- Garmin Edge 705 GPS bike computer
- £359.95 (including GB Topo mapping); GSC10 speed/cadence sensor £41.99
Garmin’s first foray into bike-specific GPS units, the Edge 205/305, were well-received but pitched very firmly at the “training aid” market and lacking a bit for navigation use. Meanwhile, the company also produced a bunch of outdoor-oriented GPS receivers that packed to the gills with navigational features. Which brings us the the Edge 705, which essentially combines the two.
The unit closely resembles the Edge 305, only about 20% bigger. It’s also had a bit of a button revision, with the 305’s up/down/enter buttons replaced with a zoom in, zoom out and menu button and a little joystick doofer added to the front. This is to better deal with maps, which is the 705’s main new trick. In common with other units in Garmin’s range, the 705 now packs a full-colour screen and can display something resembling a proper map, with contour lines and everything. The maps are stored on a MicroSD card that slots into the base of the unit – pre-loaded cards are available.
The mapping is Garmin’s own GB Topo data, which has the advantage of being vector-based and therefore not taking up too much room on the card, but lacks detail compared to good old OS mapping. In particular, it hasn’t got rights-of-way on it – bridleways might show up if they’re a substantial track, but you can’t rely on it. That said, with minor roads, contour lines and streams there’s usually enough information to relate what you see on the screen to what you see in real life.
The downside of the supplied maps being on a MicroSD card is that they’re not on your PC, so Garmin’s Training Centre software doesn’t show you your rides on a worthwhile map. You can get them into the likes of Memory-Map, though (some software updating may be necessary). Garmin’s own GarminConnect website uses Google Maps, which is fine for road stuff but less so for off-road.
Various options and bundles are available, but if you want the Topo mapping (and if you want to make full use of the nagivational features, you will) then it’s a lot cheaper to get the bundle than to buy the maps separately – as upgrades the MicroSD cards with mapping on are £62 a pop and they only cover a third of the country each.
Also tucked away inside the case is a barometric altimeter, giving a more accurate measure of elevation gain/loss than using the GPS signals. The cheaper 605 lacks this feature, and also won’t talk to various add-on gizmos. The 705 comes with an HRM, and you can add a wireless wheel speed/cadence sensor. It’ll even talk to some brands of power-measuring hub, if you’re really taking your training seriously.
The actual GPS functionality works a treat, locking on quickly and hanging on to a signal even under tree cover and often indoors too. You get two bike mounts, which work either on the bars or on the stem – given the size of the unit, the stem mount is probably a better bet.
Many 305 users found battery life an issue – it claimed 12 hours, but 9 or 10 wasn’t uncommon. The 705 claims 15 hours on a full charge, and reports from the field indicate that that’s fairly realistic. It certainly lasts long enough to run out of logging space – Garmin recommends a timer reset ever 12 hours, which has the effect of storing the current log in internal memory so you can get another 12 hours of data in.
For road rides, there’s full routing capability – tell it where you want to go, tell it you’re riding a bike and to avoid main roads where possible and it’ll figure out a route for you and supply turn-by-turn directions. You can even use it as a car satnav if you want (you’ll probably want to turn the bike mode off, though). Bear in mind that you’ll need extra mapping to do this – the built-in basemap covers all of Europe but only to A-road level.
Of course, that kind of thing doesn’t work for off-road rides, as no routable right-of-way dataset yet exists. However, the 705 appears on your PC as a removable drive that you can drop GPX files into, so if you’ve got Memory-Map/Tracklogs/Anquet or similar you can get tracks on to the unit that way. Cunningly, you can transfer data between two 705 units wirelessly, which is potentially useful for sharing routes around between members of your group.
It’s undoubtedly an impressive bit of kit with a mind-boggling array of features. But that strength is also a weakness. The Edge 705 is one of those gadgets that you’re sure will do what you want it to do, but actually getting it to do it is likely to take a while to figure out. All the obvious stuff is, well, obvious, but move beyond the basics and be prepared to do a fair bit of manual browsing and Googling. You don’t actually get a manual, though, just a quick-start guide – the manual resides on the Garmin web site as a PDF and runs to 76 pages.
We have to say that we found ourselves wondering what it’s all for, coming from a recreational MTBing approach. For serious training and road riding we can see the benefits, but it’s an awful lot of money and quite a lot of fiddling around with various bits of software to get the full navigational experience.
Positives: Every feature you could possibly imagine, good battery life, clear screen
Negatives: Expensive, potentially bewildering, mapping not a patch on OS stuff
This is one of those products for which value for money is highly subjective. Let’s be honest, you have to be almost pathologically interested in stats to get the most out of a 705. If you just want to know how far and fast you’ve gone, a simple bike computer will be cheaper. If you want to monitor your efforts, a simple HRM will be cheaper. For navigating, a map is way cheaper (particularly since you’ll need one of those too anyway). And if you just want to log your rides, other, cheaper, GPSes will do that too. But if you want one compact, lightweight, self-contained unit to do the lot and more besides, the Edge 705 is for you. It works very well and the unit itself is surprisingly easy to use given the feature set, but all the supplementary software needs polish.