REVIEW: Jabra PRO 9470 Makes Every Phone Wireless
Jabra's PRO 9470 wireless headset is a fine alternative for heavy callers looking for a single headset that supports every phone in the arsenal, but the gimmicky touch screen on the unit base station enhances the device's cost more than user productivity.
With the PRO 9470, Jabra solves the problem of how to simultaneously connect a single headset to the desk phone, a PC-based soft phone and a mobile phone. The PRO 9470 comes with a base station that is cabled to the PC via a Micro USB connector and to the desk phone via RJ-11. The base station utilizes DECT 6.0 for the wireless connection to the headset. Mobile phones, meanwhile, are supported via Bluetooth pairing between the mobile and the base station (rather than the headset itself), meaning the PRO 9470 is not intended for out-of-office use with the mobile phone.
The other two models in the PRO 9400 line-the PRO 9460 Mono and the PRO 9460 Duo-do not come with Bluetooth and therefore don't support mobile phones.
The PRO 9470 lists at the rather ridiculous price of $549, an egregious price especially when you consider that the unit does not include Remote Handset Lifter or Electronic Hookswitch Adapter needed for effective usage with a desk phone. However, a few online merchants offer it for somewhat more reasonable prices of just under $300.
The PRO 9470 offers an array of style and comfort choices that should fit the lion's share of users out there. The headset has a modular design-a removable earphone/boom microphone element can be snapped onto a headband, a neckband or an earclip (the latter comes with three sizes of earbud gels). I was glad to have the choice, as only the headband arrangement felt remotely comfortable on my head.
I was worried that the PRO 9470's midi (medium) boom microphone wouldn't be able to pick up the sound from my mouth well, as it seemed to be positioned far from my mouth. However, those worries were unfounded as the dual microphones did a good job picking up and transmitting my voice, and Jabra's Noise Blackout technology did an excellent job culling ambient noise from the conversation. I was able to use the headset in our very noisy test lab, with little-to-no white noise audible to the remote caller.
For even better sound quality, the PRO 9470 supports wideband audio for soft phones and desk phones that support the technology. Because wideband audio drains the battery faster (Jabra rates wideband battery life at 8 hours, compared to 10 for narrowband), users have the option to enable the use of wideband audio separately for desk phones and soft phones.
Jabra rates the PRO 9470's DECT 6.0 connection between headset and base station for up to 150 meters, depending on environmental conditions. However, in tests in eWEEK's San Francisco offices, I was not able to come close to that figure. In a cubicle farm, I could easily get out to more than 90 feet with adequate audio quality, but with multiple walls and an elevator bay in between, transmission became incomprehensible at around 60 feet.
The PRO 9470 is bundled with Windows software and drivers that extend soft phone support to Skype, Microsoft Communicator and IBM Lotus Sametime. The software, called PCSuite, offers on-screen control over each device's configuration and shows the headset's battery usage.
Administrators should be aware that the version of PCSuite that ships with the unit (version 2.0.54) would not install on 64-bit operating systems (when using either Windows 7 or Windows Vista), although an updated version (v188.8.131.52) available at www.jabra.com/pcsuite resolves this issue.
The updated version includes an update tool that can be used to both upgrade the installed version of PCSuite or to upgrade the firmware on the PRO 9470 itself.
Unfortunately, unlike Plantronics' PerSono software suite that comes with its Unified Communications headsets, there are no on-(PC)screen call control functions, nor is there a way to bridge calls from different devices via the base station to allow conferencing between callers from the desk phone and the mobile, for instance.
Instead, call control actions and device setup are done via the touch screen on the base station. From the touch screen, I could access a wizard that walks me thought setup of each of my phones (I tested in conjunction with Skype on a Windows 7 PC, a Cisco 7940 series desk phone and a BlackBerry Bold 9700 smartphone).
During a call, the touch screen displays which phone is currently in use and presents controls for mute or hang-up. If a call comes in over another device while the headset is in use, I could switch to the other call via the touch screen only. I could also use the touch screen or the action button on the headset itself to answer or drop a call or mute the line.
While the touch screen was adequate for call control functions in my tests, I would prefer that functionality come on my PC screen instead. Poking at the small screen (about 1.5 inches by 2 inches) to manage calls seems unnecessary day to day, and this need requires the base station to occupy more prime desk real estate than would otherwise be necessary.