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How to save $167 in fine style: Bluetooth headset roundup

Sunday, February 28th, 2010 | 6:30 am

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By Mark Stone

Haven’t got that Bluetooth headset yet? The time has come, and it’s the law. Driving while talking on your cell phone will cost you $167, so why not shell out a little less and never have to worry about getting nabbed by the cops?

Over the last month, I’ve put some of the highest rated Bluetooth headsets to the test and am sharing my findings with you here. After researching and exploring which headsets earned the highest ratings from both media and consumers, I narrowed the field down to five headsets from three manufacturers. Plantronics was kind enough to send us two of their top-rated models, and Mark Brown – manager of Rogers Wireless in Orchard Park Mall – allowed me to borrow several popular models from Blue Ant and Jawbone to test.

I spent about a week with each headset, and tested them out using the following criteria: comfort, call clarity on both ends of the conversation, ease of use, features, and overall cool factor. Each headset will cost you at least $100, but prices vary. You may want to look online for the best deals.

It’s important to note that you really can’t go wrong with any of the models I’ve tried. By using a Bluetooth headset – even the most simple model – you are doing your part in keeping the roads safe and the cops at bay.

Equally important about all Bluetooth headsets: initially the technology may seem daunting, and many consumers get easily frustrated and end up returning their headset. I’m told from the manufacturers that the #1 reason for returns is lack of product understanding. It is strongly recommended you spend at least an hour going through all the features of your headset; I guarantee it will be worth your time. All headsets come with a user’s manual to help you get the most out of your device. Here are a few suggestions on what to do when you first bring your headset home:

  • Find the best ear fit for your headset, as many come with different configurations
  • Pair the headset to your cell phone by making the Bluetooth connection, then disconnect and make sure you can easily reconnect again
  • Explore all the calling features, such as answering and disconnecting calls, changing volume, redialing and voice dialing if capable
  • Make sure you know how to charge the headset and how often you’ll need to charge

Here’s the lowdown on the headsets:

Plantronics Discovery 975

Comfort – Awkward fit, will take time to adjust in ear

Call clarity – Noise cancellation is excellent, but I always wanted to use the volume up switch, as caller usually seemed quiet

Ease of use – Slightly awkward on/off and volume control

Features – Only model to come with chargeable case with battery power indicator. If you’re concerned about losing your headset, this one is the best of the bunch because of the case.

Overall cool factor – The case, and the overall thin design put this near the top

Plantronics Voyager Pro

Comfort – Easily the best of the bunch. Fits around the ear and feels great.

Call clarity – Excellent clarity on both ends. No complaints whatsoever.

Ease of use – Simple operation once you become familiar with it.

Features – Nothing special about this one, but who cares when the comfort and call clarity are exceptional.

Overall cool factor – Again, nothing to write home about here, but if you don’t care about cool this is the model to beat.

BlueAnt V1

Comfort – The retractable and adjustable arm slides nicely on the ear to make this a nice fit

Call clarity – Slightly deficient in call volume, otherwise very good

Ease of use – Being able to operate by voice is wonderful and generally works very well

Features – The voice-controlled functionality is cool and will be the reason consumers flock to it. Speed dial by voice does not work well at all, especially with the iPhone. Very disappointing.

Overall cool factor – Looks very cool, the voice-controlled function

BlueAnt Q1

Comfort – Slightly difficult to fit in ear, but not bad with the optional arm

Call clarity – No complaints at all

Ease of use – Same as V1

Features – Strangely, speed dial works much better with iPhone on this model than the V1

Overall cool factor – More minimalist than the V1

Aliph Jawbone Prime

Comfort – After fiddling with the multitude of earpieces included, you will eventually find one to fit your ear well

Call clarity – Callers would complain of “tunnel sound”, otherwise solid wind noise reduction

Ease of use – The placement of the two buttons make operation slightly more complicated than it should be

Features – Voice dial is a very nice feature, but voice recognition was spotty

Overall cool factor – This is the nicest looking headset of the bunch. If looking cool is a priority, this is the one to go with.

How to save $167 in fine style: Bluetooth headset roundup5.051

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