The Garmin Edge series 305, 705 and 500

This is not meant to be a thorough review of the Garmin Edge series, if you want specific reviews there are plenty of them out there and you can compare the specifications directly on the Garmin website. What you will find here is images of all three units side by side so you can see the size difference and get my valuable insights into the little gotchas with the each unit.

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Garmin Edge 305

  • Reasonable size compared to the 705, smaller than the 705 and still looks reasonable when mounted on your handle bars 
  • It does have limited navigational ability, to be honest not something I ever used  and it is too limited to provide effective navigation if you are touring.
  • File format, because the 305 uses the TCX file format it will work with third party applications, more about this in the 500 section
  • The screen is the same size as the 500, if you plan to upgrade from 305 to 500 no difference there.
  • There has been reports regarding the battery contacts breaking in the 305 causing the unit to switch off during operation. This can be repaired and you find instructions on the web on how to do this.
  • Slow satellite acquisition, the 305 takes a lot longer to acquire a satellite signal. If you don’t have the cadence/speed sensor it means you will be waiting for up to 2 minutes before your speedo starts working

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Garmin Edge 705

  • The satellite acquisition time is much better on the 705.
  • The screen size on the 705 is larger, as you would expect because of navigation and need to read the map while you ride.
  • Colour screen – but if you don’t use the maps this will mean little to you. Having coloured borders on your speedo means so little.
  • The size, you can see from the images, its big. I remember this was the biggest disappointment when I first got the 705.
  • The base maps (for Australia anyway) are next to useless. If you are planning to use this for touring you are going to have to pony up another $200+ for the detailed maps.

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Garmin Edge 500

  • Designed with racing in mind, this has all the features a racer needs without the on-board maps.
  • Initial version did not include work outs but if you upgrade to the latest firmware the work out functionality is included.
  • There have been a number of posts on the Garmin forums reporting various problems with the 500 unit such as corrupt data and the unit locking up. For what it is worth, mine has been working fine and I’m very happy with it. It is also worth noting that the 705 has a record of having problems with corrupted data files.
  • The data recording seems to be a lot more accurate than the older 705. If you have a look at my Canberra Climbs post there is an example of the how much the data recording has improved, (scroll to the bottom of the post for details).
  • Cool new features such as vertical speed and temperature. But it doesn’t calculate wind chill factor which would be really cool. The only problem is that no software records vertical speed so you can only make use of it while you are riding and the only software I have found that records the temperature is the Garmin Connect service.
  • The screen has an auto scroll feature, initially I thought this was cool but it can be annoying when you want to know your speed and it is on the wrong screen. Also if you press the stop button, the auto scroll also stops which means you might end on the wrong screen, but you can still advance it by pressing “enter”.
  • The size is the big winner for me with the 500. After moving from the 705, having the smaller screen took a bit of getting use to but you quickly adjust so no real problem there.
  • The button placement takes a little to be desired. The buttons are fine if you are wearing standard cycling mitts and you easily feel for the buttons on the side. In winter when you have thicker gloves on this becomes a bit of an issue. It’s harder to feel for the buttons and because of the “twist off” bracket design if you press the “enter” or “stop” buttons too hard you start to disengage the device from the bracket.
  • I’ll save the worse till last, the new file format. The 500 no longer uses the TCX file format to store the data. This means you are pretty much limited to using Garmin’s own software and services to transfer your data. You can still export your data from Garmin’s applications to the TCX format and then import them into your favourite application but that adds another step, which is a bit of a hassle. The only other application I have found that will work with the Garmin 500 file format is the Training Peaks WKO+ application but this does come at a cost of US$129.

The iPhone

I’ve thrown this in as a comparison, most phones like the iPhone have some form of GPS capability these days. With the iPhone in particular there are number of GPS applications which will track your ride for around $0 to $10. Bike mounts for iPhone are also readily available such as this one.

I wouldn’t consider this an option for the racing rider, its too big and the GPS accuracy and responsiveness is nothing like the Garmin units. But if you are into touring its another matter.

  • Given in Australia a 705 is going to cost around $500 plus $200 for the maps you’re well on the way to buying a GPS enabled phone outright.
  • The iPhone comes with Google maps included or you can buy another app for around $10.
  • The screen is bigger on the Iphone which map reading on the go much easier.
  • Obviously you can play your tunes as well on the Iphone, another bonus for those long lonely rides.
  • The Iphone is not waterproof, so no touring when it is raining.
  • I have issues with how proprietary the standards on the Iphone are but this is no different to having to buy the maps from Garmin so I guess they are even on that one.

So everything considered, I would highly recommend a Garmin 500 and if you need mapping as a feature seriously consider the phone option.

  
        
          

Comments

  1. Sari Plohr says:

    Hi This is a great site and found the entry helpful,this will aid my cycling particularly when im competing,cycling is the sport and no question why it has grown in the last decade.

  2. Ride2Wk says:

    A good little article and I like the photo comparisons. I have been using a 705 for several years for rides, commuting and for work tracing new pathways.

    I have used the way finding directions in 3 situations.
    1/ was simply using it to plot the shortest way somewhere when there were 2 alternatives that I wasn’t sure of which was the shortest route. I usually found it good but the mapping only follows the way you would drive. It ignores short cuts, bike paths etc so it can often put you on a longer route than you would normally take if you know the area.
    2/ when I was visiting Melbourne and trying to find my way around. For that it was poor. The cycling mode put me along tiny back streets instead of the shorter faster main roads. But in car mode it would direct me onto freeways.
    3/ was for Audax rides and for that it was very good. But of course you have to plot the route first and then save it. So it takes more effort to prepare than simply following a map but was easier. (Except where there are errors in the road maps which do occur such as over Tomewin at the Gold Coast.)

    The 1 problem for way finding is that the screen is too small to be very useful as a map. The option of a the 500 plus a Smart Phone for the GPS is probably a more functional combination.

  3. adam says:

    hi,
    Would you have any gpx or other maps for Garmin for the Fitz’s challenge please?
    Looking forward to do the Epic ride, but I rather have it in my Garmin than a printout from the website.

    cheers,
    Adam

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