Today Garmin announced the latest version of their flagship NEO smart trainer: the Tacx NEO 3M. Replacing the 4+ year old NEO 2T as Garmin’s top trainer, the 3M brings some notable improvements… and a hefty price tag. Let’s dive into the details!
The Tacx NEO line has long been considered the “gold standard” of smart trainers, especially in terms of power accuracy. Having evolved over the years, the NEO 2T already has many of the features you’ll find in top-tier trainers: 1% accuracy, auto-calibration, near-silent operation, and max wattage/incline that you’ll never exceed. Heck, it even had a sort of race-mode power broadcasting at 4Hz, before everyone else starting supporting 10Hz!
So what did Garmin upgrade to create the NEO 3M? Here are the biggest changes:
- Built-in motion plates allow for a total of 5cm of fore-aft movement
- WiFi and ethernet connectivity via an add-on accessory
- 11-speed cassette pre-installed
- Built-in handle
- 2 concurrent Bluetooth connections supported
There are lots of “smaller” changes as well. Garmin also beefed up the resistance unit and internal cooling systems, so even though the max wattage/incline specs are the same as the NEO 2T, the 3M can handle heavier loads at lower speeds (like climbing steep hills on Zwift). Additionally, the power adapter “brick” has been moved internally for a cleaner plugin setup, various lights/buttons have been modified, and, according to early reviews, the 3M’s ERG capabilities have been improved substantially, making it perhaps the best ERG trainer on the market today.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the key new features…
Garmin has been selling motion plates for the NEO for a few years ($299USD), and the 3M’s plate have precisely the same movement ability. Garmin has added lockout knobs on the 3M in case you want to stop the fore-aft movement, but otherwise you’ll get around 2.5cm of backward movement and 2.5cm of forward movement.
It’s worth noting here in the “motion” section that the NEO has always allowed for a bit of side-to-side movement. Garmin has finally leaned into this a bit with the 3M, changing the unit’s design a bit to ensure that the side-to-side movement is even.
While 5cm of movement is better than nothing, it’s far from a full range of movement. (For comparison, the Wahoo KICKR Move has around 20cm of fore-aft movement.) In terms of side to side movement, both the NEO 3M and KICKR Move offer a bit of it, but again, it’s nothing like the natural full side-to-side movement you’ll get with a good rocker plate.
The NEO 3M supports connections via WiFi or wired ethernet, but only if you buy the optional add-on accessory. (This unit isn’t yet listed on Garmin’s site, so we don’t know pricing.)
Like 3M’s motion abilities, Garmin’s implementation of WiFi/ethernet for the 3M are a welcome upgrade… but the implementation falls short. Why not build it into the unit, like Wahoo has done with their top-tier KICKR trainers and smart bike?
Considering the substantial price increase between the NEO 2T and the 3M, it’s a good thing Garmin has opted to start including a pre-installed cassette with this unit. If you’re on an 11-speed bike, this is a welcome addition.
But Zwift has made both Garmin and Wahoo look a bit silly here, since Zwift sells the Hub One with your choice of cassette. A pre-installed 11-speed cassette included on the NEO 3M and Wahoo’s top KICKR trainers is great if you have an 11-speed bike, but if you’re on a newer 12-speed, you’re effectively paying for a cassette you can’t use.
This may seem like a small thing, and that’s because it is. So why did it take so long? NEO owners have long hated moving their units because the NEO is heavy and famously awkward to pick up since it has no good handholds. Garmin finally adding a handle is a good move.
Two Concurrent Bluetooth Connections
Bluetooth’s one-to-one pairing has caught many riders out, so premium trainers have been offering the ability to support 2-3 concurrent connections. The NEO 3M is the first NEO model to offer more than one connection – a welcome upgrade.
Pricing and Availability
There’s no arguing that the Tacx NEO 3M is a substantial improvement over the previous model. And it’s been a long time coming!
But here’s the rub: that improvement comes at a price. The Tacx NEO 3M went on sale today for $1999USD, which is a $600 price hike from the MSRP of the previous model NEO 2T ($1399).
So if you’re looking to buy a NEO, you have to ask yourself: are the improvements/features of the 3M worth paying more than twice the price of the NEO 2T? On top of that, if you’re open to other trainer brands, is the NEO 3M a better buy than the Wahoo KICKR ($1299) or Wahoo KICKR Move ($1599)?
We like the NEO 3M as a worthy upgrade to Garmin’s flagship trainer, but we don’t like the price compared to the competition (namely, Wahoo). The hard truth for Garmin is, if they want to be competitive in this space they’ll probably need to reduce NEO 3M pricing to around $1599, with the WiFi/ethernet accessory included.
More Reviews/Announcement Videos
DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review is excellent, as always. Read it here, and watch his video below: