In this post (with videos), we offer an in-depth comparison of the Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt. The Garmin Edge 530 is one of the best upgrades ever. Many reviewers see it as by far the best premium GPS bike computer on the market. On the other hand, the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt is preferred by many, and is usually cheaper.
This post compares the features of these two premium GPS bike computers to help you decide which would be best for you. First, here is a chart that compares their key features.
Chart Comparing the Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
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|Stand-alone bike computer, OR does it need a phone?||You can use it to record all the data on your rides without a phone. And to navigate. But you won't have connected features, like notifications of text messages||You can use it to record all the data on your rides without a phone. And to navigate. But you won't have connected features, like notifications of text messages. Also, you need a phone to program your data fields|
|SIze:||1.9" x 2.9" x 0.8" |
(4.9 x 7.3 x 2.1 cm)
|1.9 x 2.9 x 0.9 inches (4.8 x 7.3 x 2.3 cm)|
|Weight:||2.2 oz (63 g)||2.24 oz (64 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 the included 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, 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 use ANT+ or Bluetooth to pair with sensors that measure heart rate, speed, cadence, and power, and connect with electronic shifting systems. Wahoo makes TICKR and TICKRx heart rate monitor straps|
|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|
|Noteworthy||The Garmin Edge 530 has a boatload of new training metrics, including mountain bike specific metrics (see post for details)||The Bolt has pretty much all the training metrics that most cyclists need|
|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 Bolt and the Garmin Edge 530 are premium bike computers that offer an impressive range of features. So, which one is better for you? Read on!
Garmin Edge 530 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt, Summed Up
The Garmin Edge 530, 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. Depending on your preferences, you might find that the Wahoo ELEMNT has some significant advantages over the Edge 530.
The four key features that some people prefer on the Wahoo are:
- the programming method (via a smart phone);
- the zoom buttons;
- the screen; and
- the ease of communication with an indoor trainer.
More about these right now, before we talk about the massive upgrades to the Garmin Edge 530, and then the other, less important differences between the two computers.
Programming the Bike Computer: Menus vs Phone App
While both bike computers have a fair number of buttons, in practice you will use the Wahoo buttons less. This is because of the key factor that makes the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt a more attractive unit than the Edge 530 for some cyclists – you can program it on your smart phone. You program the Garmin Edge 530 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 Bolt 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 that it made me question all the hours I have spent navigating bike computer menus (and sometimes swearing as I did 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 Bolt bike computer!
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Setting up the Wahoo ELMENT Bolt on Your Smart Phone
This is basically effortless for anyone who spends regular time on a smart phone and/or computer. You can quickly drag-and-drop the fields you choose to the pages you want to create. You can reorganize the order of fields within a page, also by dragging and dropping them on your phone. You can find, save or delete sensors in the same drag-and-drop way. The changes you make on your smart phone will show up almost immediately on your BOLT bike computer screen.
You also have the choice of adding sensors on the BOLT itself. However, doing it on the phone is much easier.
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 Bolt
Also, the zoom buttons on the right-hand side of the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt 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 530 – 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! Obviously you can choose to stop and fiddle with your bike computer. However, I find that once I am going, I really don’t want to stop. If you don’t mind stopping, then you are in a different situation.
The Screens, Compared
The most immediately obvious difference is that the 530 has a color screen, and the Bolt does not. But before you conclude that this gives the 530 the edge … bear in mind that most users find the Bolt screen easier to see. This includes me. I suffered an eye injury a few months ago, and now find it really hard to see small screens. Even with that injury, I still find the Bolt screen quite easy to see, night or day. The Edge 530 is a good screen, very high-end – but it is not as easy to see as the screen of the Wahoo ELMENT Bolt.
Plus, if you do find yourself battling to read some data, the truly awesome thing about the Bolt is that you can use the Zoom feature to effortlessly zoom to fewer screens, which means the font size will increase!
Also, the top field is always in a bigger font than the other fields on the Bolt. So, if there is a metric that is really important to you, you can make it the primary field, and always be able to see it easily. You would of course set this up easily on your smart phone.
Communicating with an Indoor Trainer
Obviously, Wahoo has the edge in this. This is because Wahoo also makes indoor trainers. And not just any indoor trainers – the Wahoo Kickr is widely considered to be one of the best smart indoor trainers money can buy.
As such, it is not surprising that the Bolt does a better job of communicating with and controlling your indoor trainer. This means that you don’t have to involve another layer of complication when you use your bike computer with your trainer. You don’t need third-party software to enable your bike computer to control the resistance on your trainer.
So, as you can see, there are four reasons to prefer the cheaper Wahoo ELMENT Bolt. However, the Garmin Edge 530 is such an awesome upgrade, that it would be unfair not to give it serious consideration.
The Garmin Edge 530 is a Massive Software and Hardware Upgrade
The Garmin Edge 530 is an upgrade on the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. With the launch of the Edge 520 Plus, Garmin was responding aggressively to increasing competition from Wahoo. However, there were complaints that with all the upgrades to that model and the extra maps, the processor was not up to the job, so the 520 Plus could be slow in functions such as calculating routes.
As a result, it seems, Garmin surprised us by launching the Edge 530 upgrade much sooner than it usually updates. This upgrade is a massive hardware and software upgrade. Most importantly, the upgraded processor is twice as fast!
There are a huge number of important upgrades to the Edge 530. These upgrades are also on the 830. Below is a list of the most important ones:
- Upgrade no. 1: Speed: The processor is twice as fast.
- Upgrade no. 2: Full Navigation Maps (Garmin Cycling Maps): Re-route on the fly while cycling if you go off course! Use back-to-start routing. (This is an upgrade on the 530, but not on the 830, because the 820 can also do this.)
- Upgrade no. 3: ClimbPro: Tells you on the fly about the grades ahead on downloaded routes. Great for serious climbers.
- Upgrade no. 4: Mountain Biking Metrics: Including Grit rating, Flow rating, Hang time, and fully integrated Trailforks app.
- Upgrade no. 5: Brand New Performance Metrics: Including Performance power curve; Heat acclimation; Altitude acclimation; Water and calorie requirements.
- Upgrade no. 6: Better Structured Workouts
- Upgrade no. 7: Bluetooth Smart connectivity, which means you can connect to more things, while using less battery power
- Upgrade no. 8: Longer Battery Life: Plus you can use an added battery charge pack, so you can have more than 40 hours of battery life
- Upgrade no. 9: Bike Alarm
- Upgrade no. 10: Find my Bike Computer
Video Showing How to Set up the Garmin Edge 530
This graphic sums up some of the cool new features on the Garmin Edge 530:
What is the Difference between the Wahoo ELMENT and the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt?
I often hear people complain that the Wahoo bike computers have confusingly similar names, and it is hard to know what the differences are. Really, the only significant differences between the two is that the Bolt is smaller and lighter. As a result, the Bolt is almost identical in size and weight to the Garmin Edge 530.
Satellites and Apps for Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT
The Edge 530 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 530 connects to a wide range of cycling apps, via Connect IQ. These apps include RideWithGPS, Strava, TrainingPeaks, Race Notes, and Komoot.
The Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt 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 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Both the Garmin Edge 530 and the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt offer live tracking – which basically means anyone can check where you are at any time, if you give them access.
Connectivity in Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
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 530. These dual options make for wider connectivity options and lower drain on the battery.
However, the Edge 530 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 premium add-ons, then you will not need to connect with them anyway!
On the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt, you can use ANT + to connect with electronic shifting systems. The ELEMNT Bolt 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 Bolt 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 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Both the Garmin Edge 530 and the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt 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 530 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 Bolt 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.
Many cyclist find the buttons on the Bolt more intuitive and easier-to-use. Personally, I find them both easy enough to use.
Build Quality in the Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
The Garmin Edge 530 has a beautiful color screen, and a great hand-feel – it feels very smooth, light, and high quality. The Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt is no ugly duckling, but it feels and looks a little less high-end than the Garmin.
Although the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt is black and white and the Edge 530 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 Bolt
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 Bolt. 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.
Video Review of the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Turn-by-turn Navigation with Garmin Edge 530 vs Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Both the Garmin Edge 530 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 530 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 530 as well.
Bottom Line on the Garmin Edge 530 vs. Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt
Both of these are excellent bike computers. Personally, I would choose the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt over the Garmin Edge 530, simply because it is so much easier to program it with your smart phone, rather than navigating the endless menus of the Garmin Edge 530. 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. And just easier to see it in general, which is more important to me now that I am older and have an eye injury. Plus, those LED lights are useful and fun! Finally, the price is often a lot less.
For most cyclists, the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt 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 as important. The differences now come down to:
- The Edge has a color screen and the Bolt has a black and white screen.
- The Wahoo screen is easier to see.
- Wahoo has a very handy zoom-with-buttons feature.
- The Wahoo ELMNT Bolt is better if you plan to use an indoor trainer.
- On the Edge 530 you program with menus on the unit, while you can program the Bolt with your smart phone.
- The Edge 530 has new training metrics, which may be very important to you, especially if you are a mountain biker.
- The Garmin Edge 530 is a little more high-end looking.
Both are great bike computers – they are in fact my two personal favorites. Ultimately it will come down to what you think will work better for you. Good luck with making the right choice for your needs!
You might also like: Garmin Edge 1030 vs. 830 vs. 530
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