Plantronics Voyager Pro Review

I’m trying to find a word other than “sexy” to describe my old Discovery 925 headset Perhaps “svelt”? Bluetooth headsets are never sexy. Necessary – due to the recent law change about cellphone use in cars – but never sexy. Where the Discovery looks like something Captain Kirk would wear, the Voyager Pro looks like a 1970’s hearing aid.

voyagerpro

So when it arrived, I was sceptical about looking even more like a knob wearing this giant-by-comparison headset. Thing is though, the size of the Voyager means it has more room inside for … technical gubbins. And those gubbins make all the difference.

Firstly, the big boom contains two microphones: one for you and one for the rest of the world. This allows the Voyager to do some rather awesome noise-cancellation. As a completely non-scientific test, both the iPhone and Windows Phone display a waveform when they are waiting for voice commands. In a running car, without speaking, this waveform jumped all over the place with the old Discovery, but it is almost dead-flat using the Voyager. Consequently, my phones accept voice commands much more often with this headset, and callers have commented on how clear it is.

The big case also contains a giant battery. 6 hours of talk time and 120 hours of standby. This means I can have the headset in the car for weeks at a time (turning it off when parked). I’ve yet to recharge it.

The unit hinges in all sorts of directions, which allows it to be worn in the left or right ear, depending on which way you roll.

Unified Comms

As an added bonus, my particular Voyager Pro model is the “UC” version, for “Unified Communications”. This means it comes with a Bluetooth dongle for your PC. Once paired, you can use the headset for Skype calling (or MS Communicator, Google Talk, or your chat client of choice). The multi-point technology means you can have the headset paired with your PC and phone at the same time, and it will ring in your ear when you get a call on either.

If you already have built-in Bluetooth (like my laptop does), you can ditch the dongle and just pair it straight up. For the technically-minded, the Pro supports Bluetooth 2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate, and uses the Hands-Free Profile v1.5 and Headset v1.1 profiles.

Getting One

You can grab a Voyager Pro for around about NZ$200. Pricespy has a good list of retailers.

BlueWatchDog Review: Security for your bag

Surprisingly, there are limits to my geekosity: I simply cannot abide by holsters. You may believe there is little difference in the nerdiness of holsters versus a manbag, but me and my Crumpler 5 Million Dollar Home would beg to differ. My bag goes everywhere with me, faithfully carrying my camera, headphones, leatherman, and Moleskine.

Being an indentured servant to geek fashion comes at a cost. More than once I have felt the creeping dread brought about by the lack of reassuring weight on my shoulder. I stop and spin on the spot – often on a busy sidewalk – the camera spins with me, whirling faster and faster, creating a sense of disorientation. The music swells, and then stops, zooming in on my face. “Noooooooooo!” he screams, fist clenched.

Yes, I’ve left my bag behind before. So far, every time I’ve gone back to the spot and sheepishly found my bag under a chair. One day I might not be so lucky.

Bags of Security

Enter BlueWatchDog (imported locally by Mi5 Technologies), which is – perhaps ironically – neither blue, nor canine. It is however about the size of three credit cards stacked together. It has a button and some lights, and is designed to be paired to your phone and placed in your bag. If your phone and bag are separated by more than a few metres, the BlueWatchDog springs into action.

You’ll first get a warning on your phone, both vibrating and audible. If you fail to notice this, or you are unable to close the distance between phone and bag, the BlueWatchDog will emit a rather loud siren. It’s not quite ear-splitting, but it is surprisingly loud for the size of the device. Definitely louder than any cellphone ringtone I’ve ever heard. I can’t imagine ever losing my bag again with the BlueWatchDog in action.

It is not entirely without fault. The most glaring issue is software compatibility. The device relies on software installed on one’s phone. At the time of writing, there is no such software available for my iPhone, but I’m told this will be available very early in 2010.

Most other phones are supported via a mobile Java application, but you wouldn’t think so based on the SMS compatibility test. This ignorant automaton repeatedly told me that my wife’s Sony Ericsson c510 was incompatible. Being a belligerent geek, I forcibly downloaded the jar file from the manufacturer’s website and installed it on the phone. Once I’d performed the correct rituals, the application started and worked perfectly.

When running, the application provides the ability to both monitor and locate your bag. The “locate” option causes the BlueWatchDog’s alarm to sound briefly, allowing you to home in on its location. The “alert” function will optionally vibrate and bleep your phone to warn you that the bag is about to be out of range.

Verdict

An interesting product that is well executed from a hardware perspective, if slightly let down by installation and compatibility. If you’re a geek that lives in his bag, or perhaps a camera user with thousands of dollars of gear in a bag, then investing $129 in a BlueWatchDog might be worthwhile. I would however check compatibility by installing the application on your phone before purchasing.

You can buy a BlueWatchDog online from Mi5 Technologies.

WIN: Navman, Bluetooth Hands Free Giveaway

Apologies for the web server issues earlier. The wonderful guys at SiteHost have solved my problem and everything should be swimming along now. If you had any trouble entering, try again just in case – I’ll manually remove duplicates.

You saw the reviews on TVNZ Breakfast, now you can have the products. Each of these devices will let you use your Bluetooth phone hands-free in your car, saving you from breaking the law come November.

You can enter once for the entire draw, and three separate winners will be drawn.

Yep, that’s almost $1,500 worth of prizes. Don’t say I don’t love you guys.

Entries are now closed. Here are the results. If you’re a winner, you should have an email now.

Conditions:

  • One entry per person.
  • Entries only valid using the entry form above.
  • Entries limited to New Zealand residents only (sorry guys, the postage will kill me).
  • The items are brand new, but may have been opened and reviewed for this website and TVNZ.
  • Entries close Sunday 20 September 2009 at 8:00pm (NZ time).
  • Winners will be contacted by email.

Bury CV9040 Bluetooth Carkit Review

Bury CV 9040When the sales guy kept telling me that the Bury car kits are “different” and “not just hands-free”, I was sceptical. The CV 9040 after all, is not much larger than the LG HFB-500 that I reviewed recently, so how different could it be?

Well dear reader, let me educate you for a moment on the differences between a car kit, and a hands-free device. A hands-free device, like the LG, is similar in most ways to the small, in-ear Bluetooth headsets. You can answer calls, and sometimes  initiate your phone’s built-in voice commands (if they exist). That’s about it. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with this. In a lot of cases it may be all you need.

Compare this to a car kit. They too can receive calls, but they offer much more functionality. The CV9040 will download your contacts from your phone, meaning you can use the in-built voice commands to search and make calls, regardless of what your phone supports. It will also read your SMS messages out aloud from most phones (the notable exception being the iPhone). If you own a Blackberry, you might want to look at the CV9040’s big brother – the CC9060 will read email messages aloud. The voice commands were useful and responsive, with only number dialling being a problem. This was cured when I completed the short “calibration” exercise to train it to my own voice.

A true car kit will be fine tuned to operate in a vehicle, with advance noise cancelling and additional digital signal processing. While I found the LG hands-free perfectly adequate, callers did note that the calls through the CV9040 were clearer still. And this was without using the provided extension microphone.

If there is one downside, it’s the lack of solar charging on the CV9040. After using the LG, it just seems mad that devices on your car dashboard aren’t all solar powered. Still, the CV9040 has 60 hours of standby, and comes with a car charger, so not too much drama there. You can mount the CV9040 by attaching it to your dashboard, or your sun visor (you can buy additional cradles if you want to attach it in different cars). The device senses its orientation and adjusts the display accordingly.

If you have more than one phone, never fear: The CV9040 can pair with up to 10 different Bluetooth phones, and will attempt to reconnect based on priority. So if you and the wife jump in the car at the same time, it will connect with only one of your phones.

Overall, I’m highly impressed. It works as advertised. The price is more than twice that of a simple hands-free device, but it is value for money in my opinion. You can grab it for $430 from most communication specialists like Orb, Digital Mobile, and Leading Edge.

If you can’t afford to buy one, check back here on Wednesday for your chance to win one.

LG HFB-500 Solar Bluetooth Carkit

Update: the retail price will be NZ$199, and it will be available from Orb, Telecom and DS Wireless

LG_HFB500I can’t remember who it was, but an engineer talking about energy efficiency said recently “if you’re building something that will be in the sun – a pump, or a telephone exchange, or anything – it better damn well have solar panels on it.”

The windshield of your car is one such place that gets basically endless sunlight. LG have taken advantage of this with their solar-charging HFB-500 bluetooth handsfree kit. It comes with a transparent suction-cup holder so you can stick it on the windshield in a convenient place. I’ve used it for a couple of calls a day for a week, and have never once plugged it in. It just charges magically.

Compared with other bluetooth car kits I’ve tried, and the integrated kits in most GPS recievers, the HFB-500 is damn good. It just works. The speaker is nice and loud, and callers have reported a decent clear call from the other end. And this is coming from my noisy, old Nissan Sunny, cracking along at 100km/h on the motorway.

The controls are simple. One big button for call and hangup (and hold for voicedial if your phone supports it). One button on either side for volume control, and one button for power and pairing. Absolutely no issues pairing with my iPhone, and no issues with disconnection/reconnection when I come to and from the car.

The tech details:

  • Solar charging
  • Bluetooth Version 2.1
  • Multi Connection
  • Easy pairing
  • Noise Reduction
  • Echo Cancellation
  • Talk/Standby 15.5 hrs / 1.000 hrs
  • Speaker 36? / 1W (Normal)
  • Solar Charging 24mAh
  • Mute, Un-mute Function
  • Auto reconnect
  • Last Number Redial

I’m not sure of the price in New Zealand yet, but it retails for about US$80. Check out the importer’s site here.