Review posted August 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
SouthWing isn’t exactly a new name in Bluetooth headsets and car kits. We’ve reviewed their NeoVoice Headset and NeoCar car kit and liked both products. Their latest Bluetooth headset, the SouthWing SH440, has integrated Bluetooth 2.0 with unique features including voice notifications of caller ID, battery life and more. Since AT&T carries the SH440, SouthWing even integrated direct dialing for AT&T services. The headset has a powerful battery, solid pairing and a great list of call management features. The great thing about it is the price: $49, but the let down is voice quality.
Measuring approximately 1.8 x 0.85 inches, the SouthWing SH440 is one of the small Bluetooth headsets on the market. It’s a bit bigger than the Samsung WEP200 and quite a bit smaller than the Jawbone and Plantronics Explorer 330 Bluetooth headsets. The 0.39 oz. (11 grams) weight should also please those who wish to have a small and light headset. While the size and weight are strong points for the SouthWing, the earbud that goes in your ear is too large for a normal ear and it’s difficult to wear the headset as an “in-ear” style headset. But the SH440 does come with earhooks in different sizes that can fit either the right or left ear and you can easily plug the hook to an arm on the headset. Wearing the headset with the earhook is comfortable even after several hours. Button controls are simple and clean on the SouthWing: volume buttons on either side and the multi-function button on the front of the headset. The headset even comes with three different color faceplates in case you want to match it with your phone or personal accessories. The charging port is on top of the headset, away from call management controls.
Size comparison: The Plantronics Explorer 330, Samsung WEP200, Jawbone and SH440 with the RAZR.
While we like the modern and clean design of the headset, the box it comes in is another story. To promote the voice menu and voice abilities of the headset, SouthWing decided to give you a gorgeous gift box package (which we loved) and inside the box, a talking intro-advertisement insert that will come on at random times (which scared us). The talking mechanism is a three-coin battery powered installment, and if you don’t wish to wake up your children or wonder if your house is haunted at night, we suggest that you take out one of the batteries to disable the talking advertising.
Pairing and Features
The SouthWing SH440 has Bluetooth 2.0 and supports both Hands-Free and Headset Profiles. We paired it with several phones and the SouthWing paired with every phone with ease. The headset will go into pairing mode when you turn it on for the first time, and you can use your phone to pair with it right away. For subsequent pairing, turn the headset off first, then hold the multi-function button (the power on/off button) until the green LED light flashes rapidly and non-stop; the headset is ready for pairing. Use your phone to search for the headset and punch in the default pass key “0000”, your phone should pair and connect with the headset. You can pair the SH440 with multiple devices, but it will work with one at a time.
The SouthWing SH440 has support for the usual call management features including send/end/answer calls using the headset, call rejecting, mute/unmute in a call, transfer calls between the headset and mobile phone, as well as last number redialing and voice dialing over the headset. You will find some extra features on the SH440 that are not often seen on other Bluetooth headsets. The SH440 has a voice menu feature which you can access by pressing on the volume buttons. You can store 4 of your favorite numbers on the headset and use the voice menu to access these numbers. Voice menu can also tell you how many hours of battery life remain and it has an option to put the headset into pairing mode. There is an extra bonus if you are an AT&T customer: voice menu can automatically dial AT&T’s VoiceInfo (*8) services that offer up to date news sports and other info via voice.
When a call is coming in, both your phone and the headset will ring. If you are fond of special ringtones on your headsets, you should be happy to know that the SouthWing comes with 12 ring tones stored in its memory and you can select them by pressing and holding one of the volume buttons for 5 seconds. The headset will also announce the name or the phone number of the incoming caller while your phone is ringing. We are impressed by how many features this headset offers and all features worked well in our tests.
Voice Quality and Range
With all the wonderful features that come with the SouthWing SH440, we really wished that the headset had good voice quality. Alas, the SouthWing doesn’t offer that. Voice quality was below average on all the phones we tested it with and the sound was choppy and distorted. Volume is general loud and range is average. Here are the details we found in our tests:
When working with the Katana DLX on Sprint (Bluetooth 2.0)
The voice was muffled on both incoming and outgoing ends, like someone talking with a sock over his mouth. The DSP didn’t have much effect and background noise was clear and easily heard. Voice dialing over the SouthWing worked well. Range between the phone and the headset reached 10 feet before we heard loud crackling sounds and voice breakup.
When working with the Apple iPhone on AT&T (Bluetooth 2.0)
The iPhone is above average when it comes to working with Bluetooth headsets, but it didn’t like the SouthWing SH440 either. The voice was choppy and had digital distortion on both incoming and outgoing ends. It lacks the clarity that the Plantronics Explorer 330 had when working with the iPhone. As with the Katana DLX, the headset’s DSP didn’t have much effect on background noise. Voice dialing worked fine and range was about 10 feet as well.
When working with the Samsung Blast (t729) on T-Mobile (Bluetooth 2.0)
Again, the SouthWing failed to impress us in the voice quality department. Both incoming and outgoing voice had choppy audio and breakup, lacking any voice clarity. No effective DSP via the Samsung either in our tests and range was about 7-10 feet. To its credit, all the call management features worked well.
The SouthWing SH440 comes with a built-in rechargeable battery and you can charge it using the included AC charger which unfortunately is not a world charger (it’s US 120V). The claimed talk time is 7 hours, though you might get longer talk times if you are using a Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR phone. The claimed standby time is 2 weeks (if you don’t do anything with the headset) or 200 hours if you press buttons once in a while. The headset will turn itself off after 12 hours of inactivity and you must turn it back on if you want to use it again. Our tests showed that the 7-hour talk time is very achievable and 200 hours of standby is right on target.
The SouthWing SH440 certainly has a lot of features to offer and does many things right. If only they could improve the voice quality (we hope they do in future versions), this would be a very solid headset to add to your gear bag.
Pro:Small and lightweight, comfy with the earhook. Clean and modern design. Good set of call features and voice notification/interactive menu. Good battery life by Bluetooth headset standards.
Con:Not comfy to wear without earhook. Substandard voice quality and DSP.
Package contains: the SH440 Bluetooth wireless headset, AC charger, headset cord for attachment to phone, extra speaker hood, 2 extra color covers, User’s Guide and Quick start guide.
-Profiles supported: Hands-free and Headset Profiles
-Claimed talk time: Up to 7 hours on a charge
-Claimed standby time: Up to 200 hours
-Headset weight: 0.39 oz. (11 grams)
-Battery: Lithium Ion.
-AC adapter: 120V