Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715: Which One to Buy?

Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715 in my hands

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This is my comparison of Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715.

I used both radars, and in this article, I explain their differences and answer which one is better.

The main difference between Garmin Varia RTL515 and Garmin Varia RCT715 is that RCT715 has an in-built camera. It also features a USB-C port (not the MicroUSB as the RTL515). It’s also larger, heavier, and has shorter battery life.

My recommendation is as follows:

Buy RTL515 (also available at rei.com) if you don’t need the camera. RCT715 (also available at rei.com) is too expensive and bulky, and the Varia app is not user-friendly.

Continue reading to learn more.

Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. Garmin Varia RCT715 

Here is the summary of the main differences between Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. Garmin Varia RCT715.

FeatureVaria RTL515Varia RCT715
Dimensions98.6×19.7×39.6 mm
3.9×0.8×1.6 in
106.5×42×31.9 mm
4.2×1.7×1.3 in
Weight71g147g
Claimed battery life6 hours solid
8 hours peloton
6 hours night flash
16 hours day flash
4 hours solid or night flash
5 hours peloton
6 hours day flash
(when camera activated)
ChargingMicroUSBUSB-C
RadarYesYes
CameraNoYes
TaillightYesYes
Light modesSolid, peloton, night flash, day flashSolid, peloton, night flash, day flash
Camera modesn/aContinuous, Off, Radar-Activated
Crash/incident detectionNoYes
More infoGarmin Varia RTL515 ReviewGarmin Varia RCT715 Review
BuyCheck Price
Check Price (rei.com)
Check Price (wiggle.co.uk)
Check Price
Check Price (rei.com)
Check Price (wiggle.co.uk)
This table compares the main features of Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. Garmin Varia RCT715.

Physical Dimensions & Weight

When I used RTL515 for the first time, I thought it was too large. But I got used to it quickly.

However, it’s relatively small and light in comparison with RCT715. The RTL515 weighs 71g. RCT715’s weight is double (147g).

From the pictures below, you can also see that the dimensions vary. RCT715 is thicker and wider. Honestly, I don’t like using it on my road bike.

Mounts

One of the weaknesses of the RTL515 is the mount. It’s not stable, and if you have an aero seatpost like me, you will likely need to adjust it often.

Unfortunately, the hard mount for RTL515 is compatible with rounded seatposts only.

Detail of Garmin Varia with a hard mount on Specialized Tarmac SL6 seatpost
Detail of Garmin Varia RTL515 with a hard mount

That’s one of the areas where RCT715 beats RTL515. Its mount is more stable. But, on the other hand, it’s bulkier, and it has a ‘lever’ for locking the device in place.

It’s probably more secure than the simple twist-lock mechanism, but I find it less elegant.

Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715 with mounts on a wooden bench
Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715 with mounts

Radar Reliability

The reliability of both bike radars is great. I’ve been using RTL515 for thousands of miles (km), and I didn’t experience false alarms.

I used the RCT715 for a much shorter period (a few weeks), but I didn’t notice any false alarms either.

So, you can rely on the radar functionality. Just remember also to use your other senses.

Battery Life

The battery life of RTL515 is about twice as long as RCT715 (recording turned on).

I basically had to recharge RCT715 after every ride to ensure it won’t run out of juice during the next one.

Of course, the battery life is mainly affected by the taillight mode and if the recording is turned on.

But having the camera turned off misses the point, right?

At least Garmin has implemented a USB-C charging port in the RCT715. Unfortunately, the RTL515 uses outdated MicroUSB.

USB-C vs. MicroUSB charging port (RCT715 on the left, RTL515 on the right)
USB-C vs. MicroUSB charging port (RCT715 on the left, RTL515 on the right)

Camera

The only area where RCT715 beats RTL515 is the in-built camera. But this is just because RTL515 has no camera.

The footage quality of the RCT715 is poor. The video is shaky in both resolutions (720p and 1080p) due to the lack of optical or digital stabilization.

It mainly struggles in low light conditions or if the car is overtaking you quickly.

See the following pictures.

Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715 Pros & Cons Summary

I summarized the pros & cons of both radars below.

Garmin Varia RTL515 Pros

  • Longer battery life
  • Lighter and sleeker
  • More affordable

Garmin Varia RCT715 Pros

  • In-built camera
  • USB-C charging port

Garmin Varia RTL515 Cons

  • Unstable mount
  • No camera
  • MicroUSB charging port

Garmin Varia RCT715 Cons

  • Shorter battery life
  • Underwhelming footage quality
  • Bulky
  • Expensive

Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715 FAQ

My Verdict

I like the idea of combining 3 devices into 1. But unfortunately, the execution of RCT715 is not good. The camera quality is underwhelming, and the Varia is not user-friendly.

This makes the RTL515 a much better choice because it costs half the price while offering all features (except the camera).

So, unless you desperately need the camera, I recommend buying Varia RTL515.

2 thoughts on “Garmin Varia RTL515 vs. RCT715: Which One to Buy?”

  1. Estoy de acuerdo con tu opinión sobre la varia rtl 515.
    La acabo de adquirir por las mismas razones que expones.
    Estoy teniendo una gran experiencia con su uso.
    La he comprado por el gran aumento de circulación, tras tanta pandemia.

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