Review: Jawbone Prime headset gives color to audio

The latest iteration of Aliph's Bluetooth headset is lightweight, stylish and efficient

Aliph's Jawbone Bluetooth phone headset has always been at the forefront of stylish headset manufacture; its newest model, the Jawbone Prime, doesn't disappoint. The lightweight device offers improved noise cancellation, some snazzy colors and a design that, unlike some of its competitors, doesn't resemble an earring for one of Star Trek's Borg.

What is it? The Jawbone Prime is a follow-up to Aliph's previous Jawbone Bluetooth headset.

What does it do? The Prime uses two invisible buttons on the face and the top of the device to allow users to turn it on and off, scroll through five different volume levels, search for new devices to pair with and do other functions. Indentations in the device help guide your fingers to the buttons.

Aliph's Jawbone Prime
Aliph's Jawbone Prime

To improve audio quality, the Prime offers a noise cancellation technology that Aliph calls NoiseAssassin 2.0, and has a sensor that detects and adjusts for wind-related noise. (The tip of the device needs to touch your face for best results, but Aliph says it's worked to make sure that call quality doesn't drop precipitously if it loses contact.) I tried the Jawbone Prime in several noisy situations, and my callers reported that they heard me quite clearly, with the background noise noticeable but muted.

What's cool about it? The Jawbone Prime not only works well and looks good, but it's also being marketed with the recognition that people's ears aren't built alike. Aliph equips the Jawbone with six different earbud tips to encourage a comfortable fit, together with an ear loop for those who prefer those. I thought I'd be in the latter camp, but I found that one of the normal earbuds fit me so well that I didn't need the loop.

I also appreciated being able to choose from several brightly colored (yellow, red, green and purple) models as well as the standard black, brown and platinum hues.

What needs to be fixed? Aliph reports a talk time up to four and a half hours. Even given that as a maximum, it is less than the talk time offered by some other headsets currently on the market. For example, the recently released Plantronics Voyager Pro claims up to six hours of talk time. Admittedly, it took me under an hour to power the Prime up when it ran down, but I can see running into problems during a long business day.

In addition, until you get accustomed to the various combinations needed by the two unlabeled buttons, you may want to carry a prompt card with you.

Final verdict: Aliph's Jawbone Prime is a very well manufactured and designed headset that provides a comfortable fit and excellent audio, even in noisy situations. Its battery life is a little low, and its price ($129.99) a little high, but if you can live with those, it's a fine choice.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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