimately it will come down to what you need and value the most. Good luck with making the right choice for your needs!
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