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My employer has recently started using VOIP through softphones on laptops in an effort to reduce costs and increase flexibility. As part of the roll-out, everyone was awarded with one of those analogue headsets that runs around the back of the head and fits behind your ears, complete with helicopter-pilot style microphone. Wearing glasses all the time, this headset soon became uncomfortbale as it interfered with the arms of my glasses. PLus the 2m long cable was a monumenta pain to keep untangled, and the whole thing was way too big to fit in my already over-crowded laptop bag.
I needed something smaller, that was more comfortable and that didn't have any wires. I realised that I needed a bluetooth headset.
A quick scan of the market showed prices from about £15 up to £90, quite a wide range for something that has basically the same function! After considering all the points in the range, I opted for the Plantronice Discovery 975, tempted by it's mix of high-end features, minimalist styling and a very clever approach to battery life by providing a carry-case that can recharge the headset up to 3 times.
Bought from a reseller through Amazon, for £60, it arrived the very next day. the minimalist design loking very sleek, this was something I could tlerate sticking in my ear without fear of looking like a nerd. The instructions were simple enough, heck there's only two buttons on the unit so it's hard to get it wrong. One, on the back-side of the main unit adjusts the volume and can mute the headset. The other, on the face of the main unit, turns it on, answers and ends calls. very simple.
Theres a few LEDs discretely embedded in the call-control button that flash after you've pressed it to let you know that it's done what you wanted and to indicate it's state. The fact that they aren't lit up all the time that it's plugged into your ear is a double bonus - it helps save battery and it looks a little less "Dr Who". Rather than flashing lights, the device uses audio cues to let you know what's happening when you're wearing it.
So, back to the set-up. Charge the headset for at least 90 mins, then turn it on. Open up your bluetooth browser and select the "9xx Plantronics" device. As simple as that. Then on my PC it was just a matter of setting up the softphone client to prefer the Bluetooth headset and setup was complete.
The headset does support "multipoint" bluetooth, allowing it to pair with two different devices, this is activated by pressing both buttons to turn the unit on, then it's just a matter of pairing the second device (as you would have done the first). I've not used this feature, but a number of people in the office have already jealously commented on it as being a "good thing".
In use the headset is fantastic. It weighs hardly anything and the silicone ear-tip holds the device nicely in place. Rather than fitting in the small hole of your ear the ear-tip fits in the bigger, shell-shaped piece of your ear. Even vigorous shaking of the head doesn't dislodge it, which was surprising. Three different sized tips are supplied for different sized ears and the way it fits means that it doesn't plug into your ear so, when you're not on a call, you can hear just the same as if it weren't there.
The microphone is a discrete and slender arm that extends a few inches down the side of your face towards your chin. It comes with all manner of fancy audio technologies to automatically adjust volume, eliminate wind-noise, echo, background noise and generally provide the clearest all quality you could hope for. A lot of this sounds like marketing blurb, but I have been very pleasantly surprised by the audio quality. My previous experience of bluetooth headsets has been that they are crackly, echoey and fade in/out a lot. This one is exceptional, both in terms of what I hear and what the other person hears. Over the last week I've been asking for feedback from people I've called and everyone has been surprised to learn that I've been using a Bluetooth headset.
Range is also very impressive for such a small device. I have a tendency to pace when Im on the phone so Bluetooth is far more liberating than the wired headset I was used to but I was worried at first that I might stray beyond the limits of signal and end up with an equivalent "virtual" tether to my desk. Happily the range is easily good enough to allow me free range of most of my open plan office while my laptop stays happily docked at my desk - Id say that the range is comfortably 10m and probably closer to 15, provided there are no walls in the way.
Battery life has been very impressive so far - the manufacturer claims a week of standby(!) and up to 5 hours of talk-time. While I can't specifically confirm this, I can say that I've used it for at least 3 hours of calls in a day on a single charge without any hitches. The battery life is managed by all of the energy saving technology packed into the device, but also by the brilliand idea of providing this rather frail headset complete with a carry case that contains a bigger battery and acts as a mobile charger.
The carry case is a smart looking fake leather affair with a magnetic closure for it's flap. In terms of size it's probably a little bit bigger than a lipstick case and comes complete with a clip so that you can attach it to something more substantial. Open the case up and there's not as much space as it's size would suggest, because behind the sculpted docking bay for the headset sits the hidden battery and recharging electronics. Standing proud is the small USB-style plug that the headset docks onto to receive it's charge, and there's a small lever that you can push to make the headset undocking process a bit easier. On the front of the case, but under the flap of the cover, is a small LCD screen that indicates the charge of the carry-case and also the charge of the headset when it's docked. If you happen to dock the headset while it's still paired, the display will show the Bluetooth logo to indicate that the connection is still active.
The last thing supplied is an AC adapter so that you can charge either your headset or your carry case. It uses one of the new, smaller mini-USB connections (as used by Blackberry), so cables are in relatively short supply at the moment. Charging time is 1.5 hours to full charge.
So it all sounds fantastic! Are there any down-sides? To be honest, I'm really struggling to think of anything significant. The headset does feel rather fargile, which is one of the reasons why it comes with a carry case, so you're going to be more worried about dropping it than some of the other, chunkier devices. And it would have been nice to get a USB charging cable as well as the AC adapter, but that's really about all... I've really been impressed with the unit, and if you spend a lot of time on the telephone and like a Bluetooth headset then this is a fine model to choose.
Pictures of Plantronics Discovery 975 Headset
Headset & case with 10p piece for scale
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That looks really good . . . I have never used a bluetooth headset (and I shudder at the thought of paying so much for something looking so fragile!) but this looks like something I might be able to use
. . . ♥ jesi ♥