Jun 07 2007

Bite Into BlueTooth

Clarity and comfort top the list of benefits for this wireless headset.

More and more professionals today rely on Bluetooth headsets for a hands-free talking experience, especially when they’re also driving. Now that some states and local jurisdictions prohibit drivers from using hand-held mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle, the challenge is to find a hands-free device that is both safe and comfortable to use while driving.

But which one is right for you?

Looking for a Bluetooth headset can be frustrating. I tried the Jabra JX-10 (CDW price $116.99) and Plantronics Discovery 645 (CDW price $101.99) earpiece models, but people on the other end of the telephone told me that I sounded “tinny.”

Then I tried the Jabra BT500. If you haven’t yet made the plunge, let me recommend this one. Like its predecessors, the BT100 and BT250, the BT500 is designed for comfort but is even lighter at .67 of an ounce. It’s also slimmer and sports an updated design, moving away from the gloss black hue of previous models toward a dark gray body and a chrome gunmetal gray microphone boom. But the best part is that people on the other end can hear me clearly. The only times I’ve had problems is when I’ve been in high wind or loud background noise, which is an acceptable proposition for me because I’m rarely on my cell phone in those conditions.

End-User Advantages

This headset includes a USB-compatible charging cable, which means you don’t need to take your charger on trips. Instead, keep the USB cable in your notebook PC bag so you can charge on the go by plugging the headset into your notebook’s USB port. This great additional feature makes traveling that much less of a hassle. A car charger is not included but is available separately. This headset is also durable, as it is made of high-quality plastic and rubber construction. I have put the previous Jabra models through their paces, and they have all held up surprisingly well. The BT500 is constructed better and cleaner than previous models, so I anticipate a long life span. Its one point of structural weakness appears to be where the ear loop meets the body.

Also, its one-touch pairing button (separate from the answer button on previous models) eliminates the pairing difficulties of previous versions. Now, you simply touch the pairing button, and set your cell phone to discover the device, enter the PIN and go. The button itself is rather small, and it is recessed on the headset to keep users from accidentally putting the device into pairing mode. You might find this button challenging, but you don’t need to use it for everyday operation — simply pair the headset with the phone before attaching it to your ear.

Why it Works for IT

The Jabra BT500’s six-hour talk time from the lithium polymer battery lets professionals go all day without needing to recharge. And the headset is comfortable to boot, so wearing it for extended periods of time is not out of the question. After wearing it for a while, you don’t even notice it. I’m even wearing mine while I write this review. The BT500’s over-the-ear design doesn’t flap around, or fall off easily, as is the case with some other models in which the headset itself hangs to the side of your ear by a plastic loop.

A Few Disadvantages

Though its design is stylish, my biggest complaint about the BT500 is its size. The BT500 measures about one inch in width and one inch in depth – bigger and more obvious than most wireless pieces. But I believe the tradeoff — a comfortable, durable headset with clarity — outweighs its larger size as a negative factor. This is a headset that I heartily recommend.

I also experience a bit of choppiness with the BT500, although less than the BT250 and other headsets I’ve tried. For some reason, there is less choppiness when I move the phone to the same side of my body as the earpiece.

CDW price: $34.99

Tim Courtney handles marketing for XNet Information Systems, (www.xnet.com) an online services company outside Chicago, in Lisle, Ill.