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REVIEW : Bluetooth wireless headsets
N/A
Bluetooth headsets have come a long way since the earlier generations of bulky and uncomfortable earpieces, with the utilitarian designs largely superseded by headsets that are discreet and stylish.

With prices almost half what they were a year ago, they''ve become an attractive alternative to the wired hands-free kits that are usually bundled with every mobile.

The main allure of a Bluetooth headset is mobility. A standard headset needs to be plugged into your phone and typically has a cable up to a metre long, but a Bluetooth headset uses a wireless connection that works up to 10 metres away from your phone. Say you have left your mobile at your desk, for instance, and have gone to talk to a colleague a couple of desks over.

If your phone rings and you have your Bluetooth headset with you, you can use it to answer the phone, have a conversation with the caller and hang up without having to touch your phone.

As it is illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving, Bluetooth headsets are also a popular choice for in-car use. Once you''ve configured the headset to work with your mobile, there''s no need to set it up again, making it easy to use while driving. As well as being more convenient to use than a wired hands-free, it''s also much cheaper than the alternative, which is getting a Bluetooth car kit installed.

Of course, your mobile phone will need to have Bluetooth built-in to be able to use this style of headset. Most entry-level phones now have this feature as standard - mid-range and high-end phones have had Bluetooth for years. Bluetooth headsets also can be used with desktop and laptop PCs that have Bluetooth built-in - a convenient way to make calls over the internet using programs such as Skype and MSN Messenger.

One downside to a Bluetooth headset is having an extra gadget to charge. Battery life is marginally better than it is on a mobile, with most providing six to eight hours of talk time. Any brand of Bluetooth headset can be used with any mobile phone - the advantage of having a headset from the same manufacturer is that the charger for both is most likely identical, making it one less thing to carry when you travel.

Just as you wouldn''t buy a hat without trying it on first, it''s important to check that a Bluetooth headset fits well - especially if you''ve got smaller ears. Older headsets use a hook that hugs the back of your ear and fits outside the ear canal, whereas the latest designs more commonly have a plug that fits directly in your ear - the latter style is much easier to put on.
As well as answering and ending calls, most headsets support last-number redialing, voice dialling, call waiting, hold and mute. Whether your mobile phone supports these features is another question.

Bluetooth as a standard can be used for a range of wireless tasks such as stereo music streaming and file transfer but devices need to have the relevant Bluetooth profile to support each task. All Bluetooth-enabled phones have the headset profile, which lets you answer and end calls, but other functionality such as voice dialling and redialling requires that your phone have the hands-free profile.

An increasingly common Bluetooth profile for phones that can play music is A2DP - this lets you connect Bluetooth headphones and stream music from your mobile phone in stereo sound. You can do the same using a Bluetooth headset but sound is transmitted only in mono.

Four contenders

Nokia BH-800
http://www.nokia.com.au
$248
Rating: 4/5

The BH-800 is a designer headset with a designer-label price tag. It even comes with a slinky silver necklace so you can wear it like a piece of jewellery. It is tiny but the size does not compromise its performance, with excellent call quality and a respectable six hours of talk time and seven days of stand-by time. It''s also extremely easy to put on, thanks to the comfortable earpiece. A hook can be attached for extra security but we found it unnecessary.

Sony Ericsson HBH-GV435
http://www.sonyericsson.com.au
$124
Rating: 3.5/5

The HBH-GV435 uses a curious hybrid design of an over-the-ear hook and an in-ear plug - a combination that fits surprisingly well but can be fiddly to put on. It''s not as pocketable or as good-looking as the other headsets reviewed here but it redeems itself with a unique automatic volume adjustment feature. If you walk into a noisy room, for instance, the volume increases. Not instantly, though - you''ll need to wait a couple of seconds.

Motorola H700
http://www.motorola.com.au
$149.95
Rating: 2.5/5

With its two-tone metallic finish, pebble-shaped form and flashing blue light, the H700 is eye-catching but far from discreet.

As with many earlier-generation headsets, the H700 relies on a rubber hook to attach to your ear - something we couldn''t do securely despite our best efforts. Worth noting is that the H700 uses the older Bluetooth 1.2 standard; new headsets use the latest Bluetooth 2.0 standard, which has better call quality and uses less power.

Plantronics Discovery 655
http://www.plantronics.com.au
$179
Rating: 4.5/5

This attractive and compact headset has three charging options, including via AAA battery, making it ideal for use on the road. Talk time is ordinary at 31/2 hours but sticking it into the bundled carry case extends this to a more reasonable 10 hours. Weighing only 9g and with three detachable earpieces to choose from, it''s so comfortable you can forget you''re wearing it.

VERDICT

Long battery life, good call quality and comfortable fit are three features to look

for in a Bluetooth headset and the Discovery 655 ticks all these boxes without breaking into a sweat. In particular, the inclusion of three earpieces makes it easier to ensure a good fit. If you don''t mind paying extra, the smaller and more stylish BH-800 is also a good choice.

As with many earlier-generation headsets, the H700 relies on a rubber hook to attach to your ear - something we couldn''t do securely despite our best efforts. Worth noting is that the H700 uses the older Bluetooth 1.2 standard; new headsets use the latest Bluetooth 2.0 standard, which has better call quality and uses less power.

Plantronics Discovery 655
http://www.plantronics.com.au
$179
Rating: 4.5/5

This attractive and compact headset has three charging options, including via AAA battery, making it ideal for use on the road. Talk time is ordinary at 31/2 hours but sticking it into the bundled carry case extends this to a more reasonable 10 hours. Weighing only 9g and with three detachable earpieces to choose from, it''s so comfortable you can forget you''re wearing it.

VERDICT

Long battery life, good call quality and comfortable fit are three features to look
for in a Bluetooth headset and the Discovery 655 ticks all these boxes without breaking into a sweat. In particular, the inclusion of three earpieces makes it easier to ensure a good fit. If you don''t mind paying extra, the smaller and more stylish BH-800 is also a good choice.

 
Posted By : smile78
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