The Headset: Jabra Freespeak BT200

http://www.jabra.com/products/FreeSpeak_Bluetooth.htm

I had used ear phones before with other mobile phones, but with limited results and varying levels of satisfaction. The ones I used were the basic ones that are supposed to stick in the ear. While they usually worked, I disliked the fact that the sound quality wasn’t all that great, there were no controls, they kept slipping out of my ear, and then there was that annoying wire that constantly got in the way.

When I started doing some research for wireless headsets, I was initially discouraged by the high prices of most units. Soon I came across the Jabra Freespeak BT200 which not only received very good reviews, it was also one of the most affordable ones. After reading and comparing, I decided to give the Jabra a try. Again, ebay came through – $59.95 plus shipping was an acceptable price for a brandnew unit in retail box, with a car charger as a included free bonus!

First Impression

The BT200, which is fully compliant with Bluetooth version 1.1 or higher and has a functional range of up to 30 feet (10 meters), has a very unique and sleek shape. It is worn by slipping it over the ear and inserting the ear piece into the ear canal. The ear piece is made from a soft gel-like substance that is very comfortable to wear, and can be rotated to fit either ear. The main part of the headset is positioned behind/under the ear, with a small boom-type microphone extending two inches along the side of the head.

Design

The main controls can be found on the back of the unit. At the top is a small blue LED, that serves as a status indicator for various functions. Below that is the on/off button which has multiple functions depending on what mode the unit is in and how long it is being depressed. It is decently sized and has a raised symbol on it for easy identification by touch. Below that is the volume key, also decently sized and with an indentation on the volume lower side and a raised symbol on the volume up side. Farther below that are the contacts for the charging cradle. The unit is made of lightweight plastic and in spite of its feathery weight of 0.8 ounces (23 gram) it does not feel flimsy.

Setup

Setting the unit up was very straightforward. First you connect the charger to the cradle, insert phone into the cradle, and let it charge for two hours. Once it is charged, the well-done manual offers clear instructions on how to operate the device, pair it with the phone, and make calls.

Battery

The unit has a built-in rechargeable lithium polymer battery that offers up to 3 hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby time. Of course, just as with the phone, these numbers vary greatly depending on use. The small round charging cradle can be cleverly converted to a belt holster by attaching the included belt clip. It recharges fully in about two hours.

Comfort

The first time I slipped the BT200 over my ear, I didn’t even realize how easy it was until it was done. You first slip the top over the ear, then position the gel ear piece in the ear canal. I did it one-handed in about 3 seconds. After repeating the motion a number of times, it becomes a very natural movement.

The unit turned out to be extremely comfortable to wear. There was no adjustment needed, neither did it feel really weird or unstable. It sits snugly on the ear without pressure or pull. It is tight enough to allow vigorous head movements, yet not as tight as to cause discomfort. I probably wouldn’t wear the unit while headbanging at a Rammstein concert, but anytime while walking, moving around, etc. without any concern that it might come off.

Overall, a very positive surprise. Comfortable, a good fit, easy to get used to.

Performance

The headset performed very well. It was comfortable even during extended conversations. While the 33 feet distance is only a theoretical best case scenario maximum distance, I was able to walk away from the phone for 10-15 feet, even into another room, with decent sound quality. If you get too far away or something gets in the way of transmission, a crackling background noise will warn you before the connection gets lost, giving you a chance to adjust.

Voice dialing was another feature I was able to set up and use successfully with the BT200 and the T68i. The ability to keep the phone in your pocket and initiating a phone call handsfree with a voice command is extremely cool. Most people are probably not used to having something inserted partially into their ear canal, but the gel earpiece is not intrusive, and it does not block out sound from the environment.

Additional bonus points to the Jabra for its geek factor. It looks somewhat futuristic and draws curious looks from people when you wear it. You get even funnier looks from people when you wear it on one side of your head, are in the middle of a conversation, and are observed by a person that can see only the other side of your head and is not aware at all that you are wearing it – assuming you are a freak because you’re talking to yourself. But then again, I work in San Francisco, and the city has a high freak ratio to begin with, so I don’t exactly stand out much there.

After a little bit of experimenting, reading the manual, and getting the feel for it the Jabra BT200 turns out to be a very good bluetooth headset. I am very satisfied with my choice, especially considering the price, and would recommend the BT200 anytime.

 

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