Hammerhead Karoo 2 – in this review I take a close look at one of the exciting new releases among the GPS units for road, mountain and gravel biking!
The Karoo 2 (€399.-) is on par with a Garmin Edge 830 (starting at €399,99*), but outperforms a Wahoo ELEMENT ROAM (€349.99*) or Sigma ROX 12 (from €350.-). Compared to the functional giant Garmin Edge 1030 Plus (from €599.99*), it is significantly cheaper. This already lists the most important competitor products that the Karoo 2 has to compete against.
Hammerhead Karoo 2 Review – Setup & Menu
After unboxing and starting up, it’s immediately time for setup – via Wi-Fi!
The following steps have to be gone through:
- Connect Wi-Fi
- Automatically download and install the latest software update
- Link your Karoo account (it’s best to create the account beforehand; during setup, a komoot account linked via Hammerhead Dashboard is also integrated)
- Map download, incl. an automatic location-dependent download.
- Afterwards you can enter the setup
From the beginning it is noticeable:
- The user interface is currently exclusively in English (the same applies to the support web pages, etc.).
- The small keyboard – e.g. for initially entering the Wi-Fi password – allows extremely precise typing (and is thus reminiscent of the iPhone keyboard).
- The flat menu is very clear and is in no way comparable to the complex menu of a Garmin Edge 1030 Plus.
- All settings take place on the Karoo 2 (and not via smartphone like Wahoo).
Hammerhead takes a different approach with the user interface. The main menu is dominated by tiles, behind which there are different, pre-configured profiles. For example, "Got Hills?" or "Just HR" with correspondingly preconfigured data pages. Further profiles can be added, the number is not limited.
Under these tiles, the four-dot icon at the bottom left gives access to
- Rides (your saved tours),
- Routes (all available routes, e.g. from komoot & Strava),
- Workouts (training plans from TrainingPeaks),
- Profiles (manage and configure profiles),
- Sensors (all sensors including setup),
- Settings (all settings)
- and additionally installed Android apps.
Swiping the display from top to bottom opens a convenient menu with functions such as adjusting the backlight and enabling/disabling auto-pause & tones.
During a tour, pressing the two top buttons at the same time takes you to the quick action menu, which provides important functions such as a "Route To Home".
While playing and trying out, smart details become apparent right away, for example when setting up data pages. To get an impression, there are animations with virtual data. This page helps you to dive into the matter: Profiles.
By the way, the default settings are very useful. For the first tour it is sufficient to connect only the desired sensors – the configuration game can follow.
Hammerhead Karoo 2 – Technology
The dimensions of the Karoo 2 are between the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus and the Garmin Edge 830, the weight is about the same as the 1030 Plus. I like the top manufactured and beautiful housing extraordinarily well, practical is also the color compatible with all bikes!
What is immediately noticeable: Bike computers usually use plastic caps attached to the housing to protect the USB ports. Not so with the Karoo, Hammerhead relies on the USB-C port being waterproof and dustproof, or rather the loose inserts that come with the unit. In my opinion, this is not such a convincing design, as dirt can get in when mountain or gravel biking (*) … and the inserts are likely to have a high loss rate.
(*) So far, this has not proven true!
A safety loop is also included … own experience teaches that an attachment is useful!
The supplied bracket fits only to handlebars with 31.8 mm diameter. Who has an oversize MTB handlebar with 35 mm in use must currently rely on a Garmin compatible mount; a suitable adapter is included. However, this does not ensure such a super-stable fit, the Karoo 2 can fly out of the holder. However, Hammerhead wants to deliver improved adapters. In addition, the range of mounts should grow.
According to the Hammerhead support page, the range for battery life is between 7 to 14 hours.
A few examples from riding:
- With permanent backlight (45% brightness), live tracking via LTE, various sensors and smartphone & mostly the map page in front of the eyes, 64% battery capacity was still available after about 02:45 hh:mm; about 7 to 7.5 h should be possible with these specifications.
- Also with continuous backlight (20% brightness), various sensors, no live tracking & smartphone, mostly the map on the display; just under 12 hrs should be possible. However, the 20% illuminance in the sun is a bit low for me (with yellow bike glasses).
- As before (21% brightness), quite cold (5° C), Karoo also runs out to around 12 hrs.
- Another example with continuous lighting (100% brightness), various sensors, no live tracking & smartphone, mostly the map on the display, this should allow for about 9 hrs.
Activating the battery save mode should result in a significant increase.
At maximum brightness it blows away any Garmin display – so far I have only seen something like this in the TwoNav Cross. 100% brightness at Garmin correspond to about 20% to 30% at Hammerhead (a subjective impression, a comparison is difficult, because the Edge 1030 display bluish, the Karoo 2 display rather yellowish).
On my MTB tours – under wintery cloudy conditions or sunlight from the side – the display shows a great readability, 20% to 30% backlight is quite enough.
If the sun bangs on the display, however, you can see a disadvantage compared to the display of the Edge 1030 Plus. Then the Garmin display is really great – but only in a narrowly defined angle of incidence of the sun. To achieve the same readability on the Karoo 2, the backlight needs to be turned up a lot.
On tours with changing conditions (in the spring, sometimes in the shade, sometimes in the light forest, sometimes in an open area with the sun diagonally from the side or directly from behind) there is no clear winner – see video. It should be noted, however, that in midsummer the pendulum is likely to swing in the direction of Edge.
Track recordings are super accurate. The Karoo 2 and the Edge 1030 Plus do not give each other much – tie!
Apart from that, the multi-GNSS receiver ensures a fast position determination after switching on. At my reference station, it also provides absolutely spot-on elevation data.
Two examples from track recordings while mountain biking (mediocre GPS reception conditions ), the deviations are in the usual range of up to 10 meters. Such examples, however, I see only as conditionally meaningful, because the devices attached to the handlebars are very close together. Influences of the GPS receivers cannot be ruled out.
Sensors can be connected via ANT+ or Bluetooth. My favorite heart rate sensor, a Polar Verity Sense, has found the Karoo 2 immediately, the same goes for a Garmin cadence sensor v2. The Garmin speed sensor v2, however, could only be paired via Bluetooth and not via ANT+. On a Specialized e-bike, the Karoo 2 recognizes a speed or a power sensor (a display of battery and support mode is not possible).
The sensors can be renamed and each de-/activated, in addition you get, for example, the battery charge and software status. If several sensors of the same type are connected and activated – e.g. for heart rate – the Karoo uses the first HF sensor in the list as supplier (the order can be changed via drag and drop).
A smartphone with the Karoo Companion app installed is quickly connected. By the way, the app is "only" there to transmit smartphone notifications; it has no other functions.
The Nano SIM ensures seamless communication on the road, such as live tracking and data exchange with the Hammerhead dashboard (the counterpart to Garmin Connect, but with significantly fewer functions). According to the tests, this works absolutely reliably. Other, separately installed Android apps, such as komoot, can also be supplied with data via mobile communication.
Wi-Fi is the method par excellence for exchanging data at home – including installing map material. On the road, a smartphone can be used as a hotspot.
USB is primarily used for charging, but specialists can install Android apps or access the internal memory.
Wow – not bad – especially on the map side: rapid zooming, a smooth and practically seamless moving of the map. Calculating routes on the map’s path network is done at warp speed, the same goes for searching for an address. However, the start-up process after switching on could be a bit faster, the same applies to some function calls.
The device is operated via four keys or a touchscreen. It takes a bit of getting used to until the key assignment and their interaction is internalized – especially ending and saving a recording is implemented suboptimally. An important key combination should be mentioned again – pressing the two upper keys simultaneously leads to a quick menu during a ride.
Switching between data pages is done via finger swipe or key. In humid conditions, but also on a dry display, the success rate of wiping – even with special touch gloves – is not quite as high.
But the Karoo 2 has its buttons. However, I must note that the Garmin Edge remote control is still the best option for page changes, because the hands can remain on the handlebars. Maybe Hammerhead will allow to pair a Garmin or o_synce remote control?
Hammerhead Karoo 2 Review – Navigation
The Karoo 2 does not offer as much as some competitors in this respect! The focus is on navigating with routes.
This makes the Hammerhead Karoo 2 really good!
- The route to be followed is drawn in bright yellow on the map, including small arrows for the direction of travel. This fulfills my most important requirement: In combination with a top readable display is quickly to recognize where it goes! In addition, there are fine-grained routing instructions such as "Take slight right".
- The rerouting algorithm, i.e. the behavior when deviating from the route, provides a convincing, in the direction of travel oriented return according to my tests, and the Karoo 2 also reacts quickly and sensitively when a deviation is detected. There are no annoying turning maneuvers a la Garmin (apart from the 1030 Plus). The route back is visualized in red on the map.
Depending on the settings, turn-by-turn directions can be displayed, supported by more than sufficiently loud advisory tones.
Routes can not only be imported wirelessly (e.g. planned in komoot or created with the Hammerhead route planner), but can also be created on the Karoo 2 itself by setting map points and saved for reuse. However, this reveals a major weakness: The calculation currently only takes place with an existing Internet connection (Wi-Fi, mobile).
But fortunately, offline routing is still possible; tapping a point on the map results in the calculation of a route drawn in purple (the destination may be a maximum of 160 km away).
However, there are wishes for improvement:
- The icon for the current position should be positioned further down when navigating, so that there is a better overview of the route ahead.
- There is no possibility to delete a recording instead of saving it.
A few words about ascent & descent meters. Up to now Karoo 2 calculated the altitude meters much too optimistically. This has now been fixed and the ascent/descent altitude meters look good. An example from a MTB tour (without manual calibration of the altimeters):
- Karoo 2: 1.253 / 1.241 m
- Garmin Edge 1030 Plus: 1.211 / 1.206 m
- Garmin Enduro: 1.228 / 1.219 m
Something thoughts regarding the worldwide OSM maps.
They make a visually good impression, but the POI icons are somewhat uninspired, much too small and thus difficult to see. Elevation contours are missing in the mountains, which can make orientation and searching via map difficult – this shows that the Karoo 2 was probably primarily developed for road cyclists.
Alternative maps cannot be used; the Garmin world definitely has a big advantage in this respect. The only possibility for additional maps is to install another navigation app.
In general, I can only recommend to read in the Hammerhead community – so there’s a good overview of all customer requests.
Hammerhead Karoo 2 Review – Strava Live Segments
Another feature that I like very much: The integration of Strava Live segments.
How many segments can be loaded? The Karoo 2 takes 100 "starred" and 100 "near-by" segments.
Simply implemented and only with the really needed functions. Especially compared to the Garmin Edge 1030 Plus, which requires a "literature study" first.
Set up the connection to Strava, load segments and drive a route along the segments – that’s it!
hammerhead Karoo 2 Review – Summary
The many strengths make the Hammerhead Karoo 2 a serious contender for competitors like Garmin and Wahoo.
The Karoo 2 is certainly at a disadvantage in terms of pure functionality, especially in direct comparison to Garmin Edge devices. However, the question has to be asked: What do I even need?
Besides, the Karoo 2 is only at the beginning of its development and still needs some time to mature – but the potential is there! The same applies to the dashboard, there are no functions for extensive evaluation of trainings.
After many kilometers on the mountain bike, I can state: The Hammerhead Karoo 2 is a good candidate in the search for a cycling computer for the 2021 bike season. Especially for bikers who want to be away from the mainstream.
Karoo 2 – Pros
- Clear menu
- Simple setup
- Buttons & touchscreen
- Great route navigation
- Class leading re-routing
- Smart details
- Super bright display
- Very fast zooming & panning of the map
- Extensive connectivity incl. LTE
- Integration of services like komoot & Strava
- Clean & simple Strava live segments integration
Karoo 2 – Cons
- English user interface & support only
- In detail there is potential for improvement
- Various feature requests from the community
- Online dashboard with little functionality
- GPS: 80%
- Speed: 80%
- Battery: 60%
- Display: 100%
- Navigation: 100%
- Operation: 80%
- Maps: 60%
- Features: 80%
- Final: 80%
- Batterieverordnung: Batterieverordnung Sie sind gesetzlich verpflichtet, Batterien zurückzugeben. Sie können diese nach Gebrauch in einer unserer Filialen oder in einer kommunalen Sammelstelle vor Ort zurückgeben. Hinweis nach BattV Batterien und Akkus gehören nicht in den Hausmüll. Verbraucher sind gesetztlich verpflichtet, gebrauchte Batterien zurückzugeben.
- Elektroschrott: Elektro- und Elektronikgeräte gehören nicht in den Hausmüll. Hierfür stehen Ihnen städtische und kommunale Sammelstellen zur Verfügung. Die Sammlung der Elektro- und Elektronikgeräte ermöglicht das Recycling von Wertstoffen, die Wiederverwendung und die ordnungsgemäße sowie gefahrenlose Entsorgung.
- Teile tierischen Ursprungs: Nein
Karoo 2 or Edge 1030 Plus?
Pro – Karoo 2
- You love a clear user interface.
- You don’t want to despair of a complex configuration.
- Want a generally super readable display.
- Like to change pages via integrated keys.
- Want to leave the smartphone at home thanks to data exchange via SIM card.
- Want to change the priority of the sensors via drag & drop and pair sensors individually via ANT+ or Bluetooth.
- Appreciate an effective and easy integration of Strava segments.
- Want the route to follow to stand out visually.
- Value probably the best forward re-routing.
- Like to install more Android apps.
- Need to save a few Euros.
Pro – Edge 1030 Plus
- You are already in the Garmin ecosystem (e.g. with a fenix).
- Need the variety of maps from Garmin or OSM.
- You appreciate Garmin accessories such as the Edge remote control or the Charge power pack.
- Want to access the wide range of third-party accessories.
- Appreciate the long battery life.
- Need the slightly larger display.
- You are looking for the best sunlight-readable display.
- You care about the incredible feature set of the 1030 Plus.
- You need complex training features and Firstbeat metrics.
- Offline route planning is critical to you.
- Want to use the "after the trip" analysis features of Garmin Connect.
- Want to use transferring routes from your smartphone.
- Need a German, French … language user interface & support pages.
- Need some e-bike integration.
- Rely on the endless Connect IQ extensions.