9-5-07 // Previewed: Garmin Edge 605 And 705 GPS

Garmin recently unveiled two new additions to its Edge family of handlebar-friendly GPS devices: the Edge 605 and the Edge 705.

Both new units share the same slightly-bigger/greatly-improved platform: a 2.2-inch color LCD screen, a "click stick" thumb-operated joystick, and the same basic look and feel as their predecessors, the 205 and 305 models. The seven function buttons are in about the same place as on older models, but the click stick helps substantially in navigating what can be a maze of functions.

The weight difference between the units is only .6 ounces (3.7 for the 605/705; 3.1 for the 205/305), but Garmin has managed to pack a whole lot of features into small space.

At 176 x 220 pixels, the new units' color LCD screen is substantially bigger than the previous version's 128 x 160-pixel viewing area. And it's a good thing because there's a lot more to see now.

And for all that extra screen space Garmin claims you actually get more run time out of a charge than previously—15 hours versus 12 hours for the old units. Actual run times can vary greatly, but such an optimistic battery life projection bodes well.

Street and topographic maps are available in pre-formatted SD cards, but the stock units come with enough mapping capability to get you to where you need to go, follow a pre-planned route, or figure out how to get back.

The new units also get a slew of features to enable you to dork out to your heart's content. While maintaining the same bevy of functions as before—speed, time, distance, grade, GPS position, elevation, and optional heart rate and cadence—the new 705 picks up a few extra tricks in addition to its map features and color screen.

For starters Garmin has partnered with SRM power meters to incorporate power data acquisition. Additionally the new units have a unit-to-unit wireless data transmission feature to let users swap workout and course information right there on the trail. (Read: The new Edge 705 will let you dork out with data like you've never dorked out before.)

The 605 and 705 will are expected to retail for $399 and $499, respectively. Start adding cadence, heartrate and a topo or street map package and the price climbs to as much as $649.

The 705 uses the same barometric altimeter technology as the 305 model, while the 605 estimates altitude based on GPS triangulation, which can be far less accurate in heavy tree cover. And the 605 lacks the wireless transfer capabilities and the heartrate/cadence options of its big brother. However, both units do share the same color screen and map functions.

GPS devices have become quite popular among road riders and mountain bikers alike, letting users share data in the form of Google Earth files, maps, elevation charts, and, if you're a roadie, probably spreadsheets.

One of the greatest tools for GPS users has been MotionBased.com, a Bay Area startup that GPS users can log onto to store and organize their rides. A free account lets you go back and review your last 10 rides, and a small monthly fee opens up a host of other features.

Recognizing its value, Garmin bought the web site in October 2005, and by December of this year the site's name will officially change to Garmin Connect. The bad news: you'll have to change a URL in your bookmarks. The good news: most of the features that previously required a pay-to-play account will now be free. Users will maintain all their saved information, and the feel and functionality will remain the same.

The MotionBased web site currently has more than 1.5 million logged activities, a majority of which are cycling related, and it continues to grow at more than 3,500 activities per day.

Several major industry distributors including BTI, Trek and QBP carry Garmin products, so check your local bike shop for availability of the new Edge units.