5 new Bluetooth headsets: Not just for phone calls anymore

These small headsets offer style, features and their own apps. We look at five of the latest models.

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Plantronics Voyager Pro UC

The Plantronics Voyager Pro UC is meant for serious mobile phone users who demand good audio and long battery life.

Bluetooth headsets
Plantronics Voyager Pro UC

At 0.83 oz., the Voyager Pro UC is more than three times as hefty as the Jabra Stone2 and twice as heavy as the i.Tech EasyChat 306. Its long boom microphone made me feel a little self-conscious while wearing it in public.

The Voyager Pro UC can be used on the right or left ear -- while the ear loop isn't removable, it can rotate to work on either side. The headset includes an AC adapter with a sensible 3-foot MicroUSB cable, a padded case and a tiny Bluetooth dongle for connecting with a PC.

The Voyager Pro UC came with three silicone and two foam ear tips. Regardless of which one I chose, I had trouble getting a good fit, and the headset always felt a bit loose -- all I had to do was jerk my head from side to side to make it fling off.

Unlike the other headsets, which fit into the ear and have thin (usually detachable) wire loops that secure the headset to your ear, the Voyager itself actually loops around the ear. For me, it was too heavy for long-term comfort. I found that I couldn't wear it for more than an hour at a time.

The company's Control Panel software, which you download from the Plantronics support site, connects the headset to your computer and manages the add-on apps. Unfortunately, it's for Windows PCs only. With the application, and using the included Bluetooth dongle, I was able to link my computer to the headset on the first try; however, I was unable to make the connection without the dongle.

On the outside of the black-and-silver device are switches to turn it on and off, adjust the volume and take calls. Inside is capacitive proximity sensor technology that can detect whether the device is in your ear, which lets you route the call to the headset when it's being used and to the phone when not. This also works when you're streaming music from your phone -- it pauses the audio when you take the headset off and resumes it when you put the headset back on.

To start a call or answer the phone, you tap on the side of the device. After holding the Call button on the boom microphone for two seconds, you then say who you want to call. The phone does the rest.

The Voyager Pro UC can tap into Plantronics' Vocalyst service, which lets you dictate an e-mail or have a computer-generated voice read you e-mails, news and tweets. The basic service costs $25 a year; Vocalyst Pro service costs $60 a year and adds features such as the ability to update a Web site, log expenses and create to-do lists.

I used the Vocalyst Weather app while I was on the road. I just said the word "weather," and after a slight delay, the service read me the temperature and a quickie forecast for my area; you can choose between Fahrenheit or Celsius temperatures.

Being the biggest of the headsets in this roundup, the Voyager Pro UC has the advantage of holding the largest battery; it was able to run for 7 hours and 37 minutes. That's easily a full day of continuous use (and likely longer than your phone will run on a charge). If you press the power button briefly, the number of flashes of the LED just above the button tells you how much battery power is left.

With a range of 42 feet, the Voyager was just short of having the longest effective range; only the Jawbone ERA bested it. This means that you can walk around, say, a conference room and remain connected while still staying on the call.

Its audio quality was better than most, with full, rich sound with no annoying echo and more than enough volume to hear a conversation. When I was driving, some background wind noise was audible to my caller, and the conversation was a little clipped, with words cut off here and there, but on the whole, the quality was top-notch and the conversation was understandable on both ends of the call.

Bottom line

Priced at $200, the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC is the most expensive headset reviewed here -- but it could be worth it if you need excellent audio and a full day of talk time.

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