Sena 10C: Long Term Review

The Sena 10C combines the ability to capture a day’s ride with all of the color commentary you and your buddies can provide.

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The road to clear communication and video has been a bit of a tumultuous one for motorcyclists. From headsets that serve only to frustrate, to cameras that offer picture quality reminiscent of 1980s home movies, the evolution of both mediums has been rough. But evolution does serve a purpose; the weaker offerings fall away and only the strongest survive long enough to become amazing. Thankfully, there are now some great products in both categories.

Of course, evolution takes time and it cannot fix all of our problems. The inherent issues with having both a camera and a separate communication device are (a) audio syncing, (b) bulk and (c) battery life. Not to mention the fact that having multiple devices requires the rider to do the syncing, which is another step that takes away from getting out and enjoying your ride. Sena aims to solve this problem with the Sena 10C, a whole new option for riders. By combining the audio and video capture in a single unit, Sena takes a lot of the prep work out of recording a ride. You have the freedom to simply turn on the device and go. This is by far the Sena 10C’s greatest asset and why I use it daily.

This functionality doesn’t come right out of the box. Before you’re able to get out and start your next vlog, you have some setup to get through. The Sena 10C comes with the camera/Bluetooth unit; a clamp or adhesive pad for attachment to a helmet; a boom mic and a wired mic; a boom mic holder; 2 foam mic covers; speakers with foam covers and two different sized pads to adjust depth; a 12 volt cigarette charger; a USB data and power cable; multiple Velcro pads; a lens cap; and finally an Allen wrench for tightening down the helmet clamp.

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*The one thing missing from this list is a Micro SD card. I recommend going with a 32GB card just to ensure you have plenty of space for video. At the max video setting of 1080p @ 30 frames per second you’ll use about 5.7GB per hour giving you just under 5.5 hours of footage per card. Maybe get two, they aren’t that expensive on Amazon.*Sena_10C_05

Setup isn’t too bad. Sena requires its device manager be downloaded to your computer before any firmware updates can be applied. Make sure you follow the instructions. When I first downloaded the device manager, I had a fair bit of difficulty getting my computer to recognize the device, but the steps are simple: download the device manager and connect the Sena 10C to your computer with the supplied USB without the SD card inserted. Then insert the card, hold the phone button for five seconds and press next. Do this and you should be fine. If everything is going correctly, the next screen will show the Sena 10C up in the right corner and you can start updating the firmware.

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Once on a helmet, the size of the unit really comes into play. The relatively slim profile of the Sena 10C ensures very little drag but Sena hasn’t gone so far as to allow the design to impede usability. The ‘jog dial’ that Sena has been known for is large enough to use with a gloved hand, while the phone and camera buttons provide enough tactile feedback that you won’t be hard pressed to find them either. All controls have audible feedback and a satisfying click that keeps you from guessing. Previous Sena users will feel very much at home with the controls provided on the Sena 10C. However, if you’re a Sena virgin, there’s something of a learning curve. Once riding, the controls are not 100% intuitive due to there only being three buttons, one of which spins. Learning to use those three buttons, whose functions change based on whether you push, hold, hold for three seconds, hold for five seconds or push then spin vs. push and spin, makes navigation a little daunting at first. That being the said, the learning curve is steep but not insurmountable. After my third use, I had the functions down and was using the voice prompts with ease.

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Before stumbling through the features by way of timed clicks and rolls of the ‘jog dial’, there is an app that allows you to change settings and fine tune the 10C however you see fit. Included in the app’s options is video quality preference. The camera allows you to choose between 1080p @ 30fps and 720p @ 30/60fps for video. Depending on what you’re looking for, 1080p @ 30fps gives you a fairly clear picture with minimal blurring. If you are looking for professional quality 4k images, you will need to get a GoPro. However, those are a much pricier affair. Sena obviously had the average daily rider in mind when building out the 10C’s feature set, because its features and price are perfect for the rider looking to get the most bang for the buck. Video tagging, having the ability to take photos without interrupting video and time-lapse video with images every one or 10 seconds is what sets this unit apart. 

The features mentioned above are all fairly self-explanatory, except perhaps ‘tagging.’ Tagging gives the rider the ability to capture small portions of a ride while not filling up memory. This is quite useful if you’re not the sort of person who likes to wade through hours of footage to get to the one point where you remembered something interesting happened. Instead, you have the capacity to ride along, see Sasquatch, and push the camera button to start tagging. The camera will “retroactively” record the previous sixty seconds of footage along with two minutes immediately following your tag point. Then, when you get home and want to show the world what you saw, you have a three minute clip ready to go (as opposed to hours worth of highway miles that would put anyone to sleep).

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If you do want all the footage, all the time, Sena has made sure you have the modern conveniences necessary to make that a comfortable experience. With volume levels that allow you to hear through earplugs, you have access to a whole lot of technology with Bluetooth 4.1 pairing. Bluetooth 4.1 ensures a seamless transition between applications. If you’ve experienced the lag and occasional drop between devices with earlier versions of technology, Bluetooth 4.1 rights this wrong by way of a much stronger signal. This signal actually improves battery life and makes switching back and forth between intercom and phone duties painless. Whether you’re making phone calls, receiving navigation prompts, or listening to music, the Sena 10C has no trouble trading duties. Meanwhile, the FM radio lets you can scan through or set predetermined stations. Last but not least, Bluetooth 4.1 can even handle universal communication, which allows your 10C to pair up with other non-Sena headsets.

Once you’ve paired up with your squad you’ll be able to make use of the selective audio capturing, which is adjustable through the Sena 10C’s companion app. This makes it possible to record only the audio you want. Whether you want your buddies’ remarks and not the incoming phone call, or Katy Perry, to be recorded is up to you. This sorcery is managed by something Sena calls “Smart Audio Mix.”

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With one mile of Bluetooth connectivity with other Sena devices and probably closer to a quarter mile on non-Sena devices, the 10C has pretty standard range capabilities. I didn’t find this problematic, as I rarely am ever out of the 1/4 mile range with fellow riders, and, on the off chance I am, the 10C reconnects automatically once I’m back in range. Similarly, being able to connect with “only” four other riders (and not the eight that the Sena 20S supports) has never been an issue for me.

Having used the 10C on a daily basis for six months, I can tell you what I like and don’t like. The number one issue with this device is battery life. When recording video, the battery only allows for two hours of recording before shutting the camera off and leaving you with just the communication features. At this point you have roughly 20% battery life left, which amounts to about two hours of talk time on the intercom. This is obviously Sena’s way of working within the battery’s constraints; nevertheless, it’s an issue. Thankfully, Sena has made the 10C capable of charging on-the-go. By allowing on-the-go charging via a 12 volt charger, the battery issue becomes a moot point, as long as you’re willing to deal with a wire. So, problem solved, right? Only if you have somewhere to plug it in. If you’re like me, and don’t ride a bike equipped with such farkles, then that charger does no good. Enter the mobile battery pack. I picked up this RAVPower mobile charger on Amazon and I can assure you it does the job. I’ve had this thing in the chest pocket of my jacket for a month and a half and the battery isn’t dead yet. Having a mobile power source means I don’t have to worry about battery life on the 10C, or my phone, regardless of how long the ride is.

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Another issue is video quality. Again, this isn’t necessarily a flaw but more of a shortcoming. When compared to dedicated video cameras, the Sena 10C will more than likely lose. If video quality could be improved without sending the price sky high, the Sena 10C would be a near unstoppable piece of technology. Unstoppable, that is, until a rock pops up and breaks the lens. I am happy to report that this has yet to happen to me, but I can’t help but think that the unprotected lens will inevitably meet its end via a piece of gravel. With no protection available, this seems like an oversight on Sena’s part, especially when you consider the fact that nearly all other action cameras have this safety feature. Finally, there is a serious lack of live view. Sena could provide a firmware update that allows video to stream to your phone, making setup of the camera much less of a chore, but it hasn’t yet.

However, the Sena 10C offers much more than video and that’s where the value of this unit shines brightest. The Sena 10C offers a solution to the problem of bulk and the ability to put your helmet on and start recording with fully synced audio/video is phenomenal. That goes double for eliminating the hassle of maintaining multiple devices with multiple batteries and multiple memory cards. All in all, what you are getting with the Sena 10C is a compact, all-in-one audio/video/communication wonderment that allows you to focus on the thing that matters most—the ride. The Sena 10C is well-built, well-thought-out, and an amazing value for the freedom it gives you. At $349, Sena has introduced a game-changer that I’m sure will influence cameras and communications for motorcyclists going forward. Well done, Sena.

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