Goondu review: Samsung Gear IconX are cool, but need to be juiced up often

August 8th, 2016 | by Alfred Siew
Goondu review: Samsung Gear IconX are cool, but need to be juiced up often

Samsung Gear IconX 03

All these years of wearing wireless earphones on my jogs, I’ve waited for something like the Samsung Gear IconX, which landed in Singapore in June.

The Bluetooth earphones are unlike the usual sport earphones, in that they are totally cordless. With no strap to hang around your back, the two independent units rely on wireless communications around your head to offer stereo sound as you work out.

What this means is a sense of real freedom when you run with them. I’ve gone on jogs with many sports earphones over the years and I have to say the Gear IconX surely rank high on the charts for comfort and fit.

During my tests, I lost the rather annoying feeling of a cable stuck to the back of my neck, as I’ve come to get used to with otherwise great earphones such as the Jabra Sport Pace.

Samsung has got the ear tip and wing tip design spot on – they work well to keep the Gear IconX snugly in place. Surprisingly, they don’t weigh down on your ears, despite all the electronics and battery that have to be packed in.

I do feel the earphones in my ears, as they depend fully on the grip on the ear canals. As a result, you do feel a little tight in the ears at first, though that tends to go away once you start running and forget about it. One thing I’d be cautious about is the sensation of having sound blocked out.

Yes, I know, the earphones support an ambient sound mode that is said to let sound in from the surroundings, such as cars honking, but you never forget you’re wearing the earphones. Perhaps because outside noise is mostly blocked, you hear your own panting more loudly.

Samsung Gear IconX 05

Other than that, I’d say the Gear IconX are a great workout companion. Take them out of the box for the first time and you have music ready to go on a jog with. The 4GB storage built in lets you bring enough songs on the go, so you can leave your phone at home.

You can still bring one, of course. For example, if you’re used to your own fitness tracking program that only runs on a phone, you can also use it to stream music to the Gear IconX.

Of course, you can choose to let the Gear IconX do the tracking. Connecting to your phone via a Samsung app, you can use the earphones to track your runs as well.

You’ll have to use Samsung’s S Health app, which means an additional step in exporting the data to your favourite fitness app like Strava, for example.

Do note that the Gear IconX depend on an accelerometer and heart rate monitor to track things. If you prefer the more precise GPS distance tracking, you may have to stick to the bulkier Sony Smart B-Trainer from last year. Or bring your phone along.

The Gear IconX are hard to fault, to be fair. As the first of their kind from the South Korean company, the earphones are commendable. Portable, easy to use and attractive looking, they would have been easy to recommend if not for the teething problems with all good technologies.

Samsung Gear IconX 04

The first thing you have to worry about is battery life. You only get about an hour on the Gear IconX if you stream music wirelessly from a phone, which isn’t a lot. Unless you’re a pretty fast runner, that would only last you for a 10km run or less.

During a recent 5km run, which usually takes me about 30 minutes, I stopped too many times to catch Pokemons. I was surprised to hear the Gear IconX warn me that the battery was running out. That was probably about 45 to 50 minutes in, after the earphones were fully charged.

If you’re going for a long jog, you should store your music on the earphones instead of streaming songs over Bluetooth. This extends the battery life to three hours, according to Samsung.

The other thing that it may want to improve is the gestures used to control the Gear IconX. It takes a while to get used to the taps and swipes. I ended up skipping tracks so often when I just wanted to change the volume.

This isn’t a deal breaker for me since I don’t fiddle too much with my tracks once I get going on a jog. However, it’d be nice to see Samsung improve on this interface in future.

Samsung Gear IconX 09

I know I haven’t said much about audio quality. The Gear IconX are not a miracle, certainly with the size limitations. I found them to be a little too bassy, but then again, I won’t quibble about music if I’m only using these earphones as companions on a workout.

On the whole, I enjoyed using the Gear IconX. If you’ve been waiting for an all-in-one device that not only plays music but also tracks your runs, then these earphones will surely appeal with their light weight and attractive design.

The jewellery box-like charger is another nice touch. Pop your earphones in and you’d have them charged up. The charger is a portable battery as well, so you can charge your earphones even if you are not near a wall jack.

That leads me back to battery life, the main drawback. If you are using the Samsung earphones exclusively for your workouts, then you can rely on the onboard memory to play your music and stretch things out.

However, I wouldn’t recommend the Gear IconX for your daily commute, especially if you take a long train ride and want to stream from, say, Spotify. For that, there are alternatives to be had for the S$298 that Samsung is asking for. And they might last longer before needing to be juiced up.



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