Price (RRP): $299
There are nearly as many Bluetooth ear buds as Bluetooth speakers… The key to survival in a crowded market is how the Samsung Gear ICON X 2018 SM-R140 buds are different.
The biggest differences are:
- 3.4GB of free memory for up to 1000 songs to be uploaded and played independently of any smartphone pairing – perfect for gym use
- Touch control works intuitively especially for the music player, hands-free calls, or to read the menu options
- A built-in Coach function provides real-time encouragement and tips.
- When walking or jogging (it has an accelerometer), the auto-tracking feature will log your time, distance and calories burned.
- It links to Samsung Health – one of the better Android health tracking apps
- It can pair with any Bluetooth audio device including a smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac
- Oh, and its sound is quite good.
Out of the Box – Samsung Gear ICON X 2018
- Earbud (L/R)
- Charging case
- Wingtip (3 sets, S/M/L)
- Earbud tip (3 sets Comply compatible, S/M/L)
- USB cable
- USB connector (USB Type-B)
- USB connector (USB Type-C)
- No charger supplied but works on any charger from 5V/500mA to 2A
First impressions are light (8g each), and reassuringly solid – able to withstand a fall from head height – but they won’t come out if properly fitted.
First charge via the charge case. Next pair via the case to an Android or iOS phone via the Samsung Gear app to upload music or stream from the phone.
You select the earbud size for you, then the wingtip to fit into your outer ear, tap and go.
The buds will play independently for about seven hours – I tested this over seven days during one-hour walks, or if paired by Bluetooth for about five hours use.
The 82mAh battery in each bud takes about 60 minutes to charge in the case which holds 340mAh charge capacity – about two complete charges. There is a fast charge feature – 10 minutes in the case for one-hour play.
You can view the charge level from the Gear smartphone app or voice prompts when it is low.
Volume and sound quality
I was unable to measure volume in the ear, but I suspect it is the equivalent of 80dB – loud music or an alarm clock beside your head.
Similarly, it is hard to give it a sound signature as you cannot use the frequency response meter on it. A lot depends on the content played, but I think it’s balanced – (bass boosted, mid-recessed, treble boosted). It was clear without being overly crisp. There is no software equaliser, and it would make a smart addition.
The sound was pleasing and easy to listen to – not too harsh – on the caveat that they must be fitted properly in the ear canal.
Hands-free phone use was clear, and callers commented so.
I did not try Bixby (as I was testing the Nokia 8 at the time) but I did try Google Assistant, and it was adequate – voice commands are still wildly inconsistent.
It uses noise isolation (not noise cancellation) and cuts out much of the background noise. It has an ambient sound feature that uses the microphones in each bud to let sounds through – something I recommend you use when walking.