Free up your hands

With multitasking becoming pervasive, Theo Boshoff checks out some Bluetooth headsets which free up your hands for something else.

Read time 6min 30sec

In SA, the law already dictates that we're not allowed to talk or SMS on a cellphone while driving, so a Bluetooth headset comes in handy in this regard. But Bluetooth headsets can be used anywhere, as they allow users to move around and do more while on the phone or listening to music, so you can use them at home or the office. Here, we rate some headsets available on the local market.

Nokia BH-214 Bluetooth stereo headset

The Nokia BH-214 Bluetooth headset is geared towards music-lovers who like listening to their favourite tunes while on the go. All the necessary function keys - skip, play, stop and volume - are easily accessible on the little square device, which also houses the mic for making and receiving calls.

There's a clip to attach it to your shirt, but the device is a bit heavy and tends to move around. Consequently, the built-in microphone moves with it, making it difficult to speak directly into it. However, the voice quality is amazingly clear, despite not having the mic close to the mouth.

The earphones are in-ear types for stereo sound, and the flexible rubbery tips are comfortable. The ear buds fit snugly and there is little interference from the outside world, so the sound quality is really good.

In summary

Rating: 76%
Best for: Novices, enthusiasts and professionals
Digital Life says: They're funky-looking and do a decent job during music playback and voice calls
Plus: Playback and volume controls are easy to get at
Minus: When clipped on, its weight pulls down on clothes
Price: R610
Size: 51 mm x 39mm x 18mm
Weight: Main body: 17.8g; headphones: 9.5g
Charge time: Two hours
Talk time: Up to eight hours
Standby time: Up to 300 hours

Nokia BH-607 Bluetooth

We like the fact that the Nokia BH-607 is light in colour, so it doesn't resemble a big black cockroach trying to run up your face and into your ear.

The BH-607's large call key is practical as it does away with having to fiddle around to find it first.

We like the 'My own key' button, which the user can programme to do a specific task, like call a specific number when pressed, mute the mic, or read text messages. This function is only available when using Nokia phones.

The headset is mostly plastic, which makes it feel a bit cheap. However, this also makes it light and more comfortable to wear than heavier headsets. That said, we did experience some discomfort after about an hour and a half.

We were also not that impressed with the call quality, both incoming and outgoing. The digital signal processing (DSP) assists in making your voice clear to the other person, cutting background noise, but somehow the clarity is still off.

In summary

Rating: 72%
Best for: Novices, enthusiasts and professionals
Digital Life says: Stylish-looking and light, but the sound quality does not match the design
Plus: The programmable 'My own key'
Minus: Not as comfortable as anticipated and sound quality is poor
Price: R655
Size: 62mm x 18mm x 10.7mm
Weight: 12g
Charge time: 55 minutes
Talk time: Up to seven hours
Standby time: Up to 160 hours

Samsung WEP 420

Samsung and Danish technology design house Bang & Olufson (B&O) have teamed up to create the Samsung WEP 420 Bluetooth headset, which wins hands-down on looks. The headset is silver and black, with a one-of-a-kind charging cradle that screams sophistication.

It is an over-ear headset with a fixed ear hook that is light and not too big and can easily be adjusted to be worn on either ear.

The silver slide-out cover acts as the on and off button and the headset can only be used to make and receive calls when the cover is completely extended. Calls can also be answered and terminated by sliding the cover forward to answer and backwards to end a call.

There are two control buttons (multi-function button and volume control button) on the headset. The quality of making and receiving calls was fairly good, although a little background noise could be heard on the calls. That's probably due to the device not featuring noise cancellation technology. The headset is comfortable to wear, even when worn over long periods of time.

The multi-function button is used to answer incoming calls, redial the last number, reject or place calls on hold. If the WEP 420 is paired with a compatible Samsung phone, this button can also be used to activate voice dialling.

Unfortunately, that sophisticated-looking charging cradle comes at a price - limited charging capabilities. The headset cannot be charged with a cable only; you always need the charging cradle.

In summary

Rating: 71%
Best for: Novices, enthusiasts and professionals
Digital Life says: Very attractive with its special desk charger, but not great as a useful device on the go
Plus: Funky design and good sound
Minus: The talk and standby time is limited and charging is only possible with the cradle at hand
Size: 56mm x 15mm x 12mm
Weight: 12g
Charge time: Two hours
Talk time: Up to four hours
Standby time: Up to 60 hours

Jabra GO 6470

The Jabra Go 6470 Bluetooth headset is much more than just a Bluetooth headset. You can connect it to a desk phone, softphone (like Skype on a PC) or mobile phone, all at the same time, switching seamlessly between them all.

From a design perspective, the headset, desk set and charger, featuring a touchscreen, is super-sleek and very business-like, without being pretentious.

Setting it up is easy with the step-by-step guide, shown on the desk set's screen, which, after set-up, gives you a simple touch, icon-based interface to manage the devices and extra functions.

The Bluetooth headset, according to Jabra, has a range of up to 100m when used with a softphone. In our test we got up to 60m using Skype, but could only be 18m away from our mobile phone before the sound quality degraded.

The noise reduction technology, called 'NoiseBlackout', does a great job, as we could clearly hear the person talking over the blowing of vuvuzelas around us. The same goes for outbound calls.

The headset itself is a bit large, but not a nuisance to wear, although it's not that comfortable. When clipped into the call centre-style headset, it was more comfortable, with no difference in sound quality.

Answering and ending calls is a breeze with one-touch button action. The multi-touch button also allows you to do voice-activated dialing, call rejection, redialling numbers and swapping between calls. The touch-sensitive controls to set the volume and mute calls are also easy to use.

In summary

Rating: 78%
Best for: Novices, enthusiasts and professionals
Digital Life says: A complete communication solution for the high-end user
Plus: The multi-device communication capability that's easy to set up
Minus: The over-ear headset is not as comfortable as we expected and it's pricey
Price: R3 400

Size: 76mm x 23mm x 18mm
Weight: 15g

Charge time: One-and-a-half hours
Talk time: Up to six hours

Standby time: Up to 100 hours

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