This year, Giant has partnered with Stages Cycling to provide its own (co-)branded GPS device, the Giant Dash M200. I’ve been testing the new product since April, and it’s been a bit of a downhill and then uphill.
The first two units I tested completely failed. The first GPS froze on a bumpy gravel ride and never worked again. Another worked for a few rides and then wouldn’t go past the splash screen every time I tried to turn it on. Giant quickly arranged replacements for both, and the current third unit is still working after a few months of testing. Since April there have been some firmware updates, including at least one is supposed to fix the problem I had with my second unit failing. I’ve read that other early adopters have had similar issues, and so far it looks like the major bugs have been ironed out, so things are hopefully going up.
M200 Giant Dash
The Giant Dash M200 features a 2.2-inch backlit color display, an IP57 waterproof rating, and the ability to receive location data from GPS, SBAS, and QZSS satellites. There are built-in temperature, barometric pressure, ambient light and acceleration sensors as well as Wi-Fi, ANT+ and Bluetooth LE wireless capabilities. The free Stages Cycling app can be paired with the M200 to receive data such as text messages and phone notifications, and to send ride data to various online services. The Dash M200 uses a quarter-turn mount compatible with Garmin accessories, and my test unit weighs a hair under 77g.
Five buttons control the GPS: one on the left side and four on the front of the device, located just below the screen. There is a micro-B USB port for recharging the battery or connecting to a computer.
Giant and Stages provide detailed base maps showing roads and natural features, though you’ll need to download them one state at a time before heading out. You can do this over Wi-Fi and the process is quite quick.
On the track
Early in my testing, the Giant Dash M200 was slow to get a satellite lock, sometimes taking 20 minutes or more. I was finally able to download a software update that improved the lock time to minutes or less, which is on par with other GPS devices I’ve tested.
It took me very little time to learn the buttons on the Dash M200 and dare I say it, they are quite intuitive, at least for me. Turn on, turn off, turn off, back up, select…why aren’t all devices so simple? I like how the most used buttons are on the front and have printed icons to indicate their functions at a glance. A weird quirk is that pressing the buttons makes the screen a bit wavy from the pressure. As far as I know, it didn’t damage the screen.
Data screens are customizable, allowing you to browse only the stats that are important to you. When I’m mountain biking, I like to see the time of day, current elevation, elevation gain, speed, and distance. If you’re working out, you might also want to add heart rate or power, and the Dash M200 should work with all popular sensors.
My favorite thing about the Giant Dash M200 is its high contrast display. It’s bright and bold, and is easily readable in daylight and especially at night. There’s a built-in ambient light sensor to adjust the backlight to conditions that work as expected. You can also manually adjust the backlight level from 100% to 0%, although I certainly wouldn’t recommend the latter. I tried setting the screen to 0%, thinking it would be visible in bright conditions, but instead it was nearly impossible to see anything. I actually thought the device was dead until I was able to shine a very bright light on it to access the brightness menu and reset the value to auto. Another GPS device I use regularly doesn’t have a permanent backlight, so I’m not sure why the Dash M200 doesn’t work when the backlight is set to zero.
While auto-brightness is a nice feature and ensures a highly visible screen, it clearly consumes a lot of power. Giant says users should get over 11 hours of use from a full charge, or 18+ in battery saver mode, which frankly isn’t much. I needed to charge this one about twice as often as other GPS devices I use. I’d be happy with a slightly dimmer default auto-brightness level in day and night conditions if it meant better battery life.
Navigating saved routes works well, and the Stages app can add markers to your driving routes to make them even easier to follow. It’s easy to see your route and upcoming turns on the map, and the sound alerts are incredibly helpful. On several occasions during the first few tests, I noticed that my track lines deviated a little from the road map, although recently this problem seems to have been solved.
I ran my usual 1 mile, four lap track test with the Giant Dash M200 and the unit reported the distance at 1.03 miles for both tests, a 3% overestimate. The Strava iPhone app, the Coros Vertix 2 watch and the Garmin Edge 530 all reported distances lower, and closer to a mile, than the Dash.
In the elevation accuracy test, the Giant Dash M200 performed surprisingly well. After a quick warm-up period at the start of tracking, the reported elevation values stayed within just a foot or two for the flat track, making it one of the most accurate elevation trackers I’ve seen. tested to date.
Giant does not have its own app for use with the Dash M200, so buyers must download the free Stages Link app. The app is quite clunky and basic compared to others like Strava or Garmin Connect. I was never able to use it to send a GPX track file to the Dash unit despite several attempts; instead, I had to connect the device to my computer with a USB cable and transfer the files manually. After riding, sometimes my ride data was sent to the app, sometimes not. Until I connected the app to my Strava account, none of my rides appeared in the app unless I manually synced them one by one.
At the end of the line: While there are some things to like about the Giant Dash M200 like the glossy screen, intuitive controls and elevation accuracy, its inconsistent performance and limitations of the Stages Link app lead me to recommend passing this one on unless you’re a die-hard early adopter.
- Price: $279
- Shop at giant-bicycles.com.
- Nice easy to read display
- Intuitive button layout and menus
Advantages and disadvantages of the Giant Dash M200.
- Failures and issues during initial testing
- Stages app is lacking
- Limited battery life