If you're looking for a compact cycle computer packed with training features as well as turn by turn navigation, it's hard to look past the Garmin Edge 520 Plus. With a colour display and loads of connective features, it's an all-round winner - even if the battery life could be better.
Packed with training tools
Useful navigation features
Bright colour display
Dependable button controls
Battery life could be better
As a long-time user of the old 510 before it finally quit on me after years of faithful (but sometimes frustrating) service, the chance of testing a slim-lined update of this well proportioned Garmin Edge 520 Plus surely couldn’t disappoint.
The first satisfaction was the removal of a touch screen. One occasional problem with the 510 was the sporadic glitches of the touch screen and after the issues surrounding the 820 screen, I was happy to see the future (in this case) was button controlled.
Setup on the Garmin Edge 520 Plus will be familiar to Garmin users. It’s all done on the computer itself (not through an app like Wahoo or Lezyne) and is quite straightforward in guiding you through and getting you going.
Touch screens were somewhat useful when setting up training pages with multiple fields, with buttons taking a bit longer to organise these screens. Still, the seven-button setup on the 520 Plus just felt dependable and easier to use when out on the bike, particularly in the cold winter days with gloves on when you might want to switch between pages.
The 520 Plus is no different to other Garmin computers, and comes with more data fields than anyone could want for. Everything you could need to know about your speed, time, elevation and distance is available, and for those taking training more seriously with a heart rate monitor and power meter, again there are a wide variety of data fields for you to choose from. Moreover, the 520 Plus features V02 max, recovery and FTP monitoring should you want to track those.
This what we’ve come to expect from Garmin though, and plethora of data fields wasn’t what impressed me most about the 520 Plus.
What separates the Garmin Edge 520 Plus from the standard 520 is the navigation features, which are a real step-up for one of Garmin’s lower priced units. The 520 Plus features a great turn-by-turn navigation feature with preloaded routes, perfect for new training routes or for just getting from A to B.
If you’re looking for something to guide you through the wilderness or some touring, you’re better off looking at one of the more purpose built devices for navigation. But the 520 Plus comes loaded with Garmin Cycle Maps, which means while you can’t plot a route on the fly, it can reroute you back to your pre-loaded course if you go the wrong way.
The bright colour display also helps with mapping, and is much more user friendly than basemaps on a colourless display.
Battery life is claimed to be up to 15 hours on the 520 Plus. I definitely found I didn’t get that close to this and I needed to charge it a lot more often than the more basic computers, particularly when using mapping and connecting it to my phone via Bluetooth, but it could be the price you pay for having high-end features in a smaller unit.
Turning off connectivity features and lowering the screen brightness can see it cling on to life for a bit longer if you’re running low, but it generally required me to be more attentive to charging it regularly than compared to the 1030.
As well as automatic upload to Garmin Connect, the 520 Plus can also display messages and calls from your phone if you leave it connected via Bluetooth. I found this occasionally useful if I missed a phone call to see who’d rung, but if you’re a user of Whatsapp over text messages, you won’t get those displayed on screen.
At £199.99, the Garmin Edge 520 Plus is not cheap, but is like for like with its main rival, the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt.
It’s still a big investment, but at half the price of the 1030 it should satisfy those looking for a training tool with decent navigation in a compact package.
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Follow on Twitter: @richwindy
Richard is digital editor of Cycling Weekly. Joining the team in 2013, Richard became editor of the website in 2014 and coordinates site content and strategy, leading the news team in coverage of the world's biggest races and working with the tech editor to deliver comprehensive buying guides, reviews, and the latest product news.
An occasional racer, Richard spends most of his time preparing for long-distance touring rides these days, or getting out to the Surrey Hills on the weekend on his Specialized Tarmac SL6 (with an obligatory pub stop of course).
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