I am a self-admitted electronics nerd, and have been riding with various Garmin cycling units over the years. I have had the Edge 705, 800, 510, and most recently, the 810 for a couple years. Recently, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a brand new Wahoo ELEMNT. Full disclosure – Wahoo is a new sponsor for the H24 team, but I have been looking for a good reason to try out a Garmin Edge competitor for a long, long time. I feel as though I have been a beta tester for Garmin for 10 years with negative compensation (buying a new unit when one breaks). With that said, I chose a few areas of key criteria to review in a friendly competition between the Garmin Edge 810 and the Wahoo ELEMNT. There are numerous areas where the two units are fairly similar, so I chose to focus my attention to the issues where they differ. Let’s get to it…
Ease of Initial Setup and Adjustability
If one was to just turn the unit on and ride with default settings, then the Edge 810 would win this competition. But nobody who buys either one of these units does this. We bike nerds want customizability and adjustability! We want all of our screens and settings to be perfect. The Edge 810 is clunky in this way. It takes a long time for the user to set up all applicable settings and fields. This is where the ELEMNT shines. The user simply has to scan a QR code to pair the phone and ELEMNT together via bluetooth. Then nearly all settings and adjustments are made from within the phone app, which is very user friendly. Adding and editing training screens is a breeze. Each main training screen can hold up to 10 fields, and they are also complemented by a map screen and an elevation screen. A second added bonus is that the ELEMNT phone app can be seamlessly connected to various external sites. I connected mine to Strava and RideWithGPS, and now all of my planned routes download to my Wahoo device and all of my completed rides automatically upload afterwards!
Winner: Wahoo ELEMNT
I didn’t even know that this was an issue for me until I received my ELEMNT. The screen contrast is noticeably much darker and sharper than that of my Garmin. When the sun is low in the sky (morning/evening), seeing the Edge 810 is very tough from certain angles. This doesn’t happen with the ELEMNT. It looks crisp from all angles, regardless of sun glare. It also looks a little clearer with the backlight display turned on than the Edge does with the same setting.
Winner: Wahoo ELEMNT
The Garmin empire was built around maps and navigation, so you’d expect the Edge 810 to be head and shoulders above the competition in this category. While it is definitely better, it’s not by much. The Edge offers turn-by-turn navigation with an audible “beep” notifying the user of an upcoming turn. The ELEMNT lays out a “breadcrumbs” trail over a map. While there is a “beep” and LED flash if the user is off course, there isn’t true turn-by-turn navigation. I have, however, read that Wahoo has plans to implement that in a future firmware release. Initially, I thought that the lack of turn-by-turn would be somewhat of a deal-breaker for myself and others, but it wasn’t too bad at all. While the ELEMNT map screen doesn’t show road names, it does lay out the roads in extremely clear contrast. I had no problem following the ELEMNT course for a 40 mile ride.
Winner: Garmin Edge 810 (for now)
Customer service can make or break a person’s decision when deciding to throw down hundreds of dollars on an electronics device. With that said, this competition isn’t even close. I have never had a good experience dealing with Garmin customer service, whether it be through email or phone calls. Their customer service reps don’t seem to have a good handle on the intricacies of the specific units that they carry. Additionally, when I’ve had problems with faulty units, they told me that I had to pay for a refurbished one. Wahoo seems to have been proactive from the very start. They are constantly monitoring (and responding to) various forums and comment sections of blogs. They also have a daily presence in the Wahoo ELEMNT Google Group. I had an issue with one of my data fields when I was initially setting up the ELEMNT, so I gave their customer service a call. Within a minute, I was on the phone with an actual real live human being. She was extremely helpful and polite. Five minutes after that, my problem was solved and I was stoked!
Winner: Wahoo ELEMNT
In conclusion, the competition isn’t even close, with the Wahoo ELEMNT as the clear winner. That’s not to say that the ELEMNT doesn’t have a lot of room for improvement. I’d like to see true turn-by-turn navigation rather than just a “breadcrumbs” trail. I am also looking forward to the integration with Strava live segments, which is reportedly down the road. Battery life could also be improved a bit. But Wahoo is off to an amazing start. The device is only a couple of months old, and a few firmware updates could make a huge difference. Once Wahoo addresses those issues and a few others, they will have a true Garmin-killer!