CNET editors' review
Reviewed by: Kent German
Edited by: William O'Neal
Reviewed on 2/1/05 Updated on: 3/22/06
We've always had good luck with Jabra Bluetooth headsets; indeed, the Jabra FreeSpeak BT250 won our Editors' Choice award, which is why we were eager to see the company's latest product, the BT800. Of course, having heard about the headset's impressive list of features, we were even more excited to get our hands on it.
While all Bluetooth headsets offer basic hands-free operation, the BT800 takes it a step further. Through a small rectangular LCD screen, BT800 users can view caller ID information and browse through a Recent Calls list using only the headset. So, as long as you're within Bluetooth range of your cell phone (30 feet), you hardly have to look at your mobile for basic calling features. You can also use the BT800 for voice dialing from your phone book, and you can activate a vibrate mode and select from five polyphonic ring tones.
As useful as it sounds, there are some things the BT800 can't do. Using only the headset, you cannot browse through your phone book or your handset's menus, and you can call only your last-dialed number or recent list of received calls. And, just as we expected, the screen is not visible when you're wearing the headset.
The design of the BT800 differs from that of both the Jabra BT250 and the BT110. Rather than a behind-the-ear fit, it employs a traditional ear loop that can be adjusted for either ear. Also, there's no boom microphone, which makes the compact (2.7 by 1.3 by 1 inches) and understated black-and-silver form factor less conspicuous than that of other headsets we've seen. Coming in at a scant 0.8 ounce, the overall fit is very comfortable, and we did not miss Jabra's usual protruding earpiece. The ear loop is also highly flexible, so we had no problem slipping it on and off.
The 1-inch-diagonal monochrome display sports a pleasant backlighting that makes it visible in most situations. In addition to caller ID information and the Recent Calls and Settings menus, the LCD shows the headset's battery level. Similarly, controls on the Jabra BT800 were tactile and easy to master. A power button doubles as the control for ending calls, while a button for placing calls and putting callers on hold sits just next to it. These keys also serve as soft keys for the menu, as they rest just below the LCD. A single button (which doubles as a blue LED light) on the device's exterior activates the menu and mutes calls, and we loved the handy scrollwheel that is used for volume control and menu navigation.
Accolades aside, things are not entirely perfect with the BT800. Our primary complaint rests with the pairing process. As written in the manual, the primary pairing method is via a tiny port next to the multifunction buttons. The port can be activated only by pressing the included--and equally tiny--stylus into the port. While the process worked, it was cumbersome at best, and we wouldn't trust ourselves for a second to carry the stylus around with us. On the upside, you are offered an alternative method of pairing through the headset's menu system. Since that process is much easier, Jabra's logic for including the primary method is puzzling. That said, we also ran into trouble with another pairing function. Though Jabra promises you can activate a previous pairing through the headset alone, we were unable to make it work.
We tested the BT800 on the Motorola V600. Once we got the hang of it, the pairing problem took mere seconds to fix. Audio quality during calls was impressive, with plenty of volume and clear conversations. We had no problem hearing callers, and they said we sounded great as well. The polyphonic ring tones were especially enjoyable, but we must admit that while the vibrate mode is cool, the buzzing on our head took a little getting used to. On the higher-function side, caller ID worked without a hitch, and we were able to place calls easily from our Recent Calls list. Be advised, though, that the headset loses a Recent Calls list once the pairing with a phone is terminated.
Jabra promises a total of six hours of talk time and just more than five days of standby time with the BT800. We met the promised standby time in our tests. There is an included travel charger, and it comes with a USB cable for charging from a PC.Rating: [5 of 5 Stars!]