Reviews

Samsung Gear IconX 2018 Review: Not quite there yet

In 2018, Samsung released the Gear IconX 2018 as a direct successor to the poorly reviewed IconX 2016. The previous version was plagued with poor battery life and a host of other issues. Although significant improvements have been made in the Gear IconX 2018 version, it is still not enough to justify the high price tag Samsung is asking for.

The Basics

The Samsung Gear IconX 2018 earbuds are truly wireless earbuds that come with a USB-C charging case. They come in three different colors: black, white and pink. Below are some detailed specifications:

  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 82 mAh battery in the earbuds
  • 340 mAh battery in the case
  • 5 hours of battery life in the earbuds
  • Charging case
  • 3.4 GB of built-in memory
  • Compatible with both Android and iOS
  • S, M, L wing and ear tips
  • Accelerometer, Proximity Sensor

What I enjoyed

Auto pausing should be everywhere

One of the features I enjoyed the most was the ability to pause my music automatically the minute I removed my earbuds. After using these earbuds, I wish all my headphone had this feature. Although this feature isn’t game-changing, I was surprised on how much I enjoyed it.

Built in memory is great for workouts

Samsung built in 3.4 GB of storage into these earbuds. This allows users to transfer music directly onto the earbuds so that you can listen without having to have a phone or any other device with you. For those who dislike having to carry your phone on runs and jogs, this feature works great.

Being able to share music/videos again

One great advantage of having truly wireless earbuds is the ability to share the music/video you are listening to with a friend or significant other. Being able to hand over one of the earbuds to someone so that they can also hear is something I missed from the days of wired earphones. I am glad that truly wireless earbuds allow me to do this once again.

Whether you are on a plane and trying to watch a movie on a tablet with no headphone jack or just trying to listen to the same song on the bus, these now allow you to do that again.

USB-C for charging

I am someone who has been trying to convert to having to bring one single USB-C charger for all my devices. The fact that the charging case charges through USB-C bring this one step closer to reality.

What I found frustrating

Ambient sound is close to useless

Ambient sound is a feature that has become popular over the ears where earbuds and headphones try to pipe through the sound from outside directly from the mic so that you don’t need to take off your earbuds and headphone to hear what is going on around you.

Now I have yet to find an implementation of ambient sound that I truly enjoy using. The Sony WH-1000XM3 comes close to the best implementation I have seen. The ones on the IconX 2018 are much worse. In one instance, I was able to hear the loud high pitch noise of a door closing 10 feet away rather than the person trying to talk next to me.

Fit and Comfort

Throughout my testing of the IconX 2018, I struggled with the fit and comfort. After about an hour of using them, my ears would start hurting even after trying the various different wing and ear tips provided in the box. The IconX would fall out of my ears when doing jumping jacks, making them unusable during workout sessions.

Flaky touch controls

The Samsung IconX 2018 has two touch controls on the surface of the earbuds. You are able to tap on them to play and pause music. A double tap allows you to skip tracks or answer and end calls. A triple tap plays the previous track. There are also swiping up and down to allow for volume controls as well as other combinations of taps and holds for functions like smart assistant and next playlist.

Unfortunately, the touch controls can be quite flaky and unresponsive at times. I have had the touch controls fail to respond while driving and trying to turn up the volume so I could hear the turn by turn navigation. Twice it randomly stopped responding to my fingers altogether. This sounds possibly like a software issue. Hopefully, with some future updates, this will be fixed.

High price tag

At $179.99 MSRP, the IconX 2018 is expensive. Wireless earbuds like the Jaybirds X4 or Sennheiser HD1 for nearly $50 cheaper. Although both are not truly wireless earbuds, they certainly do the basics better than the IconX 2018.

What I had mixed feelings about

Charging case only has a single charge

Given the size of the case, only being able to provide a single charge is short. At nearly the same size as the Pixel Buds case, the case should at least be providing two plus charges to the earbuds.

Sound quality

The sound quality on the Samsung Gear IconX 2018 are decent but nothing to rave home about. There are much better options in terms of sound quality and price if you are willing to forgo truly wireless for just wireless earbuds.

Would I recommend them?

With the price of $179.99, I would not recommend these to anyone. There are too many alternatives that do a better job of working reliably and having better sound quality. I would hold off on getting these and check out my upcoming Galaxy Buds review instead.

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