It has been awhile since I last wrote on my blog, and little did I expect that the next time I decided to write, I was to write a review of the Sena 10C Bluetooth Camera and Communication System. This was based on the request of my BMW C6 Singapore Club mates. They wanted a regular user’s perspective of the Sena 10C, before they committed to purchasing one. And so, here it is! An independent, amateur writer’s review of the Sena 10C!
My Christmas presents! Awesome Christmas this year!
It was on the 29th of December, 2015 that I got my hands on a Sena 10C. This little device had excellent reviews all over the internet (at least on the sites that I went to), and I decided to purchase one for myself as a late Christmas present (an excuse to go with the new helmet that I got for Christmas). Though in my excitement of installing and using the device, I forgot to take pictures of quite a few of the test cases, so do pardon me for that if you were looking to see more of the Sena 10C.
Image of the Sena 10C contents from Sena.com
Installing the Sena 10C on my new AGV Tartaruga Tortuga K3 SV was extremely simple. The supplied cables, speakers, microphone (both the full-face version and the boom mic version were supplied), double-sided tapes and mount were so comprehensive that you wouldn’t worry about mounting it on a full-faced or an open-faced helmet. All the items necessary for mounting were there. Which is a good thing, considering that you had peace of mind knowing that you could install and use the device as soon as you bought it!
Installation took me a little less than 30 minutes, and this was only due to me fumbling with my helmet. The cushion securing pieces were slightly different from my existing AGV K3 SV helmet, and being the muddle-headed person that I am, it took me awhile to figure that I didn’t need to remove the cushions to install the Sena 10C.
2.1 Speaker and microphone installation
I felt that the wires for the speakers were a little thin, and was worried that I might accidentally snap/break the wires as I was installing the speakers. (Be gentle when you’re installing them!) Thankfully, that didn’t happen or I would have to purchase a new set of speakers! Routing the wiring was easy enough if you followed the grooves that the AGV K3 SV has (or any other helmet that has the provision to install a Bluetooth communications system).
As with all cabling, there will be excess and tucking this into the recesses of the helmet was not difficult as there wasn’t much to tuck away. Sena has managed to provide enough cable without it being excessive. Good job Sena! The speakers stuck onto the felt pads in the helmet easy enough, and there were additional speaker spacer pads provided in case the recess was too deep, and you needed to place the speakers closer to your ears.
The microphone was simpler still! Just plugging it into the cable connector that is on the speaker wire harness, and pasting the microphone onto the helmet is all that you need to do! I felt that the short wire of the microphone is of a benefit to the installation, as it placed the microphone to the side of your mouth, instead of directly in front of it. This eliminates the breathing sounds and puffs of air the microphone catches when you are speaking into it. It also places the microphone away from the frontal vents on the helmet which may cause the pickup of wind noises.
As for the actual device, I chose to use the supplied 3M double-sided tape mount, and stuck it onto the left side of my helmet. Getting the viewing angle of the camera was a little tricky, with me having to wear the helmet, look in the mirror, and estimate the amount of tilt necessary to get the camera facing forward. This can be resolved if you decide to use the clamp instead. The clamp allows for adjustments in the camera tilt angle on itself.
Here’s the result after installing it on my AGV K3 SV Tartaruga Tortuga!
Finished Sena 10C installation on an AGV K3 SV Tartaruga Tortuga
3. Using the Sena 10C
Having been on the Sena SMH-5 previously, the learning curve on the operation of the 10C was not difficult. Sure, it had a whole lot more features compared to the SMH-5, but the operating sequences were quite intuitive and user-friendly. Sure, memorising all the sequences took some time, but I don’t think it was difficult to remember them all. The buttons were easy enough to get to, with light gloves on. And the buttons were also spaced well, and there was no confusion as to which buttons I was getting.
3.1 Features of the Sena 10C
Image from Sena.com
The Sena 10C comes with a host of features for entertainment and communication. Apart from the standard suite of features of the SMH-5, like Bluetooth pairing to your mobile phone for calls, GPS turn-by-turn navigation, and playing of your favourite MP3 tracks, the 10C also includes video recording, taking of still pictures, and an FM radio!
This combination of separate technologies into a single compact package works out well in my favour, as I used to have an Ion action camera attached to my helmet, in addition to the Sena SMH-5. This made my helmet extremely bulky, and a pain to ride with at higher speeds with the wind buffeting the helmet setup.
3.2 Using the Sena 10C
3.2.1 Basic commands
Memorising the command sequence for the basic features is quite easy if you break it down. It works with either a short press, or a long press. Though you WILL need to know which button triggers which function. The camera button only serves to command the camera. The jog dial serves to trigger the intercom, the playing of your MP3s, skipping radio stations / tracks and as an exit button. And last but not least, the phone button controls the voice dialing feature, and to turn on the FM radio.
The camera button is dedicated to the camera. The command sequence that I figured out without reading the manual is as follows:-
Press once: Turn camera on; Press and hold for 1 second: Start/Stop recording; Press and hold for 5 seconds: Start Timelapse Video; Press and hold for 8 seconds: Access camera menu.
Taking photos only requires a single click of the camera button. You need to be mindful that it takes about a second after the button press, for the photo to be taken.
Photo taken on my way home from work
I tried to capture the orange Audi making the turn, and clicked on the camera button when the Audi was at the traffic light, making a right turn. Look how far the Audi has gotten after the button press! And no, the Audi was not speeding, if that is what you were thinking!
There are 3 settings for video quality. For the sake of saving memory space, I set my camera to 720p@30fps. This allows me to record videos for about a week on a 32GB before having to format the SD card. There are 2 additional settings for video recording. Namely, 720p@60fps, and 1080p@30fps. If you require capture of high speed activities or higher resolution videos, then these would be the settings you could use.
If you’re keen to see what the video capture quality is like, I’ve got one that you can view of my morning commute. Here’s another if you wish to see how it performs on a rainy day. Forgive me as I only have ambient noises/sounds recorded on this. However, if you choose to, you are able to record your intercom activity, MP3s played, or even what you’re listening to on the radio from the setup!
Operating the radio was simple enough. Just holding on to the phone button for 2 seconds will turn the FM radio on. Reception is sufficient for you receive your favourite channels, but if you’re looking for stereo sound, it might be difficult unless the radio station signal is really strong. Setting the preset radio channels was easy enough without the Sena PC/Android app, but I still preferred to double-check my settings using the Sena Bluetooth Device Manager.
FM Radio settings page via Sena Device Manager
My setting disabled the RDS AF as I had the annoying occurrence of my radio station being switched to another channel when the signal was bad. I think I would be alright if it skipped to a frequency close by, but it tended to skip to the strongest channel, and I would get strange music being played in my helmet.
Using the Sena 10C for radio, intercom, and video at the same time, gave me an operating lifespan of approximately 2.5 days. Which is pretty good considering that it is running 3 different operations at once! When the power gets low, the Sena 10C sacrifices the camera operation for communication. This means that it will stop the recording function, to maintain the intercom function should you be using it. The intercom will still be able to last the next 3 days before you’ll need to charge it.
However, if you’re the kind who is concerned about road footage when you’re riding, you may also opt to charge it while you’re on the road! The Sena 10C package comes with a cigarette socket charger, and I’ve used it to charge the unit whilst on the road, and having the camera in operation! The cable has plenty of length, but is taut enough not to cause a hazard with the movements required in riding a motorcycle.
Me connecting the charging cable to the 10C whilst riding!
This would easily be the best solution for those who love to tour, and want to grab every moment of their road trip on video! Having an unlimited supply of power for your intercom and helmet camera sure is a nice thing!
The ports of the Sena 10C are very well placed and covered. The ports are placed at the bottom of the device, which makes it difficult for water to enter via the ports unless you decide to mount the device upside-down. The rubber port covers are about 2mm thick, and sit in the slots where the ports are very snugly. I’ve ridden in heavy rain, with the Sena 10C in operation without having to worry about the ingress of water. Brilliantly thought out design, and perfect quality manufacturing by Sena! Another great job done!
Sena 10C ports
Using the Sena mobile app or the Sena Bluetooth Device Manager is simple and intuitive. The app works well without being overly complicated.
However, I have very different expectations when it comes to dealing with Android applications, versus desktop applications. The Sena Android app though simple, lacks the full features that the desktop application has. This can be quite annoying as there are still people in this world that may not have a PC in their homes, or have moved on to tablets and other computing devices.
The desktop application on the other hand, has it’s own little annoyance. I understand the need of keeping everything compact, sleek, and simple. But with all the screen space that you have when utilising a desktop, I would think that Sena would have made a software that could open full screen, and have ALL the settings available for view. Instead, we have a scroll style menu, that works in the windowed mode instead. Yes, it’s a pet peeve, but I dare say that it would make more sense to use the entire screen space available.
Slideshow of the Sena 10C Device Manager on Desktop
Having owned the Sena 10C for about a month, I can confidently say that this is the best ‘all-in’one’ helmet accessory that I have purchased. Whilst it may not have some creature comforts like loop recording, my opinion is that it definitely more than meets the needs of your average biker. It’s like having the SOG / Swiss Army knife version of a Bluetooth Communications System for your helmet! This is one item that I would highly recommend to those who are looking for a new or replacement Bluetooth intercom!
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