The Garmin Edge 840 is here, and in this detailed review Dr Michael Hanslip sees just how good it really is.
With the release of the 540/840 twins, Garmin has brought the two Edge models into alignment. The 840 is identical to the 540, only it adds a touch-screen interface. Thus the decision is easy. If you like the idea of the touch screen, then the 840 is your model.
Prefer pushing buttons? The 540 is the model of choice. And don’t forget the 840 also has the full complement of buttons for those occasions when that makes life easier. The 840 also has more memory than the 540, which might be a consideration if you are into cycle travelling and want both Europe or America and Australia maps loaded simultaneously.
Prices begin at $599 for the bare 540, or $749 with the sensor bundle including heart rate strap, speed and cadence units. The $749 solar version has photo-voltaic embedded in the screen so when out in the sun, the battery is being topped up.
The same $749 will buy a bare 840, or $879 with the sensor bundle. Also at $879 is the 840 solar version. I’m surprised there is no solar bundle for either model, but that’s what Garmin has listed for Australia at the moment.
As far as the touch screen goes, the 840 is excellent. I never had an adverse reaction (neither neglected to do what I intended nor did something unintended) when using the screen. One doesn’t even require touch-screen gloves. It worked with all my gloves and even in the pouring rain. The only thing I didn’t like about the touch-screen was that my gloves made the screen dirty – I think I need to wash my gloves more often.
I am already embedded in the Garmin “ecosystem”. I have an older Edge and a current Fēnix. On turning on the 840 for the first time I was able to upload all my existing settings, profiles and sensors using the Connect app on my phone. Super quick and super easy. For those starting from scratch, the Edge walks you through the whole process.
The three default profiles are road, mountain and indoor. Each is configured for what Garmin expects users in these three settings to want to see. Data screens with specific info are context sensitive.
Help For Climbers
The Climb Pro screen (a road profile item) only appears when you are on a known climb – and the first time this happened to me I was really happy to see the info: current and upcoming gradient info, progress on climb, speed and at the end total climb time (VAM – vertical metres per hour – was there in the summary file too). Power info only appears when linked to a power meter. I’m sure there were more special screens I never invoked.
I tried out the mountain riding profile and there was the promised Trailforks info. Trailforks is an app and a website the contains info about most of the MTB trails in the world. The Edge knew the names of all the trails I rode on in numerous locations. Mountain profile also displays Garmin’s two summary measures of mountain biking: Grit and Flow. Grit is some kind of numerical summation of the technical challenge of a trail, while Flow is a summary measure of how “flowy” your riding is.
When I used the 840 for my morning commute, I found it knew the bike paths I ride to work, including providing warnings about upcoming sharp bends. My older Edge has crash detection. I’ve turned it off because it has tried to call my partner (who is often riding with me) when I take a technical trail offroad – it cannot distinguish some rider movements from a crash. But the tech appears mature in the 840 as it never threatened to ring my contact.
Not even when I accidentally let the bike tip over on its side. It appears that it does distinguish actual crashes from minor bumps and rough trails. I like the idea of this feature because a couple of the people I have coached over the years have had massive road crashes and were only rescued when a motorist found them an unknown time after the incident. A related feature is Live Track, which permits authorised users to see where you are in real time.
There’s a coffee shop alarm system (makes a pretty loud noise when moved) that makes your bike that little bit safer when leaned with 25 others at the coffee stop. Garmin connect will tell you where the Garmin was the last time it connected your phone. Handy if you happen to drop it on a trail without realising and had your phone with you to capture the whereabouts info.
Going back to the original Edge 500, the 540/840 are considerably larger in size. There is still a big bezel around the display area – personally I would like to see the entire top used as display like most current phones – but the growth in unit size has brought an increase in screen size with it: everything is bigger. Yet it isn’t so big that it doesn’t fit on my race bike where the Garmin mount sits below and in front of the bars – where a 10-series Edge will not fit.
“…I love the fact that current Garmins don’t require tethering to the Internet via a phone (they can, but they have WiFi built in for a direct connection…”
Further growth with future generations will render these older mounts obsolete, but for now we are all good. One benefit of the larger size is the longer battery life. Despite the numerous extra power-hungry features (like the colour screen), the battery lasts roughly a full day (24 hours) on a charge – somewhat longer if you opt for the solar variant (how much longer depends on the sun that day).
I love the fact that current Garmins don’t require tethering to the Internet via a phone (they can, but they have WiFi built in for a direct connection to the outside world). New firmware updates just happen. Rides magically upload at home as long as you save the ride in range of your router. Any mobile function, like crash detection and live tracking, require tethering to your phone for obvious reasons.
Navigation is built in. Using the touch screen it is quite easy to enter a destination address. Points of Interest built into the menu are numerous, ranging from grocery and restaurant locations to bike shops and petrol stations. I disagreed with many of the route choices that the Garmin made for me. It kept trying to send me south on a north-bound journey, often tried to redirect me onto a bike path and absolutely refused to calculate a route home from work despite numerous attempts.
Recalculation happens on the fly, if a touch slowly. A window at the top of the screen displays the next instruction and at the bottom a progress bar to that instruction – so you can navigate from any data screen. I’m old school, I like to know where I’m going before I go there. The map view is excellent for getting to a destination even without navigation suggesting a route.
The 840 has a USB-C port on it. For people who are still transitioning from USB-A to USB-C, a cable with exactly these ends on it is included in the box. There are also two bar/stem-top mounts and one out-front mount in the box. Three mounts should cover many rider’s quivers of bikes. Extra bar-top mounts are quite inexpensive.
Loads of aftermarket mounts are also available, from on top of the steerer tube cap, to attached to a headset spacer, to mounted on the top tube or on aero-bars. Garmin mounts have been the same for many years, encouraging this proliferation. The final item in the box is a tether. If you fear losing your expensive device (though the mounts are very reliable) you can secure it to the bike with a short strap.
It is worth commenting on the dual-band GPS. For two generations now, Edge units have had multiple connectivity – to the American GPS system as well as the Russian Glonass or the European Galileo systems. But the 840 connects to two different frequencies of the GPS system. One lower in the frequency spectrum and one higher.
They suffer interference from different sources and thus tend to cancel out each other’s errors. The result is almost perfect placement even in a forest with an overhead canopy. It uses more power, but the accuracy is astounding.
I’m incredibly impressed with the Edge 840. It works so well, it is easy to navigate the menus and there is a broad ability to personalise it for how you want it to look or behave. I think Garmin deserves 5 stars for this device.
And the RRP? $599 for the non-touch screen 540 and $749 for the touch screen 840.