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Friday, July 30, 2010

Equipment Review: Garmin Edge 705

I borrowed a Garmin Edge 705 Bicycle GPS from Roberto for this trip. Like my 76CSx, this is a navigational unit, capable of dynamic routing, displaying maps, and rerouting even if you do turn off the designated route. The big changes are: the lack of replaceable AAs, and the smaller package and lightweight, since the 705 does not need to float, unlike the marine unit.

The internal battery posed no problems, since we could recharged every night. The charging indicator was clearly not designed for color blind people, but you could always leave it plugged in overnight. The lighter weight was nothing to complain about, but resulted in a poorer user interface. The "find" button, for instance, no longer existed, and was a pain. I was annoyed by the "Start/Stop" button as well, since the 76CSx never needed me to tell it to start recording tracks. It just did so no matter what. There were a few times when I stopped it and forgot to restart it, and would have lost data no matter what.

Daily use as a bike computer was not a problem. However, using it as a navigational unit posed several challenges. First of all, it was very slow to read the SD card. Roberto inserted a 4GB SD card into the device, and downloaded just about 500MB of maps into it, plus about 20 of my routes. Despite that small size, it still had a tough time displaying all the routes from the SD card, and would occasionally hang while trying to pick up a pre-planned route. It could be that the device cannot read SDHC cards, while my older 76CSx only accepted SD cards of 2GB or less. It seems that if that's a problem the right solution would be not to accept SDHC cards in the first place.

The navigation screen has a very nice feature, which is that in all the Find Places dialogue boxes, there was also the ability to spell out the name, rather than only select from a list of cities within 15km. I loved this feature, as it allowed for long range dynamic routing without having to stop as frequently to reprogram the unit. If I could pay $50 to upgrade my 76CSx to have this feature I would.

To make up for that nice feature, the unit appears to be much slower than my 76CSx. Rerouting could take 10-20 minutes in many cases. The 76CSx would generally not take more than about 10 minutes. The screen was also much harder to read in bright sunlight, indicating that the brightness of the screen had been dialed down, probably to avoid straining the lithium ion battery.

By far the biggest problem with the unit was that it corrupted its own boot sector while touring, and that's unacceptable. Between the unreliability, the poor user interface, lousy screen and the slowness of the computer, I cannot recommend the Edge 705 for a bicycle tourist. Needless to say, I will not be "upgrading" from my 76CSx to this unit in the near future.


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