Polar M450 vs Garmin Edge 520: Bike GPS Comparison

Choosing a cycle computer can be a difficult task. There are just so many on the market. It’s like trying to pick the best white sock out of a drawer full of white socks. If you need a solid breakdown of the features of the Polar M450 and the Garmin Edge 520, you’re in the right place.

This post will summarize the similarities and differences between these two cycle computers so you can spend more time doing what you want (riding and breaking your personal records) and less time doing what you don’t want (shopping.)

Here’s a bit of a professional disclaimer.

I don’t own either of these devices. My personal cycle computer is an unknown brand from Japan, but it gets the job done.

That said, I’m really good at research. Seriously — crazy good. My university professors graded my bibliographies as separate essays. (That may be an exaggeration.)

This post contains a few affiliate links. If you opt to buy anything through a link here, the site will earn a commission that goes towards keeping it running and providing you with even more content.

Cooling The Competition

Polar m450The Polar M450 is a solid choice for an entry-level cycle computer. At just $159.00, it’s not a huge investment for someone unfamiliar with the type of cycle computer that may work best for them.

And another benefit of the M450 is that it looks really, really cool. With three color choices (black, yellow, red), you can match it to the color of your bike with ease. Note: all of these cases are sold separately.

Now, on to the question I know is on your mind: how well does it actually work? Let’s start with the battery life. The Polar M450 has a battery life of up to 16 hours, with 12 hours of continuous recording of heart rate, GPS location, and more.

Intelligent Coaching Makes Training Easier

The Polar M450 is also pre-programmed with “Smart Coaching” training. This measures how long you spend at a specific intensity before you have to pause and recover. Polar also claims to have the most accurate calorie counter on the market today, but their calculation method is patented.

On top of the Smart Coaching program, the Polar M450 provides fitness and orthostatic tests that allow you to measure your various fitness levels.

So far, so good, right? Now for the fun part: bragging rights. Polar provides a free web service called Flow that allows you to analyze every part of your ride. Your Flow account can link up to your Strava account so you can post all over Facebook about your latest ride.


Garmin Edge 520 side view
The Garmin Edge 520 – a great all-rounder

So the Polar M450 is pretty cool, but how does it compare to the Garmin Edge 520?

First off, the Edge 520 is twice the price. At $299.99, it is a much more significant investment than the Polar M450. And while it boasts a heart rate monitor and GPS capabilities, does it have double the features to justify double the price?

In competition with Polar’s Smart Coaching program comes Virtual Partner, a built-in program that lets you train against a digital person. Ever play a racing video game where you  raced against a silhouette of yourself? Pretty much the same thing, but it stokes the competitive spirit in all of us.

An interesting feature of the Edge 520 is its ability to record your previous routes and store them as courses. This means you can try to beat your previous times on your next attempt and track your improvement by how much time you shave off.

The Edge monitors a few aspects of your ride that the Polar does not, like temperature. If you feel like you’re not riding at your usual level, check your previous time and the temperature. It may just be that you’re overheated.

Unfortunately, the Edge takes a step back from previous generations. Unlike the Edge 510, the 520 is not a touchscreen. Instead, it has buttons along the sides and the bottom. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the tactile feedback can be helpful on bumpy rides.

There are a host of new features in the Edge 520 like ‘Time in Zone,’ ‘VO2 recovery,’ and ‘cycling dynamics.’ Utilizing these features can help you make massive improvements to your cardiovascular health.

Strava For More

Like the Polar M450, the Edge 520 can link to your Strava account. When you reach pre-determined segments on a ride, the Edge will notify you and then give you your position on the leaderboard once you’ve completed the segment.

Perhaps one of the coolest things to come with the Edge 520 is two free months of Strava Premium. This includes live feedback, personalized coaching, and more. If you want the full details, check out Strava’s website.

What’s the conclusion?

Here’s the truth about deciding between the two: I can’t.

The reason why is simple. They are better suited for different cyclists. The Polar M450, at its lower price point and more limited features, is a fantastic choice for starting cyclists. Its functionality will grow with your skill as a rider, as well as your fitness level.

The Edge 520, on the other hand, is better suited for a more experienced cyclist looking for a full suite of options in their cycle computer. It’s the computer I’d choose to really hone in on my physical condition and monitor the state of my body throughout the ride.

The good news is that you can buy both. If the Edge is a bit much for you at the moment, then start out with the Polar M450 and upgrade in a year or two when you’re ready.

In the spirit of transparency, the links above are affiliate links. They won’t cost you anything more, but if you click and buy something, we will earn a commission.

Comment below and let me know what your choice of cycle computer is and why. I’ll see you on the leaderboards.

About The Author

Patrick Hearn is a freelance writer and frequent cyclist. His biggest claim to fame is a monkey throwing a rock at him as he cycled past it in Japan. 

Monty - Sportive Cyclist
Monty is an enthusiastic road cyclist with only moderate talent. He started Sportive Cyclist in 2013 to record the journey to his first 100 mile ride, the RideLondon 100. Over time the blog has expanded to include training advice, gear reviews and road cycling tales, all from the perspective of a not-very-fit MAMIL. Since you're here, Monty would also like you to check out his YouTube channel. Also, Monty really needs to stop referring to himself in the third person.

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