REVIEW: Voyager Pro UC Enables PC, Cell Phone Communications with 1 Bluetooth Headset

 
 
By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2010-01-19
 
 
 

REVIEW: Voyager Pro UC Enables PC, Cell Phone Communications with 1 Bluetooth Headset


The Plantronics Voyager Pro UC provides heavy callers with an excellent way to utilize the same Bluetooth headset for both cell phone- and PC-based unified communications systems. This can free mobile users from juggling multiple headsets, while delivering excellent voice quality and distance performance along with reasonable battery life.

I tested the Voyager Pro UC WG200/B, which comes with an earpiece and a pre-paired Bluetooth dongle for $199. It is designed to work jointly with a Bluetooth 2.0-enabled cell phone or smartphone plus a Windows-based PC softphone via the dongle. This allowed me during tests to seamlessly use the same headset with both communications systems.

Plantronics also offers the WG201/B for use with Microsoft Office Communications Server systems. This iteration comes with the "Optimized for Microsoft Office Communicator" wordmark promising performance and ease of installation.

The Voyager Pro UC is certainly not the smallest or sexiest Bluetooth headset around. Indeed, at just under 11 cm in length and weighing 17.5 grams, the device is larger than many competing consumer headsets. However, the extra length gets the microphone boom close enough to the mouth to provide excellent voice pickup, making the larger size worth the tradeoff.

For a look at the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC, click here.

The earpiece part of the Voyager Pro UC has four buttons: a power/pairing button and a pair of volume controls (that when pressed at the same time will mute the microphone) along the spine, and a call control button at the base of the microphone.

With the call control button, users are able to answer an incoming call no matter which phone the call comes into. The user will know which line is being answered because the earpiece offers a slightly different ring tone depending on the phone in use. Users can also mute the call and hang up from the earpiece.

The Voyager Pro UC is rated to work with many major unified communication softphones, including those from Avaya, Cisco Systems, IBM and Microsoft. When it comes to consumer communications systems, the Voyager Pro UC works with Skype (which I used for the bulk of my testing) and Google Talk.

PC users can also listen to music using the Voyager Pro UC. If a supported media player is being used (Apple iTunes or Windows Media Center, for instance), music playback will automatically pause when a call to the softphone is answered (although not when a call to the cell phone is answered).

The Voyager Pro UC will pair with a Bluetooth radio already in a laptop, but for performance, quality, ease of deployment and additional features, Plantronics recommends using the earpiece in conjunction with the pre-paired Bluetooth dongle. To use with a softphone, users need to install the included PerSono Suite 1.1 (which is available only for Windows-based desktops at this time), then insert the dongle into an open USB slot.

Software and Sound Quality


 

The PerSono software is not strictly necessary, but it enables call control capability directly from the headset with supported softphones. The Voyager Pro UC will transmit and receive audio when used with an unsupported softphone, albeit without earpiece call control. For example, I tested the Voyager Pro UC in conjunction with the unsupported Vidyo Desktop. While I was able to get the headset to work with Vidyo-I could talk and hear the voice element of the video call-the call control buttons on the earpiece could not hang up the call.

The Voyager Pro UC also paired easily with both my test smartphones: an Apple iPhone 3GS and an Android 1.6-based T-Mobile G1 with Google. The earpiece call control and volume buttons worked seamlessly with both devices, allowing me to answer, drop or mute calls directly from the headset. When paired with the iPhone 3GS, the Voyager Pro UC also let me engage the iPhone's voice search feature by holding down the call control button for a few seconds. This allowed me to take advantage of voice-activated dialing.

However, I could not listen to other audio via the Voyager Pro UC using either of my test smartphones. All local and streaming audio instead emanated from the smartphones' speakerphones.

The sound quality delivered by the Voyager Pro UC's dual microphones was quite impressive. Plantronics' Audio IQ2 technology effectively removed overwhelming ambient noise. For example, remote callers reported that my voice quality was excellent with little background noise, even when I stood next to the server racks in eWEEK Labs' very loud data center. The microphones also employ stainless steel microphone screens and acoustic fabrics to tamp down any wind noise.

Received sound was also quite good, particularly when the headset was used with the PC. The Voyager Pro UC supports wideband audio for use with communications systems that support it. Skype calls sounded much clearer with wideband audio enabled (the toggle control can be found in the Settings-Dongle tab of the PerSono software), and music sounded significantly less flat and hollow.

Wideband audio puts a bigger drain on the battery than narrowband, although the hit isn't as great as I anticipated. The Voyager Pro UC is rated for 6 hours of narrowband talk time, but that rating drops to 5 hours when configured for wideband. I found I could easily make it through an entire day on a single charge, although contact center denizens who are on the phone constantly will likely need to top off the battery during the day.

I was also happy with the distance performance afforded by the Voyager Pro UC. The device is rated for operation up to 33 feet. During tests using the Voyager Pro UC and my iPhone, I could place the iPhone near a window in an empty office 20 feet away from my cubicle (where AT&T coverage and performance is typically terrible) and still send and receive calls.

Senior Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at agarcia@eweek.com.

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