Are you thinking about buying one of the best bike computers in the world – the Garmin Edge 820 – and wondering if it’s right for you? Here’s an in-depth review of the Garmin Edge 820 to help you decide, with a table to show all its features, plus videos to show how it works. In a nutshell, the Garmin Edge 820 has all the features of the Garmin Edge 1000 – BUT in a much smaller unit (the same size as the Edge 520). It also has some great new extra features – but is about a hundred dollars cheaper. So it seems like a great deal – what’s not to love? Well, it may just come down to how you feel about the smaller screen size, and about the two other differences between the 820 and the 1000 … please read on!
Technical Specs and Features of the Garmin Edge 820
|Table showing Technical Specs and Features of the Garmin Edge 820|
|Overview of the 820||All the features (and then some) of the elite Edge 1000, in a smaller unit - the same size as the 520|
|Biggest selling points of the Edge 820||The Edge 820 has several unique features, including even more advanced training features; Incident Alert (if you crash it knows because it has incident detection, and it notifies someone), GroupTrack, and Battery Save Mode. It is excellent for mapping and navigation: calculates the course, prompts you, and gets you back on track if you get off course. Touch screen|
|Lowest Price on Amazon Right Now:||$349.99|
|Unit Size||1.9” x 2.9” x 0.8”
(49.0 x 73.0 x 21.0 mm)
|Display resolution, W x H||200 x 265 pixel display; COLOR|
|Screen size, W x H||2.3" (58.4 mm) diagonal, high res|
|Water rating||IPX7 (able to withstand immersion in water up to 1 m - 3.2 feet - for up to 30 mins)|
|Weight||2.4 oz (67.7 g)|
|Battery life||Up to 15 hours if used in power save mode, which powers down the screen but continues to record your ride|
|Battery save mode available?||Yes; extends battery life by shutting down most functions, including screen|
|Memory on unit||16 GB storage (= 200 hours history; 100 courses; 200 waypoints; LOTS of maps), no microSD|
|Garmin Edge Remote Control support||Yes|
|Round-trip routing (input a starting point and distance, and the Edge will suggest up to 3 bike ride options)||Yes|
|Out front mount (as well as original quarter turn)?||Yes|
|Incident Alert? (to tell your spouse if you have an accident)||Yes. Can be switched off if you are uninjured|
|Unit-to-unit transfer (shares data wirelessly with similar units)||Yes|
|Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to your computer)||Yes|
|Relive and share your rides with Garmin Connect™ (online community where you can analyze, categorize and share data)||Yes|
|Wifi Connected features (depends on having a Bluetooth enabled smartphone)||Yes - Live Tracking, Group Tracking, send/receive courses, workouts and training plans wirelessly, social media sharing (choose to post an update to your chosen social media website when you upload an activity to Garmin Connect), weather updates in real time; smart notifications - displays texts and calls only|
|Automatically send your activity to Garmin Connect as soon as you finish recording||Yes|
|Live tracking (allows others to follow your activities in real time, if you invite them)||Yes|
|Group tracking (GroupTrack is an extension of Garmin’s LiveTrack feature, where your friends or family can follow you on a computer. With GroupTrack, you can keep digital track of your cycling companions right on your bike computer)||Yes|
|BlueTooth to connect wirelessly to smartphone and upload data?||Yes|
|Accepts data cards?||No - there is no micro-SD card slot. However, it has so much memory, you will not need a card|
|Landscape mode available?||No|
|Advanced training features||Advanced performance and power analysis (if you are using a heart rate monitor and a power meter), including VO2 max, Recovery Time Advisor, FTP (Functional Threshold Power) tracking, Time in Zone, and recovery (Recovery Time advisor)|
|Training calendar (The calendar on your device is an extension of the training calendar or schedule you set up in Garmin Connect. After you have added a few workouts or courses to the Garmin Connect calendar, you can send them to your device)||Yes|
|Stress score (requires HR monitor)||Yes - first time ever on a Garmin Edge|
|Courses (compete against previous activities)||Yes (compete against your previous time by entering the % you want to improve by, then race your virtual partner; or enter a shorter time that you want to achieve)|
|Virtual Partner® (train against a digital person)||Yes|
|Advanced workouts (create custom, goal-oriented workouts)||Yes|
|Time/distance alert (triggers alarm when you reach goal)||Yes|
|Interval training (set up exercise and rest intervals)||Yes|
|Garmin Connect Real-Time segments||Yes|
|Download Strava Real-Time segments?||Yes, if you have Strava premium|
|Auto upload your rides to Strava?||Yes, once you sync your Garmin Connect account with Strava|
|Heart rate-based calorie computation||Yes|
|Optional heart rate, speed/cadence and power meter?||Yes|
|Can add a third-party compatible ANT+ sensor as a power meter?||Yes|
|Can be paired with wireless ANT+ Heart Rate monitor?||Yes|
|Bike speed/cadence sensor||Yes|
|Shimano Di2 gearing information||Yes|
|Activity profiles - store preferences for different cycling activities (For example, create a separate activity profile for training, for racing, and for mountain biking. The profile includes customized data pages, activity totals, alerts, training zones (such as heart rate and speed), training settings (such as Auto Pause® and Auto Lap®), and navigation settings||Yes|
|Auto Scroll (cycles through data pages during workout)||Yes|
|Bike trainer profile for compatible Turbo trainer data display and control||Yes|
|Connect IQ compatible?||Yes|
|GPS enabled? (this is the Global Positioning System, the US satellite navigation system)||Yes|
|GLONASS enabled? (this is the GLObal NAVigation Satellite System, the Russian satellite navigation system)||Yes|
|Distance, speed, ascent/descent and GPS position||Yes|
|Navigation?||Yes - once you pick a location, it will guide you to that location|
|Turn-by-turn guidance?||Yes - just like a car GPS, it will warn you a turn is coming, and tell you when to turn (with text and a beep)|
|Preloaded basemap?||Yes, preloaded Garmin Cycle Map with bike-specific navigation so it can give you turn-by-turn navigation instructions|
|Ability to add maps, such as optional City Navigator® maps or topographical maps?||Yes|
|Points of Interest (POIs) specifically for cyclists||Requires optional City Navigator® maps to access general points of interest|
|Plan and download new routes to follow (a route is a sequence of waypoints that leads you to your final destination)||You can upload routes you create elsewhere, and follow them; plus you can also enter in an address on the computer itself and it will create a route|
|Barometric altimeter (to tell you your elevation)||Yes|
|Temperature (displays and records temperature while you ride)||Yes|
The Garmin Edge 820 is a cutting-edge powerhouse of a bike computer that will give you tons of information: heart rate, power, speed, cadence, distance you have cycled, how much you have climbed, and on and on and ON. Plus, it can connect to a dazzling array of sensors. And you can see it all the time, because it has an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness. The Edge 820 will record where you have been and tell you how to go somewhere else. And it offers advanced training metrics to help you make your bike training more effective and structured. As a result, the Garmin Edge 820 is ideal for very dedicated cyclists in training.
The Garmin Edge 820 has a Brand New Look
You will notice right away that the Garmin Edge 820 looks very different from previous Garmin Edge bike computers, with a slimmed-down base page that is refreshingly simple – see the middle image below. All of these images are of the Garmin Edge 820, showing some of its various pages. The middle page is the one you will see when you turn it on.
But what else is different and causing all the buzz about the Edge 820? For a start, take a look at my unboxing the Garmin Edge 820 video, in which I show all that comes in the box (if you get the Edge 820 bundle), how to set it up, and the immediately obvious changes in appearance and menu options on this upgraded unit.
Brand new GroupTrack on the Garmin Edge 820
The Garmin Edge 820 is the first (and so far the only, apart from the dumbed-down version of the 820, the Edge Explore 820) Garmin Edge bike computer to offer the brand new GroupTrack feature. This lets you pair your device through Garmin Connect so you can see where your riding buddies are, right on your bike computer screen. This could be handy if, for example, your wife leaves you in the dust and you need to try and catch up (yes, this has happened to me – thanks, Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist)!
Note that the other cyclists do not need to have an Edge 820 or Edge Explore 820 – they can make themselves visible to you if they have any connected, LiveTrack-compatible Edge or Forerunner. Here’s a video that shows you how the Garmin Edge 820 GroupTrack feature works:
Brand new Incident Alert on the Garmin Edge 820
The Garmin Edge 820 has a built-in ability to detect an “incident,” which is basically an event that seems to be a crash. You could for example simulate it by picking up your bike and throwing it at a wall (not recommended!) If you fall off your bike, the Garmin Edge 820 will interpret this as an incident. It will then notify a person who you have designated. If you fall off and you are fine, you have 20 seconds in which you can cancel the alert.
This is a useful feature if you have a significant other who worries about you while you are on your bike. To be honest, I sometimes worry myself sick when Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist is bike commuting to work, because her route is dangerous, and she was once hit by a truck while on her way to work. Every morning it is a HUGE weight off my mind when I do not get an incident alert, so I know she has not been hit by a truck again.
Brand new Battery Save Mode on the Garmin Edge 820
To me, this is the most useful new feature on the Garmin Edge 820. If you are worried about losing battery power, just put the bike computer into battery save mode. The screen will blank out, but it will keep recording your ride. You can bring the screen back to life at any time. This extends the battery life by several hours.
The manufacturers claim that the Edge 820 can run for 15 hours while using GPS, but I believe this length of time can only be achieved in battery save mode. With all features working at full power, actual battery life time is more like 6 hours.
Navigation and Maps with the Garmin Edge 820
The Garmin Edge 820 has all of the navigation features of the Garmin Edge Touring (reviewed here) – which was a revolutionary upgrade in navigation on bike computers. The preloaded Garmin Cycle Maps include OSM (Open Street Map) content, offering on-road and off-road navigation and points of interest, and address search. Map updates are free, and the maps are stored on the unit, so you don’t have to be connected to use them.
Just as with the Garmin Edge Touring, the turn-by-turn navigation directions are excellent on the Edge 820. And as with the Touring model, you are alerted by beeps and a countdown when a turn is coming. As with a car GPS, your upcoming route is highlighted, and the unit will recalculate if you deviate from the route it has planned (or you have planned).
Like the Edge Touring, the Edge 820 offers round trip routing (you tell it you want to go for a 30 mile ride, and it suggests three possible routes you could try). Clearly, this could be fun for cyclists wanting to put some variety into their training rides. Take a ride on the wild side!
So, bottom line, with the Edge 820 you get both excellent training capabilities and excellent built-in maps and navigation features. Here’s a video that shows how navigation works on the Garmin Edge 820:
Wireless Features on the Garmin Edge 820
The Garmin Edge 820 offers automatic, wireless data uploads via Bluetooth and an app on your smartphone. And once you upload your data to your Garmin Connect app, it will then sync within seconds with your connected Strava account (if you have connected your Garmin Connect account to a premium Strava account). It also offers live tracking – which basically means that people can monitor where you are (but only if you invite them to).
Another great upgrade is that LiveTrack and GroupTrack can now automatically detect when you start cycling. This auto-start feature is compatible with the new Strava Beacon (tag line: “Safer activities for athletes, peace of mind for friends and family”) if you are a Strava premium subscriber. So you can just start cycling, secure in the knowledge that your designated nearest and dearest can find out where you are, if they need to. You know, as someone who has at one time had THREE teenage daughters at the SAME time, I can see how that can be a REALLY good thing.
You can take a Garmin Edge 820 almost anywhere!
Like all Garmin Edge bike computers, the 820 is a rugged bike computer that will stand up to wind, rain, snow, mud and rough use. The only time I have ever broken a Garmin Edge was when I accidentally took it diving (I forgot it was in my pocket).
A Garmin Edge Bike Computer will Continue to Work after the Temperature Hits Freezing
A Garmin Edge bike computer will continue working when the temperature sinks below freezing – it is said to be able to function from -20°C to +55°C (-4°F to +131°F). On the other hand, an iPhone will rapidly use up its battery and then die on you if the temperature goes below freezing (this has happened to me twice recently). This means that if you train in extreme conditions, a Garmin Edge bike computer will be better for you than an iPhone with a cycling app.
The Garmin Edge 820 offers touchscreen navigation, which many users find to be a huge step up from button-operated bike computers. Indeed, it may be easier to operate for users who have become accustomed to the intuitive ease of touchscreen operation.
Garmin Cycling Dynamics
The Garmin Edge 820 offers Support for Garmin Cycling Dynamics. This is a more detailed set of metrics for those who have dual-sending Garmin Vector power meters. Vector is Garmin’s pedal-based power meter that measures total power, cadence and left/right balance. It includes Power Phase (PP) and Platform Center Offset (PCO).
The Garmin Cycling Dynamics metrics include details such as where in the pedal stroke you apply the most force, plus seated time and standing time, and so on. You can add these data displays to your unit.
Here’s a video that shows how these advanced cycling metrics work:
Garmin Varia Vision Connectivity
The Garmin Edge 820 is one of the few bike computers in the world that can connect to the Garmin Varia Vision. The Garmin Varia Vision is a very slick, well-designed Heads Up Device that enables you to read the data on your Garmin Edge bike computer without having to take your eyes off the road (yes, HUD just means you don’t have to look down). It fits easily to your cycling glasses, and is light weight. Clearly, for cyclists who cycle at speed, the Garmin Varia Vision is an important safety device.
Shimano Di2 gearing information
The Edge 820 can show you Shimano Di2 gearing information. This means that if you have Di2 Dura-Ace 9070, Ultegra 6870 Di2, or Ultegra 6770, you can buy a $60 Shimano wireless transmitter to plug into it, to monitor your electronic gears. The unit will transmit gearing data (privately) via ANT+ to the Edge 820. So you get to see which gear you are in, displayed on your unit on your handlebars. This information will give you a brand new metric to analyze.
This information could well give you ideas about how to improve your performance, if for example you identify that the reason you got tired at the halfway mark of your latest ride was because you had not shifted into the most efficient gear in good time. As a result, this information may help advanced cyclists looking to elevate their cycling speed and skills even further.
Garmin Connect Real-Time segments on the Edge 820
Garmin Connect Real-Time segments can be downloaded to the Edge 820. You can create or find segments at connect.garmin.com, download them to your unit, and set up in-ride competitions. These segments are really clever and useful.
Here’s How Real-Time Segments Work
You download the desired segment to your Edge 820. Typically it’s a very short course that people like to compete on (virtually). Maybe it’s the steepest hill on your route to work. (I once became the leader on one of these segments because a pit-bull was chasing me.)
As you approach the start of the course, the Edge 820 gives you a Countdown, and then says “Go!” As you cycle along the course, the Edge 820 keeps you constantly informed as to how you are doing. For example, you have 600 feet to go, and you are 33 seconds behind the segment leader – can you pump up the power and own the course?
You can choose to compete against overall segment leaders, or against your own connections. The second choice may be preferable if you live in an area with a lot of cyclists who are faster than you, and don’t want to constantly lose! You could even go out of your way to cultivate a lot of connections at a similar level to you, so that you have a decent chance in the race. Personally, I hate being beaten all the time, so I prefer that option. However, I know that a lot of the people who buy the Edge 820 are elite athletes, and for them, competing against the fastest and the best will surely be a great training option.
Strava Connection and Segments with your Edge 820
In response to MANY user requests, Garmin linked up with Strava (which many believe to be the best cycling app going. I agree, and I like it so much I even bought the premium version, instead of staying with the free version). Read more about Strava here. If you have the premium version of Strava, you can download Strava segments to your Garmin Edge, and use them to add some fun and motivation to your bike rides.
There are a lot more Strava segments than Garmin Connect segments. And there are a lot more people using Strava, so you have a bigger community. For example, I can give kudos to a friend who lives literally on the other side of the world via Strava, and she frequently gives me kudos too. I really like that. Also, I find the Strava interface much cleaner, simpler and user-friendly than the Garmin Connect interface. You can even upload photos of your ride!
For example, for the ride below, I uploaded a photo to my Strava record of the ride. When you click on the ride, you first just see a map of the ride with a tiny photo icon. But if you click on the photo icon, the photo comes up, reminding you of which ride that was. Which I do find useful – I rely a lot on external memory disks these days!
Garmin Edge Remote Control Support
The Garmin Edge 820 offers support for a tiny Garmin remote control with three buttons. One is for marking laps; one is for scrolling between data pages as you ride; and the third can be programmed for a function that you find important. You can attach this to your handlebars in the same way you attach your Garmin – and you don’t have to worry much about rain or batteries, because it is waterproof to 165 feet and the battery should last for over a year.
Why would you want a remote control? Primarily, these will be useful for those doing intense biking (such as downhill mountain biking) who cannot safely take their hands off the handlebars. Consequently, this remote control can be very useful for cyclists who are training hard. The Garmin Edge Remote control will cost you an extra $50.
Satellite Acquisition with the Garmin Edge 820
The Edge 820 finds satellites really fast – not something you can say about some of the other Garmin Edge models. There can be few owners of early-generation Garmin Edge bike computers who have not watched with fascinated horror as their device sometimes took up to five or six blocks to finally find a satellite (really!!!). The Edge 820 eliminates this problem by downloading satellite data ahead of time, so that satellite acquisition takes mere seconds – blisteringly fast for a bike computer (even though routine on a car GPS).
Another reason why the Edge 820 acquires satellites so fast is because it supports GPS and GLONASS as well. GPS and GLONASS are simply different kinds of satellite systems – the GPS was developed by the USA, and the GLONASS is Russian. Communicating with more satellites enables the Edge 820 to lock in to a satellite signal much faster.
Connected Features on the Garmin Edge 820
This bike computer offers a full range of connected features, including incoming call and text alerts, live tracking, group tracking, sending/receiving courses, social media sharing, and weather updates. Note that this is only IOS compatible, not Android compatible. Also, you cannot answer calls or texts on the bike computer – you still need your phone for that. But at least if there is a important message you are waiting for, you will know it is there and can deal with it if you want to.
Bottom Line on the Garmin Edge 820 Review
As with all major purchases, it comes down to what you need and want. It is clear that the Garmin Edge 820 bike computer offers more features and user friendliness than any other bike computer on the market. Consequently, if you really need both high-end training metrics and high-end maps and navigation, connectivity with every possible sensor, and smart notifications, then the Garmin Edge Bike Computer 820 is likely to be the right bike computer for you. Also, if the speed of satellite acquisition is important to you, and you can afford to pay for a bike computer that finds satellites with blistering speed, then the Garmin Edge 820 should make you happy.
What is the Difference between the Garmin Ege 820 and the Garmin Edge 520?
You might be wondering if you can go cheaper and get the Garmin Edge 520 – which is reviewed in full here. Well, the answer is Yes – IF you don’t care much about maps, and don’t want navigation help (apart from rudimentary bread crumbs for courses you have downloaded). And you don’t mind having a few less features. Basically, you need to get the Edge 820 if you want advanced training metrics PLUS navigation and maps.
What is the Difference between the Garmin Edge 820 and the Garmin Edge 1000?
After reading about how powerful and innovative the Edge 820 is, you may be wondering why anyone would pay an extra one hundred dollars to go to the top-of-the-line Garmin Edge 1000? Which – you guessed it – is reviewed in full here!
Well, just as the 820 has a few things the 1000 does not have, so too the 1000 has a couple of things that the 820 does not have. First and foremost, the screen on the Edge 1000 is almost 2 cm taller than the screen on the 820. That makes the maps a whole lot easier to see on the Edge 1000, especially if your eyes are over 40 years old. This shortcoming is exacerbated by the fact that you can turn the 1000 into landscape mode, but you cannot do that with the 820.
Of course, the Edge 820 has several brand new features that the Edge 1000 does not have, including Group Track, Incident Alert, and Battery Save Mode.
Finally, the 1000 has a micro-SD card slot, into which you can put a card with even more maps. However, in practice, the 16 GB memory on the Edge 820 can store so many maps that I cannot see how the lack of a micro-SD card slot would be a problem. Bear in mind that you can erase maps you don’t use any more, to make space for new maps – for example, if you were cycling around the world and found you couldn’t quite fit the whole world onto your tiny bike computer! The only serious reason to consider the 1000 is, in my opinion, if you find it hard to see maps on a smaller screen.
In short, it comes down to what you need and can afford. It’s a tough choice, but somebody’s got to make it!
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