Hands on: Samsung Gear Icon X 2018 review

Packing Bixby assistant tech

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Our Early Verdict

Samsung's Gear Icon X 2018 look to fix the biggest problem with the original earbuds, so this may be the earbuds to go for if you want some from Samsung.

For

  • Bixby smarts
  • Upgraded battery tech

Against

  • No offline Spotify support

Update: The new Gear Icon X will release in the US on October 27 for $199. We're currently unsure of when it will make its debut across the globe, but we've contacted Samsung for more details.

Original hands-on review follows.

Upgraded versions of the Samsung Gear Icon X fitness earbuds have been announced at IFA 2017 and they're officially called the Icon X 2018. 

The new fitness earbuds feature a similar design to the original with enhanced battery life, new connectivity features thanks to Bixby support and improved charging smarts.

So far, we're unclear on pricing and a release date for the Icon X 2018, but we'll be sure to update this hands on review as soon as we have more information on the earbuds.

The Icon X 2018 is available in three colors - Black, Grey and Pink. The earbuds have a matching carry case that also doubles up as a charging cradle. Loaded up with its own battery, the carry case offers up to one full charge for the Icon X 2018 for when you need that little bit extra time away from a power outlet.

The design is generally very similar to the original Icon X. Each bud is small enough to fit comfortably in your ears and the buds also ship with a range of wing tips and soft gel elements to ensure they offer the most secure fit possible when exercising.

On the outer portion there's a touch-sensitive panel that supports taps and swipes to control your calls and music, as well as Bixby support if you have a Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus or Note 8

Android users can set it to summon Google Assistant if they prefer, while iOS users can change the default action to Siri.

The Icon X 2018 also feature a new personal running audio coach, taking them way beyond just music. Pair that with Auto Activity Tracking, and even if you just go for an impromptu light jog, after ten minutes it will start tracking your progress and feed it into S Health on your smartphone.

The new Icon X battery has gone from 90 minutes to five hours when streaming music from your smartphone. Or at least that's what Samsung is claiming right now, and battery life on the original Icon X wasn't good enough so it's great to see the company making this improvement.

This means the wireless buds could now see you through a half or even a full marathon. Also respectable is the talk time of up to four hours and for anyone who wants to eke the most battery life possible out of the Gear Icon X 2018, loading your MP3s to the 4GB of storage will mean a potential seven hours of offline playback.

One of the best things about the new buds is the quick charge feature. Ten minutes of charging will get you an hour of music, so even if you’re caught out with low battery warnings, stick them on charge during your warm-up and by the time you get to the main event you’ll have enough juice to keep you going.

Early verdict

Samsung needed to improve the battery on these headphones and if the claims are true it's done so in a big way, which would be a big bonus for the new earbuds.

That paired with the quick charge feature and improved smarts have whet our appetites nicely.

The only notable omission is offline Spotify support as found in the Gear Sport and Gear Fit 2 Pro - which would have been epic. That said, seeing as no other wireless earbuds offer that just yet, we’ll let Samsung off.

  • IFA 2017 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.