Samsung Gear IconX (2018) assessment: hitting the candy spot


One 12 months after Samsung stepped into the nascent market of really wi-fi earbuds with the Gear IconX, the corporate has launched an up to date model with the identical identify. This time round, Samsung says it targeted on the primary era’s misses: the battery life has been improved and higher wi-fi efficiency has been promised.

With Apple’s AirPods main a subject filled with really wi-fi earbuds which can be laughably low cost (and, typically, laughably crude) or costly, one-trick choices just like the Bose SoundSport Free, the query is how (and the way nicely) will Samsung carve out some room for itself with the brand new model of the IconX?

After slightly greater than every week of utilizing them, the brand new IconX earbuds are clearly way more succesful than their predecessors. They don’t supply probably the most beautiful sound, they don’t do all of the issues, and the $200 price ticket is on the excessive facet. However they’re going to please excess of they disappoint, as a result of Samsung has executed on the fundamentals and snuck in just a few different concepts and options that make these earbuds enjoyable to make use of.

Maybe the factor I like probably the most about Samsung’s Gear IconX earbuds is their low profile. These are a few of the smallest really wi-fi earbuds out there, all with out the same old sacrifices like quick battery life, poor sound high quality, or an unreliable Bluetooth connection. They’re largely snug, too; if I twist them a bit too far to wedge them deep in my ears, they will wind up aching a bit. However they’re in any other case nice and light-weight.

The battery life and Bluetooth had been probably the most obvious weak point of the primary model of the IconX, however Samsung’s taken care of each issues this time round. I handled few audio dropouts, save for the occasional second the place the left earbud would dip and instantly come again. This occurred perhaps a couple of times a session, however not each time I used them, so it doesn’t really feel like a deal-breaker type of downside. That is Bluetooth we’re speaking about, in any case.

As for the battery life, it’s unbelievable. It’s genuinely exhausting to run up towards the whole, marketed seven hours of playback time, nevertheless it’s largely there. Operating them straight by means of will get you one thing extra like six or six and a half (on the decrease facet while you’re streaming, a bit extra should you’re listening regionally). It’s greater than sufficient for earbuds like these, and an enormous leap from the 2 hours and alter I keep in mind getting on the unique pair.

The very best factor concerning the IconX’s battery efficiency, although, may be that Samsung added a intelligent little fast charging characteristic to those earbuds, because the case makes use of a USB Kind-C connector. You may get round an hour of playback with as little as about 10 minutes within the charging case, which is admittedly helpful in a pinch while you’ve found that the buds have died. Understanding precisely how a lot battery you’ve got is hard, although; the app solely reveals battery life in a small graphic. I additionally want the carrying / charging case was flatter as a substitute of pill-shaped. It’s sufficiently small to slot in most pockets, nevertheless it won’t be very snug in some.

Sound from the previous Gear IconX earbuds was nearly as good as you possibly can count on from Bluetooth headphones, and the brand new ones aren’t any completely different. Music is vibrant and clear, with no apparent sacrifices within the bbad, mid, or excessive ranges. There’s some lossiness that comes throughout should you pay attention intently, and it’s clear that Samsung’s doing a little heavy processing to make these tiny earbuds sound nearly as good as they do.

Which means, in comparison with the brand new wi-fi earbud audio high quality customary set by Bose SoundSport Free, music sounds much less alive. It lacks some heat and depth. However the IconX nonetheless sound higher than most different really wi-fi earbuds, and are above my normally low expectations for Bluetooth sound high quality. For all of the instances I’ve observed this digital sheen on the music enjoying in my ears with the IconX, I’ve spent twice the time (or extra) bopping my head in ignorance.

That is all considerably depending on the best way the earbuds suit your ears: if the audio system aren’t aimed proper down your cbad, the sound high quality noticeably suffers. I by no means had a lot hbadle buying and securing a comfortable match, nonetheless, so the music listening expertise was virtually all the time fulfilling. And in contrast to the Bose SoundSport Free, the audio sign delay on the IconX is low, making them dependable for watching video in my expertise. (Samsung warns on its web site that this will depend on the “smartphone mannequin and utility” you’re utilizing, although.)

Streaming audio is simply a part of the expertise with the IconX. There’s extra occurring right here, as Samsung has polished up the concepts it launched with unique model in 2016.

For one factor, the earbuds have 4GB of onboard storage with the intention to hearken to music with out your cellphone. That is useful if you wish to use the IconX earbuds for working or different exercises (which Samsung closely advertises that you simply do). And similar to the unique model, the earbuds, after all, have some primary run monitoring means.

There’s no coronary heart price monitoring such as you’ll discover on the Bragi Sprint or Sprint Professional, however the earbuds work with the Samsung Well being app to trace your runs and walks and inform you stats like length, distance traveled, velocity, and an estimate of what number of energy you’ve burned. They do that even with out the cellphone, too; simply know that these numbers are all the time going to be much less correct.

What is new is a working “coach” characteristic, which is principally only a voice that points completely different prompts or ideas throughout every session. It’ll give instructions like “stroll briskly throughout warmup,” or “lengthening your stride can enhance your tempo, give it a attempt.” And it additionally reads out issues like how a lot time has elapsed, or what number of minutes till you’re supposed to begin the following part of a run.

When you’re in the midst of a working session, the voice coach shifts over to extra inspirational cues. They’re kind of a pleasant concept — who couldn’t use slightly push after they’re beginning to really feel fatigued in the midst of a future? — however I by no means discovered them particularly inspiring. Like most digital badistants, the voice is hole and robotic, sounds barely semi-present, and so cheery solutions like “Focus in your aim. Imagine in your self!” finally fell flat.

However should you’re a newbie, like me, with regards to working, it’s nonetheless a useful characteristic. I’ve by no means bothered studying about why or once I ought to do issues like change my tempo throughout a run, in order that info coming from the IconX has some instant worth. Extra seasoned runners will most likely balk on the primary health monitoring or the teaching options, however even they’d nonetheless take pleasure in nice efficiency and sound whereas on the go.

In case you suppose the IconX goes to have some type of particular connection to Bixby, Samsung’s voice badistant, you’d be unsuitable. You can set off Bixby should you’re utilizing the IconX with a cellphone that has it with a tap-and-hold on both earbud, however there’s no ambient wake phrase characteristic or different magic occurring right here.

Utilizing Bixby on the IconX was a predictably combined expertise. Bixby’s audio all the time additionally sounded low in comparison with the quantity I had any music set to, which meant I typically needed to verify the cellphone anyway to grasp what it was saying or see what sorts of outcomes it was serving up.

Voice recognition was as dangerous because it normally is with digital badistants. There have been quite a lot of misses, and I wound up repeating myself lots. You additionally run into the identical frustrations that Bixby presents on the cellphone. Once I requested it “who gained the baseball recreation final evening,” referring to the World Sequence recreation performed the evening earlier than, it served up schedule info for the following one being performed and didn’t communicate any particulars concerning the final result of the competition I used to be inquisitive about. Thankfully, you may change the default badistant to Google for barely higher outcomes, and it really works with Siri should you use the IconX with an iPhone.

Bixby’s not the one supply of frustration for me with the IconX. One other is the contact interface. It’s good that it’s on each earbuds (and works the identical with every), however the contact recognition and the beeps that verify your swipes and faucets could possibly be a bit faster in some locations. There have been various moments the place the slight hesitation made me journey up and faucet twice when it had already accepted the primary. There have been additionally instances when it will learn my swipes up or down as faucets, which means I wound up pausing the music I used to be attempting to modulate.

These might simply be studying curve issues — there are greater than a half dozen methods to the touch, faucet, and swipe. I like the marginally extra fluid touch-based interface of the Sprint and Sprint Professional, and broadly favor contact controls to buttons that drive you to push earbuds additional into your ear. Samsung’s implementation simply feels a bit clumsier.

Because the IconX earbuds create such a comfortable match, Samsung lets you decide one of many two earbuds within the Gear app because the devoted one for exercises in order for you to have the ability to hear your environment. If, like me, you might be cussed and would quite use each, there is an audio pbadthrough mode. However you may solely flip it on or off contained in the Gear smartphone app, and the toggle is a web page deep into the settings. There’s no shortcut to this on the earbuds themselves, which looks as if a complete oversight contemplating what number of different contact interactions there are. The audio pbadthrough mode can also be a really blunt software — it’s simply on or off, there’s no solution to alter the quantity of audio coming in by means of the earbuds through the microphones.

After which there’s the small caveat that the health options are particular to after they’re getting used with Samsung telephones. They solely play music or different audio when used with an iPhone. Samsung’s not the one firm behaving like this. In truth, many of the main cellphone corporations are pushing some type of wi-fi earbuds which have unique options or carry out in a sure means solely while you use them with that firm’s telephones. It’s a byproduct of the large push away from a common customary — the three.5mm headphone jack — to at least one that’s much less open and simpler to tinker with, wi-fi Bluetooth audio.

Open requirements ranting apart, the brand new IconX are virtually all the pieces you possibly can need from Samsung with regards to really wi-fi earbuds. They crush the fundamentals with terrific battery life, and a greater than dependable connection together with your smartphone. They provide a barely deeper suite of options than a few of the competitors, like health monitoring, which I discovered to be fairly helpful even when it wasn’t completely data-rich. They usually sound actually good, even when they fall in need of the brand new benchmark for audio high quality set by Bose on this house.

Would I like the thought of the IconX extra in the event that they had been priced extra competitively? In fact I might. However the truth that that’s one of many solely main considerations I’ve with these earbuds is an indication that they’re fairly nice in any other case. It’s additionally type of exhausting to see the way you’d be disillusioned with these at a price ticket of $200 should you use them closely.

The brand new IconX are ok to encourage such heavy use in a means that the unique pair by no means did. They might not have the type of magic touches of one thing like AirPods’ on the spot and easy pairing, or the wealthy sound of the Bose SoundSport Free, and Samsung isn’t throwing in all the pieces however the kitchen sink like Bragi does with the Sprint. As a substitute, Samsung’s discovered a candy spot between all three, and that concept sounds actually good.


Verge Rating

Good Stuff

  • Nice sound
  • Bountiful battery life
  • Helpful run monitoring options

Dangerous Stuff

  • You lose some options on different telephones
  • Tough contact interface
  • Occasional audio dropouts
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