So you finally got a ticket for chatting on your cell phone behind the wheel. Maybe you just installed Skype, or just want to do other things while you talk without a cord tethering you to your phone. No matter your reason for wanting to invest in a Bluetooth headset, you’ll find an intimidating array of options out there waiting for you when you go to pick one up. But fear not, the ‘tooth shall set you free. The good news is that they all essentially do the same thing, and the Bluetooth standard means you don’t have to shop for one specific to your phone. However, there are a range of other features that set them apart from one another, from size and weight to noise cancellation features. Here are four newer Bluetooth headsets that each bring something unique to the table.
Australian manufacturer BlueAnt has managed to carve a significant niche in the mobile accessories market by building its entire product line around the Bluetooth standard. The Z9 is its newest, most sophisticated headset, and it specializes in noisy environments where ordinary Bluetooth headsets fear to tread. Unlike competing headsets that use software alone to filter our background noise, the Z9 actually incorporates extra hardware – dual mics – to help it strip out noise on the fly. Another practical feature: it can clip on to a tie, pocket or shirt cuff when it isn’t in use, so you don’t have be that guy with the permanently affixed headset. With a full charge it should deliver 5.5 hours of talk time, or 200 hours in standby. The BlueAnt Z9 will only set you back $99.95 USD.
Plantronics Voyager 855
While it’s technically possible for some Bluetooth headsets intended for mobile phones to pair up with MP3 players, the one-ear design of most of them makes most of them pretty poor choices for music. Likewise, most Bluetooth headphones intended for music have no integrated mic to use with a phone, and even if you could, they’re much bulkier. Recognizing the silliness of this situation, Plantronics has designed a hybrid of sorts with their Voyager 855: a lightweight, stereo headset for both chatting and listening to music. The second earphone attaches to the main headset using only a short cable, saving on weight and size, plus it’s detachable if you decide you would rather use the set in mono mode. The whole setup weighs a little more than comparable sets at 15 grams, but you gain plenty of flexibility, and an impressive 7 hours of talk time for a tiny bit of extra heft. The Plantronics Voyager costs around $150 USD.
Motorola Mini H9
If you’re past the point where a wireless headset feels like a status symbol and you would rather people not notice a chunk of plastic in your ear, you may want to investigate the ultra-discrete Motorola H9. It measures just 30 x 23 millimeters, which, if you don’t have a ruler handy, basically makes it an oversized earbud without cords. Given those dimensions and a weight of just 7.5 grams, it’s by far the smallest headset Motorola makes, and also one of the smallest on the market. Battery life dives to just 1.5 hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby as a result, but Motorola designed an innovative pocket dock that keeps the H9 charging whenever it isn’t in use, so 1.5 hours can be thought of more as a cap on individual conversations. When paired with the charger, it’s good for about 7.5 hours of talking and 20 days of standby. Like the aforementioned Voyager 855, the Motorola Mini H9 will run you about $150 USD.
On the decidedly less discrete end of things, there’s the Jabra JX10 headset. It’s not designed to be unnoticed so much as it is to be admired. Jabra contracted Danish design firm Jacob Jensen for the set’s styling, which manages to look sleek and modern without the gaudy plastic appearance that a lot of other headsets seem to run into. It’s also less than 4 centimeters long, and weighs only 10 grams, so the extra attention paid to styling clearly hasn’t interfered with practical design specs. The optional ear hooks can be left on for extra support or removed by wearer’s preference. Digital noise cancellation and automatic volume adjustment are both included to keep loud environments from cutting a conversation short. Jabra estimates the BT800 should get six hours of talk time and 200 hours in standby on its internal lithium-ion battery. It’s also one of the most expensive sets out there, but that’s the price of chic. Who said style would not come at a cost? The Jabra JX10 has an MRSP of $149.99 USD.
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