Accessory Review: BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset

BlackBery HS-655 Bluetooth Headset
By Kevin Hill on 17 Mar 2008 12:37 pm EDT
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The Only Bluetooth Headset with the BlackBerry Name On It! 

Innovative and sleek, the Blackberry HS-655 delivers Plantronics technology in a stylish BlackBerry livery. With 128-bit encryption for enhanced privacy and digital signal processing the HS-655 features advanced technology in one of the most attractive packages out there. The fact that it bears the BlackBerry logo means you can be assured it is optimized for use with most BlackBerry devices. It is also compatible with the BlackBerry Power Station, making for an ultra-convenient charging solution.

Preamble 

The BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth headset has been on the market for a while now - it came out in 2006, but despite its "age" is still a great headset offering BlackBerry bang for the buck -- especially considering you can pick it up these days for nearly half of it's original list price ($69.95 @ ShopCrackBerry.com compared to $119.99 @ShopBlackBerry.com). Made for BlackBerry by Plantronics, you can also find the 655 in a non-BlackBerry branded version as well as Plantronics' more recently released Discovery 665 headset, which was reviewed here at CrackBerry.com a few months ago.

Opening the box

BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset
No frills but all the bells and whistles you need

Not so much a box as a bag. The headset comes with the actual BlackBerry HS-655 headset, a pocket case/charging pod, three ear gels, ear hook, and a recharger chord.

Setting up the headset

As with most headsets, the process for setting up the Bluetooth is the same. Simply go to ‘Set Up Bluetooth’ icon on the BlackBerry. Ensure the headset is in pairing mode (hold down the big button for a few seconds and it will flash blue and red). Hit OK and the BlackBerry will start searching for devices. Once it finds the HS-655, simply click on that, enter the 0000 pin key and you are ready to go.

The headset

BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset
Sleek and stylish with performance

No doubt about it, the HS-655 is a seriously sexy looking headset. Its bullet shape is sleek and stylish. The matte grey and black look is a fashionable nod to the BlackBerrys with which it is paired. It is very modern looking. Large enough to do what it is supposed to yet not obtrusive enough to look odd or be a pain to use.

Using the headset

You will have to fit the ear loop and an ear gel. The ear gel snaps into place easily and seems to hold quite securely. Getting the ear gel in place can be a fiddly job for those of you with big fingers, and on one occassion I didn't have the ear gel firmly secured and it popped out on me. It's also fairly easy to knock off the ear gel if you carry the headset loosely (say in your pocket). The unit comes with three different sized ear gels so it takes a couple of tries to figure out which feels the most comfortable. The simple plastic ear loop actually fit me well (not always the case with Bluetooth headsets) and was comfortable to wear.

The headset comes in a cool-looking pocket-friendly case. It’s about the same size as a lipstick holder, which can be confusing if you have a large purse or you’re an on-the-go transvestite (my attempt at humor - don't shoot me!). The pocket case also has a vibrate feature to indicate incoming calls and a clip that allows you to stick it in your top pocket (nerdy), the side of your BlackBerry case (a little less nerdy) or in your European man purse (retro nerdy).

BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset Holster
The 665 features a snazzy pocket-friendly case

The HS-655 features three buttons. The large button, which also doubles as a power and connectivity indicator, is easy to find and press when connecting. The button also acts as a mute button or can access the voice dialing function in conjunction with your BlackBerry. The volume buttons are placed on the shaft of the headset and are also very easy to locate because of raised nodules. The volume buttons do require a bit of pushing to depress them, which can end up jamming the gels into your ear.

At just nine grams, the headset fits into the ear easily and seems very unobtrusive. It also feels very snug to the ear and has very little movement as a result. The headset can be worn without the ear loop but, frankly, I found that too loose to be comfortable. The ear gel is quite comfortable and fits well. The ear loop is also nice and rigid, which keeps the unit firmly in place.

BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset
A rubber pad keeps the unit away from the face

One feature that I thought was clever was the small rubber pad at the base of the headset that effectively kept the device from rubbing up against the side of the face. In some other headset I have tried, that rubbing of the microphone against the face, especially an unshaven one, can contribute to a lot of background noise. It just so happens this "rubber pad" serves a more important function as well -- it contains the charging port for the headset, which plugs into the holding case which in turn plugs into the standard microUSB connecttor (the same one that charges your BlackBerry).

On the subject of noise, the HS-655 has a great microphone that picks up the voice easily and clearly. People I talked with via the headset indicated it picked up some background noise in both the car and outside too however. The unit features DSP or digital sound processing, which reduces background noise although if you’re using it in a public area be prepared for some background noise to be picked up.

Saving the best for last, the BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth headset offers a charging solution unlike any other Bluetooth headset -- it has been designed to charge off of another great BlackBerry OEM accessory, the BlackBerry Power Station. The headset charging pod vertically clips into the BlackBerry Power Station, and from their the headset easily clips into the charging pod. All said and done, you have a convenient place to store your headset when not in use, and a failsafe means of charging it. It's a great combination for any BlackBerry User or Abuser!

BlackBerry Power Station with Headset
The headset charging pod with HS-655 clip easily into the
BlackBerry Power Station

Technical details
 
The BlackBerry HS-655 supports 128-bit encryption to ensure the privacy of your phone calls. Full encryption is available when pairing to a BlackBerry device using v4.2 software. The device also features DSP – Digital Sound Processing which is designed to reduce background noise and improve sound quality.

BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset
Lightweight and easy to carry in one hand
(note the charging port in the end of the case)

The HS-655 is compatible with all Bluetooth enabled Blackberrys -- the 7100 range, 7290, 7250, 7520, 8700s, Pearls, Curves and 8800 series devices. Another key feature is the great roaming range for the unit. The technical specs claim a range of 33 feet. That seems about right and I maintained great connectivity and sound response wandering away from the connected Berry.

BlackBerry claim talk time is up to three hours and more than 80 hours standby time. I keep the headset in the BlackBerry Powerstation so I have yet to see it run down, although I had the unit out of the recharger for five days without running any calls through it and it was still functional.

Bottom Line

Wearing the HS-655
You’d think with the review I am giving I would look happier

Overall, this is probably the best headset I have personally tried to date. While its sound quality may be bettered by some of the latest high-tech headsets on the market I have read about, in terms of everyday usability I have no real complaints with the HS-655. The sound quality is good, the unit is small and very comfortable and it looks good. I liked the styling and the ease of recharge. And the holder is a nice touch, especially if you use it inconjunction with the BlackBerry Powerstation. Much like BlackBerry smartphones, this headset just works!!

BlackBerry HS-655 Review Summary:
BlackBerry HS-665 Bluetooth Headset
Ratings

Pros:

  • Lightweight and small
  • MicroUSB charging port on the pod, and is designed to work with the BlackBerry Power Station
  • Clear incoming voice sound
  • Great looks
  • Easy-to-use and easy to locate the mute and answer buttons
  • Easy set-up
  • Ear loop is snug and comfortable

Cons:

  • Can pick up too much background noise in certain environments
  • Volume controls are easy to locate, but slightly hard to adjust (takes a lot of clicking to adjust levels a lot). Alternatively can adjust volume on device.
  • The ear gels are held securely, but is way to easy to knock off if you are carrying the case in a pocket and rub the unit accidentally
Buy Now:
Purchase the BlackBerry 655 Bluetooth Headset in the CrackBerry.com Store

Reader comments

Accessory Review: BlackBerry HS-655 Bluetooth Headset

16 Comments

I'm actually using this headset right now. Have used most of the big boys - Jawbone, Blueant Z9, everything from Motorola.

This doesn't have the noise cancelling of the Jawbone, and isn't as high-tech as the Z9, but I think Kevin Hill has it right here... very usable and comfortable as a everyday device, not worth full list price but good bang at $70 or less, and I've been ok as far as the ear gel staying in place (use it in the house or car mainly, so it doesn't travel for long in my pocket).

Biggest two thumbs up for me on this one are that a) it says BlackBerry on it (WICKED and OFFICIAL) and b) it's designed to work with the BlackBerry Power Station, which I have. I think if you have a Power Station it's definitely worth getting a headset that fits with it (and I think there's only 3 that do - this one, the Plantronics 655 (non-bb branded version of this) and I think the newer Plantronics Discovery 665 should also fit.

I've had the 665 for a couple of months now and am very pleased. The only thing is lacking is the "vibrate" that the other (655) has. Instead it flashes, something that can easyly be missed unless you're in the movie theaters or in total darkness somewhere. If I would have known this, I would have chosen the 655 over the 665 just for the "vibrate" function.
Thanks for the review. When I'm wearing it on my ear, I forget It's there because of the compfort and lightness.

I have this headset and a BlackBerry Pearl Red 8100. I have tired 12 thats right 12 different bluetooth headsets and they all have 1 of 2 problems I am having with the HS-655.

I can not put the Pearl in my pants pocket and have the headset on my ear and be able to talk to anyone!!!!

1st issue
The headset acts as if not strong signal and gets really gargled and staticy to the point the other person gets upset that they cant here me. If I hold the phone out of my pocket or set it in the cradle the sound is ok.

I have had the pearl and the headset both replaced under what the vendors thought was warranty issues. Yet still the same issue. Any Ideas?

2nd Issue
I have tired the jawbone and alot of different Jabra models and I tried this thinking that the Blackberry name would make it more compatible and solve the 1st issue. However, I get people always telling me that they cant hear me very well and sometimes not at all.
I use it at my desk and I have to talk quite loud for them to hear me. If Im driving in my new SUV, windows up, music off they can barely here me over the road noise (or what I am to assume must be the reason).

I do love the fact that it charges on my Blackberry chargers that I already have.

Any suggestions or similar problems?

as crazy as they may sound, the problem may lie with your carrier. the phone and the headsets are likely not to blame considering you have replaced all of them. carrier is the last common denominator.

carriers do effect volume. in some parts of the usa, people complain that their devices are quiet. other parts of the country the same device has loud volume. unlock your 8100 and test it on the other gsm carrier and see if it makes a difference. other option for the car is to try a bluetooth speakerphone as that should have more volume.

You are not alone. I experienced similar things with my Treo 700w before switching to 8830 for work. BTW I also own a Blackjack for personal that has bluetooth range problems. I mean the blackjjack must be in my front shirt pocket else there is static. Funny thing is my kids have a sony "gadget" phone that has excellent BT range. I really think certain phone models and headset models have weak radios. I notice that the reviewers rarely discuss range.

Yes, I know that the Rating Scales such as these are not very accurate, but still... pretty much everything Crackberry rates is greater than 4.

I would say that as of March 2008, this Headset does not rate this high of a score. There are better headsets out there.

When independent writers conduct reviews for CrackBerry.com, the rating categories are there as a guide for all reviewers to follow to make sure there is consistency between review format even though reviews are written by multiple authors (every review should hit on the key points of interest that surround a product or accessory).

I definitely agree that the ratings should not be looked at completely on their own - need to look at them in terms of the context of both the price of the device and in terms of the written review (different reviewers have different exposure to devices on the market - so not always a full comparison to every accessory is available). I do agree that a lot of reviews at CB come up in the 4s - which I don't necessarily disagree with - most of the accessories on the market today are very good (it's an established market...if the product isn't good it's not around for long).

Maybe what we need to look at is the scale of ratings. If most reviews are in the 4s, then a 4.2 vs. 4.4 vs. 4.6 vs. 4.8 vs. 5.0 is similar to saying 1 2 3 4 5. Or maybe we should look at going away from a numbered rating to more of a descriptive rating for each category, and just an overall grade. Sound Quality = Good, Looks = Great, Functionality = Good, Overall = B+. The goal of the ratings isn't to line up the products from best to worst, but to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each product - and I think the current review rankings do that, even if most fall into a 3.5 - 4.5 range - you can see if it's good sounding product vs ok and relate it to other characteristics of the device (does it look good but sound awful, etc.).

Definitely open to ideas and suggestions though - the goal is always to make the content on this site as helpful to readers as possible. So shoot me your ideas -- on this blog post or send me an email - kevin at crackberry.com

The only time I use the BT, is while I am driving and my 8130 from Sprint is in my pant pocket and works well and other people can hear me fine. I use it on my left ear and the device is in my front right pocket. No problems.

Switching carriers is not likely for me as I love AT&T, however, I will try something somewhat close and have my friend use my BT on her 8130 from Verizon and see if it is any better.
Granted the phones are not the same nor the same OS but I'd be one step closer to believing its the carrier.

Thanks

Syclone1978, did your friend with the 8130 with Verizon ever try your headset? I am curious. I have the HS655 and the 8130 with Verizon and I am having a couple of issues. Static on my end and callers saying that the phone is going in and out. I also can't have the HS655 too far away from my phone or the static gets really bad.

Why did the price of this headset jump $30? I was reading this review and was very excited because tomorrow is my dad's birthday and this is what he wants and it's thirty bucks more expensive than what this review says on CrackBerry

Just bought mine today for $129, works great, easy pairing, very comfortable and good sound quality. Not sure what the difference is between the 655 and the 655+, but its a quality product.

I've now tried to pair the Plantronics discovery 655 bluetooth headset and have had issues pairing to the Verizon Blackberry Storm.

Disconnects frequently. Have to input the 0000 code frequently. And sometimes it just doesn't pair (or find) at all.

Anyone else having the problem?

Thought it might be an issue with a headset that needed charging, so I've tested that and still see the problem.

Commments?

This is very helpful info., I needed to see this because I am thinking of purchasing this. I have been using the Motorola H9, and after awhile I have been having problems with it. This product should be the perfect solution to my problem.