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Garmin Edge 830 review

10 Aug 2020
Verdict:

The Garmin Edge 830 may be the most advanced bike GPS on the market, but there’s still room for improvement

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Incredible array of features and metrics • Bright, detailed and colourful touchscreen • Robust • 20-hour battery life
Against 
Experienced one hardware failure • Garmin's accompanying software needs some improvement

The Garmin Edge 830 was released last year and remains a flagship computer for the brand, with virtually all the features of the 1030, but at a smaller size and a lower price.

For some time, Garmin really stood unchallenged in the cycling computer market, and back then the 830 would have been a no brainer for a compact computer with full route-mapping ability.

Today the market is a little more crowded, and its main competitor is undoubtedly the Wahoo Elemnt Roam.

So with decades of bike computer experience, what is on the menu with the Garmin 830?

Buy the Garmin Edge 830 now from Wiggle for £309.99

Appearance and Features

With a featherweight mass of 82g (on our own scales) and a super compact 2.6” screen, you would be excused for expecting minimal mapping functionality from the 830. But as soon as the 830’s bright and colourful 246 x 322 pixel screen comes to life, it’s clear that the computer is as advanced as they come.

 

The Garmin 830 is essentially a much smaller version of the 1030 computer, complete with live segments, live tracking, ultra-fast route planning, incident detection, nutrition tracking and even a bike alarm – all while punching out 20 hours of battery life.

Differentiating it from the 1030 is solely the size of the screen, and indeed without a firmware update the 1030 doesn’t have some of the 830's features such as automatic Heat Acclimation – to adjust your performance metrics dependent on heat, or ClimbPro – which tells you climb stats live from the road.

In fact, some features such as the ForkSight feature – which tells you a trail route when at an off-road fork in the road, or the Garmin bike alarm – that sets off an alarm if your bike is moved at all when at a rest stop, are still not available on the 1030.

Above the 530, the Garmin 830 enjoys the key features of having a touchscreen and vastly superior on-the-bike mapping functionality.

Battery life and performance

Having used a Garmin 1000 Edge which had begun to deplete in its overall battery life, I was a little too familiar with long days in the Alps where I could expect to spend the last hour of 10 without my Garmin. Especially when paired with numerous devices such as power meters.

I was pretty impressed with my first big ride using the Garmin 830, when after a fairly slow roll to Brighton taking over five hours, I had only lost 14% of the battery. I was also pulling in power data for the whole ride, so was pleasantly surprised that it would comfortably exceed the promised 20 hour battery life.

I was using the 830 for only a few months, but didn’t see any significant drain of the battery’s capacity.

 

In terms of its broad functionality, the Garmin 830 was always fast and the touchscrees controls were always intuitive and easy to use. However I did have one hiccup.

At the start of a ride, on turning the 830 on, it began to beep persistently, and would not respond to any attempts to restart or switch screens. The issue was so bad I had to return home to plug the 830 in, which also didn’t solve the problem.

Probably my longest ever Garmin freeze this evening on my Garmin 83 test unit - about 45 minutes of persistent irritating beep, non-responsive to all controls/ resets.

(Excuse the tweet typo, I did of course mean 830)

After around half an hour the unit powered down, but it was out of battery so unusable for the ride ahead. For me it was no enormous inconvenience, but it could genuinely be the end of a day out bikepacking where step-by-step directions are really crucial.

All devices suffer the odd software or hardware issue, but at this level of spec and price I was surprised to see a glitch like this on the Garmin 830. Thankfully it never repeated itself.

Metrics

I’ve always been a big fan of Garmin’s on-screen metrics. Traditionally I’ve found there to be more than I could ever find time to explore, however they are often surprisingly advanced and useful.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the Cycling Dynamics metrics, when coupled with a set of Garmin Vector pedals. These are best deployed when on the rollers, and offer an impressive degree of live technical coaching, which I saw genuinely improve my pedalling smoothness and power.

 

Beyond that, metrics like the ClimbPro will prove a huge asset for any sportive fan (when we’re allowed to do those again). The screen offers a live update of progress on any climb during a route.

Some people enjoy staying in the dark on how far they have ahead in a climb, but I’m one for pasting an elevation profile on my top-tube. The Garmin 830 thankfully made that redundant.

 

Beyond that, in honesty, I found the amount of data on offer – such as training plans or power curves – a little over-saturation for a head unit. I could get these and a near-infinite number of other metrics from TrainingPeaks or Golden Cheetah, and suspect I’d rather go through these on a desktop rather than a 2.6” screen.

However, the 830 user is certainly one who likely wants to experiment with all the data fields they can, and I’m impressed that this Garmin leaves almost nothing to desire in terms of the data and metrics it offers.

Mapping

Mapping on the 830 is a big step up compared to the 530. Gone is the strange exact-coordinate route setting on the head unit, and instead you can enter a normal address or point of interest for the 830 to direct you to, just as on the 1030.

 

Away from route planning on the unit, for my part, I’ve always been frustrated by how technical it is to drop a course manually into a Garmin device. Dropping a file in the ‘New Courses’ folder still appears to be the most direct way to put a GPX or TCX file that has been shared with you.

The Garmin Connect desktop route planning has certainly improved (notwithstanding recent ransomware incidents), but could be a little smoother, compared to Komoot, Strava Routes, MapMyRide or Ride With GPS. It still requires the user to find the course mapping tool within the training bar.

While the popularity heatmap offers some insight into the viability of certain routes, the likes of Komoot’s waytype classification or user-generated tips would hugely improve the user experience.

 

Garmin's mapping software hasn't kept up with some of the competition

The Garmin Connect app also now has a route-planning tool but I found this difficult to use, with a slightly awkward interface. With that in mind the Komoot app from the Garmin iQ store would be my recommendation for route planning on the move, or even more considered desktop planning.

Verdict

So what holds the Garmin 830 back from 5 stars? Well, the freezing issue was minor, but a little frustrating, and not something I’ve experienced on another unit.

Alongside that, while I’d say the 830 is otherwise fairly flawless, it is not cheap. Aside from mapping functionality, I mainly rely on my iPhone for most training data these days.

For me, I find this does an adequate job of ride logging for Strava purposes, and can also pair to a power meter with third-party apps for in-depth training metrics, and saves me a packet on a head unit.

Despite less functionality than a phone, the 830 is certainly tougher and more compact

Buy the Garmin Edge 830 now from Wiggle for £309.99

Further to that, I have to profess to slightly preferring Wahoo’s approach of making the functionality of the head unit rely on a smartphone. On-the-fly mapping is simply far easier on a phone than a Garmin 830. While Garmin can now do this through the app, it has some way to go to match other route-setting tools.

All that said, it’s hard not to appreciate the 830 as the most advanced standalone computer out there, despite coming in at a cheaper price point than the 1030.

There’s no doubt that the 830 shows that Garmin still has the best expertise with bike computers, even if there’s still a little ground to gain with the user experience.

Price: 
£349.99

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