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by Matt de Neef
March 7, 2013
If you don’t own a Garmin Edge 500, you probably know someone that does. Like the sound of riders clipping into their pedals as they set off from the traffic lights, the sound of an auto-resuming Garmin Edge 500 has become one of the sounds of the bunch ride. And over the past few weeks we’ve been trying out the successor to the Edge 500 – the Edge 510.
The Edge 500 used to be Garmin’s entry level bike GPS, but that’s now been replaced by the Edge 200. The first thing you’ll notice when you pull the Edge 510 out of its packaging is that it’s considerably larger than its predecessor — nearly 2cm longer, slightly wider, slightly thicker, and heavier as well. In fact, the Edge 510 is nearly the size of the Edge 810 and its predecessors. If you’re familiar with the Edge 500 you’ll also notice that the user interface is slightly different.
Gone are the four side-mounted buttons and in their place are two buttons on the front face (the “lap” button and the “start/pause” button) and the “on/off” button on the left-hand side. It actually took me a little while to find the “on/off” button as it’s tucked away and doesn’t stand out (physically or visually) like the buttons on the Edge 500.
The Edge 510 (center) is noticeably larger than the 500 (left) and nearly as large as the 810.
But the biggest change from the Edge 500 you’ll notice after you turn it on is that the Edge 510 has a touch screen with which to navigate the various screens and menus.
I’ve been spoilt by the touch-screen capabilities of the iPhone and iPad because, especially early on, I found the Edge 510’s touch screen hard to use. It didn’t seem to register my button presses and swiping between screens seems hit-and-miss. It’s a delicate balance that would be difficult for Garmin as they need to take gloves, fingers, temperature, and sensitivity into consideration.
And speaking of iDevices, one of the things that makes those gadgets so easy and pleasurable to use is that they just work, out of the box. You don’t need to fiddle around with instruction manuals or learn menu trees — it’s easy enough to leap in and get started. I didn’t have as much joy with the Edge 510’s UI — I found it hard to find the menu item I was looking for at times and combined with a temperamental touch screen and noticeable lag when switching between pages, the user experience was, at times, frustrating.
By connecting the Garmin 510 to your smartphone, you can get weather updates delivered to your handlebars.
The Garmin Edge 510 has a lot of features, as with any Garmin GPS unit, but I’m not going to go through them all here. If you’d like to read a super-comprehensive review, check out DC Rainmaker’s in-depth effort here. (Pro tip: when DC Rainmaker calls his review “in-depth” you know it’s going to be a long read.)
One of the biggest selling points of the Garmin Edge 510 is the social LiveTrack feature, as featured in this slick Garmin ad that did the rounds a couple months back.
The concept is relatively simple: you use your smartphone to upload real-time data from your ride so that friends, family, or Jonathan Vaughters can track your progress. In practical terms this means pairing you smartphone with the Garmin 510 via bluetooth and then using the Garmin Connect smartphone app to share the ride, via email, with those you want to track you.
After clicking the link in the email, your followers will see a screen like this:
As you ride, your route is overlaid on the map as a blue line, and your real-time stats (such as speed, distance covered, elevation gain, and so on) are displayed above the map.
We only tested this feature briefly but it does appear to have some promise. If you’re heading out for a long ride in the wilderness, it would be quite useful for loved ones to be able to track your progress so they know you’re ok. And I could see this feature being used by coaches to monitor a team’s performance in real-time.
But it also has a handful of shortcomings.
For a start, you need data reception in order for LiveTrack to work — not ideal if you’re riding somewhere that doesn’t have reception. There’s also the question of phone battery. If I’m doing a long ride that I want people to be able to follow — the 3 Peaks Challenge, for example — I’m going to be worried that the Bluetooth and constant data transfer over, say, 10 hours is going to suck my battery dry. And in that case, I’m going to do without LiveTrack to ensure that I’ve got enough phone battery so I can call out if something goes wrong.
The other question I have is how often I would use this feature. There’s no doubt the Garmin promo video makes LiveTrack look sleek and sexy and a whole lot of fun — and it may be for many of you — but I couldn’t see myself using it more than, say, once a month.
We originally hoped that LiveTracker would have the functionality to see your group of riding mates on the device itself. A common problem with small bunch rides in the hills is that one person loses contact and there are a flurry of texts and phone calls trying to locate him or her. Once the Bluetooth connection is set up, using LiveTracker is a piece of cake and you can use your mobile device (Android or iPhone) to track your mates. However, there is a ~30-second delay between location updates which may not make this all that useful.
You can use your mobile device to track your mates using LiveTracker.
Being constructive, it would be great to see in-device tracking in the next iteration of LiveTrack — being able to see where your mates are in relation to you could be useful (for tracking that one rider who’s always late) and fun (when smashing your mates in a training ride and seeing how far ahead you are).
It would also be great to see Garmin and Strava work more closely together. To know your time and place up a particular segment right after you’ve ridden it would be a fantastic feature.
But don’t get me wrong — the Edge 510 is still a great little unit. It’s got all the features that so many people love about the Edge 500 — the recording of a plethora of stats, the ability to upload and follow courses, and more. And the 510 certainly has improvements over its predecessor.
For example, the Edge 500 frequently takes a few minutes to get a solid satellite lock, leaving you staring at the “Locating Satellites…” screen and a progress bar that seems to make no progress at all. That lag is gone in the 510. In fact, the satellite lock-on seems to happen almost instantly. The longest I’ve had to wait is probably 5 seconds.
And there are some handy default screen options as well. When you use the unit for the first time there’s a screen that features a shadow rider (or “Virtual Partner”) that moves at an average speed of your choosing. This feature could be really useful if you’re trying to set a PB on a climb — just set the shadow rider’s speed to the average you need, and try to match it. (I believe there is a similar feature in the Edge 500 but it’s not as front-and-centre as it is in the Edge 510).
I’ve had some great little battles with the 20km/h shadow rider on my home commute. Because the average speed is taken for the entire time the ride is in progress, not just when you’re moving, you lose time on the shadow rider when you’re stuck at traffic lights. I like to imagine my shadow rider tapping away at a constant speed regardless of the terrain, blowing through traffic lights at a leisurely 20km/h while I’m impatiently stuck in traffic.
Game on, little buddy.
The Garmin Edge 510 will set you back roughly $300 for the basic unit and close to $400 if you want to get the “Performance Bundle”, which features a heart-rate monitor and speed/cadence sensor. If you’ve already got an Edge 500, upgrading to the 510 will get you LiveTracker, a larger color screen, and a many more minor features. Is it worth the upgrade if you already have an Edge 500 in good condition? Probably not. Is the 510 worth buying if you’re in the market for a new GPS? Most definitely.
Coming up in the next few days will be the Garmin Edge 810 review.