Garmin Edge 705 // $500
The first thing you notice about the new Edge series from Garmin is its blazing 176-by-220-pixel color screen—goodbye dot matrix, hello full-color mapping goodness.
To really harness its potential, you need to buy a $100 Micro SD card pre-loaded with either a nationwide street or regional topographical map package. I tried both and can see the benefit of the topo maps on an unexplored epic—i.e. what's over that next ridge?—but I found the street mapping more useful on a day-to-day basis. In a pinch you can use it driving to get turn-by-turn directions anywhere in the country, and there's also a bike commuting function that navigates via secondary roads.
The addition of an intuitive little "click stick" joystick makes navigating menus a breeze. After a few minutes of setup work—picking which data fields you want on your display screen, etc.—the 705 just takes just a few seconds to boot up before you ride and just a minute or two to upload data to the Garmin Connect web site. Battery life is advertised at 15 hours, three more than the last generation Edge models, and after a couple months the battery is still going strong.
A heart-rate monitor comes standard, and so does the ability to wirelessly zap logged activities to another 705 user (within three meters), and it even records power-meter data. Personally, all I want is altitude and mileage, with a GPS record to show for it. One downside of the 705 is that it has a bunch of features that you have to pay for, but might never use. (The $400 605 lacks the precise barometric altimeter of the 705.)
Still, if you don't have a GPS for your bike or your car, this is a crafty way to kill two birds with one stone. If you've already got a car unit and don't care about recording power output, heart rate or cadence, then save some coin and get the Edge 305.