STN-333 Bluetooth Headphones – a proper review

 

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Part of my reason for choosing the Sony Smartwatch was to acquire a one-box running solution, that could track my runs and play my music without taking up too much space. I find a 5.5″ phone far too cumbersome to run with, as I’m sure most of us do. Tracking runs on the Sony works well – but to see whether I could make good use of the music player, I needed to  get hold of some Bluetooth headphones. Since this experiment could have ended in complete failure, I didn’t want to spend UK high-street money on a branded pair. The ones pictured above cost me somewhere in the region of £5 shipped from China. Cheap as chips!

The reviews on GearBest are almost universally extremely positive and each one seems to include the same style of picture and the same kind of comments. I have my suspicions about their authenticity. There are also quite a few YouTube “reviews” which are basically an unboxing. Nothing useful there.

I will try and give as honest a review as I can via the medium of blog…

What you get

The ‘phones come in a box which looks the part, complete with specs in Chinese script of some sort. There are no English specs. I don’t understand them, but I’ve included them because you might.

Inside the box, you also get a (virtually useless) printed manual and a spare set of tips. The black ones are fitted to the headphones as standard and the translucent ones are the spares. Curiously, they are both about the same size, albeit different in style. I would rank them as a “medium” fit.

The headphones

The headphones themselves are a sports style and use a rubber “finger” to grip the inside of your ear and stop the earpiece falling out. I have some JVC headphones which use the same design (they call it “pivot motion fit”) and it works for me. It may not work for you.

Included in the box is a small clip and a rubber grommet. I’ve used them to clip the ‘phones to my top, and adjust the amount of loose cable. It seems like a pretty decent guess considering the instructions make no mention of them whatsoever.

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The earpieces are not too big – excluding the “finger”, they are about 27mm total depth and 15mm diameter. They don’t feel oversized in my ear. The standard rubber tip is too small for me, so I fitted some larger tips from a set of JVC headphones.

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The remote hangs on the right-hand side of your neck and is 50mm long, 12mm wide and 10mm deep. It looks and feels cheap, with visible moulding seams along the side. It has a built in micro-USB charging point and what I assume is a hole for a microphone. I have used them for 2hrs without needing a charge – I am afraid I am not sure what the maximum life on a charge would be.

The buttons bear no relation to their function as headphones. They might make sense if you take a call – but I’m afraid I haven’t tested that.

The middle button is the power button. Push and hold to to switch on, do the same to switch off. When powered up, the headphones will become available to pair (flashing red and blue lights under the “+” button). I’ve successfully paired them with my smartwatch, my phone (Moto G4 Android) and my laptop (Windows 10 – although it thinks they are a keyboard).  When the headphones are powered up, the blue light continuously flashes which is both unnecessary and annoying.

When listening to music, a brief push of middle “phone” button plays or pauses the sound, the “-” button skips forward a track, and the “+” button skips back. What could be more logical!

You can also press and hold the “-” button when connected to a mobile phone, which will trigger what it calls “camera” mode. Effectively this seems to make the “phone” button act as a key that will select the default option on a page – it doesn’t automatically open your camera app. Unless this is some kind of bluetooth functionality that pro photographers use, I can’t see the point of it. I suspect the hardware inside is some sort of multi-purpose bluetooth chip which might explain why the headphone controls are so crude.

Sound quality

The good news is, the headphones do work, and they will pair with a standalone Android Wear watch; an Android phone; or a PC. I haven’t tested on Apple.

The not-so-good news is that the sound quality is pretty poor.

After switching to the larger JVC tips, the bass extension is good, finding greater depths on albums like “The Prodigy Experience” than my other (inexpensive) JVC FX34 and ETX30 ‘phones, without being boomy. However, the whole sound is very closed off, with the treble being particularly muffled, which really limits the soundstage and dynamics of the music.

There is also an issue with the unrestrained cables shaking around inside the earpieces, creating a noise as you participate in your chosen sport. The metronomic tapping is very noticeable when running. I might try and solve this by applying some rubber cement where the cable meets the plastic body.

At least the short cable of the bluetooth headphones doesn’t get caught up in things like a long plug-in cable does!

 

 

Conclusion

Your £5 will get you a functional product.

But there is no doubt it is a cheap product, with a crude finish on the remote, illogical controls, and poor sound quality.

When they break, I won’t be buying them again.

P.S. If you have any questions or comments, please add them below!

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SD card unexpectedly removed from Android? Here’s what worked for me.

EDIT 25/1/15: I should add that shortly after “resolving” the issue, the micro SD card has completely failed. Whether this was a cause, an effect, or a coincidence I couldn’t say. Since I barely used the SD card in the tablet anyway I won’t be replacing it.

I have an LG G-pad 8.3 Android tablet. It’s a very nice device. But recently it kept telling me that the SD card had been removed unexpectedly (it hadn’t) and that data loss may occur (it didn’t).

After scoping out the usual Android forums I found a couple of suggestions. The one that appeared to have been most successful was a complete reset of the tablet. Another reason I chose this was because a few people had mentioned that the problem started after using Link2SD, a program designed to move apps to the SD card which doesn’t work with KitKat because it can’t override the restrictions on external storage (not that the developers bother to tell you that).

Anyway, I took the bold step of resetting the tablet, putting my faith in the LG backup software to remember my settings. It was only a partial success. Although all my apps were downloaded automatically, the user accounts I had set up for my family were completely lost, including their progress through games. And the SD problem remained…

Frustrated by my hastiness to reset, I searched for another solution. A very simple one cropped up. Simply putting the SD card in another device seems to rewrite a register on the card, solving the problem. So, I put it in my Windows Phone, asked to save media to it by default, took it back out again, and put it in the LG tablet. There were a few extra empty folders on the card (used by the phone to store pictures and music), so I deleted them. The most important thing is that the problem was solved!

Hope this helps if you are suffering from the same problem.

Dave

Windows Phone, this is REALLY your last chance!

My Huawei W1 must have been watching me fondle and caress the Nexus 5 in Carphone Warehouse today… because lo-and-behold it received a software update this afternoon!

The phone (on O2 by the way) is now running the latest version of WP8 (8.0.10517.150 aka Update 3). In theory this solves the “Other” storage bug* and has a few other tweaks.

You had better not let me down again!

*in case you didn’t know, the “other” storage bug is the single biggest problem with Windows Phone 8 after you’ve owned one for a little while. There is a section of storage called “Other” that fills up with all sorts of junk while you use the phone – but you can’t delete it. After a little while, the phone starts throwing messages at you warning about low storage space and there is very little you can do about it apart from reset the phone, which frees up hundreds of megabytes of memory but means you lose all the saved data in your apps and games and have to go through all your personalised settings again. It’s a pain.

PS The other thing that spoils Windows phone is the lack of apps – even getting Nokia on board (and buying Nokia) hasn’t changed that situation – which is probably why MicroNokiaSoft have given up and are going to release an Android phone instead.

PPS And the thing that particularly spoils the Huawei W1 is the lack of internal memory – 4GB does not leave enough room for apps (the operating system alone takes up nearly 3GB). In fact, the remaining space is barely enough to install the OS updates, I have to delete apps and games every time.

Dave

Don’t buy a 4GB Windows Phone! In fact, you probably shouldn’t buy WP8 at all…

I’ve had a few frustrations with my budget Windows Phone (Huawei Ascend W1), but I just experienced the issue that renders the phone basically unusable.

This phone, like many other low-end models, has only 4GB internal memory. Windows Phone 8 will exclusively use internal memory for apps and system tasks – and the default setup alone uses over 3GB. Not much to play with, but I was managing to have a few useful apps and games.

Until the update came.

In order to install Update 8.0.10327.77, WP8 needs free internal memory. But it needs SO MUCH free memory that I have had to uninstall virtually all of my apps and games to complete the update. Completely undermining the principle of a smartphone.

4GB simply isn’t enough memory on these phones, Microsoft should have managed the memory better for future updates and insisted on an 8GB minimum from the hardware.

The Huawei Ascend W1 appeared to be well built, well specced and good value. But the 4GB memory renders it unfit for purpose. Windows Phone 8 looks good, it relatively easy to use, but is crippled by Microsoft’s nannying approach to file and memory management, too many weak (or non-existent) apps, and a lack of independent control over ringer volume which means you miss calls.

Dave