Monday, March 1, 2010

Battle of the Bluetooth headsets

The Multi-point technology didn't work quite as well as other headsets tested. The Z9i seemed to be hesitant to switch from one device to another and back; in many cases I had to disable Bluetooth on one device before the headset would switch over. The standby time fell far short of the advertised 200 hours; in fact, it was more like four days than eight. And the talk time came out at about four hours.

The included ear gels and hooks fit nicely and secure the headset through all kinds of use, and it was quite easy to put the headset on one-handed. However, I found the multi-function button to be a bit large and too easy to accidentally hit when putting the headset on or adjusting it. The button just doesn't have enough tension to prevent accidental pushes.

Overall, the BlueAnt Z9i is a great Bluetooth headset for the cost. It has excellent sound quality and noise reduction, offers multiple gels and hooks to suit any preference, and is easy to setup and upgrade. The ease with which the buttons are activated and the bumpy multi-point switching is a bit of a drawback, but the Z9i easily earns 3 out of 5.


Plantronics Discovery 975

The Discovery 975 from Plantronics packs a lot of features into a small package. Dual microphones are used to quiet and eliminate background noise. Voice prompts tell the user when battery power is running low, when the connection is lost, and for mute on and off. Like most headsets in this article, the Discovery 975 you see in Figure C has multi-point technology for use with multiple devices at the same time and the ability to switch between them.


The Plantronics Discovery 975. (click for larger image)

The Discovery 975 comes with three different ear gels, but no ear hooks. The gels are designed with a securing tab that holds the headset in your ear. Unlike many Bluetooth headsets, the 975 has a boom mike. Perhaps it's a holdover from my days in the military, but I like a headset with a boom. A combination charger/carrying case shown in Figure D provides on-the-go charging, extending the 975's use when on the road.


The Discovery 975 features a charger/carrying case. (click for larger image)

The unit's AC charger is also adapted for US or European use.

The advertised talk time of the Discovery 975 is five hours, with a standby time of seven days without multi-point use, and four days with multi-point turned on.

I must confess to having a bit of trouble with the Plantronics 975. After testing three different units, I was able to determine there are simply some devices that it does not work well with. While call recipients praised the quality of the 975's transmitted sound, calling it "crystal clear," and likening it to the clarity of a landline, I found that in some instances my reception was quite horrid.

When paired with my HTC Advantage and my daughter's AT&T/Cingular 8525 the audio was intolerable. Every time the person on the other end of the call spoke it would be full of static and crackly. I can only liken it to a CB radio with the squelch turned up too far. This is not a problem that was unique to my experience, as I noted that others on the user forum had the same problem.