The Sony SBH54 reminds me of the good old Bluetooth headsets that Sony Ericsson made popular. A small receiver with control buttons and a mono display screen to show operational details. I am not sure if there are people who still uses such stuff, but if they do, they will be happy to find that Sony still makes them.
What I Love
The new SBH54 has a few additional features up on its sleeve, which I thought was rather useful. See if you agree with me:
Use Like a Handset
You can use the SBH54 like a handset: just place the receiver speaker against your ear. This is great if you don’t like to wear with the included earphones. It would be even better if I could hook it to my ear like a mono headset.
Use Your Own Headphones
The MH755 earphones included actually sound decent. It’s got the right bass feel, more kick than boomy, while the treble is sparkling but not loud. But if you prefer to use your own earphones, you can have that. The SBH54 works with earphones with mic pinout on the 3.5mm plug.
Wireless Audio Quality
For skeptics of Bluetooth audio, they are living in the past. Purists may scorn at the compression technology, but the majority will not hear any difference, myself included. After all, when you are on the go, you really can’t discern the inaudible sonic tones with all the outdoor noise.
Connects 2 Devices
I can switch music playback between two devices from the SBH54 control itself. Even better, when I am listening music from one device and I receive an incoming call from another, the SBH54 switches to the other device. Once the call is ended, music from the other device resumes.
When you make a call with SBH54 using the earphones, the left side of the earphones let you hear the surrounding while the right side is dedicated to the call audio. This implementation ensures you can hear yourself and the surrounding and prevent you from shouting during conversations.
The SBH54 has an LED screen which can display song info, caller ID, call history, and even any app messages, just like a smartwatch! Yes, it vibrates with every incoming event, so you won’t miss any of them. You can also rotate the screen 180-degrees manually if you prefer a different orientation.
It is good to have radio capability on the SBH54, because most of the time, when you use a Bluetooth headset, you cannot use the smartphone radio as it requires the earphones wire as an antenna.
Host App for Connectivity
The SBH54 requires the installation of an Android app in your host device to work. Once you tap the SBH54 with the smartphone via NFC, you will be redirected to the Play Store to install the app. On the app, you can customise the level of connectivity, for instance, disable notification or call history.
The SBH54 does not last very long in today’s standard. I find the device goes flat at the end of the day. Fortunately, it took less than an hour to fully charge it. The SBH54 app on the smartphone will tell you the remaining battery life in quarters.
Displeased with Buggy Experience
It is unfortunate that the SBH54 does not work flawlessly. I was riddled with regular app crashes on the Sony Xperia Z5 and contradicting status between the notification bar and the app. Occasionally, the connection would be disrupted even at close range, and at times, even if the device remains connected, the calls do not get routed to the SBH54, or when I can control the music tracks but no audio came through.
Too Many Buttons
There are too many buttons on the SBH54 and it always takes me a while without looking to figure out where the buttons are. There is a button for everything: volume, playback, menu, call answer, and power. I would very much prefer the controls be concentrated at a single location, for instance, a four-way dial with additional buttons around it.
Sony SBH-54 is almost a smartphone: you can answer calls like handset, read messages and call history, intelligently switches connection between 2 devices. It continues Sony line of Bluetooth headset modules with interchangeable earphones, now with an added convenience of making calls directly without earphones. I am not pleased with the bugs which ruins the wireless experience of an otherwise brilliantly useful gadget. Hopefully, it will improve in the stability with new firmware and software updates.
The SBH54 is available in black or gold colours, at all Sony stores and centres, operators and major IT retailers, at a RRP of S$198. For the full product specifications, please visit http://www.sonymobile.com/sg/products/accessories/stereo-bluetooth-headset-sbh54/