I’ve been eagerly waiting for gps enabled bike computers to be produced by “other” manufacturers. While the big boys in the industry, like Garmin and Polar, do a stellar job, the quality comes at a premium. Lack of competition on price and features often leads to stagnation or, at least, delays in innovation since there is an almost monopoly on the market. But you’re not reading this review for an economics lecture, you want to read about a gps enabled bike computer that’s in competition with the Garmin 500 and 510. It’s the i-gotU GT-820 Pro from Chinese company Mobile Action.
The i-gotU came professionally packaged and the version I reviewed also had a heart rate monitor included. The company produce a speed/cadence sensor as well, but I didn’t get a chance to play with one for this review. The package also included a bike mount, a USB micro cable, some zip ties and a small CD with, I presumed, some software and possibly a manual on it – there was no paper manual. I don’t have an optical drive on my computer (they’re so 2005), so I had to find a computer with one on it; the manual was indeed on the disk, in a variety of languages, in .chm format! There is also a series of online FAQs, but finding links to them is quite difficult. If I didn’t receive the link from manufacturer, Mobile Action, I would never have found them.
After all of the initial fuss, I came across some more fuss. The manual was not very well written and my computer couldn’t recognise the device when attached. Apparently I had to install a special driver and some special software to use it, but since I don’t use a Windows PC, I was out of luck. It took some considerable jiggery-pokery to get to the device – a lot more work than I want to do to get to a data file. The i-gotU uses its own proprietary file format, but at least you can (eventually) get a .gpx version which is the standard when it comes to GPS data. Online services such as Strava won’t recognise this device, but at least you can get the file to upload. The i-gotU has a website that will apparently interface with the device, but I don’t have the driver to make it work, and it’s not Strava.
The device itself operates reasonably well for the basic functions: turn it on, select cycling (as opposed to running) and you’re presented with a basic speed and distance screen. Finding satellites is super quick, and if you’ve ever sat on your bike doing the waiting dance (if you have a Garmin 500, you’ll know what I mean), then you’ll appreciate this. The i-gotU will display the speed and distance as accurately as any other GPS device, but apart from that there is little to recommend it.
The i-gotU is difficult to use on the road. There are three buttons, one on the left and two on the right, and the behaviour of these buttons is fairly intuitive to navigate up and down menus and select an option. The problem is that there are lots of options available and no real explanation of how to use them all. Getting to the screen you want is often tricky and the most useful screens are not a single press away. Mobile Action would have been better off putting some text on the face plate, much like the Garmin has, to guide you through the process, and they should have cut down on a lot of the options available with such a basic user interface. It’s simply too hard to use or keep in your memory unless you use it all of the time.
The worst part of the i-gotU experience was the size of the screen. As you can see from the photos, the screen is about half the area of the Garmin 500 screen despite the unit being about the same size and weight. The screen is actually square and one of the “features” of the device is that the screen can be rotated. This is fairly useless, however, since the mount for the device simply can’t be mounted sideways easily. My first ride with the i-gotU registered as 03 km; the Garmin correctly registered it as 103 km. Yes, the screen is so small that only two digit distances are displayed.
There were many other “quirky” little things with the i-gotU which I won’t go into here lest I ramble on for pages. The only thing that worked as expected straight out of the box was the heart rate monitor. It looks very much like the Garmin premium HR strap that I’m used to using and it works well with the i-gotU device. Since it also uses Bluetooth Low Energy for wireless data connection and transfer, the heart rate monitor is also picked up by my mobile phone and, honestly, I would rather use the phone than the i-gotU device. I think it will be far more effective to get the speed/cadence sensor to pair with the HR monitor and use a phone app – it will be better than the i-gotU in all but battery life, unfortunately.
The i-gotU GT-820 Pro was a disappointment. It could have been much, much better. If it was just the small screen, I could live with that, provided I could get easy access to the data on the device, but that wasn’t the case. If it were just a problem with the user interface, I could live with that as well. Actually, I could live with most of the individual “faults” of the i-gotU, but not when taken all together and not when the device is priced close to a second hand Garmin 500. The extra I would be prepared to spend on a better device is worth it in frustration savings alone. Your mileage may vary.
The i-gotU GT-820 Pro (and variants) are available from expansys.com.au, lifestyleeshop.com.au, and ebay.com.au with the prices ranging between $115 and $180 for the “Pro” model, depending on accessories.