A new “medium update” to the supersized Garmin Edge 1030, the Edge 1030 Plus improves on a handful of software functions, adds a few more, and upgrades its screen’s usability. We looked at the Edge 1030 Plus in a more broad sense in our basic review and saw it in person during our unboxing, now we’re going to get into the weeds on the changes that might make this a tempting upgrade or a good cycling computer for those who want a monster screen and navigation features.
Garmin 1030 Plus Extended Review: Feature Rundown
The Garmin Edge 1030 Plus has a lengthy feature list that highlights the cycling computer’s ability to work equally well for road, mountain, and gravel riding; from an hour sweating on the trainer to multi-day bikepacking adventures. For this review we’ve dug into the stuff that is most useful for triathletes, and one feature that surprised us (in a good way). Below are the major tri-related features:
- The Screen – The 3.5-inch touchscreen on the Edge 1030 Plus is excellent. It performs well through sweat, rain, night riding, and glaring sun. It’s big enough to easily read maps, load activity pages with metrics, and comfortably use the display for workouts and smart trainer control. This was not always the case with the first version of the 1030.
- Maps – Map features truly shine with the Edge 1030 Plus. From automatic course creation, to navigating across town, to the onboard TrailForks app to guide you off the pavement. Popularity routing works well, though straight and flat commuter routes do seem to dominate the more scenic weekend warrior routes that triathletes might prefer. TrailForks allows you to preview trails in terms of difficulty prior to sending a gravel bike onto a rocky single track. The best part? Maps are now preloaded, including popularity routes. The Garmin base maps are much nicer than those used on Wahoo, and the screen size makes it easy to read street names and find points of interest.
- Battery – The battery life is exceptional, especially compared to the Edge 830, which needed to be put into power save mode before the end of a century ride. Over two days of all-day riding with the screen on full brightness and every sensor turned on, there were no issues and the Edge battery still showed 35% at the end.
- Workout Creation – Daily workouts generated by Garmin Connect seemed well curated, though it was hard to tell if running and swimming workouts recorded on a separate Garmin Forerunner were being considered.
- Existing Workouts – Workouts can also be imported from coaching platforms like Training Peaks and FinalSurge, and will appear on the Garmin 1030 Plus.
- Smart Trainer Compatibility- Controlling a smart trainer with the Edge 1030 Plus is straightforward and allows manual modes where you can set power, resistance, or grade, as well as running preprogrammed workouts, or riding courses you’ve either downloaded or loaded from a previous ride. The imported or suggested workouts can also be loaded and used to control the smart trainer.
- Smart Trainer Controls – These controls weren’t perfect. Manually controlling the smart trainer in erg mode for an interval workout required dozens of button presses to shift between interval and rest, and that rapid screen pressing unintentionally opened the home screen every time. A memory setting would be a great update.
- Alerts – Eat/Drink alerts were helpful and a nice feature for workouts and racing.
- User Interface – Menu navigation is as expected from Garmin: clunky and confusing. Features are rarely in the first place you look, and you may be discovering new features long after you start using the Edge 1030 Plus.
- Airtime – An unexpected feature that turned into a fun afternoon was the “Jump” metrics intended for mountain biking. In mountain bike setting, the Edge 1030 Plus will detect when your wheels leave the ground and provide statistics like Hang Time and Distance. After your ride the jumps and corresponding metrics appear on a map in Garmin Connect. Triathletes be warned, this should not be tested on a TT bike!
Garmin 1030 Plus Extended Review: Worth It?
Let’s address the elephant in the room: $600 makes the Edge 1030 Plus the most expensive cycling head unit we’ve tested. Garmin has two other computers with similar feature sets, the $400 Edge 830 and $300 Edge 530. The main difference is screen size, battery life, mapping, and daily suggested workouts. These features were some of the highlights in our testing, but whether that justifies the $200-300 price difference is up to you.
Garmin 1030 Plus Extended Review: Versus The Edge 830
If you already have an Edge 830, update to the newest firmware before making a decision. Many of the Edge 1030 Plus’ features are being added to the Edge 830 and 530 as well. The main differences between the 830 and 1030 Plus are screen size and battery life. A 3.5” screen is not for everybody, and can be hard to fit on an aerobar setup. Yet it does help with navigation and mapping. However, the 1030 Plus’ battery life was a big differentiator. Expect to charge the 830 between every ride or two, or use settings that limit the screen brightness and sensors. The 1030 Plus will last several rides on the most battery draining settings possible. If you have any dreams of bikepacking (or are forgetful when it comes to charging), the Edge 1030 Plus will be worth the $200 premium.
Garmin 1030 Plus Extended Review: Versus Other Brands
The original Hammerhead Karoo ($400) is a similar size and even sharper map display, but falls short on battery life. It also lacks onboard course creation. Still, it’s a strong contender at a big discount. The top-of-the-line from Wahoo, the ELEMNT ROAM ($380) is similar in price and features to the Garmin Edge 830. The $600 price tag may produce sticker shock, but the feature set of the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus is tough to match if they truly appeal to your style/length of riding.
Garmin 1030 Plus Extended Review: Pro Tips
- The quick start directions suggest charging the device first. Having broken plenty of plastic Garmin mounts in the past, we actually recommend attaching the lanyard first. That little piece of elastic might save you from losing or destroying a $600 bike computer.
- Spend some time going through the menus and setting up your activity profiles. Features like Strava Segments and ClimbPro are worth trying, but may also be worth turning off in the future. Activity Profiles is also where you can set your alerts for food and hydration, Auto Pause When Stopped, and turn on/off GLONASS if you want to extend battery life even further.
- The first setting you’ll want to change is “sharp turn warning”, which pops up a message as you approach a sharp turn—in our opinion this is literally the worst possible time for you to take your eyes off the road. The setting is tough to find: Go to Settings (three horizontal lines on the bottom left of the home screen) -> Activity Profiles -> [your activity profile] -> Navigation -> Sharp Bend Warnings, and slide to off.
- There’s more settings in Garmin Connect, like Live Tracking, which sends a map to your specified contacts. It can give your family peace of mind, especially if you are like most of us and think it’s normal for a two-hour ride to take three hours.
Garmin 1030 Plus Extended Review: Conclusions
I really enjoyed using the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus—the screen and battery life were certainly highlights, but I also enjoyed having daily workout suggestions to choose from, and being able to import my training calendar from FinalSurge. The course creation was fun to experiment with, and is something I will use extensively when we’re able to travel again, as it’s more ideal in new places. While it’s great for viewing maps and metrics, a 3.5” display on the handlebars does look a little goofy. This head unit is certainly not for everyone, but if you think you’ll use the mapping features or have any long adventures in mind, the Edge 1030 Plus may be worth the extra cash.