The G16 is the latest product from California-based brand Lexin. This new brand has positioned themselves as a value-based alternative to the premium options offered by Sena and Cardo. Lexin currently offers only two systems, the G16 and the FT4 pro. We asked for a Lexin G16 on loan to see if the new kid on the block has what it takes. Does this new system beat the current heavyweights or is David about to be stepped on by Goliath? To answer this question accurately we compared the G16 to its similarly priced competition.
The system we are using to benchmark the Lexin G16 is the Sena SMH10R. This is an older system from Sena, originally released in late 2012. The SMH10R is fairly out of date but it is the closest in terms of price and it still holds up well despite the older technology. Let's break down the name, SMH is the acronym Sena used in the past to designate their communication systems. 10 indicates that it is part of the 10 series which all use the same processor and connection technology. The R designates the form factor. This 10R has the battery located separately from the main unit on the back of the helmet to create a lower profile design with less aerodynamic drag. The R model has only 3 buttons compared to the S version which uses 2 buttons and a jog wheel.
Both the G16 and the SMH10R have the same installation process - mount the unit on the side of the helmet and use the included Velcro to attach the speakers and microphone in the correct place. Installation of the Sena system is slightly more time-consuming due to the separate battery pack. Both systems were installed by a professional in about 10 minutes. For a first-timer, we would budget 30 minutes to make sure you have everything lined up and working correctly.
The installation difficulty also depends on which helmet your using. Most of our test lids have built-in speaker pockets that make placement easy. In the past, slicing through the cheek pads was the only way to ensure the wiring was clean and out of the way. We strongly recommend that you don’t modify your helmet and remember any modifications to your helmet are done at your own risk. You must be incredibly careful to ensure safety isn’t compromised.
The speakers in the G16 are noticeably thicker than the SMH10R. One would expect this to result in better audio, however the quality is roughly the same in both models which suffer from being slightly tinny with a noticeable lack of base. Neither of these systems are designed for audiophiles. However, that hardly becomes an issue when riding down the freeway because even the quietest helmets suffer from wind noise at 100km/h. One trick is to use foam earplugs to drown out the wind and turn up the music to compensate. In this scenario, the G16’s thicker speakers finally start to make sense. They can get louder.
Another interesting thing about the G16 is the inclusion of sound-cancelling technology. This does accomplish blocking some external sounds but it is a far cry from the level of sound-cancelling in high-end headphones, such as those from Bose or Sony.
Build quality is one area where Sena’s experience making communication systems becomes immediately clear. The fit and finish as well as the overall intuitiveness of the SMH10R is far superior. The Lexin G16 comes supplied with two different mounts, a small adhesive one and a spring-loaded clip to attach it to the side of the helmet. Since our test unit had to be returned, we opted to use the spring clip. So far, the clip has been successful but it doesn't inspire any confidence. The design of the clip sits at the bottom of the intercom and is installed at a slight distance to the edge of the helmet, which means the entire system sticks out further than necessary. The unit seems to stay on just fine which we tested by picking up the helmet using the communication system to grab onto.
The adhesive mount is undoubtedly the better way to go, provided you don’t need to remove the system from your helmet. This mount uses 3mm VHB tape which is the same mounting as the SMH10R. One advantage of the Sena is that it uses more adhesive tape for an overall smaller unit. Is that overkill? Probably, but it makes for more trust that the communication system won’t fly off while riding spiritedly.
When comparing the size of each system, the Sena is more compact while having much larger buttons than the Lexin. This set up makes using the intercom far easier while wearing gloves.
The first thing to mention about connections is the power port on each unit. The SMH10R uses an older USB micro standard. The G16 uses a newer generation USB-C port, which can be used for charging as well as the speakers and microphone. In theory, this means that you could use the Lexin communication system with a pair of USB headphones if that is your preference.
The Sena contender uses proprietary connectors for the microphone and speakers. This initially sounds frustrating but there is a good reason they do this - the connectors are tiny. This small size makes it incredible easy to hide them behind a cheek pad or somewhere else in the helmet.
The SMH10R may be a bit more refined but I'll give the edge to the G16 due to the modern USB-C.
Both intercoms use Bluetooth when connecting to phones, GPS, or other communication systems. The G16 uses the updated Bluetooth 5.0 while the SMH10R is equipped with Bluetooth 3.0. On paper, the connection with the Lexin is supposed to use less battery and provide better audio quality with a smaller chance of disconnection. In real life, the speakers are so similar that they sound the same and we experienced no noticeable difference in connection strength or battery life.
Once we shutdown and rebooted the communication systems, both the Sena and the Lexin re-connected to my iPhone instantly and seamlessly.
Neither system uses the latest technology for wireless audio which is the Mesh system for communication. Mesh is far more robust and easier to use than any Bluetooth communication system but it is also more expensive, hence its exclusion from this review.
The main thing to talk about here is the number of other communication systems that each of these can connect to. The SMH10R can only connect to 3 other riders for 4 in total. That isn't a big number but at least it’s enough for another rider and pillion to talk to you and your passenger.
The G16 can, as the name suggests, connect up to 16 riders. This blows its Sena competitor out of the water. If you're on a budget and have a large group of riders then the conversation stops here - just get the G16. We haven’t had the opportunity to test out the functionality of connecting with 15 other riders but I have no reason to doubt that it works.
The Bluetooth pairing on both systems is relatively straight forward with the SMH10R requiring slightly more concentration on listening for when the pairing mode is active. The G16 however can only pair new devices when it is turned off, which is not a huge deal but seems like an odd design choice.
I was able to pair both devices to each other seamlessly and encountered no issues with reception or clarity even when the phone and communication system were on opposite sides of a large building.
One advantage of the G16 is the inclusion of an FM antenna so that you can listen to local radio. This can be useful if your phone dies and to get traffic updates. The one issue we ran into no matter how much we tried, we could not figure out how to actually turn the radio function on.
The SMH10R doesn’t include an antenna but since we were unable to operate the radio on the Lexin I’ll call this one a draw.
This seems like a silly thing to add to a helmet but Lexin did so we’ll talk about it. The light on the G16 is easy to activate and bright enough to find your keys in the dark if you dropped them but not particularly useful beyond that. It is certainly no replacement for headlights and would be nothing but a distraction to other road users if left on while riding.
The one clever use of the flashlight is that it can display S.O.S. in morse code. Simply hold down the flashlight button and that’s it. This could be potentially useful if you were injured somewhere with reduced visibility. I wouldn’t trust the general public to recognize the signal but it could speed things up if first responders or search and rescue were already looking for you.
I still haven’t had the chance to comprehensively test the battery life on the G16 but the advertised life of 15 hours is excellent compared to other communication systems. The SMH10R advertises 10 hours and gets about 6-8 hours of real-world use. Based on these specs I would expect the battery life of the G16 to have about 12 hours of actual use.
Both the Sena and Lexin are easy to update to the latest firmware. Download the device manager to your computer and plug in the unit, follow the prompts and you are done.
At $239 the Lexin undercuts the Sena by about $50. The SMH10R is one of Sena's cheapest systems available and can be found for around $289. With Lexin you only have 2 choices, the G16 being their top of the line communication system. Sena, by contrast, has many different models for various budgets and styles. We chose to compare two similarly priced units. However, if you compared the G16 to Sena's 50S or 50R, they would be a far better system. The Sena 50 series offers far more technology and features than the SMH10R.
The Sena SMH10R feels like a higher-end product, everything from the packaging to the design of the unit feels nicer. That said, the Lexin G16 has genuinely made a good communication system that can compete with the Sena when it comes to features. Considering all the specs the G16 kills the SMH10R, but if you don’t find yourself riding with many friends then you will probably enjoy using the Sena more.