Independent review of how Sena's SMH5 rider to rider communication system and bluetooth headset performs in real life and compares with the more expensive Sena SMH10.
SMH5 is one of Sena's cheapest rider to rider intercoms at the moment as opposed to their rider to passenger or standalone bluetooth headsets. Single units can be purchased below £100 or the dual pack for just below £200. The SMH5 costs about half as much as the Sena SMH10.
A list of officially supported helmets can be found online and the headset is designed to fit virtually any helmets. Some helmets are built with future Sena intercom integration in mind with recesses for speakers, which can be quite useful as the speakers can cause discomfort by pushing against the ears (although the speakers are quite slim). Integrating with a helmet takes about half an hour, the speakers can be secured in place with the supplied self adhesive tapes and the package comes with 2 types of microphone: a small one to hide behind the cheek padding or a boom microphone for modular and open face helmets. The mount is very is stable and the unit can be clicked securely into place with ease. The charging port is on top of the intercom (covered with a waterproof rubber plug) making it completely unnecessary to ever having to remove it from the helmet, but that also can be done by sliding off with a bit of pressure.
Buying the Sena SMH5 Dual comes with the 2 intercoms already paired, so they'll work straight out of the box for rider to rider communications. Pairing with the phone is just as simple as any bluetooth device with the advantage of the unit's built-in voice assistant feedback. As a visual aid the headset also provides feedback of its current state with flashing blue and red lights, which can assist during the inital setup. The unit is also firmware upgradeable and the latest firmware version can be downloaded from the company's official website.
Using of the Sena SMH5 takes a little getting used to as all commands are performed using only 2 controls: a jog dial and the phone button. The controls are designed to be operated with gloves on during riding. The most regularly used commands are the simplest to access:
The trickier part is multipoint pairing and accessing configuration (for example) to setup speed dial phone numbers as the controls need to be held for various durations, so for example holding the jog button for 5 seconds starts multipoint pairing, but keep holding for 8 seconds will switch to access the configuration menu. Luckily the voice assistant is there to provide feedback of what's happening.
The SMH5 comes with an array of features that'll satisfy most riders needs, and they actually work well.
The Sena SMH5 is a multicom and can be paired with up to 3 other Sena intercoms (not just SMH5), but does not support group chat meaning you can only talk to one of the other riders at a time. For people always riding in pairs or with a pillion passenger the unit is perfect: with a single tap of the jog dial communication is established within seconds. The claimed range of 400 meters actually stands up to real life tests, but don't expect any more. When reaching its boundaries a static radio noise can be heard, which can be annoying, so riders rather stay near by.
Chat is really clear with the help of advanced noise cancellation and we found the intercom usable until reaching motorway speeds, but that depends on many other factors such as weather, wind, helmet model, integration to the helmet and other surrounding noises. A Sena mobile application can be downloaded from the app store to support voice chat over 400 meters. The app has very low ratings and normal phone calls may prove to be more reliable or even any other internet-based chat application can be used instead.
The device currently supports Bluetooth 3 protocol and during hours long test rides the connection never dropped. The headset supports 3 quick dial phone numbers as well as last number redial. Tapping the phone button launches the phone's voice assistant.
While the stereo speakers are not as good as some bluetooth or wired heaphones for listening to music, the Sena SMH5 has a great advantage over them: control. You can play, pause, replay, move to next or previous tracks and adjust volume while riding with ease. It also supports music sharing, but that means not being able to communicate at the same time.
A fully charged Sena SMH5 claims and achieves 8 hours of usage or 7 days of standby time, which is plenty enough for most of us. The unit can also be charged while in use, just keep a powerbank with microusb cable in your jacket or connect to your motorbike cigarette lighter connection if available (cable is not supplied).
How does the SMH5 compare to the more expensive SMH10?
|Sena SMH5||Sena SMH10|
|Price/unit||approx. £95||approx. £180|
|Intercom range||400 meters||900 meters|
|Intercom pairing||3 other Sena intercoms||3 other Sena intercoms|
|Intercom conference calls||2 riders||4 riders|
|Talk time||8 hours||12 hours|
|Standby||7 days||10 days|
|3.5 mm audio jack input||✗||✔|
|Included chargers||microusb cable||microusb cable,
AC power adapter,
bike cigarette charger
The Sena SMH5 is a good buy for most who are after a good quality headset and/or intercom mostly riding in pairs or with a passenger. The unit (or units in a dual pack) come at a reasonable price with everything needed in the box from fixings, multiple microphones to charging cables. The built quality feels great that'll last years. As it actually works for approximately 8 hours new it will take years before the integrated battery deteriorates to an unusable level. The headset is not just for groups, single riders can also enjoy its benefits to access their phone's voice commands, make and receive phone calls, listen to satnav instructions or music.