What’s in the Box?
- Encore S5 Earphones
- Carrying Case (with a self-closing latch – sadly, my favorite part of this product)
- Dual-MicroUSB Cable
- Three sizes of buds
- Earhooks (which inexplicably plug into the units themselves – more on that later)
As a pair of Bluetooth earphones built for athletes, you’d expect the Encore S5 to have a few specific features: sweat-proofing, a firm but comfortable fit, stylish design, and convenient portability. While Tronsmart’s foray into wireless sport earbuds has the former two in spades, it falls rather disastrously short in the latter pair.
First, the good. Sweat-proofing; with an IPX4 rating, the buds are not rated against dust, but are resistant to splashing water – sweat included. This means they’re probably safe to use in the rain as well, but definitely not while swimming. Fit; while the actual units are boxy and a little heavy, the fit of the earbuds combined with the attached earhooks makes for a secure, comfortable fit that doesn’t put much strain on the ear canal.
Second, the not-so good. Design; this is kind of a mess, start to finish. Let me start with the earhooks, because they bother me so much I might explode if I don’t get it out right this second. The earhooks…are attached to the MicroUSB ports.
This is an utterly a puzzling, dubious decision. The connection seems solid enough, but it seems like a weak spot, structurally. Furthermore, since MicroUSB ports are asymmetrical, there’s a Left and Right earhook to go with the Left and Right earbud. But they aren’t labeled. So it’s actually rather ridiculously easy to put the Left earhook on the Right earbud, resulting in an upside down earbud. A small inconvenience, perhaps, but it drives my OCD crazy to know I’ve been walking around with an upside-down Tronsmart logo in my ear.
Additionally, while the inclusion of a self-closing carrying case is nice, the overall construction and design of the Encore S5 make it really inconvenient to charge. Detachable earhooks mean that you end up with a total of five pieces to worry about losing in the process (two hooks, two buds, and a cable), and assembly and disassembly means it’s no small matter to put it on to charge or take it with you when it’s done.
After using the stupidly easy charging cradle of Rowkin’s wireless earbuds, the process of putting the Encore S5 on to charge is cumbersome, clumsy and largely inconvenient. Charging on the go is definitely a problem – there are too many pieces that can easily be lost.
50mAh internal. 60 hours standby time, 4 hour talk time. Enough to get you through perhaps a week of use, but it’s small enough that you may have to make use of the awful charging system regularly. Ugh.
Enough complaining – now, the good stuff. The Encore S5 has a 65′ theoretical pairing range – not quite that far in a real-world setting, perhaps, but I had no trouble connecting them to my phone. As mentioned above, it’s IPX4 water resistant – not tremendous, but good enough. This is a lesser used feature for me, but it also has the curious ability to pair with two devices at once, and take calls from either one. Interesting, but not a game-changer.
For such a small unit, these guys have surprisingly heavy bass and depth of sound. The first thing I noticed when I started playing some music was the quality, which easily outshined phone speakers and most earbuds I’ve tried – even some fancy dual-driver wired buds. That being said, though, the built-in mic picks up every ambient sound; your voice on the receiving end sounds “Echoey” or distant, but clear.
This is a hard section for me to write, in this situation. $39.99 is a great price for truly wireless earbuds, but the severe design flaws and inconvenience of using and charging the Encore S5 really holds it back. If you’re looking for a cheap set of wireless ear buds, take the plunge – but consider yourself warned.