It’s been about a week now since the new GPS arrived, and I’m mostly loving it. The unit comes packaged with the heart-rate strap and cadence/wheel sensor, and Aust/NZ topographic maps on an SD card; the maps are decent but I’d like to replace the basemap with the OSM CycleMap as the inbuilt ones are not cycle-friendly enough. DC Rainmaker has an in-depth first impressions review, with pretty pictures if you’re interested in a look – it’s part of what helped me make up my mind to get the unit.
The heart-rate strap is the new soft model, as opposed to the previous one that has harder plastic on either side of the transmitter itself to hold the sensors. The new one also has a clip-on transmitter unit, so I hope that you could get a cheaper replacement strap section if necessary. It fits more snugly and is more comfortable than the plastic version, and I haven’t had any issues with drop outs from it yet.
The cadence/wheel sensor is much the same as the old one – a slight redesign of the molding on the base, is all the difference I can see. I didn’t replace either of the magnets on the crank and spoke, so I now have a couple of more replacements there.
What I found to be the best initial feature is the mounting of the Edge itself. Rather than a cheap plastic tab that locks the unit in place, and which is very prone to snapping off (meaning that you need keys or a blade to press down the remains and allow the 705 to come off), the mounting is circular with two inner opposite lips. The 800 fits into place and then is rotated 90 degrees to lock it in place, with nothing to snap off.
It’s a touch-screen device, and the main issue with these is always getting used to the pressure difference between pressing a button and swiping through a list. I’ve tended to mainly press the up and down (left and right) arrows to navigate, so far. Rather than a single page of training data with a customisable number of fields on it, the 800 allows for several of these, and the field selection is now hierarchical, rather than being a flat list of things like Cadence Max, Cadence Avg, Heart Rate, Heart Rate %MAX etc.
Locations have been a bit of an issue for me over the last few days, mainly in terms of elevation. Now the device calculates elevation as part of it being a receiver of GPS signals, so any location you create gets a elevation attribute based on that signal. Of course, the quality of the signal varies, so that attribute may have value that isn’t very accurate. The 800 allows you to manually specify the value of the elevation for a point (and that’s assuming that you have more accurate information to use). That means that the unit will base its altitude knowledge upon your manual entered value.
Of course the fundamental problem is that you might be working on faulty data with no way to get more accurate data. That’s the situation I found myself in, when I was experimenting and familiarising myself with the feature of the unit; I set the elevation of home to 1000m. Of course, I also set the comment on the location to “Farty pants lives here” and the name to “Fred Nurk” – test data, as you might suspect.
When I went to reset the attributes to sensible values, I was able to delete the name (or set it to an empty string, I guess), and was also able to revert the comment to its initial (blank) value. Could I revert the elevation to its initial signal-derived value? Of course not. Why would I want to do such a thing, when I can delete the location and recreate it from scratch?
There’s a couple of other flaws; the elevation training page only scrolls the profile data from the mid-point of the screen – apparently this is due to be fixed in a forthcoming firmware update. Also, the wheel-size (circumference) isn’t persisted once the automatic calculation is done once for a given cadence sensor connection, but has to be recalculated each time the unit is turned on.
Routing recalculations are also a bit dodgy and don’t happen automatically if you stray off the course determined by the device. Given that it doesn’t really calculate good bicycle friendly routes, this is pretty much the norm. Maybe moving to OSM CycleMap will address this.
The unit uses a new FIT binary file format rather than the XML (text)-based TCX format, and I’ve had one strangely corrupted activity that the unit created but then couldn’t read (nor could any other Garmin product). I managed to convert it to TCX with TCX Converter, although I then had to manually change every latitude value in the file before I got a reasonable version of the route I rode. Data corruption has been a major issue with the FIT files on the Edge 500 and other devices in the past, from what I’ve seen on the Garmin user forums, and I think I’ll take a second GPS with me on my Christmas holidays and record the trips on that as well, just in case.