With users relying on multiple devices for voice communication—be they cell phones, desk phones or VOIP services—the demand for flexible telephony devices will continue to increase. eWEEK Labs tested two devices that fit the bill, granting hands-free usage for multiple applications while opening up the possibilities for increased mobility or collaboration.
Jabras $349 GN Netcom GN 9350 (www.jabra.com) is a more traditional headset solution, with dual connections that allow the use of a single headset for both a traditional phone and an IP telephony softphone.
With a traditional phone, users connect the headsets base station in line between the body of the phone and the handset. Meanwhile, the base station connects to a PC via a Mini-B USB connector and cable. During tests with the device, we could easily switch between connections by depressing the appropriate button on the base station.
The GN 9350 is quite comfortable for users of all head and ear sizes, as the headset comes with three mounting alternatives: an earhook, a headband and a neckband. The boom-arm microphone, earpiece and battery module easily snap in place to connect to any of these.
During tests, we found received sound to be excellent, particularly when seated at our desk within a few feet of the base station. The GN 9350 uses DECT 6.0 technology and the 1.9GHz radio band, so we did not experience interference from nearby Wi-Fi or Bluetooth equipment transmitting in the 2.4GHz band.
We were also able to roam the entire floor of our office building during a call, although we found that call quality started getting choppy beyond 100 feet (with several walls and an elevator shaft in between us and the base station).
There is a talk button on the headset, but it doesnt offer much in the way of functionality. Since there is no software to install with the GN 9350, we could not configure the talk button to pick up incoming calls, for example. Rather, we had to depress a button on the base station to switch to PC mode, then answer the softphone from the computer screen.
Using a radio technology more familiar to enterprise users, the $150 Spracht Aura Mobile BT (www.spracht.com) is a Bluetooth-enabled speakerphone that can be used with PCs or Bluetooth-equipped cell phones, allowing multiple users to easily collaborate on calls while on the go.
Unlike the Polycom Communicator that was designed to work exclusively with Skype, the Aura Mobile BT operates effectively with many devices and with a variety of voice software applications.
We connected the Aura Mobile BT to the integrated Bluetooth transmitter in our Lenovo ThinkPad for use with CounterPaths X-Lite 3.0 softphone. We also could connect to the Bluetooth in our Sony Ericsson T637 cell phone. The Aura Mobile BT supports wired connections via a PCs headset and microphone ports, so we could also connect to older systems—as long as they had a sound card.
The Aura Mobile BT is truly meant to be used on the go: The device has a spring-loaded clip that can be attached to a cars sun visor as well as a cigarette-lighter adapter to power the unit.
The only complaint we could muster with the Aura Mobile BT? When we were connected via Bluetooth with the battery nearly depleted, the Aura Mobile BT started beeping incessantly, making it nearly impossible to hear the other end of the call to wrap things up. But this was happened only when the battery was right on the brink, so we dont expect the problem to be generally intrusive.
Technical Analyst Andrew Garcia can be reached at [email protected].