The Garmin Edge 520 Plus is packed with useful features and very good mapping without the temperamental touchscreen of the models above it.
- Pros: Very simple to use; clear mapping with turn guidance; battery life is good for a whole day's ride
- Cons: A little expensive; no auto WiFi upload or battery save mode
Garmin was the dominant GPS brand until companies like Wahoo stepped into the market and really threatened its monopoly. Garmin has had some issues with bugs in its firmware and touchscreens that worked intermittently, but with the launch of this 520 Plus, it feels like the company has got back to its best.
I've been using Garmin GPS devices since I got my first Edge 200 back in about 2010. I've had the 510, 520 and, more recently, the 820, and was rather intrigued about where the 520 Plus would fit into the lineup.
To put it simply, it's like the 820 without the touchscreen. Or a 520 with proper mapping.
The body is pretty much identical to the 520, with dimensions of 49 x 73 x 21mm, a 63g weight and a screen size of 35 x 47mm (2.3in diagonally). The colour screen is a little reflective but the vibrant colours make it easy to read in bright sunlight.
There are a few new features here that the non-Plus 520 doesn't have. The big one is the mapping, which, with turn warnings, makes exploring a new area really easy. Other updates that are very useful are the extended battery life and the auto re-routing if you go off course. You get Garmin Cycle Maps for the UK and Europe.
Battery life is up to a claimed 15 hours without navigation. I've found that I've not been running low on battery over multiple days of riding. As it's race season, this is particularly useful because the 520 Plus gets chucked in my kitbag where it remains until the following night's race. With navigation turned on, I got to nine hours over two days of riding with a single charge. That's all I'll ever need for my riding.
The lack of a touchscreen seems to help with the battery life quite a bit, compared to the 820. I can't say that I miss that touchscreen, either; mine hasn't been very reliable in any weather condition. I also disabled the Bluetooth as it just kills my phone.
Mapping & routing
Mapping is one of the most useful features that I didn't know I needed until I got the 820. The 520 Plus mapping has similar functionality, but there are a couple of features that have changed. Firstly, there's no ability to enter an address on the device or route to a point on the map. Your routes have to be created beforehand and then uploaded to the device. For me, this wasn't an issue as I'll have a route created should I be headed to new roads. If you're a touring cyclist, the 820/1000/1030 will be more suitable.
You also miss out on the point of interest database for restaurants and so on. I never used this on my 820, so it's not something I've missed, but if you did you'll be pleased to know there is a new app that acts as this function. It's called Yelp and it's available across 520/820/1030 devices.
While following a route, I unintentionally got to use one of the features that sets this apart from Wahoo's offerings. My route wanted me to head through a field on a footpath (Strava mapping issue) but I decided to ignore this and continue on the road. The Garmin rerouted me, figuring out the detour within 10 seconds.
Diving deeper into the maps, the larger storage on the 520 Plus allows you to download full mapping for anywhere in the world with routing enabled. You could just about do it on the old 520, but it was a hack that wasn't supported by Garmin.
Strava Live Segments has also been updated to make the feature more accurate. It's an update that we saw on the Garmin Edge 1030 last year so it's good to see the trickle-down of technology. I gave it a go, and it's great at telling you where you are relative to the KoM or your PB if you like hunting Strava segments. The 520 Plus comes with the Strava Live app installed, along with Strava Routes and Training Peaks apps.
On my 820, I had this feature disabled. I got tired of seeing how slow I was going in relation to the KoM, especially in the winter! But the updated version is much better. You get a progress graph with helpful info like the distance to go, time to go and also your power and heart rate data.
Connectivity is an area that I think Garmin could have improved. As the 520 Plus uses the 520 hardware, we've still not got Bluetooth Smart connectivity. That's not a huge issue for me personally because my 4iiii power meter and Wahoo Ticker heart rate monitor are ANT+. I do know that it'll annoy some users, though.
Uploading shows another annoying omission. The device will auto upload through your phone via a Bluetooth connection, but this kills my phone battery. My 820 uploads when it connects to my WiFi which I find more reliable. It's very useful and it's a shame not to have that here.
On the buttons
In use, it was a little strange to go back to buttons, but after a few rides I really appreciate the simplicity. Quite often in races, sweat will drip onto the screen of my 820 and it has on occasion changed the data fields, returned me to the home screen and flicked the data screens around. On a rainy winter's ride, I don't bother looking at the screen. Having the buttons is much better for adverse weather, or sweaty faces!
I found the device was relatively quick to start up and then very quick to pick up the satellites and also my ANT+ devices. The GPS was accurate, even on the tight Odd Down cycle circuit.
Navigating the menus was very easy and the whole setup took less than 10 minutes to get the data pages showing the same metrics as my 820. When you're setting up those fields, you can choose a classic look with the space divided evenly between the metrics, or you can have one metric displayed on a larger scale than the others. I found this feature really useful for glancing at my power during an effort.
All those metrics we're used to seeing are present plus a range of others if you've got a power meter or heart rate monitor. The device will track your FTP and VO2 Max values over time. The VO2 Max indicator is most interesting as it then gives a recovery time based on the difficulty of the ride.
Commuters will be happy to find full integration with Garmin's Varia bike radar and lights, offering warnings of approaching vehicles. We'll have a separate review of those systems.
Who is this for? I'd say this suits a cyclist who wants to enhance their training and explore some new roads. The data metrics are enough for even the geekiest cyclist and the maps are perfect for rides on unfamiliar roads.
I've been very happy with the usability of this device, though I'd really like to see the WiFi uploading become an option for those of us who don't like Bluetooth.
At £259.99, this is a full £60 pricier than the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. That has all the metrics you'll need on the performance end, but the mapping isn't as good as on the 520 Plus. For me, the mapping has become an essential but if you can do without it, you might prefer the Bolt.
You also get a standard mount and a flush out-front mount (worth £29.99) in the box.
Overall, this is a really good device. The data metrics are there, it's easy to use, the battery life is good and I think the lack of touchscreen is a benefit. It misses out on the WiFi upload, and the price is a tad high right now, but all told this would be a very sound investment.
Easy to use with good mapping – a great GPS computer for performance-minded riders
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Garmin Edge 520 Plus
Size tested: 2.3in screen, 49.0 x 73.0 x 21.0 mm
Tell us what the product is for
From Garmin: "Advanced, easy-to-use GPS bike computer for competing and navigation."
It's very easy to use and definitely targeted at the performance-minded cyclist who wants a little navigation.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Physical dimensions 49.0 x 73.0 x 21.0 mm
Weight 62.5 g
Water rating IPX7
Battery rechargeable lithium-ion
Display size 35.0 x 47.0 mm; 2.3" diagonal
Display resolution 200 x 265 pixels
Battery life up to 15 hours
Maps & Memory
Ability to add maps
History up to 200 hours
Daily smart features
VIRB® camera remote
Training, planning and analysis features
Time/distance alerts (triggers alarm when you reach goal)
Garmin cycle map (routable cycling-specific street map)
Compatible with Vector™ (power meter)
Power meter compatible (displays power data from compatible third-party ANT+™-enabled power meters) Yes (records data approx. 1 per second)
Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyse, categorise and share data)
Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to Garmin Connect)
Alerts (triggers alarm when you reach time, distance, HR, calories goals): yes
Compatible with Varia™ bike radar and lights: yes
Advanced performance and power analysis, including new Time in Zone, FTP tracking, cycling-specific VO2 and recovery and cycling dynamics
Bike trainer profile for compatible Turbo trainer data display and control
On-device segment compatibility for dynamic and engaging in-ride competition
Operating temperature: -20°C to +55°C
Connected features via a smartphone: yes
Integration with Shimano Di2 electronic shifting: yes
Weather alerts: yes
1 Advanced workouts require a Garmin Connect account
The screen size and general size of the device is about spot on in my opinion. I can see the screen clearly, maps are clear in bright sunlight and it fits neatly out front on the handlebar. The buttons are firm, making accidental pressing near impossible. I've dropped it without issue and it clips firmly to my K-Edge mount.
The mapping is perfect for roadies. The battery life was excellent with the settings I used, and it functions very well out on the road. The lack of touchscreen should mean it works well in the winter. The only element that, for me, it's missing is uploading via WiFi.
I've dropped this twice and you couldn't tell.
At 63g, this is 2g heavier than the 520. Hardly worth writing about.
£60 more than Wahoo's best equivalent but this has much better mapping.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Easy to use on daily rides. Maps are easy to download and then follow, with excellent turn prompts and rerouting should you need it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The screen is tidy and easy to read. It makes it really simple to use on a daily basis.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price of the unit is a little higher than I'd expect, but compared to the Wahoo, you get the much better mapping.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes. It's easy to navigate and clear to read.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes. It's the best Garmin system that I've used so far.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they want mapping and performance data, yes.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Functionally, this does everything I need it to, but misses out on one thing I'd like it to do. The mapping is perfect for roadies and the lack of touchscreen works better than the 820 in the wet and cold, but I do miss the WiFi upload. It's expensive too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. Liam spends his time plodding his way through cyclocross races, very busy not winning. As an advocate for perfectly clean chains, he can be found cleaning his bike instead of training. A shop mechanic, Liam has many helpful skills, such as being able to identify 'cross tubs by the tread pattern alone. If you bump into him, he'll probably be eating.