Highs:

  • Large, easy to use touch screen
  • Seamless integration with peripherals and cloud features
  • Connect IQ App Eco system allow third party (Strava, TrainingPeak) integration
  • Excellent turn by turn navigation options

Lows:

  • Price is high, though unit is feature packed
  • Depending on your set up, maybe difficult to fit on some aerobars

Buy it if: You are a data junkie and want the best in navigation.

Garmin released the Edge 1030, their latest flagship GPS head unit, at Eurobike this year. I’ve had one and been testing it since the launch. After two months of near daily use, I can confidently say the new Garmin Edge 1030 is without doubt the most fully featured GPS head unit today, improving on the outgoing Edge 1000 in substantial ways.

Bigger and better touch screen

At first glance, the most noticeable change compared to the previous Edge 1000, are the buttons (start/stop and lap) have been moved off the face onto the bottom edge of the device. This change was made to accommodate a larger (now 3.5”) touch screen while keeping the form factor the same. This does make the buttons slightly more awkward to use, but it is a worthwhile tradeoff as this is the best touch screen yet from Garmin. The extra real estate is of particular benefit when in navigation mode — maps and routes are clear and easy to follow on the new screen, combined with auditory cues, the Edge 1030 makes it easy to stay focused on the road even when following an unfamiliar route.

Even when on familiar routes, in training mode, I found the new larger screen to be a nice feature. I set mine up with a “home” page for general riding, with standard metrics like HR, 30 sec power, speed, cadence, etc. But it was also nice to set up a dedicated power page with the appropriate metrics (lap pwr, 3, 30sec pwr, NP, cadence, lap time, HR, etc) for intervals, another for distance/elevation. Depending on what I want to see, it was all just a quick swipe away.

As good as the screen on the 1030 is, it is not as quick and responsive as your smart phone, so temper your expectations accordingly. Of course, your smart phone won’t work very well in the rain or with gloved hands either, unlike the Edge 1030. One down side of the large screen and overall size of the Edge 1030, is that those with very narrow aerobar set-ups, may have trouble getting the 1030 to fit. Especially when paired with aerobar hydration set ups. However those of you with horizontal bottle systems should be able to fit the 1030 on top, with the appropriate mount.

The touch screen was especially useful with initial set-up. The 1030 was markedly easier to set up with all the fields I wanted, to pair with powermeters, and HR straps, when compared to a strictly button based interface like that found on the Edge 520.

Designed for workouts

With the rising popularity of smart trainers, it is imperative that modern head units work with them. Fortunately, the Edge 1030 falls into this category, it is fully ANT+FEC enabled, which allows you to control resistance on units like the Wahoo Kickr and Cycleops Hammer, either on the fly, or via a preprogrammed workout. However this is a feature that are now available on many of the latest GPS computers in the market. Where the magic happens with the Edge 1030 is when it is combined with the TrainingPeaks App, which comes preloaded from the Garmin Connect IQ store. Once you’ve link the app with your account (assuming you use TrainingPeaks), the 1030 will automatically download your workout of the day, complete with power numbers and interval duration, to control your smart trainer. When the workout is done, the 1030 will automatically upload (via Wifi or Bluetooth) the data to Garmin Connect, TrainingPeaks and Strava. It is this seamless integration that I found most compelling about the 1030. Jumping on my bike and having the workout already loaded, set to control my Cycleops Hammer through the various intervals, and then having my completed workout data upload on its own to the cloud is the kind of feature that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but once experienced, makes plugging in a cord to download seem archaic in comparison.

Easy connectivity

In addition to automatic download and upload of workouts, our Edge 1030 test unit also paired easily with a wide variety of HR straps, speed/cadence sensors, and power meters. Once paired, the 1030 easily detected any sensors within range, making it simple to swap between different bikes with different set ups. Same with my phone, it was easy to pair and receive text messages on the 1030, which lets me decide whether I want to stop and respond to a text alert or ignore and continue with my ride without pausing. One new feature that I was very excited about is the pre-written response function, which allows one to have a small selection of pre-written replies stored on the 1030, available for responding to incoming text or other 1030 users. Messages such as, “I am going to be home late”, “10 minutes away, wait for me” or “I got a flat”, etc. Unfortunately this feature is for Android users only, not available for iphone at this time, which precluded me from testing it out. I hope that Garmin will bring this feature to iphone users soon.

Plenty of navigation options

One of the calling cards of the Edge 1000 are the navigation features, which continues to be a big focus for the 1030. In addition to the traditional method of creating a course map and downloading via Garmin Connect, Garmin has introduced Trendline Mapping to the Edge 1030. Essentially generating route maps via crowd sourcing, the Trendline Mapping allows users to input a ride distance, and then the 1030 will generate three route options, built based on the most frequently used roads and paths from millions of files uploaded to Garmin Connect. In use, I found Trendline Mapping to be an interesting feature that worked passably well, it took me on some roads out of the city that I don’t normally use. However, it also took me on some main roads that were busier than I’d prefer, possibly because while I was testing this particular feature, I was riding later in the day than most, on routes that would be empty in the early mornings. Trendline also seems to favour multi-use paths, that would be ok when riding solo relatively slowly; but not when head down, going fast in aero, and definitely not when riding in groups. Overall, I would say that Trendline is an interesting feature when traveling in new places, or if you are bored of your usual routes, but not something that I see most triathletes using regularly.

The new Strava integration on the other hand, is an excellent new addition to the 1030’s menu of navigation options. Once your Strava account has been linked, the 1030 will automatically download any course you’ve created on Strava every time it syncs, which with Bluetooth linked to your phone, is basically every time it is turned on. This makes it easy to use Strava’s excellent course creation engine, including their heat maps, to create a route, or just download someone else’s route. And have a seamless and straight forward method to transfer the course you’ve just created.

Gamin’s new Edge 1030 is without doubt the most fully featured GPS head unit today. Compatible with a full suite of external sensors, equipped with extensive navigation and training options, the edge 1030 will satisfy even the most demanding of data geeks. Impressively though, Garmin has managed to fit it all into a pretty user friendly package. The new Edge 1030 owners will want for nothing when it comes to their GPS head unit.

The Garmin Edge 1030 retails for $780, while the Edge 1030 Bundle (include HR strap, speed and cadence sensor) is $900.