The Quest for the perfect Bluetooth Headset.
The Poohbah is frustrated, let me tell you why. Bluetooth is a wonderful thing. Low power local area wireless, designed to replace wires. Excellent. I’ve been a fan since it’s inception. It’s implementation though has been poor for a long time and it’s finally becoming mainstream. The problem now is there are simply too many crappy Bluetooth devices.
Originally the hardware was good, and expensive but the drivers were all bad. Now that Bluetooth is in just about every consumer device, and manufacturers are sticking it in everything low cost. The drivers have stabilized, but the hardware is low cost and crap.
My needs are simple.
Of course like a lot of people these days I have a Bluetooth enabled phone. As much as I hate to talk on the phone when I’m driving, when I do, I like to use a hands free device. Bluetooth is perfect for this. Look Ma, no cords. I hate cords. Cords are messy.
So thus begins the quest for the perfect headset. One that will work with both the phone and the PC.
I’ve tried multiple headsets and haven’t found one yet I’m happy with.
Some things to note: The phone I’m using is the Motorola V710. It was the boss Bluetooth phone when it first arrived on the scene. I realize it isn’t anymore. It has it’s own quirks. But is still a very decent phone. I have had the best luck (sound-wise) with Motorola headsets with it, but when they are joined, the dang phone won’t ring anywhere but in the headset which is a real pain in the butt.
The 820 was a good little headset. I paid too much for it. (retail) when I picked up the v710 the day it came out. Sound quality was OK, on a scale of 1-10 about a 7. Batter life is good. Will NOT work with a PC.
The problem with this handset is it takes too long to power it on and off (3 seconds to hold the multi-function button). Also as noted above, my v710 doesn’t ring when this thing is bonded to the phone. So take it off your ear, you think you turn it off, put it in your pocket and ever time you hit the multi-function button, you redial the last person you talked to and they get to listen to your pocket all night long. Avoid this unit.
The Motorola HS-850 is a great headset. Much better than the 820. The flip out boom bonds almost instantly. It also gives you confidence that it’s off which in my case with the v710 is important. Sound quality is about the same (7 out of 10). Battery life is good. Again will not work with a PC. Also note, will NOT survive going through a wash and dry cycle at the laundro-mat.
The plantronics M-2500. You’d think the company that makes good telephone headsets would make a good bluetooth headset no? I paid way to much for this one too. Like $79? You can get them now for under $35 if you shop around and that’s still too much. It Does work with the PC. Sound Quality is Terrible. (3 out of 10). Never used it enough to be able to comment on battery life. It is comfortable though and low and behold my v710 does ring when using this unity. (Hey Moto what’s up with that?) This thing is a POS. Avoid.
I’ve always had good luck with Nokia phones. They normally make good stuff. So I thought what they hey, let’s try a Nokia BT headset. Nope, no good. Sound quality is the worst of them yet. Was able to bond with PC but was awful. Quality with Cell was even worse. (2 out of 10). Another POS.
Scala-Rider (Cardo Wireless)
Cardo Wireless makes this nifty Bluetooth wireless headset for motorcyclists. I evaluated it for them. Unfortunately I had a pre-release unit and it did have some issues. But it worked really well, most of the time. it will NOT work with the PC, or at least didn’t when I tried to bond with it a few months ago. Regardless I’m not going to sit in my office with my helmet on But their noise canceling is second to none.
I will add more as I try more. If you have a suggestion please leave them in the comments section below.
If you have a product and you’d like to have it reviewed please contact the poohbahs and we’ll take care of it.
Sony Ericson HBH-662
Sony makes what appears to be a good one. The HBH-662 lists for $159, is on Amazon for $99 but you can snag them on eBay for about $65 bones. The great JD let me borrow his today to ‘evaluate it’. I didn’t get to run it through the full spectrum of tests, so it’s not completely ruled out. It didn’t take long to google for pairing instructions. It paired with the v710 in a snap. With this headset, my phone did ring as well as the ear piece. I called into my voice mail and left a reasonable message from the quiet confines of my office. (Our Cisco phone system uses Unity so the voice mail ends up in my email so I can play it and listen to it. Sound quality was about a 7 out of 10, about average for a bluetooth headset. I then tried to call my wife and couldn’t get the ‘multi-function’ button to initiate voice dialing. I powered it off and on again, no luck. I futzed with the phone, no luck. Tried pressing the button different intervals and still nothing. This isn’t any good I thought to myself.
I pushed the voice dial button on the phone and voiced dialed using the head set and disconnected the call using the headset multi-function button. At least that part worked.
I adjusted the volume, that worked.
I then called my cell phone, got the caller ID on the BT device. Why go so far as to put a 7 character display on the ear piece? There’s room, could it really have cost that much more for 3 more digits? What’s with this scrolling crap?
I tried it again and it worked. I called the wife at home and we continued our discussion about her wanting to throw my recliner away. No good. (the recliner tossing not the headset). She agreed with me though a 7 out of 10 for voice quality, but remember I was in a closed office, not in a car or anywhere noisy. I didn’t have the opportunity to test under those conditions. I’ll need to pickup one of these.
The display does have on nice advantage and that’s a battery meter. My current Motorola doesn’t have that you just go to use it and it doesn’t work so you charge it. I’d put the initial sound quality figure below the Moto HS-850. But the other features might make it more useful.
According to JD, this is the headset of choice for Treo-650 users. It is one of the few that handle the Treo’s fooked up BT implementation.
After looking at the Sony I took a partial liking to the idea of having an LCD with caller ID and a battery graph. Well, add another to the heaping pile of crap. Again, how hard can it be to to make take things that only have 3 buttons and make them complicated as hell? This baby has it’s own set of ring tones, vibrates, and with certain phones maintains a call list and duplicates your phones functionality on the headset itself. I’m sure the built in menu system is why it doesn’t work right with 90% of the phones on the market.
In fact I went back to Jabra’s website, put in a number of phones that are common here in the states and all turned up as not compatible. WTF?
They do have this statement though in their FAQ:
“Will the Jabra BT800 work with other Bluetooth equipment? The Jabra BT800 is designed to work with Bluetooth mobile phones. It can also work with other Bluetooth devices that are compliant with version 1.1 or 1.2 and support headset and/or hands-free profile.” –Nice.
It seemed to work OK with my trusty Moto phone, with the oddball exception that I couldn’t always get it to initiate the voice dialing. I placed a couple phone calls and overall people were disappointed with the sound quality both in my office and in the car. On my way home I left myself a voice mail, it too sounded like crap.
No I’m not impressed. I did download the newest firmware for this thing tonight and will play with it some more tomorrow, but for now this thing is a clear cut loser for the price.