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Comparison of bluetooth headsets, their capabilities and specifications

Even a year ago there was no choice of bluetooth-headsets, only Ericcson actively produced them, but it was rather fashion product than commercial one. As a result, prices of accessories were very high; they were sold at half-price of the phone or even more expensive. Today the situation changes, a customer can choose a suitable wireless handsfree device among dozens of products and not only those ones that made by mobile phones manufacturers. The most important things today are convenience of bluetooth headset, its price and operating time. Lets view advantages and disadvantages of several models. We wont speak too much about technical features of each bluetooth headset, well better share our impressions after using these devices. Frankly speaking, all devices, which are available on the market, are almost the same, the functionality depends more on the phone, which is used with this or that wireless handsfree.

We tested all models using two phones Sony Ericsson T68i and Siemens S55. In both cases operating time of bluetooth headsets were almost the same, so, we publish average results below.

Traditionally, it is better to begin with devices made by Sony Ericsson, a pioneer of this market segment. A modern product line includes two products: HBH-20 and HBH-30; other handsfree devices have been already taken out of production, although they can be found in some shops.

HBH-30 is a successor of a classical line, though in response to design it is made in futuristic style. This wireless handsfree can be worn on both ears, it supports all phones functions, including voice dialing and Magic Word-function (only for the phones from Sony Ericsson). You can also change a sound volume, divert a call to the phone and reject an incoming call while talking. So, technological features are typical to such kinds of products, but as far as materials concerned, it is the best wireless device. A velvety plastic resembles an elastic rubber and it is very pleasant to wear this bluetooth headset. This device is rather light, the weight is only 28 grams. Manufacturers declared that it could work about 3 hours in the talking mode and up to 55 hours in the stand-by mode. In reality it worked about 2 days (in case of one hour of talking), its not bad result, we think. HBH-30 costs approximately 250 USD. The peculiarity of this model is that a manufacturer reduces a range of this device to 5 meters from standard 10 meters. Lesser power provides an acceptable operating time.

The only possibility not to stand out against a background of others, wearing a wireless handsfree device, is to use HBH-20. In contrast to other models, it has a usual ear-phone, similar to portable handsfree. This ear-phone is connected to a special module, which looks like a small box that could be put in a pocket. Then, none of passer-bys would understand that you have a bluetooth-headset. The other virtue of this model is that you can put on this ear-phone, only when you have a call. It seems to us that it is an ideal variant for business users, who have to talk much. Weight of this device doesnt play any role, though its not heavy only 26 grams. According to manufacturer, HBH-20 has up to 56 hours of stand-by time and up to 3 hours of talking time. In reality it worked about 2 days, so, operating time is comparable to HBH-30. Price of HBH-20 is about 180-200 USD.

Bluetooth-headset from Motorola is rather popular on the market, probably, because earlier it had one of the lowest price (about 180 USD). This device, whihc has compact size, is worn on the ear. It is made of plastic, which has a decent quality, but, nevertheless, the product looks like a cheap plastic toy. In our opinion, its not acceptable for device of this class. According to manufacturer, lithium-ion battery of 150 mAh capacity provides seven days of stand-by time and 3 hours of talking time. Out field tests showed that this wireless handsfree had the shortest operating time compared to other tested devices. The battery runs down within the day (even 7-8 hours) in case of 25-40 minutes of talking. It was the worst result we got. Apart from bluetooth headset, charger and a case are included in the standard delivery kit. So, advantages of this model are rather cheap price and excellent standard kit and the main shortcomings are bad plastic quality and insufficient autonomy. Its interesting that Motorola began production of these devices, when the company didnt have own phone, which supported bluetooth. May be, this wireless handsfree is ODM-product, which is named Jabra BT-100.

Vice a versa, Nokia didnt have its own bluetooth headset, when produced phones with bluetooth support. HDW1 was taken out of plans and substituted by HDW2. First deliveries were promised to the beginning of the year, but they have not been appeared yet. Probably, soon, we could see HDW3, which would go on sale and the first two models would remembered only as first prototypes and remained only on beautiful photos.

Siemens launched Siemens S55, which supported bluetooth and introduced bluetooth headset - HHB-500. In fact, it is Jabra BT-300, which is produced under Siemens trademark. We tested both devices (wireless handsfree from Siemens and original one, from Jabra), either they had some problems or it was a problem of our phone firmware (Siemens S55, version 4), but voice dialing didnt work in our case. We could activate it only while using other phones.

By manufacturer declarations, operating time of this headset is up to 3 hours in the talking mode and up to 150 hours in the stand-by mode. In reality it worked about 2 hours in the talking mode and 2 days in the stand-by mode. Loudspeaker has a good volume level. The device could be worn on both sides. Shortcomings of this model is that it is tiresome; its not heavy, the weight is only 26 grams, but a desire to put it off is increasing after a while. This bluetooth headset is not very expensive; it cost about 120-140 USD. In response to design, the device looks angular and, as a result, old-fashioned. Besides, it has rather large dimensions.

As weve already mentioned not only mobile phones manufacturers produce bluetooth headsets, for example, Plantronics is famous by its wire handsfree devices, it is one of the leader on this market. New bluetooth headsets models showed by this company are 1000 and 1500. The second one has a special adapter in the standard kit, which can be switched to the phone that doesnt support bluetooth. So, due to this adapter, you can add bluetooth-function to your phone. Its a controversial solution, because apart from the phone, you should always wear a small box near it. Price of 1500 is higher than that of 1000.

Plantronics states that battery of 1000 can work up to 2.5 hours in the talking mode and up to 60 hours in the stand-by mode. Time of full re-charging is about an hour. During re-charging it is possible to use this device, though as for me, its not convenient and there is no sense to do it. The battery could be changed without any difficulties, and it can be bought in any shop. Such construction is reasonable if you are going to wear it for ages, in other cases its useless. A usual battery serves 2-3 years without any problems.

Wireless handsfree from Plantronics can be worn on both ears and its rather massive. It fits free on an ear and could dangle when you turn your head. It cant fall down, but you dont feel comfortable with it. M1000 weighs 26 grams.

Its possible to rotate an external part with microphone to adjust a direction of the microphone as precisely as possible. In reality this function is not very useful. Design of this device is not ordinary, it is similar to usual professional wire devices from Platronics. A person with M1000 resembles either a phone operator or a secretary of the large company. We think it is one of the most unsuccessful designs among all devices. M1000 worked about 1 day and a half in case of 45 minutes of talking. M1000 has a good price, about 120-130, but it has an awful design and unreliable holder.

German magazine omputer Bild named M1000 the best bluetooth handsfree 2002 and noted that it had the best sound quality of speech. In our opinion it is comparable in all devices. According to this magazine, one of the main shortcomings of HBH-30 is a small answer key, we think that its not important because its much more convenient to use a voice command to answer. Generally speaking, this test is rather controversial. Jabra BT-100 and wireless handsfree from Motorola took the second and the third places respectively. In reality it is the same product, in the second case it is just an ODM-product. According to this test HBH-30 has up to 6 hours of stand-by time, though our tests showed absolutely other results.

Unfortunately we dont have an opportunity to test BlueSpoon from NextLink because we couldnt find it in Russia, so the last device, which we had as a test sample, was bluetooth from BlueTrek.

This trademark is known by bluetooth accessories for PC, today we can see also bluetooth headsets. Standard kit includes a charger, cigar lighter adapter and a hostel, which has an acceptable quality. Today it is one of the best standard kits on the market.

At first, it seemed that due to original shape of this bluetooth headset, sound wouldve not heard, but it was quite the contrary. The only shortcoming is that not everyone could quickly put this headset on; its better to look at the picture before trying. Practice test showed that ladies got used to it faster than gentlemen. The weight of this device is 27 grams.

BlueTrek wireless handsfree worked about 1 day and a half in case of 1 hour of talking. Control panel is located on the rear part of this headset, as for me, its very comfortable. Taking into account that you can answer by any key, convenience of the control panel plays the second role. This handsfree fits well on the ear, it is pleasant to wear, you dont feel any discomfort even when you wear it for a long time. The shortcoming of this device is that it is covered by a protective film, which soon began to peel off. In approximately two weeks the device looks nice again, but during the period of peeling its not so pretty.

Nevertheless, it is an optimal bluetooth headset to purchase today. It costs only 80 USD, supports all functions and provides a sufficient autonomy. Besides, it is very convenient and has the richest standard kit.

Small conclusions

As you could see, bluetooth headsets made by different manufacturers are similar to each other. There are differences in ergonomics, operating time and price. So, first, think about these three things before purchasing a wireless device. In our opinion design plays the main role. Of course, tastes differ but most of all we liked the following products: HBH-30, BlueTrek, HDW2.

HBH-20 can be purchased as a compromise solution; it is a device for those who dont want to wear it constantly on the ear. If a wireless handsfree is a necessity for you (not a toy), and you have to talk much, we can recommend you to buy HBH-20. There are no alternatives yet.

In response to ergonomics, we think that the leaders are Sony Ericsson HBH-30, BlueTrek, Jabra BT-100 (or Motorola Headset). Other devices are not so comfortable, the most controversial one is 1000 from Plantronics.

If to compare operating time, definitely Motorola Headset will be an outsider. Other devices are comparable. And the last, but, often, not the least factor is a price. Surely, BlueTrek is a leader here. There are no other offers in the lowest price category (less than 100 USD). Wireless devices from Sony Ericsson are the most expensive, partly the customer pays for brand in this case.

In the conclusion we can recommend you to purchase the cheapest BlueTrek headset and the most expensive ones - HBH-20, HBH-30 from SonyEricsson. Other products are only compromise variants.

Last year we wrotein one article: Prices of Bluetooth headsets would fall down. Doubtful that in 2002 such kinds of devices would cost less than 100 USD, but it surely would be in 2003. In a year such devices would be a necessity, because they are really handy. Now Taiwanese companies tried to copy wireless headsets of the market leaders and produce own cheap devices.

It seems that our forecast comes true and today in reality we can find a bluetooth headset, which costs less than 100 USD. Average price is also decreasing; soon it will be 100-130 USD. Wireless headsets boom is expected in the second half 2003, when an average price reduces to 75-95 USD. Then, we think it would be a stagnation, and in the second half 2004 the price of this devices, produced under famous trademarks, would be less than 50 USD. Taiwanese companies overcome this price threshold in the near future and probably some of their devices would have better quality than some products from famous companies.

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Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Maria Sennikova (maria@mobile-review.com)

Published — 6 February 2003

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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