Monday, March 1, 2010

Battle of the Bluetooth headsets

Later testing revealed that it wasn't the headset per se, but how it interacted with the device it was paired to. I had no problems whatsoever when using it with my new HTC HD2, my wife's Moto RAZR or Allcatel Tribe, a PC, and a PS3 gaming console.

The Discovery 975 was otherwise easy to set up and pair with all of the devices it was tested on. The multi-function button has the perfect amount of tension, not being accidentally engaged. The same applies to the single volume button, which cycles through the three preset volume levels. I feel that dedicated up and down volume buttons would be preferable to a single, cycling button.

I really liked the charger/carry case. The LCD window displays the charge level of both devices and rapidly (30 minutes) charges the headset, effectively tripling the 975's use time. As far as talk time, I experienced about three hours from a full charge, with four days on standby.

Aside from being a boom-mic headset, the other feature of the Discovery 975 that I simply loved was the ear gels. Coming in three different sizes, they perfectly secure the headset without the need for an ear hook. The Discovery 975's ear gel was the most secure of all the headsets tested.

While the multi-point functioned relatively well, there's a bit of a problem with it; from the factory, multi-point is disabled, and there is no information whatsoever in the user manual on how to activate it. Users must download the "complete" manual from the Plantronics Web site in order to learn how to activate the multi-point feature.

The Plantronics 975 could easily have been the big winner in this article, and while it worked rather well overall, there are a few things holding this headset back. Namely that it doesn't seem to work well with some devices. Although the atrocious audio reception was pretty much limited to two of the devices I tested on, none of the other headsets in this article experienced that problem. This leads me to believe there is something in the software of the 975 that was inhibiting its performance on those two devices.

Otherwise, the Discovery 975 was a solid performer with a lot of very desirable features. The verbal prompts for mute, lost connection, and charge level are much more of an advantage than the beeps common to most headsets. The carry/charger case vastly prolongs the device's usage in the field, as well as showing the charge level via a visual meter. Whether on cellular or VoIP via PC or gaming console the audio transmission was one of the best of all the tested headsets.

The glitch of not working well with all devices, the fact that multi-point is disabled out-of-the-box and the difficulty in figuring out how to turn it on hold this headset back. It could easily have earned a full 5 rating, but the drawbacks pull it back to a 3 out of 5.