Two years ago I wrote the following review as a new owner (July 2014):
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.
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 GPX 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 on 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! [Update: There have been no new firmware updates for a long time now, but on the other hand there are no major bugs that I'm aware of that desperately need fixing.]
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. [Update: Strava now uses the barometric data from the N2C]
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. [Update: The latest Navi2coach model uses a Cycleops Joule compatible 1/8 turn 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.
I used the Navi2coach for over 20,000 km and more than two years. In August 2016 I did the Oume Temple Loop on a rainy Sunday. I don't know if it was the rain or just general wear tear on the USB port from that many rides, but the PC would no longer detect the device when connected via a USB cable (I tried three machines and three cables). Also, there was some moisture inside: I found a drop of water on the flat side of the battery. Drying the device for a few days with the battery slot open did not fix it. So what now?
I did not really fancy buying another Garmin, but a friendly dealer (www.bikebag.com/) offered me a replacement at very good price and so I've ordered another Navi2coach, this time with the 'twist' connector. This is compatible with the Cycleops Joule mount (1/8 turn), not the Garmin (1/4 turn). I'll probably receive it in about a week.