8 Bluetooth Headsets Reviewed

A professed non-early-adopter has reviewed 8 different Bluetooth headsets in a range of prices, scoring them on design, functionality, sound quality, and value. Her favorite from the group: the huge Plantronics Voyager 520, which sells for around $100. Coming in last was the $100 Samsung WEP410, which kept falling out of her ear.

Oddly, the winning headset didn’t provide superior sound quality, but its single-button design made it “incredibly easy to operate, and the squishy rubber loop/in-ear earpiece design was by far the most comfortable I tested.”

The fancy $120 Jawbone headset (the one that looks like a tiny, sporty cheese grater) landed right in the middle of the pack. Writes the reviewer:

I didn’t mind its relative bulkiness, but the concealed buttons represented an irritating emphasis on style over function. Several times, I ended calls when trying to navigate the noise-cancellation feature, and I never managed to jack up the volume to a satisfying level.

Ranked from worst to best:

  • Samsung WEP410, $99.95
  • Nokia BH-208, $39.95
  • Motorola H700, $99.95
  • Jawbone, $119.99
  • Jabra BT 8010, $149.95
  • Blueant Z9, ($99.95)
  • Nokia BH-803, $149.95
  • Plantronics Voyager 520, $99.95

“Can You Hear Me Now?” [Slate]
(Image: Plantronics)

Comments

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  1. rippe says:

    I would have to agree with the list. I have used about 4-5 of those headsets. I have always been partial to the plantronics headsets. I think their warranty is easy and nice as well.

  2. Kaneohe7 says:

    Why do people think these are fashion accessories? I just don’t get it. I work in IT but wouldn’t be caught dead with one of these in my ear.

  3. qwickone says:

    Is the Blueant -$99 or is it just in () because it’s a typo??

  4. If you ask a blindman to test sunglasses, would you trust his findings?

  5. Fuck Lion says:

    Yes, let’s downgrade the Jawbone because I’m too simple-minded to figure it out.

    Kind of invalidates the list, no?

  6. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    Here in Connecticut, where use of handheld cells while driving is illegal, these earpieces are great. I learned to love mine after I got over the whole looking-like-a-Cyborg thing. I only wear it when driving, though.

    It’s been the law for 2 years in CT now, although there doesn’t seem to be heavy enforcement.

  7. pentium4borg says:

    I own a Platronics Voyager 510, which I bought on NewEgg for ~$40, and I have had no complaints. I use it mostly in the car, and with all my windows down (which is all the time, my AC doesn’t work) at >=45MPH people still can’t tell I’m on a headset. It’s also reasonably comfortable. I would definitely buy mine again.

  8. TPK says:

    There are reports that hands-free devices don’t improve safety… it’s not busy hands that make driving unsafe, it’s busy brains!

    And yes, you still look like a cyborg…

  9. TPK says:

    “And yes, you still look like a cyborg…”

    Not directed at anyone personally… :-)

  10. spinachdip says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: Not to threadjack or anything, but I wish these things came with a big warning sticker that said, “Hey asshole, this might be legal but it doesn’t make dialing-and-driving any safer than driving drunk”? (no offense, acambras)

    Because I have a feeling these hands-free devices give drivers the ol’ superman effect, giving them a false sense of security, whereas someone on a regular handset might be more conscious of the fact they have one hand off the wheel. I don’t know, I’m just hypothesizin’ here.

  11. GT4NE1 says:

    I own the Motorola H700. It sucks. Your phone can’t be more than 1.5 feet away without producing A LOT of static. Worst $100 I every spent.

  12. C2D says:

    Newegg has the Plantronics Voyager 520 for $59.99. Out of stock, but the ETA is tomorrow.

  13. axiomatic says:

    Yeah I have to agree with FREAKY STYLEY above. The Jawbone is completely new tech that actually works. It is not a “mic” per se, but it equates vibrations of sound in to an electric waveform. My wife has a jawbone and she also has a very nice stereo in her car which always used to irritate me when she called. When she is using the Jawbone I NEVER hear her stereo cut in to the conversation anymore, just her voice is all I hear.

    I’m not fond of any other Jabra products other than the Jawbone either, so I don’t think I’m applying any bias to my statement here.

    Get the Jawbone. The people you are talking too on the other end of the phone will thank you for it.

  14. MercuryPDX says:

    I have the Moto H500 for my Razr, and for the most part like it. My only wish is that it was a little louder. I tried on the H700, but I didn’t like the extra piece that stuck out.

    @Kaneohe7: I wouldn’t wear it walking down the street, but my state requires some kind of hands-free device if you’re driving.

  15. MercuryPDX says:

    @spinachdip:“Hey asshole, this might be legal but it doesn’t make dialing-and-driving any safer than driving drunk”

    I only use it to answer calls (you just tap the button and you’re connected). If I have to make a call, it’s going to be one of the numbers I have on Voice Dial (Tap button, say name, and you’re connected).

  16. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    Having gone landline-free, and not liking the idea of wandering around my home with an earpiece, I went with this for purely in-house Bluetooth use of my cell phone. Although, I do like the idea of wandering around outside, talking into a completely unconnected, retro handset, with no visible phone!

  17. spinachdip says:

    @MercuryPDX: I see how you misunderstood me – I meant that talking on the cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk, but I used dialing-and-driving because it’s an alliteration.

    Making sure you alliterate is more important than making sense.

  18. rmz says:

    @spinachdip: Is it any more dangerous than talking to a real-life person in the passenger seat?

  19. spinachdip says:

    @rmz: Yes.

  20. bedofnails says:

    Headsets? I thought they were called “anti sexual encounter devices.”

  21. Chicago7 says:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think that you can drive and talk at the same time. I’ve seen too many people in a serious conversation drive right through stop signs, have to stop suddenly or other foolish moves.

    Hey, even walking while talking on a cellphone is dangerous, but at least that’s only dangerous to the person on the phone.

  22. Chicago7 says:

    @bedofnails:

    You think those are bad – look at the geeky thing I just bought for my iPod!

    [www.amazon.com]

    I REAAAAALLLLY don’t want to talk to anyone!

  23. FLConsumer says:

    I still like the Moto HS850 when I can find them. Cheap, decent talk time, some noise isolation, decent range. I’m not as much of a fan of the H700, but the price can’t be beat ($30 in Chinatown, NYC).

  24. UpsetPanda says:

    Let’s take bets – how many days before they’re recalled for lead?

  25. Re. the Jawbone — the reviewer’s test model had some sort of strange physical malfunction, or at least she thinks it was a malfunction, but in any case she could never get it to make proper contact in her ear for the vibration-y noise cancellation to work. I’m paraphrasing obviously, but if you read her review she gives a more detailed description.

    I think either she got a bum Jawbone or it just didn’t fit the contours of her ear.

    This is why I wish you could try out BT headsets in your ear in the store… except, ewww. So really I guess I just wish I could try them out and nobody else.

  26. floofy says:

    Motorola h700 kicks ass!

  27. cjc says:

    RMZ, yes, talking on a headset is more dangerous than talking to someone sitting next to you in the car. The person in the car can, at least, modulate the conversation in a way appropriate with the driving conditions, e.g., not talk while you’re trying to merge on the highway with oncoming big rigs, whereas someone on the other end of the phone call will just keep squawking away about yesterday’s dentist appointment.

  28. Balisong says:

    I have no interest in bluetooth thingies, but it’s a bit silly to rate one of these as awful just for falling out of your ear. That just means it doesn’t fit your ear. Ipod headphones fit perfectly in my ears, but they won’t stay in my stepdad’s ears so he won’t use them – doesn’t make them worthless for everyone.

  29. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @spinachdip:

    Sorry I didn’t reply sooner — I just saw your comment.

    I won’t claim to be the most fantastic driver around, although I try not to be reckless. I do the same thing Mercury PDX does — pushing the button on the headset to answer a call, and using voice-recognition dialing. My last car had a manual transmission, and it was great to have the hands-free headset

    I agree that cell phones are a distraction, but so are radios, CD players, passengers (especially kids), fatigue, hunger, anger, bad weather, worrying, Egg McMuffins, and trying to figure out where the hell you are when you’re lost. We can’t eliminate all these distractions.

    I do think that experience plays a part in drivers handling distractions. If I had a teenager, I wouldn’t want him/her using any cellphone (hands-free or not) while driving. And texting? I SO don’t get that.

  30. spinachdip says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: I know I sound like I’m on a soapbox here, but the fact that so many people think of cell phone conversations while driving as merely “distracting” shows how little they understand the effect a phone conversation has on the brain.

    And I find the “xyz is distracting too, so why target cell phones?” argument to be as intellectually lazy as the “chocolate’s bad too, so why should I stop smoking?” fallacy. The distractions you list don’t engage the brain to the degree and/or or for the length of time that a cell phone does. And nothing you list requires your brain to basically be somewhere other than your car.

    If you look at studies that compare driving while talking on the cell phone to driving drunk, you’ll see that the cell phone isn’t just a distraction, but an impairment. That essentially makes hands-free devices the equivalent of the beer helmet – a solution that doesn’t solve the real problem.

  31. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @spinachdip:
    You make a reasonable argument, so I’ll forgive you for implying that I’m intellectually lazy. ;-)

    I probably shouldn’t talk and drive, even with the earpiece. It’s interesting to note that with all three speeding tickets I’ve gotten in my life, I had a passenger in the car and was too busy yapping (it’s just something I do) to notice the speed limit or the guy with the radar gun. But the truth is, on my 20-minute commute, I get bored. And if I take care of that phone call in the car, that’s one less thing I have to do when I get home or to the office.

    One important thing, though: I don’t drive with a beer helmet. It kept slipping forward on my head, obstructing my vision, and knocking my bluetooth out of my ear. ;-)