New Samsung Chromebook? Check. New 32GB ASUS Nexus 7? Check.
As you can see, I recently went on a little gadget spending spree after selling my ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, but even though I had a new Chrome OS notebook and 7-inch pure-Google Android tablet, something was missing – I still needed new headphones!
Luckily, I was recently contacted by a rep from MobileFun.com, inviting me to pick out and try any one of their many mobile accessories (within reason, of course). I searched high and low for what I hoped would be a perfect new Bluetooth headset, perusing through multiple listings for Samsung Galaxy Note II accessories, HTC One X accessories, Google Nexus accessories, and much more. I finally found one that I thought would be perfect: the SoundWear SD10 Bluetooth Stereo Headset: it was reasonably-priced, got lots of great reviews (it averaged more than 4.5 stars out of 5, with 126 reviews), and I liked its design.
Unfortunately, after getting it and using it for a few days, I’m not impressed.
The SD10 headset features a built-in 400mAh li-polymer rechargeable battery, with a standby time of 400 hours, and a talk/music time of up to 20 hours. It’s got large, padded speakers with a thick plastic band that fits snuggly around the back of one’s head – if anything, perhaps my head was a little too big for this, as it almost feels a bit too tight.
However, I don’t really find it too terribly uncomfortable, and since I’ve usually only used cheap earbuds in the past (you know, the ones that always fall out of your ears), I was happy that this thing definitely wasn’t going anywhere once I put it on. (Since I’m usually outside everyday walking my dogs, that’s important to me – I’m tired of headsets falling off!)
The right speaker is where the controls are: play/pause, next track, previous track, and volume up and down. In practice, operation is pretty simple: just press and hold the play button for about 3 seconds to turn it on, or about 7 seconds to pair it. To turn it off, you just press and hold the play button again for about 3 seconds, until the blue indicator briefly flashes red. That’s it! And importantly, the buttons are big enough to operate by touch.
In everyday use, however, I’m not very impressed with this headset. Granted, I know very little about Bluetooth radio performance, partially because I only recently started using Bluetooth on a somewhat regular basis. But the SD10 supposedly utilizes Bluetooth 2.0 (I know, I know – not as great as Bluetooth 3.0 or 4.0), with a range of over 32 feet. In practice, the range seemed to be more like 2-3 feet – in other words, it is absolutely terrible, and makes this headset almost unusable.
Let me explain: on a recent walk with the dogs, I had my HTC EVO 4G LTE in my left pocket, paired and connected to the SD10. I started listening to a podcast, and the audio was so choppy I could barely follow the conversation I was trying to listen to. Interestingly enough, when I placed my phone in my right pocket – on the same side of my body as the Bluetooth radio inside the headset – the audio immediately improved. In other words, changing the side of my body on which I kept my phone made a world of difference, even though it was less than a 1-foot difference, and in both cases, the phone was probably around 3 feet away from the Bluetooth radio.
Here’s another example: I recently decided to pair the SD10 to my Nexus 7 and make a phone call over Bluetooth using the GrooveIP app. As soon as the call connected, I heard a loud static sound coming through the speakers, kind of like the static between FM radio stations, except louder and more obnoxious. I tried tinkering with some different settings, and nothing worked. Thinking that it might be a problem with the Nexus 7 rather than the SD10, I connected my Nexus 7 to a different, Samsung-made Bluetooth headset that I happened to have laying around. I was able to make a call through GrooveIP with absolutely no issues – therefore, the issue had to be with the SD10.
My final example: I decided to listen to some music while cleaning my house a few days ago. I thought I’d give this thing one more chance, so I paired it with my EVO, set my EVO on a table, and walked about five feet away to do some dusting. Again, the headset stuttered and eventually disconnected, even though it was an entirely clear shot between the radio in the headset and the phone (there was no human body or clothes to pass through this time). Keep in mind that the advertised range is almost 33 feet.
Needless to say, I’m extremely disappointed. I really wanted to like this headset – its physical design is great, it fits my head and won’t fall off, and – when it actually stays connected – the sound is darn good. After a few test calls on my EVO, the microphone also seems decent enough for the price (nothing spectacular, but nothing to write home about). But unfortunately, in everyday use, it’s simply not usable.
Maybe I just got a defective unit – I’ll reach out to the people at MobileFun to see what they think. In the meantime, I’ll give it two stars: one for the good physical design, and one for the decent sound quality when it’s actually working. In any case, at least MobileFun has quite a few other Bluetooth headsets to pick from – but if I were you, I wouldn’t pick this one.
The SoundWear SD10 Bluetooth Stereo Headset is $26.99 from MobileFun.