Garmin Edge 510 Versus Wahoo RFLKT – Accuracy, Reliability – Who Wins?

First, anybody who thinks an iPhone can replace a high quality GPS bike computer like the Garmin Edge 510 is just plain wrong. I’m not going to sugar coat it, just present the truth and the facts. There is no way, unless iPhone decides to add a barometric altimeter and more accurate GPS hardware that they will ever create as accurate maps as the Garmin Edge 510.

There is a significant difference in display quality between these two different bike computer options.

There is a significant difference in display quality between these two different bike computer options.

Here are the 9 big reasons why an iPhone, either connected to a Bluetooth Smart head unit, like the Wahoo RFLKT, or used separately, will never be as good as a Garmin Edge 510:
1.) Size – Plain and simple an Edge 510 on it’s own is much smaller than any iPhone and head unit combination, including the new Wahoo RFLKT.
2.) Mounting – iPhone mounted as a bike computer on the handlebars is just too big. Yes, the new RFLKT is not so big but you still have to put the iPhone some where.
3.) Barometric Altimeter – A barometric altimeter calculates much more accurate on-board altitudes. This allows GPS to calculate much more accurate maps too, so it sort of goes hand-in-glove with the next item.


4.) Accuracy (Mapping) – in side by side tests the maps produced by the iPhone are much less accurate than anything produced by Garmin Edge 510, or any Garmin GPS product for that matter.
5.) IPX7 Waterproof and Weather Resistance – While the new Wahoo RFLKT head unit is IPX7 your iPhone is not and it doesn’t like high heat or other radical weather changes either. This begs the question, “Where are you going to put it and what are you going to put it in?”.

If iPhone had wanted to get into the GPS market it would have built a GPS, but they decided to build a phone

If iPhone had wanted to get into the GPS market it would have built a GPS, but they decided to build a phone

6.) Touchscreen Navigation – The touchscreen navigation on the Garmin Edge 510 and Edge 810 is far more preferable to the button driven navigation of the Wahoo RFLKT.
7.) Battery Life – Put your iPhone in GPS mode and its battery is toast within under 2 hours. Auxiliary batteries and lots of spare batteries are expensive and heavy. Compare this to Garmin Edge 510 and 810 going 16 plus hour in GPS mode and there is no comparison. “Bottom line if Apple wanted to get into the GPS business they wouldn’t have built a phone, they would have built a GPS and a maps data base”, says Rusty.
8.) Screen Display Quality – The screen display quality of the Garmin Edge 510 and Edge 810 is vastly superior and labels the values. I much prefer word driven labeling saying “heart rate” as opposed to a little symbol I can barely recognize.

9.) Level of Software Quality – While there are some excellent third party softwares out there, like Strava, very few, if any apps, come within a country mile of the quality of Garmin Connect. It’s just a fact, because multi-billion corporations generally have more money to invest than some guy working out of his garage. Don’t get us wrong we love Steve Jobs and are all for the guys who start out of their garages – its the American way.

Now we don’t want to just tell you want we don’t like about Wahoo RFLKT without being objective by telling you what we do like, which is the price of $129 when compared to the Garmin Edge 510 at $329. $200 bucks is serious “clam action”, so the level of improvements have to add up to value in the eyes of the buyer.

What each person will need to determine is whether they withstand the level of compromise highlighted above just to save money. It’s a lot of compromise and we don’t know many serious cyclists that would make it but 90% of the cycling population are not serious cyclists. For this reason we still think there will be a big market for the Wahoo RFLKT.

We mention all this because the level of compromise is serious if you start looking at things like battery life in GPS mode. If you never need maps and can withstand sensor driven bike computers that offer up heart rate, speed and distance from sensors and can forgo using GPS mode on your iPhone then the Wahoo RFLKT can much more easily be rationalized because all the other short comings on the list above can more easily be rationalized away.

–Rusty Squire, rsquire@heartratewatchcompany.com

This entry was posted in Garmin, iPhone, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Garmin Edge 510 Versus Wahoo RFLKT – Accuracy, Reliability – Who Wins?

  1. Patrick Bolton says:

    I’ve been using the Wahoo Fitness system since its inception. It is head and shoulders above Garmin. I now own the RFLKT and keep my iPhone in my Jersey pocket. I can ride for 5 hours, with GPS on, and have 20% battery life remaining. They key to doing this is to turn off WiFi.
    One more thing, with the Garmin, you are stuck with the software that is on it, with an iPhone you can pick from a wealth of different applications. This alone is reason enough to stop using Garmin products.

    • hrwcblog says:

      Dear Patrick,

      When did you test a Garmin 510, please let us know?

      In our opinion Garmin’s on board software is very customizable and allows for very specific screen customizations. I guess I’m curious why I haven’t seen anyone in the pro peloton following your lead if it is such a great device? I’ve found very few app developers, besides Strava, that anyone on our sponsored team will use.

      The new RFLKT for someone on a budget is fine but it is completely network dependent unless you just want sensory data.

      Happy riding,
      Rusty

  2. great review i am debating right now also throwing in a garmin 200 which is very low on the feature set but very close price wise. I have been running iphone only for quite a while and would like to run both just for redundancy and i have a longer 3 day tour that i am doing looking at batteries and such. also the fact that the rflkt doesnt have a backlight is a deal breaker for me as i ride almost exclusively at night I would add the lack of backlight on your lists of negatives.

  3. rene says:

    i’m going to ditch all my other stuff for Wahoo. RFLKT kicks ass

    • hrwcblog says:

      I’m curious, how well does the Wahoo RFLKT work when the phone network goes out of range? The answer is it doesn’t. This explains why nobody in the pro peloton uses them, that and a much lower screen quality.

      It’s cheap true, but as you’ll find out the next time you ride anywhere that wireless network coverage gets lost – you get what you pay for. :)

      –Rusty

  4. Daniel Philipps says:

    Hm its okey to do an review, but i feel you dont tell the truth.

    Quote: Put your iPhone in GPS mode and its battery is toast within under 2 hours.

    Can you then tell me how i could to a ride for 7 hours with my Wahoo RFLKT, Blue HR, Blue SC and my iPhone 5? And i think you also know that iPhone 5 has terrible battery. So please stop with the lies.

    Here is the link to my 7 hours ride: http://www.strava.com/activities/56436815

    All you need todo, is to turn off mobile network(The LTE/3G,you can still get phone calls and sms) and turn off Wifi.

    This setup with Wahoo Fitness and iPhone works like a charm! you just have to learn use it.

    • hrwcblog says:

      Sure you can ride for 7 hours if all your running is an app, that’s cake, now turn on your maps and try riding for 7 hours – it ain’t going to happen without auxiliary power supply.

  5. Daniel Philipps says:

    Thats an hole other thing:) then my question is, why do you need a map to follow? i’m just curious.
    Maybe i have lost some essential to my bike rides.

    • hrwcblog says:

      People that ride on unfamiliar rides in a foreign country or region. The turn-by-turn, like in the Garmin Edge 810 or 800 is simply phenomenal for this and you don’t get lost.

      I have used it myself on my Garmin Edge 810 with a Topo SD card mountain biking. All upcoming trails show up right on the screen. This is also a phenomenal technology for MTB.

      Now these aren’t part of the core metrics – i.e. speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, power, etc., but given the right applications of unfamiliar rides or MTB it is very nice to have. I just advance through the various screen displays on my Garmin Edge 800’s touchscreen and maps, Virtual Partner pacing, multiple metric screens and a host of data appear.

      –Rusty

  6. cmgrote says:

    As others point out, for all the claims in the article, I see no quantified substantiation or examples. I’ve used Wahoo without RFLKT for more than a year, and now a Garmin for more than a year. The only advantage to the Garmin is battery life. The device itself, the software, and Garmin’s website are absolutely horrible. I also really don’t understand your point (9): Apple is a multi-billion dollar company, Garmin is not. Perhaps you’re referring to the independent developers supporting the iPhone with additional software? I’d have to say Apple really trumps here as well, by actually supporting a huge community of independent developers (App Store), while Garmin does not. I might like Garmin far more if I had the wealth of apps like Strava, Cyclemeter, etc that I could use with it, rather than only Garmin’s own proprietary (and incredibly buggy) Connect app. In terms of software quality, Apple is millennia ahead of Garmin.

    Examples:

    – Device: Garmin released a firmware upgrade that in theory added turn-by-turn navigation. In reality, the device tells you to turn constantly, so you see no map whatsoever and just have a device that beeps at you every 2 seconds and flashes random colours. I almost tore it off my bike and threw it away it so destroyed the quality of the ride in just its non-stop beeping alone. Of course, since it spent all its time flashing “turn right”, “go north”, etc you never saw the map — it became unusable, and Garmin did not provide any way to rollback the firmware. They then took more than 1 month to fix the problem and release basically a rollback to the old firmware. Talk about ridiculous customer service… (Have a quick search of their own forum for the issue.)

    – Website: there is no way to import or export routes, even using the standard GPX format that every other mapping website in the world uses. You have a route you want to use from another site? Great, redraw it by hand on the Garmin website. Want to take a route you mapped on the Garmin website, copy it into a new route and make some modifications? Forget it, you need to redraw the entire route again with your modifications. Or modify the existing route, and lose the original. Then after you go to all this trouble, and build up a set of more than 20 routes, try searching your routes. The website basically times out and maybe 15% of the time actually comes back with an answer to your search. Absolutely useless.

    – Accuracy: I upload my routes to a variety of websites, including Garmin and Strava. Strava automatically corrects mileage based on their database of roads, and I’ve seen my route out by as much as 10% on Garmin (nearly 10 miles on a 60 mile route). I also commute almost daily with the device, taking the exact same route, and never get the same mileage from the device (in a 5 mile commute it ranges by +/- 0.50 miles every time). The variance from the iPhone is less, and never in the ballpark of 10 miles out in a 60-mile ride. Also the altitude gauge is a joke. I can ride 20 laps of the same 5K loop and never get the same altitude reading from one lap to the next. It simply does not work. Same for the temperature gauge.

    The sad truth is that for battery life and having a map (breadcrumb trail, at least) to follow there isn’t really a choice other than Garmin. But that doesn’t mean the Garmin is great — it’s not. It is a very disappointing device. If there were any viable alternatives I’d certainly recommend trying them. Personally I’m looking for any way to avoid all Garmin software and just use the device as a basic navigation aid, and GPS recording that’s corrected later by the likes of Strava. This would be much easier if they actually supported any independence in terms of software, but they don’t!

    • hrwcblog says:

      Boy, I’m not sure where you are getting your information. WE have tested these products multiple times in parallel tests and Garmin’s have always been very highly accurate on distance. In fact we find quite the opposite with phones as the distance is highly inaccurate.

      I had a Sprint engineer explain to me why this was and he said that the quality of GPS componentry used in the phones (chipsets, etc.) was no where near the quality of Garmin and he used to work for Garmin. As he said, the phone companies prioritize functions like voice and data when it comes to selecting components and when they are done there just isn’t room for really high quality GPS. He’s worked on both sides of it and his observations very closely parallel out testing.

      I agree on the Garmin Connect software not being everything it could be, which is why most of the members of our cycling team export to Strava.

      –Rusty

      • Throw a speed cadence sensor in there and both devices are equal on accuracy. Why are any of you folks using the GPS for speed and distance and trying to argue ACCURACY. It’s a silly argument.

      • hrwcblog says:

        Obviously you haven’t talked to any hardware engineers for the phone companies or performed any wheel measured distance tests. Phones are not as accurate, period. They do not prioritize GPS accuracy but rather other factors like voice, video, cameras and other stuff. If Apple was trying to build a bike computer it would significantly change its components.

  7. Ells says:

    As I read through the article I got an uneasy feeling that the author had an agenda and was being less than objective. So this came as no surprise..

    “Just an FYI – we no longer carry Wahoo because we did not care for the company’s business practices.”

    I guess thats where web site customer reviews become important, as when genuine they don’t suffer from the same bias you exhibit.

    Anyway whatever, I will make my own mind up based on a variety of opinions. One question though, why do you press the issue of the ‘pro peloton’ not using them? When I go cycling I always take a phone (which happens to be an iPhone) with me incase I get into difficulty in the middle of nowhere. The ‘pro peloton’ don’t generally need to take a phone what with all the helicopters, camera crews, team cars, neutral support vehicles, medical staff and the odd bloke dressed up as the devil at the side of the road, maybe thats got something to do with it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s