As the headphone jack disappears from more and more devices, the drive towards Bluetooth headsets is a continuously growing market. With that comes the commitment to more unique and futuristic designs that will make people happy about the abandonment of cables, such as true wireless headphones. There are many options available ranging from small off-brand models that you can find online, to some of the largest companies in the world. Of course, there are options like Apple's AirPods, but Samsung launched an impressive pair of true wireless headphones nicknamed Gear IconX. They have a lot of fanfare around them, and they have many great features. So, once again, those benefits come at a considerable cost, so should I aim and get a pair anyway?
Who are the Samsung Gear IconX for?
- Android users (preferably Samsung). Although you can connect them to an iOS device without any problem, some of its best features, such as real-time coaching and the passage of ambient sound, are only available through the Android application.
- The average gym user. If you're a hardcore gym rat, they may not do it for you because of their life below the battery. They just will not last as long as you need. That said, the quality of adjustment and sound is so good that if you only exercise for 45 minutes after work, the battery might be worth it.
Connection to the IconX Gear
Let's start with one of the most important aspects of true wireless headphones: connect to them. I was using the iPhone X and connecting was as simple as connecting to any other Bluetooth device. There is a small Bluetooth connection button on the back of the pill-shaped charging case that allows you to connect quite quickly. Obviously, it's not as fast and uninterrupted as connecting to AirPods with an iOS device, but the IconX Gear has some tricks up its sleeve that are not available on iPhones, so I guess we can match it. I will explain some of these in the following paragraphs, but this is the complete list through Samsung.
Once paired, the headphones turn on automatically and connect to your phone as soon as you take them out of the box, which is always something I expect with true wireless headphones. In addition, Samsung decided to include only Samsung's scalable codec, so that, unless it has a compatible Android phone, it will degrade it to the standard SBC codec. This is especially true with iOS devices since they only have AAC compatibility. We will get more information about what this means for sound quality later, but while we are on the subject, be sure to check out the full codec explainer article to understand why they are so important.
As far as playback controls go, nothing is specific to the operating system. Whether you're on Android or iOS: you can pause or play music with a single touch, jump between songs with a double or triple touch, and adjust the volume by sliding up or down. Touching twice answers a phone call, and tapping once and holding a call rejected. You can also press twice and hold down to choose between playlists, since Gear Icon X has 4 GB of built-in storage. This means that you can exercise without your phone.
Of course, doing this requires the use of the Android application, sorry Apple users, It's out of luck. You will have to transfer music in the traditional way, through your computer and the included USB cable. That's not the only feature you'll lose if you're moving an iOS device. You also do not get some of the health tracking functions, such as real-time coaching. And you will also lose the ambient noise step, which allows you to hear what is going on around you through headphones. That feature is so buried in the configuration without apparent shortcuts in the headphones that I do not think many people miss it. Although it's useful if you're going out for a run. The reproduction was also quite solid with only a few connections lost during my trial period. Even though they happened, I do not think they were frequent enough to worry them.
How is the quality of construction?
Samsung has a good reputation when it comes to build quality, and the Samsung Gear IconX is no exception. The charging case is small and made of a smooth plastic; However, due to the shape of the pill, it is a bit inconvenient to carry. I find it easier to put it in a backpack instead of finding space in my pockets. Once you open the case, you will get headphones that are resistant to IPX2 sweat, so you will not have to worry about damaging them during intense training.
In my opinion, one of the best features of these The headphones are small, so they do not come out of your ears in the same ridiculous way as others, and the tips of the silicone headphones keep each earpiece firmly in place during exercise. You need to adjust them at all, even along the hills and occasional trips.I would normally have to change the tips of the headphones for some foam with Comply memory, but that was not the case here.Of course, they come with some other options , so you can find which one works best for you They come in black, white or pink, so you can choose which one matches best with your training clothes (all black in my case). Since there are no buttons on the headphones, it maintains a minimal design.
Which brings me to one of my biggest complaints about these headphones: playback controls. Instead of buttons, Samsung went with small touch-sensitive pads on the headphones. And they stink. Either the touch area is too small or my fingers are too big (unlikely), but I almost always end up pausing the music when I try to skip to the next song … or skipping to the next song when I try to adjust the volume. I am sure that memorizing the different combination of faucets will help to some extent, but I think the controls are fundamentally flawed. To the point that if someone came to ask me something, I simply removed my headphones from my ear instead of bothering to touch them.
And then there's the battery life
If Samsung Gear IconX has a fatal flaw, it's the battery life. Whoever it is in Samsung who designed these headphones and dipped them in the Styx River must have held them next to the battery. Although Samsung says it has five hours of constant transmission, we could barely scrape 1.5 hours in each of our three test races. The chart below is borrowed from our true list of wireless connections and makes it clear how bad the battery life is.
We perform the tests adjusting the volume to an output of 75dB. While this will not harm your hearing, this is the maximum level you want to listen to if you want to avoid damaging your stereocilia. Then we let them play until they died. On three separate occasions, they died before the second hour. I also used them for our weekly team meeting in a group call and, although the quality was good, the right earphone died an hour after the meeting. On the positive side, they have a fast charge, so only 10 minutes in the cargo case gives you another hour of juice. Speaking of which, the case is loaded via USB Type-C, which is especially good if you have a relatively new Android phone, since they all charge virtually the same cable now.
Let's talk about sound
As we mentioned earlier, the Samsung Gear IconX does not have any high-quality codec, so anything you hear will be transmitted through SBC, the lowest common denominator in terms of data delivery. But despite the technical limitation, the IconX sounds surprisingly well. We tested the frequency response and, as you can see in the chart below, they are quite flat.
This means that if you choose to equalize your music through the Samsung Gear application, you can achieve some significant adjustments. I did not make any changes, so everything in this section was done with the sound that Samsung Gear IconX has fresh out of the box.
The highest notes were decently separated, considering that these are wireless headphones. You can hear this around 2:34 minutes in the song American Teen by Khalid, where the detail in the echoes and the reverberation of the random percussion elements and the snapshots can be heard clearly on the voices. However, this is not only limited to treble; the same can be said about the voices in the song The Cave by Mumford & Sons.
Even when things are filled a little more or less a minute and a half the song, the voice and the guitar are easy to understand. To be fair, the banjo is lost, so the level of detail is not perfect or surprising in any way, simply stunning considering the small size here. I will say that my least favorite part of these could be the lower notes. In songs that rely on powerful subwoofers, the IconX ends up trying a little too hard to make it work, which can only be described as simulation.
You can hear this in the song Take of Arin Ray, where the sub-bass that is supposed to intertwine everything in the background ends up sounding later as the melody principal. Something that becomes even more apparent when the rhythm changes to 2:44, and the bass is basically all you can distinguish.
The Samsung Gear IconX are so close to being my favorite pair of true wireless headsets. I can see why so many people like it. They sound just as good or better than other hearing aids on the market, they have a great sweat-proof structure, useful fitness features, as well as minimal design that will not make you look like an aspiring robot of the future. But there are some fatal flaws that I simply can not overcome. It could rule out the fact that many key features are missing from iOS devices, because – however annoying – it seems to be the norm when it comes to rival technology companies. Then there are the reproduction controls that, in my experience, were inconsistent and basically useless. But the battery life is inexcusable.
I run at least twice a week, and I do not even consider myself a runner. But these do not even have enough juice to last until the end of my execution . I can only imagine how annoying it would be for someone who is really in good shape and needs headphones that will last as long as their workouts. If you exercise often but do not usually spend more than two hours in the gym, then you can make them work. For all true fitness fans, get ready to return them to the box for a quick 10 minute charge every hour and a half.