GPS, ANT+ and Strava compatibility in a Sigma-priced package? Done.
Sigma has taken its top-end ROX Series of cycling computers to the next level with the release of the ROX 10.0—the company’s first GPS unit. The ROX 10.0 is a function-packed device with 87 ways to measure, display, customize and crunch riding data it receives via GPS and ANT+ add-ons. What’s more, Sigma didn’t abandon its “accessible technology” philosophy to bring the flagship computer to market; it made the ROX 10.0 a reality for only $189 ($289 for the speed, cadence and heart-rate bundle). The ROX 10.0 may be the best value in GPS cycling computers available today.
ROX 10.0 Features Overview
The ROX 10.0 is Sigma’s first effort in the GPS (and ANT+) game, but the German company is hardly new to cycling computers. Sigma is family owned and operated (founder Klaus Schendel is an avid rider and spends much of the year product testing), and it’s the leading name in bike computers throughout Europe—having sold over 60 million cycling computers since the debut of its trademark BC 300 and BC 700 devices in 1985.
The Sigma approach to bike computers is single-minded: Give cyclists (of every level) what they need at a price they can afford. The ROX 10.0, which we tested over a three-day period in April, delivers on this promise.
A GPS receiver and the ability to pair the Sigma ROX 10.0 with ANT+ accessories set the ROX 10.0 apart from its predecessors and the rest of the ROX Series lineup.
Via GPS, cyclists can navigate previously ridden routes (referred to as “tracks”) or routes downloaded from the new Data Center 3—Sigma’s online nerve center. Log in to map and download routes, and to establish “waypoints.” Waypoints can be used to mark points of interest or to create Strava-like segments along a ride.
The Data Center stores all of the information recorded by the ROX 10.0 and will spit out a detailed analysis of saved rides in graph format. Every Sigma cycling computer can access the Data Center. In the U.S., use of the Data Center is free with the purchase of a ROX 10.0. Note: We didn’t test the Data Center, but viewed a demonstration of the beta version.
ANT+ is the universal language for power. This built-in technology allows Sigma users to pair the ROX 10.0 computer with any ANT+-enabled device; wireless power meters, heart-rate monitors, speed and cadence sensors are all in-play.
The short list of ROX 10.0 features looks like this:
- GPS route navigation
- Heart rate
- Digital three axis compass
- Altitude IAC+
- Elevation profile in graph format
- Gradient and rate of ascent
- ANT+ transmission technology
- Power compatible (ANT+) or calculates power without power meter
- Lap counter
- 249-hour log capacity
- MICRO USB connection
- Includes DATA CENTER 3 with mapping functions
- Data recorded in one-second intervals
A complete list of ROX 10.0 functions is available on the Sigma website.
In addition to top-shelf technologies like GPS, and ANT+, what we liked about the ROX 10.0 was the big and easy-to-read (in any light conditions) display, details like one-second recording intervals and the fact that recording stops when you stop, so averages aren’t affected by traffic lights. And there are the little things: tool-free installation; out-in-front mount; and a discreet crank arm magnet for the cadence sensor. Quality innards—like a barometer—also matter to us. (It’s accepted that barometric pressure is a more accurate gauge of elevation than GPS.) The ROX 10.0 is also waterproof to one meter deep.
We fumbled a bit with the buttons to advance through the menu and functions. It also seemed that, because the buttons are on the sides of the unit, two fingers (one hand) were required to make a selection—one to push the button and one to hold the unit in place so that it wouldn’t twist out of the quarter-turn mount.
The navigation itself took just a few minutes to get dialed, about the same amount of time it takes to find your way around any unfamiliar GPS sports watch.
To support its users, Sigma has published over 100 how-to videos on YouTube.
Two Kinds of Power
There are two ways to obtain power data with the new Sigma ROX 10.0. The ROX 10.0 (and the ROX 8.1 and 9.1) has a built-in “calculated power” function. Calculated power is based on a formula that measures a rider’s progress over time; it’s a best estimation of power output displayed in watts. Calculated power has its pros and cons. The most obvious plus is that it’s affordable when compared to “actual power” (from a dedicated power meter) because it’s a function of the software. The downside is accuracy. A calculated power estimation is based on factors like bike weight, rider height and weight, shoulder width, speed, cadence, and incline, but it can’t calculate external factors like headwinds—or motor-pacing! For this reason, calculated power data becomes more accurate when there’s less wind and when terrain is steeper.
Because it’s ANT+-enabled, the Sigma ROX 10.0 can also be paired with any ANT+-based power meter, including those by SRM, Quarq, and PowerTap. In contrast to the “best guess” offered by a calculated power equation, a dedicated “actual” power meter measures the force (in watts) applied to the pedals, bottom bracket, or crank arm. But, accuracy comes at a price: Because power meters like these are hardware- rather than software-based, they range in cost from around $700 to upwards of $2,500.
Head to Head: The ROX 10.0 vs. Garmin … and Strava
The ROX 10.0 is feature-packed, customizable and affordable—a clear evolution from its ROX Series predecessors because of the GPS alone. But, how does it compare to the offerings of well-known brands like Garmin and even the would-be computer-killer, Strava?
Garmin is the go-to maker of GPS cycling computers in the US. The touchscreen of Garmin’s top devices puts them on another level when it comes to usability; the Garmin is like a Macintosh to Sigma’s PC. But, the Garmin 810 bundle costs $699; the ROX 10.0 bundle sells for $289. The Sigma ROX 10.0 more realistically falls somewhere between Garmin’s Edge 510 and Edge 500 models. A good hypothetical match-up would be the ROX 10.0 versus the Garmin Edge 510 minus its touchscreen. This would be a knock-down, drag-out features fight decided by personal preference and price (the Edge 510 w/bundle sells for $399).
The Strava smartphone app receives over 1.5-million “activity uploads” each week. Cyclists use the popular app to compare and to compete virtually with one another for segments (similar to a Sigma “waypoint”). Strava is impressive in many ways: There’s no debate surrounding its design and functionality, and the ability to compete (kind of) with followers was a direct hit to the road-cyclist’s psyche. But, there are some chinks in Strava’s armor when it’s thrown into the ring with a cycling computer like the Sigma ROX 10.0.
For starters, the app doesn’t display or measure anywhere near the amount of information a true cycling computer does. Strava is fun, but it’s a better social/sharing tool than a training tool. Also, we tested the ROX 10.0 on the island of Mallorca, in the Mediterranean. Business expense or not, nobody wants to be slapped with the roaming charges associated with a three-hour ride. That is, assuming there’s cell service at all. The computer outperforms the app in other areas, too. For example, because smartphones don’t have barometers, they don’t measure altitude/elevation as precisely as the ROX 10.0.
But, comparing the ROX 10.0 to Strava isn’t the objective (because even if it had the functions of a cycling computer, nobody is going to mount an iPhone to their handlebar or stem); it’s only a question of compatibility with the app. At the time of testing, it hadn’t been established whether or not the ROX 10.0 would work with Strava, but as of the ROX 10.0’s most recent software update, the answer is “yes.”
According to Sigma USA’s Managing Director, Brian Orloff, “We will be able to export rides as .fit files, which play nicely with all major apps.” Strava, along with Map My Ride and Training Peaks use .fit files.
To see the ROX 10.0 in action, check out this promotional video produced by Sigma:
Also from Sigma
The ROX 10.0 sits at the sharp end of the ROX Series line that includes five other models: the primarily heart-rate-focused ROX 5; the ROX 6 (ROX 5 plus altimeter); ROX 6 CAD (ROX 6 with cadence sensor); the ROX 8.1 and the ROX 9.1 (evolution of the ROX 8.0 and 9.0).
Follow Triathlete on Twitter @Triathletemag for inspiration, new workout ideas, gear reviews from our editors and more.