In this post I compare a bunch of bike GPSes in the faint hope that you’ll find it useful. Or entertaining. Ideally both.
I’ve decided to focus on touchscreen bike computers that cost between £350 and £400, which seems like a reasonable amount for a somewhat enthusiastic road cyclist to spend on a GPS.
The velo-military-industrial complex doesn’t make it easy for ickle bee-loggers to put bike computers into neat little price boxes.
To find enough devices to compare, I’ve had to include one that’s above my arbitrary price range, albeit often on sale at a discount, and another that’s well below it. Plus I’ve thrown in one without a touchscreen.
So frankly it’s all gone to sh..
So Who (Or What) Have We Invited For Our GPS Battle Royale?
In short, we have:
- the Garmin
Edge 1030 Plus;
- the Hammerhead Karoo 2;
- and the Bryton Rider S500.
And the non-touchscreen wild card is my old favourite, the
Why not the new Edge 1040, whither solar-powered one or the conventional petrol engine version?
In short, too expensive.
Even with the vast wealth generated by the Sportive Cyclist web empire, I cannot bring myself to drop over half a million pounds to buy one.
As I say, and of course your mileage may vary, £350–400 is an almost justifiable amount to spend on a decent quality touchscreen device with a well-designed UI.
Wait? There’s A Video Version Of This Post?
Of course there is…
So How’s This Going To Work?
You’d think I would design some neat criteria around which to structure this comparison. You’d think wrong.
I’m going to go on feelz and just say stuff: what I like about each device, any negatives, and what type of rider each one might suit.
If any of these bike computers tweak your desire nuts, I trust you to use Google to find out the dirty details. And to do some further research…
For the record:
- I’m not a professional reviewer – I make no claim to be comprehensive and accurate; and
- I bought all of these bike computers, other than the Bryton one, with my own cash money.
I’ll let you work out whether this post is biased in favour of the Bryton Rider S500…
So, let’s get ready to rumble, starting with the…
Straight out of the box, I liked this bike computer. In the two years I’ve owned it, my view hasn’t changed.
It’s compact on the handlebars but has a good-sized screen. The touchscreen has always worked well for me.
It supports all the sensors you’ll realistically be using and integrates nicely with Strava, both for segments and routes created on that platform.
There’s not a lot to dislike about the
It does have one of the smaller screens of the computers on test. If your tippity top priority is navigation, this might be limiting as you scooch around the map. But I came to the 830 having owned the Edge 530 and similar size non-touchscreen devices, so I’ve not felt this limitation, even after having used larger screen devices.
(Here’s the comparison of the Edge 830 and 530, in case you’re interested.)
I guess there is a risk with the 830 that it will be superseded in 2023. Without any insider knowledge whatsoever, it feels like a replacement, let’s be crazy and call it the 840, could arrive in the spring. Maybe it’ll get solar power and an updated UI, in line with the 1040.
But even if it does, the core feature set and usefulness to you as a rider probably won’t change a great deal. And the fact the 830 has been around for a few years now makes it easier to pick one up at a discounted price.
A powerful bike GPS with full on-board mapping. The touchscreen is responsive and works well, both in the map screen and for moving around the menus. Excellent training and safety features.
Edge 1030 Plus
The 1030 Plus has all the -ware, whether hard or soft, that is present on the
As a result, it’s objectively better for navigation. The feature itself is pretty much identical but the larger display means more map can be shown on the screen without having to zoom out and lose detail. Who doesn’t love more map?
The bigger screen also allows more features to be presented in one place, on the front screen say, rather than one or two taps away, hidden away in another menu. So there’s a slight – very slight – usability benefit over the
Like the 830, the screen is somewhat reflective in bright conditions. Not a particular issue in isolation … until you’ve experience the beautiful matte screen on the Karoo 2. But we’re goosing the shark a little early with mention of the Karoo, so I’ll move on.
The main difference in software feature terms is that, for the 1030 Plus, Daily Suggested Workouts is added to Garmin’s already full training tackle box.
Whilst quite interesting as an idea, being able to outsource your training to the whims, sorry, complex algorithms of a bike computer, Daily Suggested Workouts doesn’t feel like the ‘must have’ feature that compels you towards the 1030 Plus.
I managed to pick up the
High spec bike GPS with large colour touchscreen and super fast processor. Similar features to the 830 (i.e. lots of sophisticated ones) - the larger screen makes them easier to use.
Hammerhead Karoo 2
Other than just using your smartphone, the Hammerhead Karoo 2 is the only higher end alternative to Garmin in the touchscreen GPS ‘space’.
I only started using it in the past few months but I really like it.
As mentioned, the screen is beautiful. It’s matte rather than shiny reflective. Colours are bright and, er, colourful. Overall it’s very easy to read, both on and off the handlebar.
The touchscreen, in terms of responsiveness, is similar to Garmin. Garmins. The Karoo also feels similar in terms of speed and brain power.
To my eyes, and fiddly fingers, the Karoo offers an attractive and intuitive user interface.
To round it out, navigation is great. The maps are clear and attractive. Routes are easy to follow with prominent turn directions.
And I love the Climber function, equivalent to Climbpro on Garmins, but with the Brucival Bonus of automatically finding and analysing climbs, even if you’re not on a pre-defined route.
Interestingly-not-interestingly, the Karoo 2 is based on a slightly different philosophy to other bike computers. Wanky but bear with me.
Unlike Wahoos definitely and Garmins to a degree, the Karoo 2 doesn’t want to conjugate with your phone. It’ll pair to show notifications on the Karoo screen but that’s about it.
But get this: the Karoo 2 is a phone, just without the talky bit.
It uses software based on Android, a mobile phone operating system. Like a phone, all the functionality and the setting setting is on the device itself. In the words of Beyonce, if you like it you cana put a SIM in it.
Now don’t worry if you haven’t jimmied a SIMmie into its rear aperture. I haven’t. The Karoo will still connect to the outside electronic metaworld by wifi, syncing ride data with your Hammerhead account, Strava and spies from all your favourite rogue states.
A couple of words of caution though:
Firstly, battery life on the Karoo 2 is worse than on the Edges. In my of-course-highly-scientific testing, I’ve been getting 8 hours of battery life. Edges and Wahoos generally get into the double figures. I’ve not done a true side-by-side comparison, but the Edges will definitely go for longer between charges.
Secondly, as of right now, you can’t switch off the automatic re-route if you go off tonto. Annoying if you’re deliberately diverting to a cafe stop but planning to return to the original route.
Finally, Shimano has thrown its electronic gears out the pram after SRAM bought Hammerhead, so the Karoo lost its Di2 integration – displaying your current gear, battery level, that sort of guff. The Campag and, of course, SRAM versions still work fine.
The Karoo 2 will suit, well, me. I likes it very much and right now I’d be choosing it over the two Edges on test. I love the vibrant display and the user interface. Climber is a bit of a USP for someone that finds unknown climbs dispiriting.
It won’t suit ultra-long distance riders, particularly those without a secondary power pack, and those in a monogamous relationship with Garmin or Wahoo. But if you’re free and easy in the commitment department, then the Karoo 2 could well swing you towards throwing your bike keys in the energy bar bowl and trying out an alternative ride tech partner.
A beautiful touchscreen display. A fantastic user interface. Magnificent Climber feature. What's not to love about this bike computer?
Bryton Rider S500
The Rider S500 is a compact touchscreen device, closer in size to the
Importantly, at just over £200 squid, it’s cheaper than the other bike computers in this round-up. But is it better value?
Although similar in device size, the Bryton has a smaller screen than the
Compared at max settings, the Rider display isn’t as bright as the other computers on test, but then who rides around with screen brightness on max? In day to day use, it’s been fine. The S500’s screen is reflective in bright conditions, but then so are both Edge devices.
The touchscreen is ok. It’s usable but not as responsive as the other computers ‘on test’. It can also be a little erratic, selecting menu items when I didn’t mean to. The Edge and Karoo touchscreens more accurately pick up my display diddling digits.
The user interface on the device is straightforward, helped by the S500 not being overwhelmed by features. Generally it’s clear where I need to go to do the thing I want to do.
The S500 has some nice features. I like the graphical data fields that can be displayed on the grid screens. I’m a fan of the dedicated Climb Challenge screens. It connects to all the sensors, radars and other devices that you’d want it to. The S500 is a solid choice for recording all your ride data and supporting your training efforts.
The Bryton Active smartphone app does the job but, like the S500 itself, it’s less refined than competitors and clunky in places. When trying to do something, syncing with routes on Strava say, is not always clear what’s happening or if the app has crashed.
The main compromise with the S500 is navigation. The Bryton doesn’t do it on the device, instead relying being paired with a phone running the app. The maps on the device are less detailed and you lose more of the detail as you zoom out versus the Karoo and the two Edges. The S500 is slower to render maps as you zoom and sluggish to calculate routes.
Using the S500 to follow a route is fine, provided you have a well-charged smartphone lodged firmly in your jersey pocket. The screen size is a bit pokey but the turn alerts are clear. I found it fine to create routes on Strava, or the Bryton app, and then upload and follow.
That said, the navigation feature is usable if you’re following a route you created elsewhere and uploaded. For navigating to somewhere on the fly, I’d strongly recommend spending more for the
So who would the S500 suit?
Obviously someone that wants a touchscreen GPS but without the moulah to go for an Edge or Karoo. Your focus will be on the core ride tracking and data screen displays, which the S500 does well. You’ll have to be ok with the Bryton approach to navigation and have confidence in the longevity of your phone battery. You’ll also have to put up with a less polished user experience than we’re used to with modern tech devices.
But what if you’re truffle shuffling with a modest budget but want a more delightful user experience than the S500 can offer?
Well, you’ll have to forego the touchscreen.
Which kind of negates the whole premise of this post. Whatevs, I present to you my non-touchscreen wildcard…. the
Wahoo ELEMNT BOLT V2
As of right now, Wahoo don’t do touchscreens. But they do do really appealing bike computers.
Whilst not as feature-packed as higher end Garmins, Wahoo has, for me, established itself as the bike tech company most focused on user experience.
The BOLT V2 is easy to use, with three lovely jubbly rubbery buttons on the front. The buttons change function depending what screen you’re on. The BOLT is designed to integrate closely with the Wahoo ELEMNT app on your smartphone. Some things you can only do on the app, in order to keep the UI on the device clean and simple.
The release of the V2 BOLT brought full on-board navigation and a glorious vibrant, non-reflective colour screen. The screen isn’t large. Rod Hull, the device is not large. But it’s got enough space and resolution to display detailed maps and clean ride data grids.
I won’t go on. You came here for touchscreens and the BOLT doesn’t have one. It’s my favourite non-touchscreen bike computer though, so one to consider if your budget can’t stretch to the Karoo 2 or one of the Edges. I’d certainly choose it over the Rider S500.
My favourite mid-range bike computer. The V2 upgrade brings a bright colour display and full on-board navigation. The BOLT remains very easy to set up and use.
Question: how do we bring this together?
Answer: with some unsatisfactorily bland conclusions. They’re all good bike computers. They’ll all do a job of work.
Actually, scrub that. You should buy the Hammerhead Karoo 2.
Sure, if your entire life is built around the data accrued in the Garmin Connect app over the last 10 years, you can stick with one of the Edges. Or if Di2 electronic gearing integration is a deal breaker. The
Whilst the Bryton Rider S500 is cheapest bike computer on test here, it’s still a fair chunkachange for a bundle of plastic, chips and circuit boards to rubber band to your handlebars. If I’m spending money in that ball park, I’d choose a more refined button-only device with a better and more stable user experience. Or save up some more money.
Of all the computers on test, the Karoo is the only one that sets off warm rumblings in my cyclo-loins. The display is fantastic. I love all the colours – particularly the bright orange Strave Live Segments integration. The Climber function is tippity top. I find the user interface easy to use and attractive. Functionally it does everything I need from a bike computer.
But keep on rocking in a free world. You should, absolutely, do you.
And whilst you’re doing you, read my full review of the Hammerhead Karoo 2, which you’ll find just here.
Other relevant posts, after you’ve finished doing you:
- My 2023 review of the Edge 830
- A detailed comparison of the Edge 1030 Plus versus Edge 830
- A Comprehensive review of the Bryton S500
2 thoughts on “THIS Is The Best Touchscreen Bike Computer Under £400 ($500) In 2023”
Very honest review. IMO the superior battery life of the Edge series is a big advantage over the aesthetics of the Karoo screen. At some time a cyclist spending this type of money on a high end bike computer may wish to challenge themselves on a very long ride. Do they need to then purchase a second unit?
Fair point. For that, I guess you’d buy a secondary power pack rather than a second GPS unit (though, again, the Garmin Charge power pack is probably a more convenient, cycling-specific solution).