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Verdict: 
Easy to use with good mapping – a great GPS computer for performance-minded riders
Weight: 
63g
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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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_on_mount.jpg

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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_front.jpg

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 better

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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_mapping.jpg

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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_screen_5.jpg

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

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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_screen_8.jpg

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!

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_buttons_1.jpg
garmin_edge_520_plus_-_buttons_2.jpg

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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_screen_3.jpg

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.

Integration

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.

> Buyer's Guide: 11 of the best cycling GPS computers

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.

Value

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.

garmin_edge_520_plus_-_mount.jpg

Conclusion

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.

Verdict

Easy to use with good mapping – a great GPS computer for performance-minded riders

If you're thinking of buying this product using a cashback deal why not use the road.cc Top Cashback page and get some top cashback while helping to support your favourite independent cycling website

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?

From Garmin:

General

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

Colour display

Battery life up to 15 hours

High-sensitivity receiver

Maps & Memory

Ability to add maps

Basemap

Waypoints/favorites/locations 200

Routes 100

History up to 200 hours

Sensors

GPS

GLONASS

Barometric altimeter

Daily smart features

Smart notifications

VIRB® camera remote

Training, planning and analysis features

Customisable screen(s)

Auto Pause®

Interval training

Advanced workouts

Auto Lap®

VO2 max

Virtual partner

Auto scroll

Cycling features

Courses

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™

Garmin Connect™ compatible (online community where you analyse, categorise and share data)

Automatic sync (automatically transfers data to Garmin Connect)

Additional

Alerts (triggers alarm when you reach time, distance, HR, calories goals): yes

Compatible with Varia™ bike radar and lights: yes

LiveTrack: 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

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

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.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

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.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

I've dropped this twice and you couldn't tell.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
8/10

At 63g, this is 2g heavier than the 520. Hardly worth writing about.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

£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.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 24  Height: 177cm  Weight: 62kg

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.

29 comments

Avatar
njmoffat [70 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

I've been planning on getting a Garmin for years but haven't so far due to all the complaints about how awful(ish) they were. I was hoping they would improve but now the Wahoo ones are out I might get one of those instead. Thoughts everyone? Thanks.....

Avatar
Rapha Nadal [948 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

If this is just an 820 without a touch screen then Garmin could be on to a winner as the touchscreen was shite in the rain unless you locked the unit out!

Just bought a Wahoo Bolt though so we'll see how that goes. 

Avatar
Liam Cahill [139 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

njmoffat wrote:

I've been planning on getting a Garmin for years but haven't so far due to all the complaints about how awful(ish) they were. I was hoping they would improve but now the Wahoo ones are out I might get one of those instead. Thoughts everyone? Thanks.....

Depends on your intended use. Want maps? The Garmins would get my vote. Don't need em? The Wahoos make more sense. One thing is that I haven't had a ton of updates with this one. Maybe Garmin have finally listened and understand that we don't want a product with constant bug fixes.

Avatar
Liam Cahill [139 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

Rapha Nadal wrote:

If this is just an 820 without a touch screen then Garmin could be on to a winner as the touchscreen was shite in the rain unless you locked the unit out!

Just bought a Wahoo Bolt though so we'll see how that goes. 

Essentially, yes. And I fully agree. That touchscreen is hopeless in the rain

Avatar
srchar [1095 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
njmoffat wrote:

I've been planning on getting a Garmin for years but haven't so far due to all the complaints about how awful(ish) they were. I was hoping they would improve but now the Wahoo ones are out I might get one of those instead. Thoughts everyone? Thanks.....

I've bought four Garmin products in the past (a handheld GPS for trekking, a watch for running, plus Edge 800 and 520 for riding).  There wasn't any proper competition even just a few years ago, but now there is, Garmin won't be getting any further business from me. Their products are flaky and the support is awful.

Avatar
bobbydazzler [23 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

I've had the Bolt since April 2017 and it's been very good.  The mapping also works well - I did LeJog and it guided me perfectly from start to finish, with only two wrong turns [due to user error].  Battery life when navigating on those long days is also great, around 13 hours I got from it.  I had a Garmin 800 before the Bolt and that was good too, but had a few issues like freezing, and whenever it rained the elevation of the ride wouldn't be accurate/drop out.

The only annoying thing with the Bolt is it seems to have a bug on cadence - reads it way too low, but the correct cadence is then shown on Strava etc when it's uploaded

Avatar
cro2 [13 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

One thing they overlooked is user replaceable battery. My Edge 520 is about 1,5 years old with about 1000h clocked on it and the battery life dropped significantly, to about 7 hours max.

Avatar
DoctorFish [153 posts] 4 months ago
3 likes
Liam Cahill wrote:
njmoffat wrote:

I've been planning on getting a Garmin for years but haven't so far due to all the complaints about how awful(ish) they were. I was hoping they would improve but now the Wahoo ones are out I might get one of those instead. Thoughts everyone? Thanks.....

Depends on your intended use. Want maps? The Garmins would get my vote. Don't need em? The Wahoos make more sense. One thing is that I haven't had a ton of updates with this one. Maybe Garmin have finally listened and understand that we don't want a product with constant bug fixes.

I'd comment that if you want maps then Wahoo is just as good or better.  I have the original elemnt rather than the bolt.  The maps, although b&w are clear, much easier to read in the sunshine.

I bought it to replace a Garmin touring plus, and the Wahoo does everything better than that did.

I agree with the comment that garmin won't be getting any more of my money, although the old etrax (or what ever it was called) that I used to use for walking was very good and still gets some use.

Avatar
Liam Cahill [139 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

DoctorFish wrote:

Liam Cahill wrote:

njmoffat wrote:

I've been planning on getting a Garmin for years but haven't so far due to all the complaints about how awful(ish) they were. I was hoping they would improve but now the Wahoo ones are out I might get one of those instead. Thoughts everyone? Thanks.....

Depends on your intended use. Want maps? The Garmins would get my vote. Don't need em? The Wahoos make more sense. One thing is that I haven't had a ton of updates with this one. Maybe Garmin have finally listened and understand that we don't want a product with constant bug fixes.

I'd comment that if you want maps then Wahoo is just as good or better.  I have the original elemnt rather than the bolt.  The maps, although b&w are clear, much easier to read in the sunshine.

I bought it to replace a Garmin touring plus, and the Wahoo does everything better than that did.

I agree with the comment that garmin won't be getting any more of my money, although the old etrax (or what ever it was called) that I used to use for walking was very good and still gets some use.

Garmin's re-routing feature is better and I'd personally go for the colour screen.  But each to their own on that one.

Avatar
njmoffat [70 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

Thanks for the input - I'm still not sure which one to get.... I'll be using it for one long ride to the in-laws (130miles) and I want to go on small roads which I would never be able to route find myself. I'll get the Wahoo as it's £200.

Avatar
slappop [28 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

I'm still happy with my Garmin 800 that I bought in 2012. Sure, it's got its foibles; but it's been rock solid (including a trip through the washing machine), and shows no signs of age or giving out any time soon.

Avatar
PRSboy [361 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes

+1... my Edge 800 was fine for 5 yrs, finally stopped uploading to the computer after being rained on a lot and water got into the USB port.  Still works fine otherwise.

Replaced it with an Edge 810, which has been absolutely reliable for 2 yrs apart from occasionally dropping the bluetooth connection, but that may well be the phone.

Avatar
Onemanpeloton [5 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

why does uploading through your phone kill the phone battery? I've never used this feature but surely it only takes a minute?

Avatar
Onemanpeloton [5 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
njmoffat wrote:

I've been planning on getting a Garmin for years but haven't so far due to all the complaints about how awful(ish) they were. I was hoping they would improve but now the Wahoo ones are out I might get one of those instead. Thoughts everyone? Thanks.....

 

There's lots of complaints but thats because of how many units garmin have sold. A lot!

 

Avatar
StraelGuy [1602 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

I've only had one expensive Garmin, an Edge Touring Plus, and to use an Americanism - it was an absolute bag of assholes. Had an Elemnt Bolt for a year and a half now and absolutely love it. No more Garmin's for me.

Avatar
vonhelmet [1350 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

My bolt is about a year old. It has crashed once in that time, over the course of about 5000 miles. The Garmin 500 it replaces used to crash all over the shop, by comparison.

Avatar
slappop [28 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
vonhelmet wrote:

My bolt is about a year old. It has crashed once in that time, over the course of about 5000 miles. The Garmin 500 it replaces used to crash all over the shop, by comparison.

What do you mean by 'crash'? Did it stop working while you were riding? If so, I think the solution is to return it since it's clearly defective. I've never such a thing on my 800 in 6 years of riding with it.

Avatar
srchar [1095 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
slappop wrote:

What do you mean by 'crash'? Did it stop working while you were riding? If so, I think the solution is to return it since it's clearly defective. I've never such a thing on my 800 in 6 years of riding with it.

Unfortunately, Garmin's solution is to keep reinstalling the firmware until you give up hope of them fixing the issue.

Avatar
Plasterer's Radio [473 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

'Garmin Failure' type ride names are legion on Strava.

Avatar
kil0ran [1192 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
Plasterer's Radio wrote:

'Garmin Failure' type ride names are legion on Strava.

And the Elemnt support forums and reviews are full of negative reviews too.

I'm very impressed *so far* with my Edge 25 & Edge 130 - no issues with dropped rides, very rapid pairing, good usability (based on the fact that my 8yo is able to stop/start/save rides without my help)

I've been a long-term Wahoo user (since 2013) - iPhone bike case, RFLKT, RFLKT+ and throughout that time I've had a variety of issues, mainly unreliable detection of previously-paired sensors and more recently some severe ride truncation issues. Sad to leave them behind because their product support was excellent - I worked through a couple of early build Android issues direct with the developers, not often you get that. Garmin in many ways have caught up with their end of the market (as served by the Edge 20/25 and now 130). I too was wary of all the issues you hear reported regarding Garmin and I'm concerned about the USB charging port location on the 130 because it isn't particularly weather-sealed. Prefer the 25 in that regard with its 4-pin charging.

Avatar
Albec1 [20 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

I’ve been using the Bolt for seven months now and it’s yet to crash, mis-direct or fail to sync new routes or completed rides. Highly recommended.

Avatar
HawkinsPeter [2795 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
Albec1 wrote:

I’ve been using the Bolt for seven months now and it’s yet to crash, mis-direct or fail to sync new routes or completed rides. Highly recommended.

I got a Bolt and used it for two and a half months and the diplay just suddenly died. It still responded to the buttons, but was kind of useless without the display working, so I sent it back for a refund (thanks to Wiggle for great customer service).

Got a new yellow one now as I was impressed with how well it worked, when it worked.

Avatar
ibr17xvii [365 posts] 4 months ago
0 likes
bobbydazzler wrote:

The only annoying thing with the Bolt is it seems to have a bug on cadence - reads it way too low, but the correct cadence is then shown on Strava etc when it's uploaded

This happens to me as well.

I was using a Garmin cadence sensor but swapped to the Wahoo sensor & now it's far more accurate.

No idea why.

Avatar
michophull [150 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

"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."

Blimey, that must be the best part of £1000 worth of tech. I bought my first bike computer - a Cateye Vectra at the end of the 80s. It cost a huge £25. I bought my second; an Echo wireless job from Ozzo for about the same price at the end of the 90s. I'm still using it - on all three of my bikes.

Avatar
srchar [1095 posts] 4 months ago
1 like
michophull wrote:

Cateye Vectra

Thanks for the childhood flashback! My "rich" uncle bought me one of these for Christmas when I was a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. 12mph felt fast!

Avatar
HowardR [231 posts] 4 months ago
1 like

GPS! - Modern wank ~ What one needs is one of these:

(Hopefully the image upload has worked otherwise this might read as being a bit enigmatic)

Avatar
HawkinsPeter [2795 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes
HowardR wrote:

GPS! - Modern wank ~ What one needs is one of these:

(Hopefully the image upload has worked otherwise this might read as being a bit enigmatic)

That's fine for speed/distance (assuming you don't change your wheel/tyre size) but what if you get lost? I recommend pairing it with one of these:

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fukawitribe [2628 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

..and one of these...

Avatar
HowardR [231 posts] 4 months ago
2 likes

I don’t hold with these new-fangled chronometers, I prefer the good old Lunar distance method myself.