It’s been over 3 years since Garmin launched their previous flagship GPS cycling computer, the Edge 1000 (Garmin, Amazon). Since the launch of the Edge 820 (Garmin, Amazon) last year with some features that the 1000 lacked, I’ve been anticipating a new flagship model and now the Garmin Edge 1030 (Garmin, Amazon) is here.
I had been expecting minimal changes between the Edge 1000 and 1030 aside from adding connectivity and navigation options, so I didn’t expect to upgrade my 1000. However, Garmin put some attractive new hardware into the Edge 1030 so I ordered it immediately and received it just in time for my recent gravel biking trip in the French Alps.
I tested the Edge 1030 quite thoroughly on many long rides of 10-12 hours with challenging navigation and report my initial impressions below, focusing on how it performs for endurance and touring cycling. For a more all-round perspective, see DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review. After discussing the important features that have changed on the 1030, I conclude with some buying guidelines and comparisons to other models.
The map display is the most important feature of a GPS cycling computer for me, and the screen on the Edge 1030 is not only slightly larger than that on the Edge 1000 (3.5 instead of 3 inches, or 89 vs 76 mm), I’ve found it to be slightly easier to read, especially in direct sun. The stock maps (from OpenStreetMap) are displayed clearly at an appropriate level of detail at each zoom level, and the numbers on the data screens are very crisp.
There were already no other cycling GPS computers that came close to the Edge 1000 in terms of screen size and clarity, and now Garmin have made noticeable improvements again with the Edge 1030. If you’re a heavy user of the map screen who is constantly exploring new regions then the screen improvement will be noticeable for you.
I was worried that the Edge 1030 would have a touchscreen similar to the Edge 820 that often doesn’t respond well (and is why I don’t recommend that model). Garmin told me that it’s a completely different screen technology and this appears to be the case because the 1030 touchscreen generally works well, although it could still be better; I occasionally had some issues when using long-fingered gloves, but there is now a touchscreen sensitivity setting that I didn’t play with because I only briefly needed the long-fingered gloves. Overall, I was satisfied with the touchscreen sensitivity.
Improved Battery Life
The Garmin Edge 1030 has twice the real-world battery life compared to the Edge 1000, despite being only 10 grams heavier. The claimed battery life for the Edge 1000 is up to 15 hours, but I only achieve 6-8 hours of real-world usage, so I frequently have to carry a USB battery pack and recharge the Edge 1000 during a ride, which can be inconvenient and annoying.
The Edge 1030 has a claimed battery life of 20 hours, which I expected to again be a gross exaggeration. However, I never saw the battery level go below 25% even on rides of up to 12 hours. I therefore predict that 14-16 hours is reasonable in regular usage, which is twice as much as I had with the Edge 1000. Note that the typical settings that I use that affect battery life are: an intermediate level of backlight that turns off after 15 seconds, GPS+GLONASS enabled, 1-second data recording, ANT+ speed sensor, bluetooth off, heavy use of the map page but no guided navigation, ambient temperature of 5-20 degrees C.
In addition, the Edge 1030 has a new battery-save mode that makes the screen turn off until you touch it. I only briefly tested this, but with that enabled for the whole ride, Garmin’s claimed battery life of 20 hours could be possible.
The Edge 1030 also has a dedicated external battery pack that should further double the battery life, up to a possible 40 hours! The mini- and micro-USB charging ports used on other devices are not sealed against water, so although those devices can be charged while in use from any USB battery pack or dynamo hub connector, doing so when it’s raining is not a good idea. The Garmin Edge 1030 has a new charging connection integrated into the mounting tab that allows the dedicated external battery pack to be connected while in use with an entirely waterproof connection.
One of Garmin’s new mounts is needed to attach the battery to the bottom of the mount while the computer mounts on top (see the video below, which is not mine). These mounts don’t work so well with the aerobars that ultra-distance cyclists often use, but I spoke to K-Edge at EuroBike and they confirmed that they’re working on making mounts that are compatible with the new battery and other mount manufacturers are likely to be doing the same, so hopefully more options will be available soon.
Unfortunately, the Edge 1030 external battery is not yet available, but I have one on order so I’ll update this when I’ve had a chance to use it. In addition to the waterproofness and ease of use of the external battery, it may eliminate one reason for Edge 1000s failing, which can be that the delicate micro-USB charging socket stops working (I’ve had units replaced under warranty due to this issue). Finally, other USB cables can be plugged into the Garmin external battery to charge other devices, like a cell phone or bike light.
When using routes, or “courses” as Garmin likes to call them, I keep things simple and use the course settings to make the route “Always display” on the map with a static red line (which I find is easier to see than the default blue line). I never use guided navigation, I simply decide whether or not to ride along my line when I’m there or if I want to change my plans, and I figure out which turns I need to make by myself. The Garmin doesn’t tell me when there is a turn approaching or if I go off-course (which I frequently decide to do deliberately. In addition, I plan all routes manually using route-planning websites like Strava and paper maps, I never let the device make routing decisions for me. I therefore cannot comment on how good the turn-by-turn navigation functions are or how good the new feature is that uses road popularity to help choose routes for you when the device is connected to a phone.
I do sometimes want to plan a route online while away from a computer and transfer this to my Garmin. Until recently, this was impossible to do with an Edge 1000, but I did find a method using the Dynamic Watch website (http://dynamic.watch/) and routeCourse ConnectIQ app, but that was far from simple to setup and required many steps. Fortunately, the Edge 1030 has a ConnectIQ app pre-installed that allows a route created in Strava to be transferred to the device wirelessly through a phone connection, so this is another major advantage of the 1030 over the 1000 and it seems to work well.
There are some new functions that allow more communication between your phone and the Edge 1030, but I haven’t touched those and leave my Garmin and phone unconnected until I want to upload a ride or download a route to/from Strava without using a computer. For more information about the communication features, see DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review.
There are several new features on the Edge 1030 compared to the Edge 1000 that are far more subtle and won’t be as universally relevant. The ones that I tested and found to be useful are:
There are more options for the screen layout, with different data layouts possible to put the larger numbers in the middle or top of the screen, etc, that weren’t possible on previous Edge units.
Auto-lap is now possible by time. I like to keep track of my average speed during each hour of riding using the lap feature, so previously I had to manually press the Lap button every hour or when I remembered. Having the computer automatically start new laps was only possible at certain distance intervals or when passing a physical location. With the Edge 1030 it’s finally possible to automatically start a new lap after a pre-defined time interval.
The lap summary screen has a lot more information for previous laps, with the possibility to scroll through statistics about speed, power, total ascent, etc, which is useful for looking at different parts of your ride.
Most of the other features and control options already existed in the Edge 1000 and are generally well executed, so I won’t list them all here, and many are shown in DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review.
As with all of the Edge units that I’ve used, firmware updates are released frequently shortly after the product is announced to fix most of the bugs that are encountered. This has already happened 3 times in the last 2 weeks and so the couple of things that I was having a problem with on the Edge 1030 are now not worth mentioning because they appear to have been fixed with the latest firmware updates. I’ll update this post if I notice any problems that aren’t yet fixed.
Garmin: Can you please add physical map zoom in/out buttons to your touchscreen devices? This is the function that I need most often and I get tired of touching the screen to activate it, then pressing the correct part of the screen to zoom, then waiting for the zoom level to change, all while trying to stay aware of my surroundings while cycling. If you added physical zoom buttons then I could do this without taking my eyes off of the road until the change in zoom level had taken place.
Garmin doesn’t even need to make any physical changes to the unit to achieve this, because I use the Edge Remote (Garmin, Amazon). The function of one of the buttons on the small remote, which I mount inside my brake lever hood, can be customized, so if Garmin just adds the option to zoom in with a quick press and zoom out with a long press to the possible button functions in the next firmware update then I would be very happy. Thank you.
There are several other features that I’d like to see added, but they are all of far more minor importance, overall I’m extremely pleased with the device. Battery life was my biggest issue with the Edge 1000 and this has now been entirely addressed with the 1030.
Conclusions / Comparisons
Should you upgrade to a Garmin Edge 1030 if you already have a Garmin Edge 1000? Given the cost of the Edge 1030 (500 UKP, 600 EUR, US$600, Amazon), that would be difficult to justify for most people. However, if you’re like me and use the on-screen map to manually plan and alter your route on the fly and frequently do rides of more than 6 hours then the slightly improved screen and massively improved battery life are more than worthwhile. The other improvements are also nice bonuses to have.
If you’re in the market for a GPS cycling computer with a large screen then there are not really any other options that come close, the Edge 1030 is an excellent computer and I would now only recommend buying an Edge 1000 instead if it was massively reduced.
If you’re looking for something that is more compact than the 1030 with a smaller screen size, then Garmin’s other current offering is the Edge 820, but as I mentioned above a lot of these units have serious problems with a lack of sensitivity in the touchscreen. Apparently, this is less of a problem on some units than on others, but it makes it hard for me to recommend. The Edge 520 avoids this issue with using only button controls but has a limited and unexpandable memory that means that only a map of your local region can be stored, so again I don’t recommend it.
The Edge 800 was originally released in 2010, and the Edge 810 (Amazon) was a minor update in 2013, but I would recommend either of those models over the far newer Edge 820 or 520. I still carry an Edge 800 on longer trips as a backup device and my wife happily uses an Edge 800, but it’s obvious that the screen readability is lacking on those models compared to more modern options from other brands and the 800/810 computers are becoming harder to obtain.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a computer with a mid-size screen with good maps, then I would consider brands other than Garmin because I’m not a fan of either of their current offerings (the Edge 520 and 820). Since I’ve only used the Garmin models, I cannot say which is the best option from the other brands. For a large-screen unit, the Edge 1030 is the obvious choice and is extremely good.
Garmin also makes alternative versions of most of their cycling computers that they call “Touring” or “Explore” that have the same hardware as the models mentioned here, but with some of the more training-focused functions removed; the difference in cost is often not great so I would recommend the full version for most people rather than the slightly restricted Touring/Explore version. For feature comparisons for most of the Garmin Edge models, you can use DC Rainmaker’s comparison tool.
Some people prefer to use one of the hiking-focused Garmin eTrex GPS computers (Garmin, Amazon) for ultra-distance cycling instead of a cycling-focused computer like a Garmin Edge because the eTrex models use AA batteries that last a long time and are easy to obtain on the road. Will the option of having 30 hours of real-world (rechargeable) battery life when using the Edge 1030 and it’s battery pack mean that far fewer people recommend using an eTrex for this kind of riding in the future? I’ve not seen the need for using an eTrex myself and certainly won’t be doing so now that I have an Edge 1030.
Please let me know in the comments what you think is the ultimate bike computer for ultra-distance cycling, or if your experience with the new Edge 1030 differs from mine.
Full disclosure: I’ve paid for all of my Garmin Edge units myself and I’m receiving no incentives for publishing a positive review. I do receive a small commission if you buy something after clicking on one of the Amazon links.