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The Best Garmin Ever: Garmin Edge 1040 Solar Review

The Garmin Edge 1040 Solar might be the best cycling computer for Unbound Gravel or any ultra-distance adventure. With more battery life, solar charging, and better accuracy, it's an unbeatable head unit.

Written by: Bruce Lin

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Has your head unit ever died far from civilization? That’s no good because, without GPS navigation, you risk becoming horribly lost ... possibly even dying. Even worse, you could ruin your Strava file! No one wants that. True cycling adventurers need a head unit that can go the distance. To accomplish that, nothing beats the Garmin Edge 1030. That is until now, because Garmin just released the new Edge 1040 and Edge 1040 Solar. 

The 1040 is exactly 10 more than 1030. So does that mean the new Edge head unit is better than the old one? Yes, absolutely! I put the Edge 1040 Solar through its paces at the toughest cycling event I’ve ever attended: Unbound Gravel. I subjected it to the worst race conditions possible, and with its longer battery life, solar charging, and multi-band GNSS technology, it was essential to my survival. Without it, I might not have hit my goal of riding Unbound in under 13 hours to beat the sun. Here’s why you should consider picking one up for your next adventure. 

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Garmin Edge 1040 & Edge 1040 Solar highlights

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar reviewGarmin Edge 1040 

  • $599.99
  • Bundle with speed/cadence sensor and HRM-Dual™ monitor - $699.99
  • Multi-band GNSS technology
  • Up to 35 hours of battery life
  • Battery Saver Mode: Up to 70 hours
  • Performance coaching features
  • 32 GB Internal Memory
  • External Memory Storage Available
  • 126g

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar 

  • $749.99
  • Multi-band GNSS technology
  • Up to 45 hours battery life with solar charging
  • Battery Saver Mode: Up to 70 hours/100 hours with solar
  • Performance coaching features
  • 64 GB Internal Memory
  • External Memory Storage Available
  • 133g

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What is multi-band GNSS technology?

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar reviewThe Edge 1040 and Edge 1040 Solar are the first Garmin GPS bike computers with multi-band GNSS (global navigation satellite system) technology. Multi-band frequencies are great for areas where GPS signals are severely degraded. This means you get better GPS coverage while riding under dense tree cover, on remote trails, and even in urban environments. 

When GPS was initially conceived decades ago, two frequencies were used — L1 and L2. L1 was for civilian use, while the superior L2 frequency was encrypted and reserved for military use. The GPS community realized they could modernize the signals to improve accuracy for civilians by adding an additional frequency — L5. Satellites with L5 capabilities began launching in 2009 and now they’re finally available for use on a cycling head unit. In the past, better GPS signal reliability came at the cost of accuracy (not good for Strava segments!). But modern L5 signal characteristics are better than L1, and when used together in multi-band GNSS, they provide both improved accuracy (within 10 feet) and reliability. 


Garmin Edge 1040 Solar review

Multi-band GNSS is pretty cool, but the feature that really got me excited was the addition of solar charging on the Edge 1040 Solar. Take a closer look at the 3.5” screen, and you’ll notice a couple of small bands at the top and bottom. That’s the “Power Glass” solar charging lens. They’re made up of solar cells that convert light energy into electricity. Assuming you have continuous 75,000 lux conditions — a bright and sunny day — it can add 20 minutes of battery life per hour, increasing the Edge 1040 Solar’s battery life to 45 hours. Put it into Battery Saver Mode (which records GPS track points and sensor data less frequently and turns the screen off until an alert wakes it up) and you get an extra 45 minutes of charge per hour and can extend battery life all the way out to a mind-boggling 100 hours. 

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar reviewThe Garmin Edge 1040 Solar shrugged off the dark, wet, and muddy conditions and still gained an additional 2 hours of charge during the race!

I tested the Edge 1040 Solar’s amazing battery life at the epic 200-mile Unbound Gravel race. I topped off the Edge 1040 Solar’s battery the night before race day. Conditions were a mix of overcast skies, rain, and some full sun, and I had navigation running and the screen backlight set to 60 seconds. I finished just under 13 hours and my Edge 1040 Solar battery was still above 80% charge. I’ve literally never had any head unit last over 14 hours, so this sort of battery life blew my mind. I raced Unbound without worrying about my head unit dying, which is a huge relief. 

As you’d expect from Garmin, the navigation was spot-on with clear and easy-to-follow turn-by-turn prompts, thanks to the large color touch screen and loud alerts. It warned me of sharp and blind corners which kept me safe on an unfamiliar course. During recon, I also liked how easy it was to reverse my route to navigate back to my start point. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to upload new routes thanks to the Garmin Connect app. It came in handy when the event released a last-minute course reroute. I simply uploaded it to the app and didn’t stress at all. It was also super easy to use the Garmin Connect app to text my support crew a tracking link while I was riding, so they could see how far I was from each checkpoint and get supplies ready. 

During the race, I set up eating alerts that would remind me every 45 minutes to stuff my face full of food. And finally, Garmin’s automatic ClimbPro feature was incredibly handy for pacing all of the steep, punchy hills I encountered out on the course. I’ll also mention that many of my friends lost their GPS signal when we rode through a densely wooded mud pit and missed a few turns because of late prompts (due to poor GPS signal), but I never did. In the end, Unbound Gravel was the toughest cycling event I’ve ever taken on, and I couldn’t be happier with how my Edge 1040 Solar performed throughout. 

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar final thoughts

Garmin Edge 1040 Solar reviewLong adventures under the sun is where the Garmin Edge 1040 Solar really shines.

The Edge 1040 and 1040 Solar have a long list of features that would require a novel to cover in-depth. Overall, I’ll say it’s the easiest Garmin to set-up that I’ve ever used. The large touchscreen makes customizing data fields a breeze. Or if you prefer, you can do all the setup on your smartphone with the Garmin Connect app. 

The performance coaching features seem impressive, even though I didn’t really listen to them. Prompts will automatically advise you on things like eating, pacing, and recovery. Perhaps, if I had paid attention, I might have performed even better! Now that the dust has settled after Unbound, I’m keen to dive into how these features can improve my riding. 

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So why pick an Edge 1040 or 1040 Solar over any other head unit? Prior to the Edge 1040 Solar, my main head unit was the Hammerhead Karoo 2. The Karoo 2 is a great deal. It’s $200 cheaper than the Edge 1040, and $350 cheaper than the Edge 1040 Solar. The touchscreen and navigation are on par with the Garmin, though I’d give the Karoo 2 a slight edge (haha) in terms of image quality. 

What you get with the Edge 1040 though, is unmatched battery life, better GPS accuracy and reliability, an easy-to-use smartphone app (Hammerhead does not have an app), and performance coaching features that can elevate your performance. Also, if you’re a Shimano rider, Garmin also provides Di2 integration, which the Hammerhead does not (it is SRAM-owned). 

Is that worth the higher price? As someone who feels deep anxiety whenever GPS drops out or I see any of my devices low on battery, it’s well worth it to me.

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Photos courtesy of Garmin Ltd. and Life Time, Inc.