Review o_synce navi2coach

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,424
862
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#1
A year and a half ago I bought a Garmin Edge 500 for GPS logging and navigation. It generally gave me good results though some things about it have really irritated me. Losing the complete recording of my longest ride of the year (388 km) as well as more than half of my second longest ride (335 km) finally motivated me to look for a viable alternative. After seeing DC Rainmaker's very positive revue of the o_synce navi2coach (N2C) I decided to give it a try. You see it to the left of my Samsung Android phone on my handle bar, while the Garmin Edge 500 is on the right for comparison purposes.

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I ordered it from Bike24 in Germany for 109 EUR + 20 EUR shipping (JPY 18,000 in total, a little cheaper than the Garmin Edge 500 without accessories) and it arrived 11 days later.

This will not be a full review, only a list of positives and negatives about the two that I noticed. DC Rainmaker's review last year was pretty thorough.

The N2C is pretty much a direct competitor of the Edge 500. Like it, it supports popular ANT+ sensors such as speed, cadence, heart rate, power meters, scales, etc. Both produce .fit files that can be uploaded to popular sites such as Strava and RideWithGPS. Both can import GPS tracks for simple navigation.

The user interface is similar, with both using monochrome non-touch screens and several buttons. User screens can be customized for what fields to be displayed.

The N2C sports a slightly larger screen and is taller, but its width and thickness are almost the same as the Garmin.

Both devices are water-proof according to the IPX7 standard, which is based on a 30 minute immersion test at 1 m of water depth. I never had any problems with rain and my Garmin, but I know others have not been as lucky, despite Garmin's IPX7 claim. The rubber flap that covers the USB port while not in use seems easier to close tightly on the N2C than the Garmin.

While the Edge gets charged via a MiniUSB socket, the N2C uses MicroUSB, the standard used by almost all non-Apple phones these days. If you have an Android phone you will only need one charger or USB cable. The N2C comes with a cable but no charger, while my Edge came with both.

One important difference with regards to charging is that the N2C can be configured whether to automatically connect as a storage device (no GPS recording) when connected to USB power, or to only to charge from it. In "only charge from USB" mode you can run the device off an external USB battery pack to top up the internal battery. I've been told it's even possible to pop out the internal BL-5B battery and replace it with a charged spare while the device keeps recording, as long as the USB cable is plugged into a power source. That's pretty impressive.

While the Edge uses a proprietary non-removable internal battery (like iPhones do), the removable battery of the N2C is a standard part, the BL-5B used by many Nokia phones, hence compatible spares can be purchased for a few hundred yen from many sources.

On a long ride you can swap batteries as needed to get more recording hours. For me and my long rides this is a major benefit. Without swapping batteries, quoted battery life is about 14 hours, a little less than the "up to 18 hours" quoted by Garmin (I got as far as 16 on mine).

Internal memory capacity is 64 MB for the Garmin and 32 MB for the N2C. I ended up with a 1.8 MB file for a 13 hour ride without using pause. A one week Tokyo-Aomori tour probably would only half fill the memory.

The Garmin battery can only be recharged during recording if you use a special "MiniUSB OTG" (host mode) cable. Connecting a USB power source with a regular cable will end any Garmin recording in progress. Furthermore, if the power cable happens to pop out of the socket (say from road vibrations), the Garmin displays an "External Power Lost" message. If you don't acknowledge that soon, the device will automatically shut itself down and end the recording! You may end up with long rides split into multiple tracks, with bits missing in between.

Another thing that irritated me about the Edge 500 is that it displays the remaining battery capacity in percent only on some option screens and only in a font so tiny that I am frankly too old to read it. With the N2C, remaining battery capacity in percent or battery voltage are data fields like any other that you can integrate into configurable display screens. On top of that you get an analogue charge display with multiple bars, like on many other consumer devices.

Pairing the device with my ANT+ sensors was no more difficult than with the Edge 500. Other setup was also very similar.

The time zone came preconfigured for central Europe and it was easy enough to change to Japanese time (UTC+9), but on top of that I needed to manually turn off daylight savings before it showed the correct local time. I think the Garmin automatically sets the time zone based on GPS location. I was doing the initial configuration indoors, so if the N2C also handles GPS-based time setup then perhaps I missed it for this reason.

The device firmware is very actively maintained by o_synce, with updates occurring frequently and they actually listen to user requests!

Since my device didn't come with the latest version I performed a firmware upgrade. After that I did a factory reset, which caused some problems. The device came up with the initial setup screen, just like out of the box, but it rebooted itself whenever I made a selection. By skipping the initial setup and then configuring it via the Advanced setup menu from the regular menus I was able to get it working normally again. So there are still some rough edges here or there, but they are being taken care of.

When the N2C first entered production, the mounting bracket it came with had a spring that was weaker than the tested prototype and some users had theirs come loose and hit the road. This problem was recognized and has been fixed.

Nevertheless, when I went for my first big test ride, I attached a rubber band as a safety loop to the device using a bit of electrical tape. I never had it come loose, but when I uploaded the .fit file to RideWithGPS, its elevation chart was way off. I contacted o_synce support, who responded within 24 hours and were extremely helpful. I sent them the .fit file and they confirmed that it matched the chart seen on RideWithGPS. That's when I realized that the problem happened during recording and that it was due to my electrical tape covering the air hole of the barometric altimeter on the back side of the N2C!

The email exchange with o_synce support was very professional. I was very impressed. It is rare to find a company these days that supports its products so well. With my UK-purchased Garmin I can't even contact them because Garmin expects all Japan-based users to get support through Japanese dealers, which of course assumes that that's where you bought it in the first place.

Other than my user error about the air hole, results for the N2C and Edge on RideWithGPS were very close. After 20 km of recording with both devices configured for an auto-lap of 5 km, they would indicate lap 4 completion within seconds of each other. GPS lock after heading outdoors feels quicker on the N2C than on the Edge.

Though both the Edge and the N2C create .fit files, only the Edge files can be uploaded to Garmin Connect or to Strava using the Garmin browser plugin. N2C files can still be uploaded to Strava as files. I don't find that a major inconvenience and I don't really use Garmin Connect. At the moment Strava does not use the barometric data from the N2C, only the GPS-determined elevation, which is not very precise. RideWithGPS fully supports the N2C barometer. Hopefully Strava will catch up some time.

A frequent gripe I've had with the Garmin was that it can be hard to tell if it is recording or not. Even if you have the ride time showing, depending on the field width and whether you've been riding for an hour or more there may be no second count that's updating. Pausing and resuming will issue a message to confirm the state, but if done in the middle of a Strava segment that will exclude the activity from the ranking for the segment (no KOM!). The N2C simply changes the background colour of the top line in the status display: A dark background means it's paused, a light background means it's recording. Very simple.

One area where the Garmin still has (excuse my pun!) an edge is its quarter turn mounting mechanism, which makes it very easy to remove and put back the device when you park the bike. It's very safe and easy to use. The N2C comes with two mounting options, neither as convenient as the Garmin solution. Consequently I have ordered a SRAM QuickView Adaptor for Garmin 605 705, to rig up an attachment to the bottom of the N2C with a quarter turn lock mechanism that will fit any Garmin-compatible mount.

I'll keep using the two devices side by side for a while to compare their performance, but so far I am quite impressed by the performance of both the navi2coach itself and by o_synce technical support. Finally Garmin has a real competitor.
 
Last edited:
Dec 21, 2013
459
154
73
57
France - moving to Shizuoka
#7
LOL why do people need so much stuff... computer and thats all. I noticed from your posts before the pictures of everybody setting their GPS at the start - what happened to maps and Brevet route info - times move on but its like people use GPS in their cars and end up in a lake or field.
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,424
862
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#8
If you're referring to the most recent brevet report - that was actually different. It's wasn't the GPS but the phone that everyone fiddled with.

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The organisers often use a quiz check point - a piece of local knowledge that you need to provide to confirm you were there - as part of the route verification. This time they had us email the answer to the organisers and they advised us to save the email address on the phone before the start to make it quick. For the first time ever they also asked DNF reports (i.e. a notification that you're abandoning the ride) to be filed by email instead of by phone call.

Still, a large percentage of the randonneurs ride with map holders or cue sheet holders on their handle bar.

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I don't use them - too much work. Yes, I take a printed copy of the cue sheet but for following roads I only use electronics for that. Google Maps on the Android, plus a TCX on the Garmin or a GPX on the N2C and as disaster insurance, photographs of computer screens showing the map (inside my digital camera). One of those methods will get me there.
 
Likes: Robert

GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
242
103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#11
Thanks, Joe, I was curious about the O-synce. I had (have) similar issues with Garmin UX / bugs, etc leading to look for other data acquisition options. The non swappable battery is annoying on Garmin as well the trip reset /record ambiguity which can oftentimes lead to 'lost' or simply not recorded trips. On a recent trip, those with Garmins were continually mobbing the support van trying to sneak in a few minutes charge. For general riding I prefer the GPS Joule which simply starts when you start and that's that. No lost data ever and very long battery life.
 
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joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,424
862
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#15
For general riding I prefer the GPS Joule which simply starts when you start and that's that. No lost data ever and very long battery life.
I just browsed DC Rainmaker's November 2012 review of the Joule GPS, which was quite favourable.

It seems like people are split on the merit of auto-start and auto-stop. A lot of posters on a German forum where the N2C was discussed criticized that it doesn't auto-start recording when you start to roll. DCR has reservations about auto-start on the Joule GPS and comments that it might start recording data before GPS lock is strong enough to be precise.

The N2C doesn't automatically start recording on motion, but the Start/Stop button is also right in your face (below the screen, facing towards you) and the user interface makes it easy to see if a recording is active or not. It makes it easy to manually control, which a lot of people want for various reasons.

I think it's a matter of personal preference. Personally, I even have motion warnings disabled on my Garmin, i.e. those bleeps when you start riding without having started a recording, because I want full manual control what I record, without nagging of any kind.
 
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microcord

Maximum Pace
Aug 28, 2012
914
294
83
Tokyo
#17
The organisers often use a quiz check point - a piece of local knowledge that you need to provide to confirm you were there - as part of the route verification. This time they had us email the answer to the organisers and they advised us to save the email address on the phone before the start to make it quick.
Yikes. I hope that a typical desired-for answer is of the order of 「2ツ目」 or 「赤」. On my dumbphone, I'm the slowest one-thumb typist ever. (As for one-index-finger typing on my SIM-less smartphone, forget it.)
 

Doug3

Maximum Pace
Jun 24, 2010
720
179
63
Setagaya
www.tokyocyclingcoach.com
#18
For general riding I prefer the GPS Joule which simply starts when you start and that's that. No lost data ever and very long battery life.
You can also set it to autostart recording when it detects the signal from the heart-rate strap, I believe.

I use my Joule GPS with the motion auto-start setting. I kind of like it and got in the habit of "starting" my rides (data recording) about 500m from my house at the same intersection. By then the GPS is locked on, and I delete the current ride.

For me the downside of the Joule GPS is that it sometimes loses some data when uploading to (automatically) Strava,Training Peaks, and (manually) Garmin Connect.

The nice thing about Garmin is that it is widely supported for uploading to these services.
 

joewein

Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
2,424
862
133
Setagaya, Tokyo
joewein.net
#19
Yikes. I hope that a typical desired-for answer is of the order of 「2ツ目」 or 「赤」. On my dumbphone, I'm the slowest one-thumb typist ever. (As for one-index-finger typing on my SIM-less smartphone, forget it.)
At the quiz point in Enoshima in the 600 km brevet, the correct answer was "Enoshima".

It's always been something you have to read in a particular location, so worst case you can take a photo :)
 
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GSAstuto

Maximum Pace
Oct 11, 2009
945
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103
tokyo
www.roadfixie.com
#20
Joule Record Control is easy. You can choose Speed, HR or Manual. Speed is based on either Hub, Sensor or GPS. So GPS lock is not required if you have a PT Hub or other speed sensor. My only gripe with it is the need to convert the output data to compatible format for some of the services I use. Also - easy conversion of other workouts or routes into 'Training' files is difficult.