At last!

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Finally got under 5 minutes per km over 5k!

Took a long time to get here. I reached 5m30s within a couple of months of running regularly and I’m six months further down the road now.

4m 30s is my next target. I expect it to be tough.

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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!

Google Fit – what does it actually do?

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Somewhere along the line, Google decided they didn’t need to document Fit properly – I suppose because apps are supposed to be “so intuitive” that they need no explanation (user led design is a good thing, don’t get me wrong).

The thing is – I think Google Fit might be a hell of a lot more powerful than Google are really letting on. Especially in the way it uses your Android Wear device.

I’ve got a hunch that Fit uses your watch GPS, making it as useful for running and tracking other activities as many 3rd party apps.

But none of the documentation confirms this and none of the options allow you to customise Fit’s relationship with Android Wear.

Bit of a missed opportunity. It could be an all-in-one automated fitness tracker but it is probably going to spend its life on the sidelines because nobody outside of the development team actually knows what it can do!