Bryton 860 review


Wednesday 22 July 2020 by Frank Jansen


The market for bicycle computers is dominated by two major players for years now: Garmin and Wahoo. You would almost forget that there are other manufacturers on the market, such as Sigma, Polar, and the Taiwanese company Bryton. We tested Bryton's new flagship, the Rider 860. For five days we put the 860 to the test in the Swiss Alps. This was followed by a number of rides in the flat Netherlands.

After the test the device was sent back to the importer. This review has not been paid for in any way.

Unboxing

The Rider 860 comes in a compact box. It comes with a nice and sturdy out-front mount, which looks a lot like a K-Edge. It also comes with regular mounts, and lots of rubber O-rings. Furthermore, a micro USB charging cable and a short manual. The device itself is quite large, even slightly larger than its direct competitors. The form factor is not great to our taste, but a bit better than the old ELEMNT.


Bryton 860Garmin 830Wahoo ELEMNT Roam
Dimensions10.5 x 5.5  x 2.48.2 x 5 x 28.9 x 5.8 x 1.8
Screen size2,8"2,6"2,7"
Weight124 gr80 gr93 gr
Screen resolution240x400246 x 366240x400

The 860 makes a rather bulky impression, and is not exactly thin or light either. 

The mount seems to come from K-Edge (Photo: Frank Jansen)

The 860 has a touchscreen with a resolution of 240x400 pixels. The device also has three buttons: two at the bottom and one on the left side. With the right button at the bottom you can start/stop/pause a ride, the one on the left is the lap button. With the button on the side you can block the screen and by pressing it longer you can turn the device off and on. The buttons make a solid impression which actually applies to the whole device. Also the cover of the charging port (at the bottom) looks solid, but it's a pity USB-C is not chosen.

In the middle the Bryton Rider 860, on the right the Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt (Photo: Frank Jansen)

The Dutch translations are, just like the competition, not too good, so we quickly set the device to English.  

Android

The Rider 860 runs (just like Wahoo computers) on a version of Android. It takes some time to boot up, although that's not an huge problem. What immediately strikes you when working with the device is the speed, or rather the lack of it. This is certainly not a smartphone, it looks more like an e-reader. Switching between the screens is anything but smooth and when you swipe back to the bike screen you sometimes even get an 'hourglass' for a second. It looks like the processor simply isn't powerful enough for the Android OS. The choice for the weak processor will have been made with the low power consumption.

With 24 mm the device is not exactly thin (photo: Frank Jansen)

Touchscreen

We are unfortunately not positive about the screen. First of all, there is a fairly large edge around the screen (the so-called bezel). That's something you could live with. But then the handling. You often have to make several attempts to get an effect and especially at the edges you can hardly get a tap. The small 'back' buttons are not helping either. In the full sun the screen reflects properly. That made it very difficult to take pictures for this review. However, the readability is usually fine, even when you dim the backlight. Below the line we put the touchscreen at the level of the already 7 year old Edge 1000 from Garmin.

Also with regard to the user interface there are points of improvement. For example, when you reach the last screen, you can't swipe to the first screen. Certain choices have to be confirmed twice (like starting a route). And there are even more quirks. Of course, most of these could be improved with a software update.

Pairing sensors is dead easy. However, it is strange that despite the presence of Bluetooth, only ANT+ sensors can be paired. Just like with Garmin, the Rider has a pull down menu. Here you can pair sensors and also see the wifi, battery and phone status. Pairing my electric Di2 group, power meter, speed sensor and heart rate monitor is done in no time. It is also very nice that the Di2 information can be displayed in 53x11 format if desired, something that unfortunately is still not possible at Wahoo. It is a pity that the battery status of both a power meter and the Di2 battery cannot be displayed. Fortunately calibrating the power meter is very simple.

Pairing my Tacx Neo doesn't work, or to be precise: the pairing does work but the power is not displayed. That's strange. The Bryton doesn't support an ANT+ FE-C, but that's only necessary to control a trainer. Reading the power should just be possible. The lack of ANT+ FE-C is not immediately a big problem, as most indoor cyclists still use a tablet or computer to control e.g. Zwift.

Setting up screens

Set up the different pages is done just like with Garmin: on the device itself. This works very simple. Very nice is that on the map screen up to 4 data fields can be set (Garmin max 2 without IQ app, Wahoo 6). When riding you can, just like with Garmin, also adjust fields by holding your finger on the field. There is slightly less choice in data fields than the competition, but everything you need is in there.

The Bryton also has a 'climb screen', which, among other things, displays an altitude profile when a route is loaded. However, this does not work very intuitively, so the scale cannot be adjusted. In practice this is of little use, and it certainly doesn't come close to Garmin's new Climbpro functionality.

Bryton app and routes

Like the competition, the Bryton has a companion app, available for iOS and Android. When I download it I see that the app only gets 3 stars in the iOS App Store and afterwards I understand why. Logging in costs me 5 attempts, the app makes a messy and slow impression. Fortunately, loading routes is easy. Routes from Strava, Komoot and RidewithGPS can be synced automatically, you can easily copy/paste a separate GPX and send it to your device. 

The Bryton app (image: Frank Jansen)

The app has no live tracking. Afterwards you can see your training data, but this all looks rather bald. This is absolutely not comparable with for example Garmin Connect. For most users this will not be a problem, as most people will use external platforms such as Strava and Trainingpeaks. These are easy to pair, by the way. Uploading a ride is automatic and can be done via wifi, or via BT and the companion app. Both worked fine, although it's awkward that you have to turn on wifi manually after finishing the ride.

Navigation

The Bryton has full, offline navigation, much more than just a crumb trail. The first step is to download the maps. You're using the device to do that. After you have hooked up the Rider to your wifi it works very easy. The OSM maps are downloaded in no time. With an internal memory of 10 GB there is more than enough space.

You can then let the device make something up by pointing a point or entering an address. "Back to start" is also possible. It is also possible to create a route via the companion app. Both options will rarely be used. The most common option is of course to ride a premade route (GPX). The Bryton will create turn-by-turn directions and (if desired) guide you to the start of the route, or calculate the quickest way to the route for you. This is convenient and works fine. 

It is striking that the directions do not appear as pop-ups if you have a screen other than the map screen on. When you navigate, you are actually forced to leave the map screen continuously on the screen. If you deviate from your route and don't have the map screen on, you won't get a message or a beep. The navigation line is purple in colour; yellow arrows are drawn over it in curves. Since some roads are also yellow, this is not always clear, but you get used to it quickly.

Yellow road and a yellow arrow: not always clear (Photo: Frank Jansen)

One drawback is that there is very little to set in the navigation. For example, you can't set preferences for the type of route if you let the device come up with something (e.g. unpaved, main roads), the colour of the line/arrows can't be adjusted, there is no auto zoom, and the directions and recalculation can't be turned off. However, the sound signals can be switched off.

Navigation is quite clear and the map screen gives a lot of details and colours. Instructions are also given when you don't have to turn off, for example when a hairpin curve is coming up. That is quite handy. In the descents, the device helps you to estimate turns well.

It often goes wrong, however, if you deviate from the route. We have tested this extensively. If you go wrong, the device does nothing at first. That's logical, if you miss a turn you don't want an alternative to be calculated immediately. If you continue riding, it takes a while before the Bryton comes up with an alternative (10-20s approximately). That alternative is usually not logical. If you don't agree with the alternative, the Bryton will stubbornly stick to the original alternative, even if you're almost back on the route. At this point the device really falls short, although it should be noted that it is not much better with the competition.

Even if you're close to the route again, the Bryton often sticks to the alternative (Photo: Frank Jansen)

Battery life

In 2020, you expect a device to have a battery life of at least 15 hours. Officially Bryton claims 16 hours, but even with the backlight fully dimmed we didn't get more than 10% per hour (GPS+Glonass on). So the Rider doesn't last much more than 10 hours. You can stretch the battery life by using a special low-power mode. The accuracy of the GPS is then considerably less, our test showed. Even if you don't drive through the forest, the device tells you that you regularly next to the road. Moreover, you don't necessarily save a lot of battery power. Without navigation we came to 6% p/h, turning the navigation on we came to 9% per hour.

On the GPS save mode you will regularly sit next to the road, even if you are not cycling through the forest (Photo: Frank Jansen)

Phone

If you pair the Bryton with your phone, you'll get incoming calls, text messages and even WhatsApp messages. You don't need to have the companion app turned on, but you do need to have a BT link. It's inconvenient that phone calls don't get through if your phone is on vibrate. It would also be nice if you could turn off WhatsApp notifications, but let calls (and possibly SMS) get through.

Quality of data

A cycling computer is not just for navigation, it also needs to collect and log data. And at this point there is room for improvement Bryton. For example, despite the presence of a speed sensor, the device often jumped on pause in a tunnel. Under bike profiles you can adjust the settings so that the sensor is leading but this did not solve the problem.

Another (and bigger) problem is the quality of the barometric altimeter. In our company we rode with 2x Wahoo Bolt and 1x the Bryton Rider 860. We drove two well known tours of which the elevation are known. The deviation of the Bolts from reality was almost zero, while the Bryton was repeatedly up to 600 hm (almost 20%!) higher. The altimeter can be calibrated manually, but this did not result in any improvement. 

That is not the only thing that stands out about the data. For example, the left/right value of my power meter is always about 80%/20% afterwards. Also the temperature is not correct. We made a ride in which we also had a Wahoo Bolt running. The differences are obvious.

Strangely enough, the data field L/R power during cycling actually shows the normal values. Finally, it is impractical that if you want to turn off the Bryton (for example during a longer stop), the activity will be saved. So you end up with two activities. 

Positive point is the accuracy of the GPS. Compared to the Wahoo Bolts, which have a simple, now obsolete GPS chip, the Bryton knows exactly where you are, even when you are driving along cliffs. Of course, all modern GPS standards are supported, including Galileo and GLONASS.

Conclusion

A device should always be judged on its price/quality ratio. The Rider 860 can be found (without sensors) for approx. €265 euro. That's a lot less than Garmin 830 which is sold for about €350 and the Wahoo Roam which is at around €330. Is that price difference reflected in the quality? The answer is a resounding yes. More than. The Bryton really impresses on very few points. The casing is solid, but not particularly beautiful. The device is reasonably user-friendly, but sometimes there are illogical choices in the user interface. 

Software as well as hardware have their shortcomings. Some of these can probably be fixed with updates, others, such as the battery life and the faulty altimeter, cannot. For gran fondo riders, a reliable altimeter and a fine climbing screen are an absolute must. Navigation works, but is far from perfect. The altimeter of our example was off massively, and the climbing screen offers little added value. For this reason alone we cannot recommend it. 

Pro's

+ build quality
+ transferring routes is fine
+ clear notifications incoming phone calls/SMS/WhatsApp
+ reasonably user-friendly
+ solid and beautiful mount
+ up to 4 data fields on the map screen
+ downloading maps is very easy
+ navigating works well as long as you stay on the route
+ accurate GPS chip
+ Connecting sensors and setting data fields is quick and easy

Con's

- speed
- touchscreen
- battery life
- sometimes illogical user interface
- navigation has few options
- navigation does not always work correctly when driving the wrong way
- no ANT+ FE-C
- highly unreliable altimeter
- mediocre form factor & large bezel
- translations
- no live tracking
- companion app is messy
- WhatsApp notifications cannot be turned off without turning off all notifications
- device pauses sometimes in tunnels, even with speed sensor
- does not give battery status of the sensors
- climbing screen has little added value
- activity ends when device is switched off






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