There are few companies I struggle with more than Garmin. In my past experiences with the brand, its customer service left much to be desired. And while its computers worked fine, they only seemed to do so until new replacements came out. Whereupon, the now superseded products would develop minor quirks that would gently encourage riders like myself to upgrade to whatever was newest and coolest in Garmin's line-up. So you won't be surprised that for the past few years, I've ridden with Wahoo.
Recently, a friend who now works for Garmin encouraged me to try the new Edge 840 Solar. Knowing my experience with the brand, he said, "Ben, just try it and see what you think." After some verbal sparring, he finally coerced me to ride it and write this review, even if the conclusion was that I hated it.
I'm not a tech guy, and fortunately, there are plenty of high-quality articles for people who want to dig into the various data screens, training modes and deep technological wonders that the new Garmin 540, 840 and 1040 computers offer. Instead, I'll focus on what points of the new Garmin Edge 840 Solar stood out and made a lasting impression. So consider this a tech highlight for dummies (like myself).
First and foremost, and to my complete surprise, the 840 Solar is pretty easy to set up. Just download the Garmin Connect App, set up a profile, pair it with your head unit and follow the numerous prompts to get your bike/sensors/computer screens all set up to your desired preferences. No drama. The whole experience feels much more like Wahoo now, with a predominantly app-based computer interface setup that I prefer.
However, one slight point of friction is that if you don't have experience with how the Garmin button haptics work, the combination of buttons/touch screen/app features takes a bit of practice to master. Also, it's worth noting that the app needs WiFi to work best, so set it up at home or somewhere with a WiFi hotspot for a smooth ride. That said, the app works, which is positive as not all bicycle-related apps can claim to do so consistently (I'm looking at you, SRAM AXS app).
The Solar's screen is a nice size which has led many other riders to ask what computer I'm using based solely on dimensions. Its brightness is sufficient to make everything clear and legible in the shade or the sun, although I could do with a touch more brightness. Ironically, I like the brightness on the non-solar Edge 840, which is presumably a touch brighter because it doesn't have a layer of solar panels behind the screen. So if you're a stickler for screen brightness and are better at charging your toys than I am, get the regular 840. You'll save $100 in the process too!
But for those eager to know if the Solar part of the 840 is worth it, I can reply with a resounding yes. During my time with the unit, I got around 45-50 additional solar-powered minutes of runtime per week. Given that most of my rides end up in the 1:15-2:30 realm, that's a sizeable slice of sun power.
Away from the Edge 840 Solar's big-ticket items, my favorite feature is Garmin's revamped Climb Pro screen. To give credit where it's due, Climb Pro bears a passing resemblance to what Hammerhead has been running for a while, and I love it. As you approach a climb, the Edge 840 already knows it's coming and pulls up the complete elevation mapping, associated efforts, gradient percentages, etc., in an easy-to-understand climb screen. It reminds me not to burn too many matches and to save some energy for more challenging parts of the pending climb. I like that.
Garmin's Climb Pro feature has some miles on the clock, but in its latest iteration, the tech doesn't require any preplanning on the rider's part, which is great because I can barely remember to tighten my Boas before departing on a ride. The fact that Climb Pro does its thing automatically, without having to change screens, make previous mapping plans and/or prompt it in any way makes me very happy indeed.
Between the ease of use of Garmin's Connect app, the solar panels funnelling in extra juice as I ride, and the glorious updated Climb Pro, I'm starting to change my opinion of Garmin. The head unit works brilliantly, the information it so easily displays is valuable, and everything feels effortless to navigate in every sense of the word. It pains me to write this, but it feels like Garmin finally gives a damn. Opinion changed.