Review: Jabra SPEAK 410 portable conference speakerphone

jabra speak 410

Today’s Gadling Gear Review may appear to appeal only to those that make important business calls on the road, but don’t lets its “all work and no play looks fool you” – this product is a real allrounder.

The Jabra SPEAK 410 is a compact USB powered conference speakerphone, designed to pack in your carry-on and help you make hands free calls on the road.

The round speaker is just under 5 inches across (about 25 centimeters) and weighs just 6.5 ounces. The top of the SPEAK 410 is completely taken up by its speaker and omnidirectional microphone, as well as a shiny touch sensitive ring for its various controls.

Using the SPEAK 410 is simple – install the software and plug it in. The Jabra Device Service controls all the functions of the product, and acts as a bridge between it and a variety of desktop communication packages.jabra speak 410

Jabra offers two versions of the 410 SPEAK – one for softphones, and one for softphones and Microsoft Lync. On a computer without any softphones, you can use the speaker as a generic audio device. In fact, you can even use the SPEAK 410 without the desktop software as Windows simply detects it as a normal sound device.

The current selection of softphones supported by the SPEAK 410 includes:

  • Avaya IP Softphone/Agent
  • Avaya one-X communicator/Agent
  • Cisco UC Client
  • IBM Lotus Samtime 8.0 / 8.5
  • Skype

Of course, one of the most important features of any speakerphone is of course its sound quality – and you’ll be glad to know that the Jabra SPEAK 410 really delivers. Volume obviously isn’t as loud as from a large desktop phone, but it is certainly beefy enough for a reasonably large conference table with about ten people.

On a call through the Cisco UC client, sound quality for both parties was reported as “excellent” when no more than three feet from the unit.

jabra speak 410

If your call requires a bit of privacy, you can plug a Jabra 3.5mm headset into the unit and continue your call without others listening in.

jabra speak 410

Controlling the SPEAK 410 is a breeze – red and green buttons answer or drop the call, mute and volume controls are on the top and sides and the Jabra button switches the call volume buttons to ringer volume. Around the edge of the speaker are LED’s – red when on mute, yellow for ringer volume setting and white for call volume and incoming calls.

jabra speak 410

When not in use, the USB cord wraps around the base. While this may seem primitive, it does make it very quick to wind up, with no parts to break. The cord is 28 inches (71 centimeters) long.

jabra speak 410

The package includes a padded carrying case, completing the list of reasons the SPEAK 410 is the perfect travel companion. As we mentioned in the beginning, the speaker is not only designed for boring conference calls, when you plug it into your laptop (or desktop), you can also use it to output music or audio from movies.

The Jabra SPEAK 410 retails for $159.99, for more information and a list of retailers, head on over to Jabra.com.

Jabra CRUISER Bluetooth hands-free speakerphone reviewed

Depending on where you live, the law may prohibit using your mobile phone without a headset or speakerphone. And even if the law is on your side, driving around while trying to juggle your phone is just not a good idea. So, to keep you and everyone else on the road a bit safer, we’ve taken the Jabra CRUISER car speakerphone for a ride.

The CRUISER is a very compact device, on the top are a couple of buttons, on the side is a charger port and power switch, and on the back is a flexible metal clip for attaching the speakerphone to your visor.

Using the CRUISER is simple – you turn it on, and pair your mobile phone. This pairing process is a one-time thing, and is made easy thanks to clear voice prompts from the unit. The power switch is a “real” switch, and you can leave it on as much as you want, because it turns off if your phone is out of range for more than ten minutes. A quick tap of the call button turns it on again.

Where the CRUISER excels is in call quality and features. Lets face it – you’ll never get amazing call quality out of something this small, but it does come damn close. The CRUISER features dual microphones and a variety of noise canceling technologies, so even if you are making a call while driving 65 down the interstate, it’ll sound pretty good for both sides of the call.

Audio can be sent to the internal speaker or to your car stereo using the built in FM transmitter. And to be honest, this FM transmitter is one of the best I’ve ever come across. The unit first scans the FM ether, then tells you what to tune your radio to. Best of all, it supports RDS, so when you have it tuned on a car stereo with RDS, you’ll see the incoming phone number on the display of you car stereo..

To top it all off, the CRUISER also supports Bluetooth stereo music streaming, either to the built in speaker, or over FM. This means you can listen to the music on your mobile (smart)phone and beam it to your radio. If you are on the road, you can bring the CRUISER to your hotel room and use it as a conference speakerphone or music speaker.

The CRUISER charges using microUSB, and a long car charger cord is included. Best of all, even though its MSRP is $99.99, you’ll find it online for well under $50, at places like Amazon.com.

I’ve covered over 2000 miles with the Jabra CRUISER, and am highly impressed with how reliable it has been. It never drops calls or fails to connect, and the music streaming feature is absolutely perfect for rental cars where you usually don’t get an iPod or line-in jack. The low price just makes it even better.

Unless you already have a Bluetooth headset or built-in Bluetooth system, the investment in the Jabra should be easy to justify, and your fellow drivers will be grateful. To find retailers, or to learn more about this product, head on over to the Jabra CRUISER mini site.

Gadling gear review – Jabra HALO Bluetooth stereo headphones

Welcome to my Gadling gear review of the new Jabra HALO Bluetooth stereo headphones. When it comes to Bluetooth headphones here on Gadling, I’m only interested in products that stand out in the busy headphone market. The Jabra HALO headphones fit that quite well.

The HALO’s are very stylish, and look more like a pair of DJ headphones than Bluetooth headphones. For travelers, the HALO’s have a couple of pretty handy features – most importantly, they can fold. When folded they may not be as compact as a pair of in-ear headphones, but it certainly decreases their size. . Their best travel feature is the ability to become wired headphones. Included in the box is a cable that plugs into a normal headphone jack, which means you can listen to music in-flight without worrying about the “No Bluetooth” rule.
Controlling the headphones

Controlling the HALO’s is simple – there is just one button,and a touch sensitive sliding control. Sadly, that touch sensitive controller is a pain to deal with. It is usually too sensitive, and when your hair gets in front of it, it becomes even harder to control. It is a great design feature, but not very practical.

There is no power button – to turn them on, you simply unfold them, turning them off works the same way – just fold them up. This is a really elegant solution to something that usually annoys me. This also means you’ll never forget to turn them off before flying.

The single button is for picking up a call, ending a call and pausing your music. When listening to music, the touch control adjusts volume (by sliding) and changes tracks (by tapping). As you can probably guess, this sometimes goes wrong, and you’ll change tracks when trying adjust the volume, and vice versa.

Comfort

The Jabra HALO’s are very comfortable – the entire inside of the headband is covered in black velour, all the way down to the earpieces. Those earpieces can slide up and down about an inch and a half, so even those with a larger than average head won’t have a problem getting a good fit.

Because the headband fabric lacks “grip”, the HALO’s don’t sit too tightly on your head. This is obviously fine if you are relaxing in your first class seat, but don’t plan on running through the airport with them.

Sound quality

I put the Jabra HALO’s through a whole bunch of tests. As Bluetooth stereo headphones, they sound good – really good. In fact, I could not really detect any difference between wireless or wired mode. Audio does lack some bass, but without a pair of massive cans, you’ll always suffer from this.

Volume is good, but because the earpieces don’t go around your ears, too much ambient noise will mean you’ll need to turn them up quite a bit.

Call quality is decent, and obviously depends on the environment. In a moderately noisy room, they performed very well. The HALO’s feature dual microphone noise canceling circuitry, which obviously works hard in the background. That is, until the outside noise becomes too much for them to deal with. In a noisy location, like a train station, the HALO’s pick up quite a lot of noise. The call is still quite acceptable, but you’ll need to talk up, and the person on the other end of your call may start complaining.

Design and features

Jabra headsets have always had a strong emphasis on design, and the HALO’s continue that tradition. From the inner fabric lining to the touch sensitive controls, they certainly manage to stand out in the busy Bluetooth world.

The folding mechanism initially scared me – when you fold the HALO’s, there is a loud “click”, and the first couple of times, I was worried that I’d break them. I’ve now opened and closed them 100’s of times, and they are still going very strong, so Jabra clearly put some effort into this mechanism. The black velvety fabric on the inside feels nice, but it also acts as a bit of a dust magnet, so may need some cleaning every now and then.

The HALO’s come with multi-use technology, which essentially means you can pair them with two Bluetooth devices at the same time. This allows you to connect them to your mobile phone and Bluetooth enabled MP3 player simultaneously.

Battery life is rated at 8 hours talk/music time, which means you can use them all day long. You can charge them using the included adapter, or any powered USB port.

In order to use the Bluetooth stereo feature in the HALO’s, your phone will need to support the A2DP audio profile, and for controlling music, they need to support the AVRCP profile. Most Bluetooth enabled phones tend to include support for this nowadays, though some phones have a limited implementation. The iPhone supports Bluetooth audio and remote control, but only for pause/play, not for track forward/backwards.


Final thoughts

Despite the average call quality, I like the HALO’s a lot. Music sounds good, but could have a little more “oomph”.

The one feature that went from quirky to annoying is the touch sensitive control – it really is a good idea, but poorly executed. Sometimes “real” buttons work best.

PROS: Great Bluetooth stereo audio, ability to fold and become wired, fold to power on/off

CONS: Confusing touch sensitive controls, average performance in loud environments

The headphones come complete with a USB charger, AC charger, audio cable and carrying pouch. You’ll find the Jabra HALO’s at your local Best Buy store, or bestbuy.com. They retail for $129.99.

Daily gear deal – Jabra SP700 Bluetooth speakerphone for $30

Still driving with your head at an angle so you can keep your phone pressed against your ear? Then now is the time to invest in a Bluetooth speakerphone.

Any mobile phone with Bluetooth can connect to this Jabra carkit, but this unit also offers some very special features not found on most other Bluetooth units. Inside the SP700 is an FM Transmitter which means you can switch from the internal speaker, to your car stereo. And that is not all – compatible phones can even send music over Bluetooth to the unit and transmit that over FM!

The Jabra SP700 comes complete with a car charger cord, a bonus AC charger and a sun visor clip. The unit normally retails for $80, but you’ll find it on sale at Amazon.com for just $29.50 (+$5 shipping).

Product review – The Gadling Big Bluetooth Bonanza

Got Bluetooth? In this review, I’m going to take a quick look at 5 different Bluetooth headsets – but I need to point out that this is not a “best of”, I won’t be announcing a “winner”.

Instead, I’ve picked 5 different headsets that all do something special. It could be a great noise canceling feature, or an innovative way to charge the device.

Here are the 5 headsets that grabbed my attention:

  • Plantronics Voyager 835
  • Plantronics Voyager 855
  • Lubix UBHS-NC1
  • MobileEdge M100 PowerSmart
  • Jabra BT3030


Plantronics Voyager 835

The Voyager 835 is the newest allrounder from headset maker Plantronics. On the outside, the headset looks like any other unit out there, but 2 things make it worth a position in this review.

The Voyager 835 has 2 microphones, and a the Plantronics AudioIQ noise canceling system. These technologies means you’ll be able to make a phone call without the other end thinking you are calling from the moon.

The headset is also one of the most comfortable of the ones I tested. Its clear ear clip and molded earpiece made it a real pleasure to wear, and even after a 40 minute phone call it felt just fine. One notable item missing from the package is a set of spare earpieces. For some reason, Plantronics decided not to include them with the Voyager 835. Of course, if you take good care of the headset you’ll never need them, but I can’t help feel that a spare set of parts would make more sense.

The Voyager 835 charges using MicroUSB, the newest format plug popping up on phones from Nokia, Motorola and RIM (Blackberry). Included in the box is a pretty slick car charging adapter that functions as a charger and dock for the headset when you are not using it. This $20 charger is currently included for free with the headset.

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Price: $119.95 (MSRP)
Manufacturer: Plantronics

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Plantronics Voyager 855

The Plantronics Voyager 855 can be converted from a normal “mono” headset into a stereo Bluetooth headset. The Voyager 855 also features a sliding boom microphone for getting closer to your mouth, and for picking up the call. The buttons on the headset can control compatible stereo Bluetooth devices, allowing you to skip tracks, play and pause your music. And, just so you know; stereo Bluetooth does not work on the iPhone or iPod Touch. Apparently Apple does not believe in the wonders of listening to cordless music.

The Voyager 855 also features the Plantronics AudioIQ system, which greatly improves the quality of your call.

The headset also supports Multipoint connections, which is a slick way of saying it can be connected to more than one device at the same time. This feature means you can be connected to your phone and a Bluetooth music player, and still be able to listen to music while you wait for that important phone call from your broker.

Just like the Voyager 855, this headset charges using MicroUSB, and the package includes a USB charging cable and wall adapter as well as several replacement earpieces and a spare ear clip for converting the stereo headset to mono.

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Price: $149.95
Manufacturer: Plantronics

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Lubix UBHS-NC1

This wacky looking headset combines a bold fashion statement with a pretty ingenious design – the 2 halves of the headset connect using a strong magnet, allowing you to wear the it as a pendant. When you want to listen to music, you simply split the unit in half and wear it like any other headset.

Like the Plantronics Voyager 855, this headset supports Bluetooth stereo. On the back of the headset are 2 rocker switches which are used to change tracks, control play/pause, adjust the volume and pick up/hang up a phone call. Unlike most other headsets – the Lubix uses a normal on/off slider switch, which is a heck of a lot easier than having to hold down a button for 3 seconds to turn it on.

The Lubix may lack some of the noise canceling features found on the other headsets, but it really makes up for that with some astounding sound quality when used with stereo Bluetooth. The NC1 also supports 3D audio, which provides a really interesting effect to your music.

The Lubix UBHS-NC1 charges using a proprietary charging plug, but a USB cable and wall adapter are included, as well as several different earpieces. Also, like most headsets in this lineup, the NC1 has support for multipoint connections.

Later this week I’ll give you a second look at the Lubix UBHS-NC1 with the new Lubix iPod Bluetooth adapter.

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Price: $54 (promotional price from Lubix)
Manufacturer: Lubix Mobile

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Mobile Edge M100 PowerSmart

We’ve mentioned Mobile Edge here on Gadling before, but mainly for their excellent checkpoint friendly bags. In addition to these bags, the company also offers a lineup of travel gadgets. One of those gadgets is the new M100 PowerSmart Bluetooth headset.

The M100 is special thanks to an ingenious folding design. When you are not using the headset, you simply fold it flat and attach it to the included lanyard clip. When in the “off” position, you get a whopping 60 days standby time out of the headset. The headset comes with an AC adapter and a very clever L shaped USB plug.

The M100 is also pocket friendly – when in the standby position, the headset locks the call button, preventing one of those embarrassing phone calls made to friends by mistake.

Audio quality is quite outstanding, mainly thanks to the flanged earpiece, which keeps the headset nice and snug in your ears, blocking outside noise.

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Price: $79.95
Manufacturer: Mobile Edge

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Jabra BT3030

The Jabra BT3030 looks more like an ID tag than a Bluetooth headset. Complete with a chain for around your neck, the BT3030 is the only headset in this lineup that connects to a pair of regular headphones. On the front of the BT3030 are buttons for volume, music control and call control. On the bottom of the unit is a miniUSB charging plug and on the top is a microphone.

The combination of a built in microphone and a headphone jack means you can use this Bluetooth device to listen to music using the included headphones, or any other (noise canceling) headphones you want, and use it to make phone calls.

The headset comes complete with an AC charger, chain and plastic clip, in case you don’t want to wear it around your neck.

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Price: $79.99
Manufacturer: Jabra


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