Quick Comparison: ELEMNT ROAM vs Edge 530/830

above: The Garmin Edge 830

This is not an in-depth tech review... I am not an electronics expert; someone like Ray at DC Rainmaker will do a monumentally better job at reviewing the fine details of the head units thoroughly. What this is, is a quick overview of my personal impressions of both - side by side - and why I think you may prefer one over the other.

For context, my two current head units are a SRM PC8 and a battered old Garmin 520.

The PC8 is amazing; it's a precision tool and is designed by cyclists for cyclists; everything is there, clear and legible whilst riding. But it's very expensive at £600; and doesn't do nearly as many things as the latest range of head units. For instance the GPS is slow, and it has no mapping facilities.

My Garmin 520 has been reliable; but is now getting old and the battery life is declining badly; after 4 hours it starts to die. Not good for long days out.

So I borrowed a new Garmin Edge 830 for Portugal. For the sake of this piece I will treat the Garmin 530 and 830 interchangeably; to all intents and purposes the 830 is simply a 530 with a touch screen interface instead of physical buttons.

The Edge 530 is a deeply impressive bit of kit; I barely used 10% of its features on this initial test. It's got a whole training advisor section that I ignored (as I use Training Peaks for that). The maps are fantastic, with a big clear screen and vibrant colours. The speed of the maps updating was very impressive; much quicker than Wahoo.

The feature I used most on the Portugal ride was 'Climb Pro' - which I thought would be a gimmick but I ended up absolutely loving. Basically everytime you cycle in an area that Garmin considers to be a climb (based on length and gradient criteria) it will pop up in a new screen and show you the climb distance, profile and gradient. For an area you know well its not that useful; for exploring somewhere for the first time its fantastic.

Battery life is super impressive; I used one for 13 hour rides in Portugal and it was synced to a HR monitor, powermeter and was following a 350km route. And at the end of the day it still had 30% battery charge left.

I personally preferred the 530 over the 830; I found I touched the 830 screen by mistake too often and then I was in the wrong page. This is very much a personal preference though - some people prefer the tactile feel of buttons and some can't imagine using anything without a touchscreen.

You can also sync to your Di2 shifters so that you can control the screen that way; that's very cool indeed - swapping between screens via the buttons integrated into the hoods (although you will need Shimano's Bluetooth adapter, if not already fitted).

Everything else just works; it's a very impressive bit of kit. It's probably the most well rounded head unit on the market currently.

below: The ELEMNT ROAM in action

In comparison Wahoo's ELEMNT ROAM is slightly (but only slightly) the left field choice. When the ROAM came out the initial feedback was not as universally positive as Garmin's 530/830. On a price to spec ratio the Garmin blows it out of the water.

However, what looks good on paper doesn't always work out that way in the real world. The Wahoo may have fewer features; but its user experience is (in my eyes) better.

I love how with a touch of a button you can simply increase or decrease the amount of data fields you see. I love how you set up your screens on your phone, and then it syncs onto the Element in real time. Importing routes is easier on the Wahoo as well; it immediately syncs with things like RideWithGPS, Komoot or Strava. With the Garmin you need to get the relevant IQ app first.

I am a total tech Luddite, yet I was able to create a route on my iPad and then see it on the ELEMNT ROAM 30 seconds later; it's so easy. I also love how the Roam uses its lights at the top of the unit to indicate turns; and it flashes bright red when you are off course

The downside to the ROAM is the maps look very dull in comparison to the Garmin. It is in colour, but the richness and contrast are poor versus the quality of the Garmin's screen.

Overall I honestly don't think there is a loser here. The Garmins are probably the safest choice; they are the dominant player in this field and the new 530/830 are an absolute technical tour de force.

The Wahoo has fewer features; but given I don't use half the Garmin's capabilities anyway I appreciate the clarity and ease of the Wahoo user experience more. Being greedy - if the ROAM just had an equivalent of the Garmin's ClimbPro it would be the best of both worlds!

Ultimately your choice will come down to personal preference; do you crave every last bit of data or is ease of use your priority? Either system will give you accurate and reliable info.

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