Plantronics' Savor M1100 headset offers more than phone calls

The new Bluetooth headset uses voice recognition to provide a wide range of audio information.

Plantronics has become known for its high-quality headsets; the company's products tend to be mostly marketed to business people and others who use their headsets frequently or constantly. One of the latest in its line, the Plantronics Savor M1100 ($99.99), offers a wide range of voice-control features.

Plantronics Savor M1100
Plantronics Savor M1100

What does it do? The Savor M1100 has a triangular, 1960s-futuristic style -- sort of a cross between business-conservative and faux-Star Trek. A dark-gray metallic outer edge pushes past a soft black interior body.

The unit has a number of separate controls, all nicely spaced and easy to find. A power switch makes it simple to turn the unit on and off; there's also a call button, a volume/mute rocker and a button that initiates the voice recognition features.

To ensure a comfortable fit, the unit comes with three gel eartips, along with an earloop. While some competing headsets come with a greater variety of eartips, I found the Savor M1100 to be very comfortable -- and since I tend to be hard to fit, that's saying quite a bit. There are explicit directions on how to wear the device properly (including videos on the company's Web site).

What's cool about it? I was very impressed with the performance of the Savor M1100 in noisy situations, such as walking along city streets -- it uses three microphones to effectively reduce noise interference. During calls, I was able to hear the person on the other end of the line without trouble, while my callers reported little problem in hearing me.

The Savor M1100 comes with a lot of the features that have become popular with headsets, including the A2DP specification, which allows users to listen to music and other audio media as well as calls.

However, the unit's selling point is its voice recognition capability, which operates on several levels. On the most basic, it lets you receive information about the headset's status and initiate voice dialing. There are about 10 commands; if you can't remember the exact words, you can ask "What can I say?" for an audio list.

But the most touted feature is Plantronics' Vocalyst service, which allows you to give voice commands to perform a number of tasks, including reading and sending e-mail, getting the weather and news, and accessing a few third-party services, such as Evernote.

When you purchase the headset, you get one year of the basic Vocalyst service for free; after that, it costs $2.49/month or $24.99/year. Vocalyst Pro, which adds voice-to-text conversion, longer recording times and additional third-party services, costs $5.99/month or $59.99/year (there's a discount if you subscribe during your first year).

What needs to be fixed? Audio services that use voice recognition are still in their infancy; performance tends to be spotty and is often not that reliable. Like other, similar services I've tried, Vocalyst works -- to a point. I found that the voice quality for the service sounded a bit distant and scratchy, and the e-mails I sent to three separate e-mail addresses never arrived.

Bottom line: The Plantronics Savor M1100 is a well-constructed, comfortable Bluetooth headset that offers good audio quality and noise reduction. Its inbuilt audio-recognition features will be welcomed by users who need to be completely hands-off, but while the Vocalyst service could be very handy, it still has a few glitches that need to be resolved.

Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld. When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes; you can also follow her on Twitter (@BarbaraKrasnoff).

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