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Garmin Edge 520 vs Edge 510: Another “10” – What Gives?

Garmin Edge 520 vs Edge 510: Another “10” – What Gives? post image

So you’re in the market for a mid-range Garmin cycling GPS device and are considering whether to go for the Edge 520 or the 510?

Good, well you’ve come to the right place.

The Edge 520 is one of the newer additions to the Garmin cycling range and, as the ‘520’ number-clature suggests, it similar to the 510 (and with an extra ’10’, a little bit of a step up).

The purpose of this post is to summarise the main similarities and differences between the 510 and 520, for your delectation. Prepare to delect.

Important note: whilst still available, the 510 is no longer produced by Garmin (although it continues to support it with software updates). If you’re just looking to make a simple decision, I’d suggest you go straight for the Edge 520: Click here to find the latest price and reviews.

Of course, if you still want to compare the two models (written in an amusing and engaging fashion), do feel free to read on…

A Confession

I should say now that I whilst I do own an Edge 510 (and like it very much), I don’t (yet?) own an Edge 520. This post is more a piece of (PhD-standard) research than a hands-on review.

Writing this post helps me to organise my own thoughts about the differences between the two, and to help others get clear in their minds which one (or neither) would suit their GPS-ing needs.

Important aside: This post contains affiliate links (generally the links to Amazon). If you click one and buy something, I’ll maybe (it’s complicated…) get a small commission.

It all goes towards the Montgomery Super Power Meter Purchase Fund running costs for the Sportive Cyclist site.

With that out of the way, on with the bike race!

Positioning of the 520 in the edge range

The Edge 520 a bit of a departure from the 510/810/1000 mould (probably literally) in that it isn’t touchscreen.

The unit is smaller than the 510 but slightly larger than the 500 (in other words, it’s small). As you’ll see below, it improves on the 510’s mapping capability but doesn’t have true car-style GPS navigation (810/1000).

Positioning within the range-wise, it’s somewhere around the level of the 510 (which might have occurred to you already…).

In fact, now that I look at the Garmin website, it looks like the 520 is a straight replacement for the 510. The 510 doesn’t seem to feature there at all.

(Dag nam it, said the 510 owner).

I’ll deal with price in more detail below, but on an RRP (list price) basis, the 520 is £10 or $20 cheaper than the 510 (for the device only, sans the HR strap and speed/cadence sensor). That said, certainly in the UK, the 510 is available for less, as it’s discounted by Amazon, Wiggle et al.

Vive la revolution.

Description

It’s a GPS bike computer. Next!

Oh, right.

Well it’s a little device that you attach to your handlebars (or thereabouts) which displays important information to you whilst you ride (your speed, heart rate, cadence, how far you’ve ridden etc).

Using the GPS gubbins hidden within, it ‘knows’ where you are on the planet at any given time. It uses this information to call in drone strikes track your rides such that you can download (or upload?) them to the computer/app/website of your choice, for later analysis and braggadocio*.

(* I’m not sure that’s the right word.)

What Does It Do That’s The Same As The 510?

Unsurprisingly, the 520 will perform the core functions of a bike GPS device in much the same way as the 510 (and most other Edges).

Both devices do a very good job of recording your ride information via the magic of GPS and the stream of signals coming in from other sensors cunningly positioned around your bike and your person.

For most (data-interested) people, these sensors might include a heart rate strap about the chest and a speed/cadence sensor on one of your chainstays.

If you’re looking to refute claims that your performance is due to le dopage, you can connect a power meter such that the resulting wattage data can be released to the world’s media.

The 520 attaches to your bike in the same way as all recent Edge units, via the quarter turn mount thingummy. All of your usual Garmin and third party mounts will work.

Do Svidaniya

Something that seems to interest me but very few others is that my Edge 510 uses both the GPS set of satellites and the GLONASS ones.

GLONASS is the Russian satellite positioning system. I think my interest stems from my slight obsession with Cold War era spy novels.

For reasons unknown (at least to me), the Edge 510, and now the 520, uses both GPS and GLONASS, whereas the 810 only has GPS. The Edge 510/520 should, all else being equal, lock on to a satellite signal more quickly.

Key differences

The Edge 520 is smaller than the 510 (in fact it looks to be just a bit bigger than the Edge 500). To my (sophisticated, design-focused) eye, it looks sleeker than the 510. It has less by way of a chunky surround to the screen area. Chunky is (probably) bad to us designer-y types.

Shock horror, the 520 is not touch screen (unlike pretty much every modern technological item, and all of the other recent Garmin Edges). Instead it has buttons on both side edges (har har) and the bottom edge (tee hee).

Look, it's got buttons (and a 'non-chunky' design...)

Look, it’s got buttons (and a ‘non-chunky’ design…)

 

The Edge 520 appears to offer an improvement on the mapping capability on the 510 (which, I would note, was enough for my needs), but does not go as far as the 800/810/1000. Those latter (larger) models contains maps which the device can read (sort of). It can send you down roads and re-route if you’ve taken a wrong turning. The 510 uses a ‘breadcrumb trail’ (i.e. a line), drawn on a blank background. If you’re luckily, you’ll have uploaded a route file that contains turn direction instructions.

The 520 is like the 510 in that it simply plots (or follows) a line proscribed in terms of GPS coordinates (I’m guessing…), but it has a base map, rather than a blank background. It also has the ability to download third party maps. Apparently the basemap is not very detailed, and the device won’t be able to store the contents of Google Maps, but at least it should give you a rough idea of where you are. Which might be important in your hour of dire directional need.

Differences Right Now (But Probably Not For Too Long)

Hmm, cryptic…

Here we’re talking software (or maybe firmware, which to me seems largely the same thing).

The 520 comes loaded with a bunch of new features, such as VO2 max estimation and ‘cycling dynamics’, which don’t rely on some particular new hardware in the 520 unit itself. Instead, the (clever) Garmin programmers have simply implemented them as software features.

It’s likely that many of these features (if not all), will find their way to the 510/810/1000 in the coming months, by way of a firmware/software update. Existing owners will just need to connect the device to the computer, using a wire or a -less (i.e. Bluetooth, via your smartphone/tablet) and the update should happen automatically (he says…).

Trainer Control

This feature has got me thinking whether I need to update my perfectly usable turbo trainer for one that is at least 2–3x more expensive.

(All the best gadgets make you want to upgrade everything else you own…)

The Edge 520 can communicate with turbo trainers that have ANT+ connectivity in order to adjust the resistance that you’re riding against. You can program in a training programme (using Garmin Connect, or on the 520 device itself) and specify the power output you need to achieve at each point in turbo session.

Essentially, what we’re saying here is that pairing the 520 with the correct (expensive) type of turbo trainer will turn you into a marginally gaining, Chris Froome of a wattage monster.

Seg-mentalist

Most important (for many) will be support for Strava segments right there on your bike computer display.

You can read more detail elsewhere (such as here, on the Strava site), but essentially, Strava Premium users will get an alert as they approach a favourite segment (i.e. one you have ‘starred’ in the app), get motivational messages whilst riding it (“Go faster you fugger!”) and then immediate satisfaction feedback on how you did versus your PB, your friends and the KOM/QOM.

(Update: Strava segments have now been implemented on the Edge 510, 810 and 1000 via a firmware update.)

Most Important: What’s The Price Difference?

In an earlier version of this post, I did an extensive piece of price analysis showing where the Edge 520 sat in the Garmin line-up, including the 510.

The fact is, Garmin doesn’t really seem to be producing the 510 any more. Perversely, the price of the 510 on Amazon is higher than the newer Edge 520.

So, er, I’d suggest you would want to buy the 520 if price is important to you…

(That said, you might find the 510 available from discount sellers in the future. I believe Aldi, the German discount supermarket with stores here in the UK, was doing a deal on Edge 500s not that long ago…)

Which Would I Recommend?

So, in the older version of this post, I was more balanced in my recommendation. After all, I still have an Edge 510.

But if I was coming to this decision afresh right now, I’d definitely go for the Edge 520.

Hell, it’s the new one. It’s small and pretty. It costs less than the older model!

  Amazon UK Amazon US
Edge 520

If you buy through one of the links above, Amazon pays me a small commission, all of which goes towards alcohol the cost of keeping the lights on here at the Sportive Cyclist service course. So feel free to go wild with your credit card!

Until next time, safe cycling.

Monty

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Steve says:

    Hello Grimpeur (thought you had gone back to Andrew?)

    I too have done research and ‘almost own’ the new 520 – ordered it yesterday from my local bike shop and was told it should leave Garmin distribution on the 24th – however there are reviews on Amazon from (mostly) happy customers.

    You covered the subject well but here are a couple of other features I discovered – it has WiFi and will notify you on screen of cell phone calls and texts (formerly just a 1000 feature) – but isn’t that part of why we ride? to get away . . . as you mentioned the Strava segments come up live and you get live feedback as to how you’re doing. Several of the features are for premium members of only I believe. Also you can take one of your rides and IF you have the proper trainer that accepts the input re-ride your ride in the dark and weary winter when there is snow . . . also if you have the Garmin camera it will link to your ride and show the data points as the trainer gears down to send you up your favorite hill.

    Will update you when I’ve got my hands on the unit and a few miles under my belt.

    You could help me out by posting on “How to Get Up to Speed Quickly with Your New Garmin” as I expect some learning curve since I’ve never owned one.

    Steve in New England USA

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      I’m happy with Andrew, Monty, Grimpeur….

      Thanks for the added colo(u)r Steve. How are you getting on with it?

  • John says:

    I bought the 500 as I could not wait for the 520 to appear on the shelves, I nearly bought the Touring Plus but I was disappointed with the screen resolution when I went to see it in my local Halfords. There must be a reason that Garmin have gone back to buttons instead of touch-screen, in my view it’s not a backward step. It isn’t a phone so I don’t expect it to work like one. Unlike a phone which you have in your hand 18 or more hours a day and perform multiple types of interactions on, the GPS is a once or twice a day interaction at the most and therefore Garmin have probably conclude that normal tactile interaction and feedback you get with buttons provides a better user experience.

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      I agree John. I recently used my brother-in-law’s 500 (despite owning it for 2 years, he couldn’t work out how to add extra data fields to a page…) and I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to operate with buttons.

      Going forward (with the newer Edges), all the more sophisticated/time-consuming stuff can be edited from a phone and then synced via Bluetooth anyway. Touch screen not required…

  • Conrad says:

    Hi Andrew, see from STRTAVA that you’re sometimes back on the bike, assume you’re just not STRAVA uploading all your rides (like me ;()There just isn’t enough to make me think it’s worth changing from my current set up..
    Motorola 4g phone, cheapo Lidl heart monitor, premium membership of STRAVA, and if I really want to know where I am..I’ve got Viewranger installed too, both as mapping and tracking (so my partner can see where i am using Bubby beacon..) I think the days of the ‘standalone GPs unit..are numbered..
    Battery life, with the torch booster it’s now up to over 14 hours GPs tracking.. whats not to like/use?

    • Andrew Montgomery says:

      Conrad – the sad fact is that those are the entirety of my bike activities… I’m back working again, so going through a transition phase (I hope) where I try to work out how to fit cycling into the new para-dig-um…

  • Thanks Andrew for such an entertaining yet sage assessment of the decision confronting those who are currently very satisfied owners of a 510, of which I am also one. I now also have, as you predicted,the ‘live segments” feature via a firmware update. whilst it is a potentially useful feature, it will only work for me if I can customise the live segment page to show my lap power. as far as I can work out this isn’t possible. Not yet anyway.

  • James says:

    Nice article, Monty. I’ve been using an Edge 500 and was perfectly happy with it until I discovered it was shorting me 500 feet or so of climbing per ride. Eventually I bought a used 510 from a friend, and that fixed the altitude problem (to the chagrin of my riding partner 🙂 I don’t care for the touch screen though — I have a tendency to drip sweat when working hard, and whereas I could just wipe it off the 500, all craziness happens (obviously) when I try to do that to the 510. For cyclists like me, touch screens are A Bad Idea, and I’m not surprised they’ve been removed from the 520.

  • Steve August 17, 2015, 1:47 am

    Hello Grimpeur (thought you had gone back to Andrew?)

    I too have done research and ‘almost own’ the new 520 – ordered it yesterday from my local bike shop and was told it should leave Garmin distribution on the 24th – however there are reviews on Amazon from (mostly) happy customers.

    You covered the subject well but here are a couple of other features I discovered – it has WiFi and will notify you on screen of cell phone calls and texts (formerly just a 1000 feature) – but isn’t that part of why we ride? to get away . . . as you mentioned the Strava segments come up live and you get live feedback as to how you’re doing. Several of the features are for premium members of only I believe. Also you can take one of your rides and IF you have the proper trainer that accepts the input re-ride your ride in the dark and weary winter when there is snow . . . also if you have the Garmin camera it will link to your ride and show the data points as the trainer gears down to send you up your favorite hill.

    Will update you when I’ve got my hands on the unit and a few miles under my belt.

    You could help me out by posting on “How to Get Up to Speed Quickly with Your New Garmin” as I expect some learning curve since I’ve never owned one.

    Steve in New England USA

    • Andrew Montgomery August 30, 2015, 3:33 pm

      I’m happy with Andrew, Monty, Grimpeur….

      Thanks for the added colo(u)r Steve. How are you getting on with it?

  • John August 17, 2015, 7:12 am

    I bought the 500 as I could not wait for the 520 to appear on the shelves, I nearly bought the Touring Plus but I was disappointed with the screen resolution when I went to see it in my local Halfords. There must be a reason that Garmin have gone back to buttons instead of touch-screen, in my view it’s not a backward step. It isn’t a phone so I don’t expect it to work like one. Unlike a phone which you have in your hand 18 or more hours a day and perform multiple types of interactions on, the GPS is a once or twice a day interaction at the most and therefore Garmin have probably conclude that normal tactile interaction and feedback you get with buttons provides a better user experience.

    • Andrew Montgomery August 30, 2015, 3:31 pm

      I agree John. I recently used my brother-in-law’s 500 (despite owning it for 2 years, he couldn’t work out how to add extra data fields to a page…) and I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to operate with buttons.

      Going forward (with the newer Edges), all the more sophisticated/time-consuming stuff can be edited from a phone and then synced via Bluetooth anyway. Touch screen not required…

  • Conrad August 17, 2015, 8:36 am

    Hi Andrew, see from STRTAVA that you’re sometimes back on the bike, assume you’re just not STRAVA uploading all your rides (like me ;()There just isn’t enough to make me think it’s worth changing from my current set up..
    Motorola 4g phone, cheapo Lidl heart monitor, premium membership of STRAVA, and if I really want to know where I am..I’ve got Viewranger installed too, both as mapping and tracking (so my partner can see where i am using Bubby beacon..) I think the days of the ‘standalone GPs unit..are numbered..
    Battery life, with the torch booster it’s now up to over 14 hours GPs tracking.. whats not to like/use?

    • Andrew Montgomery August 30, 2015, 3:28 pm

      Conrad – the sad fact is that those are the entirety of my bike activities… I’m back working again, so going through a transition phase (I hope) where I try to work out how to fit cycling into the new para-dig-um…

  • Shaun Ginsbourg September 3, 2015, 1:27 pm

    Thanks Andrew for such an entertaining yet sage assessment of the decision confronting those who are currently very satisfied owners of a 510, of which I am also one. I now also have, as you predicted,the ‘live segments” feature via a firmware update. whilst it is a potentially useful feature, it will only work for me if I can customise the live segment page to show my lap power. as far as I can work out this isn’t possible. Not yet anyway.

  • James June 11, 2016, 12:35 am

    Nice article, Monty. I’ve been using an Edge 500 and was perfectly happy with it until I discovered it was shorting me 500 feet or so of climbing per ride. Eventually I bought a used 510 from a friend, and that fixed the altitude problem (to the chagrin of my riding partner 🙂 I don’t care for the touch screen though — I have a tendency to drip sweat when working hard, and whereas I could just wipe it off the 500, all craziness happens (obviously) when I try to do that to the 510. For cyclists like me, touch screens are A Bad Idea, and I’m not surprised they’ve been removed from the 520.

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