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Bluetooth Headset Roundup 194

An anonymous reader writes "Here is an interesting comparison of four of today's best Bluetooth headsets. These devices are becoming increasing popular, both as a gadget and accessory, but despite how stylish they get, performance and comfort are still serious issues. Joe Selim takes a look at four very different products, two from Jabra and two from Plantronics, in order to make some sense of things."
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Bluetooth Headset Roundup

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  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:44AM (#15290997) Journal
    Commercial PIN pads used in EFTPOS transactions use Bluetooth too. While trying to get one certified recently I came up against a lot of anti-Bluetooth sentiment from the Security folk. Why does BT have such a bad name re security?
    • by Xenna ( 37238 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:27AM (#15291429)
      That's because people can send you a Vcard with a funny message/picture if you've let your phone be visible. Some imaginative soul has named this 'bluejacking' and now suddenly everyone is scared to death of BT.

      Of course, anything that requires real security would apply it's own encryption/identity management on top of BT, which makes this point moot.

    • I have to ask, why would you have a wireless connection between a keypad, that really need not be wireless. And a machine that, again need not be wireless. Its inviting two things:
      1. Evesdropping
      2. Some kid running off with your keypad.
      • Pin number entry at tables in restaurants instead of making the person move to a register. As people start using cards and PINs more, not having the wires around makes things a heck of a lot simpler, especially in busy environments.

        I know what you are getting at, but consider it this way by paraphrasing your comment:

        Why use a wireless remote control for your TV when a wired one works just as well and you don't need to change the batteries? Plus it means your dog can't run off with it.
    • by Malor ( 3658 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @04:56AM (#15291511) Journal
      Security people don't like it because it's totally insecure.

      Awhile ago, they'd figured out how to hijack the 'introduction' process between two devices, but it only worked during introduction, so it wasn't a terribly useful attack.

      But then someone else discovered how to force a reintroduction at will. Between the two holes, Bluetooth has no security whatsoever, unless something pretty dramatic has changed in the last six months.

      Be sure to read replies, as I've not been paying close attention to this. But as far as I know... don't send anything over Bluetooth you care about.

  • Of all the things to come to pass from the original Star Trek, I never in my wildest dreams figured we'd all look like Lt. Uhura with these things hanging out of our ears. Note to the general public- you look stupid with those things hanging out of your ears. Cel Phone conversations in public shall be considered an invitation to slap you upside the head.
  • Coral Cache (Score:2, Informative)

    It appears to be down. Here's the coral cache:

    http://www.xyzcomputing.com.nyud.net:8090/index.ph p?option=content&task=view&id=642 [nyud.net]
  • by robogun ( 466062 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @01:57AM (#15291036)
    A bunch of guys were wearing these in public a couple month ago, but not so much anymore it seems. I guess people are still not ready for something that makes you sound like a spaced out homeless man talking to himself.
    • How is that any different to the wired "hands free" earpiece + mic sets that have been around 5+ years? What I'm interested in is the reduced exposure to RF radiation. Put the mobile/cell phone on the desk, on the passenger seat, in your bag/purse, or even just held in your hand (away from your head) and talk with one of these headsets. Although, BlueTooth is still RF. How much power does BlueTooth put out compared to GSM or CDMA?
      • but I know one has a radio designed to reach a couple of miles
        and one has a radio designed to reach a couple of feet.

      • RF radiation fears are absurd.

        See here [wikipedia.org] where somebody(ies) editing the article tried to make it sound like there's some risk involved. But it - and this is the funny part - cites this [wikipedia.org] which, if you read both articles, contradicts what the phone article just said.

        I'll paraphrase: Cell phones emit radiation on a frequency incapble of cellular or subcellular damage (non-ionizing radiation). The only remaining possible electro-magnetic radiation damage possible is heat which requires vastly different frequen
        • Are they really that absurd? IIRC, a recent long-term study found that people tended to develop brain tumours on the same side of their head that they used their mobile/cell phone on. And I don't care about what we *currently* know about RF radiation and how it *shouldn't* cause tumours. We still might discover that there is a cause, or maybe not. There seems to be a lot of anecdotal evidence that the phones cause brain tumours. I'm sure a lot of that is driven by the media and their desire to sell more ads
  • Motorola? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Yonkeltron ( 720465 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @02:05AM (#15291068) Homepage
    I looked at all of these models and my Motorola was more comfortable in addition to having better clarity. I would love to see some of the higher-end Motorola offerings thrown into the mix for comparison.
    • I found the exact opposite. I bought the absolute cheapest plantronics I could get my hands on and it was much more comfortable than my motorola. I actually forget it is on at times. IT does not block any outside noise and it can get plenty loud as well as filter out all wind noise into the microphone (Driving in a convertable and talking on it the other person can not tell I have the top down at highway speeds except when a truck or a moron on a harley is next to the car.)

      I have a drawer full of these b
  • I don't see to many headsets in public. Where it's relly important would be on docks or warehouses where you need to be able to talk in loud or echoing work places. There, does stylish really matter? I'd be more concerned on how much it hurts my ear after 12 hours a day. It also matters if you use while driving, since states a mandating hands-free kits.
    • Could they do something about the "crazy person" headset wearing phenomenon? I can't count how many times I've walked down a city street thinking I was being followed by a schizophrenic talking to himself when it was actually a business executive wearing a headset talking to payroll, for instance. I know this isn't a fair portrait of schizophrenics, who are usually non-violent, but it's still creepy to have someone follow you who appears to have an imaginary friend.

      I understand the hands-free necessity in c
      • Hey now, I have friends that *do* have imaginary friends

        But I agree that in public it's disconcerting if not just plane rude. My original post was meant to not be in public. I have no problem having my cell phone glued to my ear walking down the sidewalk. I was making a point to the fact in a work enviroment comfort and durbaility is key.
      • Are we getting too lazy to hold a phone up to our ears while walking?

        I talk almost exclusively via speakerphone because I like the flexibility to not have a phone plastered against my face and talking to my hand.

        But I don't do this typically while walking down the street. What I want to know, is what are these people talking about all the time, and how do they pay for it (or at least justify paying for it)?

        I live near a university campus, and about 2/3rds of the kids walking on campus have a phone plastere
      • The worst i saw was a guy wearing a Bluetooth handset while eating. He was talking to his friend at the table, talking on the phone, and slurping food at the same time. I think we'll see this more with Bluetooth because there are no cords to get tangled in food.

        You can't legislate manners, people either have them or they don't.
      • I understand the hands-free necessity in cars - but is it necessary to wear a headset all the time? Are we getting too lazy to hold a phone up to our ears while walking? It may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it certainly clearly labels anyone talking on a phone as talking on a phone.

        You haven't answered anyone else, so I'll ask you straight out: Why should I care that you know whether or not I'm talking on a phone? Further, why should I subject myself to what you yourself identify as discomfort
        • I think that most people are either bothered, annoyed, or creeped out when they run into someone else using a headset.

          My friend was always talking with one of these. We'd be driving somewhere, and all of a sudden he starts talking in short sentences about I-don't-know-what. Apparently, he either made or received a call. And while he's doing that, he'll occasionally direct a question or comment my way. So I can't just ignore it.

          Here's what it boils down to. Using a headset forces other people to pay attentio
    • You must not live in Nerdifornia, where it seems the major purpose of a wireless headset is to make you look like a remote controlled robot everywhere you go.
  • Stereo headsets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sonamchauhan ( 587356 ) <sonamc.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @02:26AM (#15291141) Journal
    Good to know the best of the mono headsets, but how come these stereo wraparound headsets+microphones aren't more popular?

    Motorola Stereo Bluetooth headset [ebay.com]

    Generic Bluetooth Headset : Headphone MP3 Player FM Stereo Radio [ebay.com]

    • Probably because people usuallu buy these for chatting not for general listening.

      People who want to use them with mobiles as well as with their computers generally don't want wrap around headsets.
    • Re:Stereo headsets (Score:5, Informative)

      by Plunky ( 929104 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @03:48AM (#15291345)
      Good to know the best of the mono headsets, but how come these stereo wraparound headsets+microphones aren't more popular?

      Normally Bluetooth headsets use the Headset profile for transmission of audio data over low latency isochronous links and is mono only, but these boys are using the newer "Advanced Audio Distribution Protocol" (A2DP) which operates over rfcomm (emulated serial) links and is not well supported in cell phones as yet.

      In fact, the first link you posted said that the only phone that supports it properly is only available in Asia, though I saw on Nokias website recently that a few of their newer models will be supporting it (eg 6125).

      • Normally Bluetooth headsets use the Headset profile for transmission...

        That's not entirely accurate. Headsets can use either the headset profile or handsfree profile, with the latter being more featureful and much more commonly used on all but the most low-tier headsets. Both are routinely supported by cell phones.

        While you're correct that A2DP is used for stereo audio, any A2DP headset that has a microphone will also support HFP, as A2DP is output-only. The Motorola HT820, for example, even supports

    • Re:Stereo headsets (Score:3, Informative)

      by grazzy ( 56382 )
      Because they suck ass.

      You can only use the stereo mode while not using the mic, and it's still suboptimal sound quality. And they're quite buggy.. Not a buy I would recommend anyone :p.

      Google around for WIDCOMM + Motorola + HT820 and you'll find that half the net is full of people with problems with motorolas solution.
    • A stereo headset can't be used to communicate with one's phone when driving. At least in my state, it's illegal to wear an audio device covering both ears while operating a motor vehicle; and I can't see it being good practice anywhere.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @02:27AM (#15291142)
    Why doesn't someone review these headsets/earpieces while wearing glasses?
    • I bought a Nokia NS-26W [nokiausa.com] bluetooth headset about a month ago. It clips around the back of the ear rather than over the top. It's reasonably comforable when I'm wearing my sunglasses.

      I paid $69 Australian from Organiser World [ow.com.au]. If you're in the US, you can get it from Amazon.com [amazon.com].

      • It's huge .. I've got the HDW-3: Wireless Headset ; also on the same page as that NS26-W ; it looks not only more stylish but it's almost half as small ...

        I only got 1 problem with it; my headset disconnects suddenly from my 6310i (when phones still where workhourses without too much gadgets) ; unable to find the headset again. The headset switches off every time together while searching.

        Batterylife is annoying too; 14hrs standby if lucky and not connected.
        • The HDW-3 product page doesn't giv dimensions, so it's hard to tell. Do you know how long it is?

          The HS26-W is 2.6 inches long, which means it only extends about an inch past your ear. They all hav to extend slightly past your ear (towards your mouth) so that the microphone can pick up your speech. I think this one's quite a good compromise between a long headset arm and poor sound quality.
    • Because it always hurts like "#%"$#%"#.
    • Great question --

      I've tried several devices and they ALL suck with glasses. As the other have mentioned, its just another reason to consider Lasik because you start to realize how much trouble one goes through each and every day with glasses. I'm in the category where I feel I'm blind without them (my sis has the same prescription as I do and seems to get by fine without wearing hers except for the driving test, so its probably not that bad, but bad enough for me).

      But the last time I spent $150 on a bloot
      • Since I am wearing hearing aids (the kind with back-ear amplifier) and glasses (not only sun glasses). I can say it is a matter of habit. It will take about 2 weeks or even more to eventually wear both without further noticing it. Since, I am wearing both all the day long for about 12 hours a day and even more, it was a little bit faster to be acustomed to it.

        However, the glasses need not to have too thick branches and it must be well polished to avoid hurting your ears.

        The only time I found very cumber

      • I just got that same headset last week (Plantronics Discovery 640). This thing is great. The volume level is good, people say I sound clear. It is super light and fits snug into the ear (without the "stablizer"). Since I wear glasses, I have had a tough time finding a comfortable BT headset. The addition of a AAA "emergency" charger is great (2 full chages from a AAA battery). This is the winner.

        Comfort and clarity aside, the number one feature for me is the ability to bond to two devices. I have m
    • The Plantronics 640 will sit in your ear without the clip. The clip itself is so light-weight it doesn't interfere much with sunglasses/glasses.
  • Too many companies go with in-the-ear type styles... these won't work with most hearing aids, thereby limiting their potential audience. Only one of the headsets shown has even the remotest potential of being useful to that demographic group, and I'm still not convinced.
  • Jabra JX10 (Score:2, Informative)

    I own a Treo 650 and even though it is a great phone there are very few BT headsets that work well with this phone. I have used both Jabra Headsets. The Jabra JX10 is the only one in which all features worked with my phone. Leightweight, Stylish, Great sound and clarity make this BT headset the best I have tried. At Best Buy it retails for 175 $. for a MUCH MUCH lowerprice check out treonauts.com. BTW Jabra has great customer service. The detachable earpiece for my headset broke. I emailed customer
    • Thanks for the info, but what I've really been more interested in for my Treo 650 is a good Bluetooth hands-free car kit. I bought one of Motorola's units that clips onto the visor and cost about $99 at Best Buy. It has good clarity and volume, but the maddening thing is - it powers itself off after several minutes of sitting idle, even if a power adapter/charger is attached to it! If you want to drive around with the convenience of pressing a button on the device to take an incoming call, the device sho
    • Thank you! I've been wondering which BT headset to get because my Moto HS850 that I had before I got the Treo sucks for volume. Can't hear a thing. I'll try to look for the X10.
  • by virgil_disgr4ce ( 909068 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @03:29AM (#15291295) Homepage
    Something that continually impresses me is the prevalance of these devices among drivers and deliverers in New York. It's kind of amazing to see these near-future quasi-cybernetic earpieces worn by all sorts of very different people.

    I think it's an excellent example of the fact that functionality and sheer usefulness will make or break any technology, and furthermore, that even the most "far-out" technology can and will be embraced by all walks of life if it fills a genuinely useful function. Some might see these devices and assume only the geeks or early adopters would give them any attention, but all over Queens and Brooklyn I see car service drivers with them, bicycling delivery guys, etc..
  • As we're on the subject, does anyone know of a bluetooth headset and base station that works with a standard PSTN phone?

    Basically at work I need to answer the phone, but a lot of the time I'm not at my desk.

    The problem is, it needs to actually lift the reciever. I've come across one such product, but it doesn't look all that good. Does anyone else know of this?
    • I believe Jabra makes an adapter that allows you to use a standard BT headset with any PSTN phone. Hit there site for details. Maybe eBay
    • Unless you need Bluetooth specifically (as in, you want to use it with a mobile phone in addition to the base station) then I'd tend to recommend forgetting about Bluetooth and using a traditional encrypted digital wireless headset. They generally have longer range, better battery life, and aren't susceptible to Bluetooth's security issues (as mentioned in the early comments to this story). They also usually have handset lifters, as you mentioned.

      For example, the Plantronics CS-50 [plantronics.com]

      Don't buy it directly
  • by rapiddescent ( 572442 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @03:53AM (#15291359)
    for anyone who drives a lot the UK with headsets - I can heartily recommend that you don't get the ones with the pulsing blue LED's. At night, whilst at a rather brisk pace on the motorway, the LED flashes blue which will every now and then reflect off the (right hand in the UK) drivers window which will look not unlike the blue flashing lights of a police car in your wingmirror. nearly crapped myself the first time this happened. rd
  • Hi,

    I have used a couple of Southwing's headsets, the best one being the SH305, and I can tell you it's the most comfortable one I have tried. Besides, it's the one that supports most handset models, as they follow the Flash-based firmware model, meaning their software is V2.4, each revision adding fixes and support for new phone models. Firmware cannot be updated by the user however. Most manufacturers burn a ROM mask onto the Bluetooth chip with their firmware, but this means that making changes is anti-ec
  • So, are wireless headsets supposed to be Bluetooth's killer application?
    I rarely see anything else using Bluetooth and if that's all there is...
    • I think the most interesting and useful application is a combination of: bluetooth headset while driving, and the new head units in cars. Factor models are starting to come with this feature and aftermarket models have been available.

      Basically it mutes, or sets the volume 1/10 of the power whenever a call comes in.
      Most aftermarket models have had a wired in version ATT for a while but that obviousely involved wiring a cradle to the deck. Not nearly as useful as just having a phone be able to signal the dev
  • by gatzke ( 2977 )

    I have a Treo 650 and love it. I just wish someone could get wireless stereo and mic functionality working.

    Bluetooth current versions apparently have crappy bandwidth and can't handle decent stereo, so it will be years for BT to handle this simple request.

    There are wireless options for ipod (just headphones really) but to really get the use out of a convergence device, you need a mic as well.

    Someone out there must be working on this, but I have not found it...

  • Bluespoon AX2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by JakiChan ( 141719 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @05:52AM (#15291650)
    The Bluespoon headsets have been the masters of battery life and sound quality for years, but have been really expensive. Their budget headsets (first the AX and now the AX2) however are great as well. It has a USB charging socket. That means that while at home I plug it in to the wall charger that came with it and on the road I just pack a USB cable. I love that for travel. It has a replaceable watch-battery sized LiIon battery. Replaceable is good. Finally, it can be pared with up to 8 devices. Whatever device it talked to last will be the one it talks to when you hit the button. So I can have a nice Skype call on my Mac with it and then if I originate a phone call from my phone the headset is then pointed at the phone.

    I'm not saying that now this is the only headset with these features, but that feature set combined with the Bluespoon rep and the $70 price tag has made me a happy camper. So if you're comparing I suggest you take a look.
    • I see from the reviews that, though it supports USB recharing, it uses a proprietary cable. I've seen others (the Motorola H500?) that can use any mini USB cable to recharge. That would be much nicer.

      I'm not completely clear on this multi-pairing thing. I have the same issue as you - I want to use the same headset with my phone and my computer. I think most headsets, including my logitech, are able to remember multiple pairings. The issue is whether they can be simultaneously paired with multiple devic
    • i've been a bluespoon user for years- first the AX and now the AX2. while they've worked great with all my Nokia phones, i just switched to an LG CU320 and if i use the bluespoon with it, people on the other end experience intolerable echo. so, YMMV.
  • I have to carry two phones with me -- work and personal. My Motorola bluetooth headset can be paired with both, but only connected to one at a time.

    What I'd love is to wear one headset and keep both phones in my backpack or suit pocket (depending on the day) and no matter what phone gets a call, it'll ring inside the headset and I can answer it.

    I read that entire article and was hoping that feature would be covered, but alas, except for some specialized setup with some certain type of office phone, noth

  • I bought the plantronics 640 for my dad about 6 weeks ago. My dad is in a wheelchair, so I've been trying to sell him on a bluetooth headset for the past two years. He was afraid that he'd look like one of those self-important a-holes that rolls around like a handycapped version of Gordon Gekko. I assured him that the 640 was the smallest and most inconspicuous bluetooth headset that I could find and it wouldn't make him look like like a cyborg salesman. He finally agreed to give it a go.

    Here are the

  • Man, I had to go to my 419 spam archive to remind myself how to read awful english. This review is a little cryptic at times:

    The PEBL comes standard with "ObeyMoto" the universal voice recognition, and this means dialing by numbers or name is a breeze. This combo really does mean you can ditch the phone into the recesses of your pants or satchel and not really the phone.

    Good review other than that, although it would have been nice to see more than two companies represented.

  • When produce departments introduced misting in the 80s, we were in a city where the dominant chain advertising apparently thought a toothless old guy was an authentic symbol for a "real" produce manager. I will aways remember their catch phrase, "We misssst our veg't'blesssss to keep dem fresssssh!" How appealing.

    In other words, aside from how cool you look walking down the street wearing it, I would suggest leaving a message to yourself with any headset to see what impression you leave. Honestly, some m
  • by mmmbeer ( 9963 ) on Tuesday May 09, 2006 @08:05AM (#15292067) Homepage
    So four devices from two manufacturers constitues a roundup now? Motorola isn't even represented despite being a major player in the market. The devices also cost 2-3x more than the bluetooth headsets everyone I know has.

    If you're looking for a bluetooth headset, don't use this roundup at all, since there are plenty of great headsets which cost less than half the ones reviewed.
  • While you're out buying your blue-tooth headset, don't forget your white trainers (sneakers), Burberry baseball cap and fake designer tracksuit.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chav [wikipedia.org]
  • I want a bootoof headset that will display incoming caller-id info on the inside of my glasses with a green laser.

    "Do not stare into laser with remaining eye"

  • I believe that Logitech has 2 fairly similar headsets. Both work well in windy conditions, but the more expensive one emphasizes this more in its marketing. I bought the cheaper one a year ago (it is now widely available for ~CDN$60) and have been satisfied with it. Herer is my mini review of it.

    Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth Headset


    - On the whole the sound quality is quite good, even in windy conditions.

    - The fit/comfort is very good. I wear it on my right ear, but it works on either.


    - The
  • and I was missing my favourite: Peltor [peltor.se]!

    Really good for a noisy environment - just put them on and you can run any fan you like in your PC! :->

  • I hate these things. Of all the obnoxious, pretentious accessories to one of the most obnoxious pretentious pieces of technology ever invented, bluetooth headsets are the worst. I was therefore a little shocked when Amazon.com recommended that I might like one. Luckily, Amazon has this nifty little feature that lets you see why they made a recommendation, and lets you edit the triggers to refine future suggestions.

    To set this up, earlier in the day I was reading a Fazed article about Amazon's new "person
  • iMuffs (Score:2, Informative)

    by marleyboy ( 174610 )
    Has anyone taken a good look at the iMuffs?

    http://www.wi-gear.com/products/imuffs/ [wi-gear.com]

    I love the idea, and they'd work perfectly with my iPod.
  • Hats (Score:2, Informative)

    My biggest problem with Bluetooth isn't the appearance factor. It is that the claimed 10 meter range is severely reduced when I wear my tin-foil hat with the headset...

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!