The Xplova X5 Evo is an update to the original X5 that we tested last year. It's the only full-feature GPS computer with onboard video recording, with a nice big colour screen and 720p video capability. Appropriately enough, given the name, it's an evolution rather than a revolution, with a welcome £70 price cut and evidence of lots of work having been done to improve the user interface.
- Pros: Unique integration of video recording into a GPS computer, large and easily-readable touchscreen, useful mobile apps offer a big increase in functionality when you're not by a PC, competitive pricing
- Cons: Video quality isn't a match for dedicated action cameras, (otherwise excellent) route planning in app doesn't include elevation profile, user interface improved since X5 but still not the slickest
As you can see in our unboxing video, Xplova has done a nice job with the packaging: the X5 Evo comes in a smart box with magnetic closure, feeling every bit the premium product. I think it bests the pricier Garmin Edge 1030 in this respect – it's more like a high-end smartphone.
In the box you have the unit itself, a plastic out-front mount, a micro-USB cable for charging, and a lanyard you can use to provide some security in case your device ever bounced off its mount. I didn't use this, as it's held pretty well on the out-front mount and it's a tough little package anyway. Those who've previously used a Garmin will be pleased to learn that the mounts are compatible, so any fancy Garmin mounts you have will work just fine here.
The Xplova brand was acquired by Acer, the Taiwanese electronics company, in 2015. The X5 Evo is an Android device, as was its predecessor, but a lot more effort has gone into making it feel like a dedicated device this time around. In use, the original X5 felt quite a lot like an odd-shaped phone running a haphazardly translated exercise app. Now the Android status bar at the top is hidden and the software runs full-screen, and the overall effect is definitely an improvement.
At first glance, the hardware looks unchanged from the X5, but there are a couple of changes. Onboard memory increases from 4Gb to 8Gb – enough for a fair amount of video and maps but not class-leading (the Garmin Edge 1030 has 16Gb and a microSD slot). Given that you can buy a 32Gb microSD card for barely £20, it would be nice to see a bit more memory here. It's certainly possible to fill the memory in a single ride if you go heavy on video. The other notable change is the deletion of the SIM card slot, with all data transfer now going via WiFi. As the casing is the same, there's still a flap where the SIM used to go – it's a shame that they didn't put a microSD slot there.
Out of the box, the first thing you do is pair the device to your phone. Get them on the same wifi network (or put the X5 Evo on the phone's hotspot) and they find each other. Xplova told us that the aim with the Evo was to enable it to be used without the need of a PC. Hence there's a surprisingly effective routing function in the mobile app (Android and iPhone) and you can synchronise with Strava, Training Peaks and Xplova's website via the app too. You can also pull video files from the device to your mobile and use the Xplova Video app to edit them into a film of your xploits (sorry).
One of the limitations of the X5's video was that clips were limited to 9 seconds; the X5 Evo will record until the memory is full, which is about an hour.
A la modes
There are four recording modes, of which I mostly used two. The manual mode is the simplest – just hit the Record button to start and stop recording. The button is just below the screen, making it pretty easy to hit even when you're riding somewhere rough. You can have the video being recorded displayed on part of the screen, which is useful to check framing but does obscure other stuff. It's optional, in any case. The other mode I used (primarily for commuting) was the Loop mode – effectively a dashcam, which records 10 x 2-minute clips before overwriting the first. (As this records constantly, it doesn't display the video onscreen.)
The remaining modes are Timelapse, which takes a photo at regular intervals between 2 and 60 seconds, and Auto record, which allows recording to be triggered by a range of inputs. These comprise heart rate, speed, cadence, power, time/distance into a ride, upward gradient, downward gradient and a SmartSign (like a Point of Interest that you can add to a route generated within the Xplova app or website).
It's quite clever and perhaps could be useful in a race, where you might not be able to start recording manually, but for other riding I found I was quite happy starting it manually. It's worth noting that commissaires can be a bit funny about amateur racers with GoPros on their bikes, whereas I can't envisage anyone having an issue with the Xplova as it looks just like another GPS.
The camera hardware itself is unchanged from the X5, yielding 720p at 30 frames per second with a wide 120 degree horizontal field of view. As onboard video is arguably the main differentiator from the mainstream GPS competition, these specs are underwhelming. There are lots of bike-friendly video capture devices now and 1080p is a given, with 4K increasingly the standard.
The footage from the X5 Evo is no match for a GoPro or Garmin ViRB in terms of colour, detail and overall visual appeal. It can't match a modern high-end smartphone camera either. None of those are direct competitors, of course, but if your main goal is to shoot beautiful film of your bike rides, this is not the tool for the job. Here's some video recorded using the Xplova.
The latest firmware version also allows it to take photographs, but this requires a few button presses and I found my phone took notably better photos so I didn't really use this.
If you see it primarily as a GPS computer with the video as an added bonus, then it does make sense. I never fit a GoPro for bike rides, but I did use the Xplova camera from time to time just because it was there.
At the end of the ride, you can upload the video clips to the app on your phone over WiFi, or you can connect to a PC with a USB cable and copy the files across. The app makes it relatively easy to chop some clips together, and allows you to overlay displays of speed, heart rate and power onto the video too.
There is a microphone on the device, which is just about usable when completely stationary, but at any kind of speed becomes useless – the combination of road vibration and wind noise (even at low speeds) overwhelms all other sound. Here's another clip where I left the original sound. You can add background music in the app – either some standard tunes or anything else you have on your phone – although you may find that using copyright music will result in your video getting deleted from some social media channels.
As a GPS cycle computer, the Xplova is a strong offering, especially at the price. You can download Open Street Maps for pretty much the whole world for free, provided that the device has a WiFi connection, and the display is excellent: a 3 inch 240x400 pixel colour screen with enough brightness for the midday sun. It has an ambient light sensor and will adjust brightness automatically – I found this worked very well – and can also toggle automatically between day and night modes at dawn and dusk. For legibility in a range of conditions, the X5 Evo beats anything that Garmin has produced to date.
As well as the map screen, there are several data display screens. The most visually appealing is the dashboard, which has rotary "speedo" dials for speed, heart rate and cadence, as well as a bar chart of power and digital displays of elapsed time, distance, altitude and gradient. This screen isn't user-configurable, but the other data screens are (unlike on the X5), allowing you to customise up to four screens of digital displays and up to three of graphs to show the metrics you need to see. It's fairly straightforward to use and should satisfy the most numbers-driven cyclist's needs.
Like pretty much any GPS computer, there is the odd bugbear. For me, I found it annoying that the distance display under the map was limited to three decimal places. So, for the first 100km of a ride, it counts up in 0.1km increments, but once you've hit 100km, it only counts up in whole km (by which time I'm generally knackered and seeing the distance ticking by helps with my motivation). A minor detail, but it would be pretty easy just to rescale the font to fit another digit, wouldn't it?
Xplova claims that the capacitive touchscreen is suitable for use with gloves, but I found none of my full-finger gloves would operate it. It did work fine in rain, though, and in general the IPX7-rated device had no issues with wet weather at all.
I do have a quibble about the way that the touchscreen and hardware buttons combine, particularly having been wearing winter gloves for pretty much the entire testing period. Ideally, the hardware buttons would allow for the main functions you need during a ride to be used without the touchscreen. On the map display, the up/down buttons on the right zoom in and out, which is logical. If you need to drag the map around then you need to use the touchscreen, but that's fair enough.
On the X5 you could use the lower-left 'menu' hardware button to cycle through screens while riding, meaning that even in winter gloves you could get from map to data and back. On the X5 Evo, you swipe left and right on the touchscreen to cycle through map, dashboard, and up to seven data screens, so you need the touchscreen to go from one screen to the other. The menu button now operates the lap timer during a ride. I can only suppose that there are users for whom the lap timer function is a key one, but for me it's a big waste of a hardware button, especially when the function assigned to it on the previous device was, for me, much more useful. I'd like to see button configurability here.
Probably my primary use for a GPS computer is to follow a route, so I spent most time with it on the map page. The OSM maps are really clear with decent coverage of cycling paths. Tapping the compass toggles between north-up and rotate-with-heading modes. On the latter, your position is near the bottom of the screen, so you see more of where you're going than where you've just been, which is smart.
Routes can also have turn-by-turn directions, displayed in text at the top of the screen. I prefer to just follow a line, which works flawlessly. With the turn-by-turn directions, I found that sometimes the text description of the next instruction would be more characters than could be displayed in the allowed space, so you might get an instruction like "Turn left into Bloomfield Road and your destination is on your".
Route creation is an area where things have certainly moved along since the X5. As well as using Xplova's website, which has itself improved since we reviewed the X5, you can now plan routes on your phone. The Xplova Connect app route planning is hands down the best I've tried for those times when you can't get on a computer. It does a super job of creating point-by-point routes and mostly makes reasonable choices when you ask it to route between two points. It's also helped by the fact that modern mobile phone touchscreens are much nicer to use for this sort of thing than a GPS screen.
You add points by clicking on a map, with haptic feedback (a response you can feel) when you create one, and the app reliably differentiates between dragging the map around and clicking a point. There is an undo button and you can also display a list of points where you can delete unwanted waypoints.
There's a Google-powered search, which will find pretty much anything, and overall the route creation works brilliantly. So if you're part way through a ride and need to lash up a bail-out route home, or if you're camping in the middle of nowhere, you can plot the next day's on your phone without any trouble at all.
One thing that is missing is an elevation profile display while you're making a route. You can create the route, upload it to the device and then see the profile, but I'd like to see this while I'm making a route just in case I want to miss out that big hill that might not be obvious on a map.
If you do have a computer handy, you can create a route using the Xplova website, and this will display the elevation profile in a similar way to route-planning on Strava. The route planner automatically adds SmartSigns for the bottom and top of hills in your route (with reasonable accuracy) with which it can give you climb data while you're riding, such as the remaining distance until the top of the current climb, average gradient of the next climb. This is useful to know if you're working hard on a hill you don't know – making it much easier to judge efforts.
You can also manually add SmartSigns to your route, which will appear on the map display while you're riding to remind you of the location of a water fountain, shop, restaurant, lodging and so on.
If you prefer to use Strava to generate your route (and on balance, I do), you create the route on the Strava website and import it onto Xplova's web-based planner as a file (eg, gpx). You can also open Strava on your phone and load up the route. Once the route is available in the Strava app, it's also visible in the Xplova Connect app, and you can upload it over WiFi to the device. The one thing that's not possible is the direct import of a gpx route file onto the device, so if someone emails you one, you need to import it via either the Strava or Xplova website.
At the end of a ride, if you save the activity then it is available to upload from the device to your phone, from where it can be uploaded to Strava, Xplova or Training Peaks. It's a little bit fiddly to set this up compared with the seamless experience of recording with the Strava app on a phone.
The X5 Evo has ANT+ and Bluetooth connectivity, although for now only the ANT+ is functional and can be used for a full range of sensors as well as communicating with latest-gen Shimano Di2 (so you can log and display your gear data). We're told that a software update will enable Bluetooth functionality in the near future.
There are inbuilt sensors as well, including a barometric altimeter. This allows a handful of preset "known altitudes" such as that of your home, so that you can select the correct one at the start of a ride. GLONASS satellite reception has been added for the X5 Evo which should improve positioning with limited sky coverage. Certainly it is notably faster than the X5 to get a position lock.
Xplova told us that ANT+ FE-C smart trainer control is on its way, and the Training Plans available in the app offer a huge range of targeted plans such as sprint training, FTP tests, threshold training and so on.
So there are a few functions that are still in the pipeline, but overall the X5 Evo is certainly a more accomplished product than the X5. It was certainly a relief that it didn't ever lapse into Chinese, which happened regularly with the X5. As a GPS computer, it has a lot going for it with a great screen and decent 12-hour battery life (although this does reduce if you use video recording a lot). The video recording is an unusual feature and the recording modes offer a useful range of functionality, although the output isn't a match for the best action cameras.
Xplova has engaged a UK-based technical support partner to provide customer support on the product, which is a welcome attempt to woo the European market. The X5 Evo comes with a two-year warranty and Xplova promises that software development will continue with updates available for download.
RRP for the Evo is £379.99, significantly undercutting top-end Garmin pricing. You can find it online for significantly less, with Sigma Sports currently offering it with the sensors bundle (HRM and speed/cadence sensors) for under £300. A Garmin 1030 is a lot more expensive, but you can create routes on the device itself (with sometimes mixed results) whereas the X5 Evo needs a phone – not an issue for me as I pretty much always ride with one on me.
There's nothing else like the Xplova on the market at the moment, although you could mount a GPS and a dedicated camera to a single out-front mount for much of the same functionality, but not for a comparable total price.
Those who have no interest in video may still find it worth a look, but if you like the idea of having the ability to record video of your rides then this may be the neatest way of doing so, although the output quality could be better.
Unique combination of GPS computer and action camera, much improved over X5: great screen, really good mobile app routing
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Xplova X5 Evo GPS Cycling Computer
Size tested: 3in screen
Tell us what the product is for
Xplova says, "The world's 1st turn by turn GPS cycle computer with built in action camera. This is aimed as a mid-to-high end GPS device to compete with some of the more expensive Garmins, with the unique added feature of a built-in camera."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Display: 3-inch, Trans-reflective type, with 240–400 pixels
Water Rating: IPX7 (Max. 1m underwater for 30 mins)
Video Camera/Spec.: 120-degree wide-angle camera with HD 720P@30fps
Internet Connection: Wi-Fi
GPS GPS/GLONASS dual system
Memory 512MRAM/8G flash
Video Recording Modes: Support data-linked auto recording, time-lapse recording, loop recording and manual recording
Map: Support OpenStreetMap maps/Xplova's website provides route planning and downloading services
Size and Weight: 110 x 62 x 23 mm, 120g
Battery: Rechargeable Lithium Battery/1500mAh / approximately 12 hours (Wi-Fi/Backlight off; GPS 3D-Fixed)
Charging input: 5V Micro-USB
Built-in Sensors: Temperature, Barometric Altimeter, Ambient Light
External ANT+ connectivity: HRM, Speed Sensor, Cadence Sensor, Combo (speed & cadence) Sensor XA-CS2, Power Meter
Solid, weather-proof construction.
Very good as a GPS cycle computer, not as good at video as a dedicated device.
No issues in use. My only concern would be if Acer decided it had had enough of cycling and ditched the app/web portal. But no indication suggesting that might happen.
Lighter than a 1030, although with less battery life.
I think this is really good value. It's competitive even if you leave the video to one side, and that's a USP that will certainly appeal to some (and add value).
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent job as a GPS and worth having as a video camera, albeit not on par with a dedicated device.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great display, being able to make routes when out and about, quick and easy video editing on the app.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
When you ride somewhere stunning and the resultant video isn't as good as you'd want to be a proper memento of it.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's notably a better finished product than the X5, even if there are still some features on the way.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.