Which Garmin Edge device is right for you?
Frequently, people ask me, “Which Garmin computer should I buy?” My response is always the same, “Depends on budget, the type of riding you plan to do, and the features you need.” The first answer should be fairly simple to determine. If you only have a certain amount budgeted for a new cycling computer, that helps narrow down the model. The second answer might be more difficult ― the type of riding you plan to do will determine the features you need. What features do you need versus which are nice to have? If you are new to cycling, you don’t want to outgrow the unit in a couple of years.
The Garmin Edge can be pricey, and for most people, it’s considered an investment, so take into account your future riding needs. Are you hoping to travel internationally, take up bikepacking, or train for an event? The answers to these questions will also guide you to the right model.
Garmin Edge 540 vs. 840 vs. 1040
Garmin introduced the Edge 1040 standard and solar versions back in 2022, and initially, the software was a little buggy. But the company quickly fixed them, providing firmware updates, and it’s now my primary cycling computer.
Garmin released the Edge 540 and 840 standard and solar models a couple of months ago, bringing the count up to six top-of-the-line units. With that many computers to pick from, what are the differences? Essentially functionality is pretty much the same, especially with a recent firmware update ClimbPro is available on all six units when using a course or just riding.
Quick specs for the Edge 540 and 840
Price for Edge 540: $349.99 (std) and $449.99 (solar)
Price for Edge 840: $449.99 (std) and $549.99 (solar)
Controls Edge 540: Buttons
Controls Edge 840: Touchscreen
Size: 2.3″ x 3.4″ x 0.8″ (57.8 x 85.1 x 19.6 mm)
Screen Size: 2.6″ (66 mm) diagonal
Display resolution: 246 x 322 pixels
Weight: Edge 540 (80.3 g (std) and 84.9 g (solar)); Edge 840 (84.8 g (std) and 88.9 g (solar))
Connectivity: Bluetooth, ANT+, WiFi
USB connection: USB-C
Battery type: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Battery life: Up to 26 hours (std unit) and 32 hours (solar unit)
Compatible devices: See listing on Garmin.com
Availability: Online and retail
How obtained: Company sample
RBR advertiser: No
Comparing all Three Models
Here’s a quick comparison to help you choose which unit is right for you.
- Screen size – The 540 and 840 have a 2.6″ (66 mm) diagonal screen, while the 1040 has a 3.5”. If you have trouble seeing without your readers, a larger screen helps, especially when using the mapping features.
- Screen resolution – The resolution is fairly close, with the 540/840 having 246 x 322 pixels, whereas the 1040 has 282 x 470 pixels.
- Touch screen vs. buttons – My preference is a touch screen unit because on and off the bike, I found it faster and more intuitive to navigate the menus. The 840/1040 have touch screens, while the 540 uses buttons. When I tested the 540, I struggled with the buttons, using trial and error.
- Solar vs. standard –Which one is right for you? Battery life and price are the two key differentiators when deciding between solar vs standard models. Selecting solar will add $100 to the price. Suppose you’re into randonneuring, bike packing, long gravel rides, adventure racing, Ironman triathlon, or just want the eliminate hassle of frequently charging the head unit. In that case, spending the extra money on solar is a good option.
Lastly, if you are a weight weenie and counting every gram, note that a solar unit will add weight due to the type of glass necessary to capture the sun’s rays.
- External memory storage – 16 GB (540); 32 GB (840); 32 GB internal memory (1040 std); 64 GB internal memory only (1040 solar).
- Preloaded maps – The 540 comes preloaded with one region, while the 840 and 1040 have two regions due to memory size.
- Cycle map (routable cycling-specific street map) – The 540 has a single region, while the 840 and 1040 have multi regions. This is due to additional memory.
- On-device course creator – The ability to create a course on the device is only available on the 840 and 1040.
- On-device location search – This feature allows you to search a specific address and is not available on the 540.
- On device workout builder – This feature is only available on the 840 and 1040 since they are touchscreen units.
- Mounting system – Garmin upgraded the 1040 from a rubber to a sturdy aluminum mount on the back of the unit. Unfortunately, the 540/840 still have the rubber mount that can get dogeared over time and even stripped when using a 3rd party bike mount.
- Weight – As mentioned above, the solar versions weigh more. Edge 540 (80.3 g (std) and 84.9 g (solar)); Edge 840 (84.8 g (std) and 88.9 g (solar)); Edge 1040 (126 g (std) and 133 g (solar)).
- Battery life – 26 hrs. (540/840 std); 32 hrs. (540/840 solar); ## hrs (1040 std); 45 hrs (1040 solar). Battery life depends on several factors, including how many sensors are being used (e.g., lights, radar, power meter, etc.).
With six of the newest head units to pick from and a price range of $349.99 to $749.99, ask yourself the three basic questions:
- What’s my budget?
- What type of riding will I be doing and want to do?
- Which unit won’t I outgrow in 3-5 years?
Answering these questions will help guide you to the right Garmin Edge. If $349.99 is too steep for your current budget, the earlier versions of each model are still an excellent choice. Garmin stands behind their products, and they still use US-based tech support. Over the many years, I’ve owned and used several different Garmin head units and smartwatches. I’ve always had positive experiences when I needed tech support, and I use the same 800# as everyone else. As a writer, I have no special privileges.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women’s cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri’s full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.