As someone who works in New York City, there are two things I've learned: (1) never publicly admit you're a Mets fan and (2) Manhattan is the noisiest city there is. Between the subways, buses, cars, taxis, and of course, the people, you need earplugs just to walk down the street. So imagine trying to have a phone conversation while walking anywhere in midtown. It's definitely not a pretty sight. At times I'm like the Verizon guy asking "Can you hear me now?" So what is a city girl to do? To solve that problem I'm going to put two headsets head to head in a battle to see which one can survive "the Manhattan Zone." I'm going to venture out to different parts of the city to see which one will come out on top and be declared the heavyweight champion. Who do you think will win? Click on the jump to find out.
In the left corner, weighing .25 oz is the Jabra Stone. And in the right corner, weighing 0.46 oz is the Motorola Endeavor HX1.
Round 1: Packaging & Charging
I don't know about you, but I'm horrible at opening up those sealed plastic packages used to secure electronic devices. Anyone familiar with Larry David and an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm understands the pain of trying to open one and the risk of severe bodily harm. So it came as a relief that neither of the headsets came in those kinds of cases.
The Stone comes in a round package to prominently showcase the new and improved headset design. In order to open, one will need to go through a series of twists and lifts through different layers to access the headset, charging unit and accessories. Freeing the headset and charging stone involves twisting a circular stand and pinching pins through a slot underneath. Overall, I felt I was solving the Hellraiser puzzle box and that Jabra would rather I marvel at its style than actually use it.
Afterwards, gently place the headset into the stone and plug in the AC adapter for two hours or until the indicator light goes out. When complete, the headset can be charged throughout the day by placing it back into the portable Stone charger. An alert will sound when power is running low in order to be plugged back into the wall.
Jabra Stone Package Contains
Jabra Stone headset
Quick start manual
AC charger (Micro USB)
Jabra STONE charger
Motorola Endeavor HX1
The package for the Endeavor is a simple rectangular metal/plastic case that, at first, did not show a clear way of opening. After staring at it for a few minutes I found a button at the top that you unscrew and a slit at the bottom that if you take a letter opener and push slightly the case lid will open. The headset is easily accessible and so are the accessories. All you need to do is cut the rubber band holding it in place. Although by using the letter opener I did risk some bodily harm.
The Endeavor says to charge until the indicator light turns green.
Motorola Package Contains
Micro USB Wall Charger
(4) sizes of ear cushions
Winner: Motorola Endeavor. It charged in under two hours while the Jabra Stone took two hours and 30 minutes. As for Jabra, I understand they want to show off the Stone's new aesthetically pleasing design but there has to be a way to achieve that without making this a lesson on the Rubik's cube. I feel there is a chance to damage the charger and headset when trying to remove. Although at my local AT&T store it is sold in a square box.
Round 2: Technology/Specs
Wells folks, here it is, it's time for the best part of the review: the technical jargon. Yes this is where we compare the technology used to manufacture the headsets and try not to be too technical, confusing, or boring. So I promise I'll be quick and painless and try not to veer you too much off topic. Then we can get to the fun part of actually demonstrating the headsets while seeing which manufacturer employed better advertisers and press writers.
The Stone utilizes dual microphones to reduce background noise and amplify your own voice. While some headsets, like the Jawbone, employ a sensor that rests on your face to transmit sound, the new style of the Stone has the microphones built into the earphone to improve audio, not hinder it. They call this new and improved quality Noise Blackout Extreme.
Motorola promises that one will "always make the call," regardless of what is going on around you including harsh winds and honking horns with dual microphones. The Endeavor employs CrystalTalk technology to reduce background noise for everyday calls and true bone conduction technology (stealth mode) to ensure call clarity in more extreme environmental conditions. Bone conduction allows the headset to pick up on the sound of your voice through the bones in your ear and is activated with a press of a button.
Manufacturers' summary of key features & specifications:
Noise Blackout Extreme -Dual microphones reduce background noise while carrying your voice true and clear
StatusDisplay makes it easy to check battery level and Bluetooth connectivity at a glance
Portable charging unit doubles as carrying case that fits easily in your pocket
Up to 8 hours of talk time and up to 12 days (288 hours) of standby time
Touch volume control, answer/end button, voice dialing (depending on the phone used)
Connect up to 2 devices at a time; streams music from A2DP-enabled mobile phones
Bone conduction to ensure call clarity in noisy environments; CrystalTalkreduces everyday noise and helps mute ambient noise levels; Stealth Mode provides crisp call quality in wind noise of up to 40 mph
Voice prompts for headset status
Technology used by military forces
7 hours of talk time; up to 10 days standby time
Automatic volume adjustment
MultiPoint functionality allows for simultaneous syncing of 2 Bluetooth-enabled devices
Winner: Motorola Endeavor. Both headsets display an impressive array of specs and I'm not picky on talk and standby time. But I'm just drooling over the fact that the Endeavor uses the same technology as special military forces.
Round 3: Sound Quality
Manhattan is not just an island but a region filled by a cacophony of noise. Therefore I need a headset that can deliver on its promise of noise cancellation.
Call # 1 - Penn Station through Midtown
For this call, I decided to walk from Penn Station to where I work in midtown, cutting through Times Square and Rockefeller Center. My test call was to AT&T customer service.
During the automated prompts, clarity was crystal clear on the Stone even when passing by construction on 7th Avenue. However, when I reached an actual representative the volume plummeted and no matter how hard I tried to raise the volume, the other party remained low. But the good news is that through all the construction, street noise, and trucks going by, we were able to have a full conversation without anything having to be repeated.
For the Endeavor I repeated the same call and the volume was higher and stronger than the previous one. However, while the volume level improved the clarity of the call was slightly muffled. Although, this issue was not present on subsequent calls and I did have stealth mode turned off. Overall, sound quality was a vast improvement over the Stone, as if the party were standing next to me.
Call # 2 - Rockefeller's Basement Concourse & Grand Central Station*
*Results have been combined for the purposes of this review
Now we're getting into some extreme noise conditions. There were at least a few hundred people in both of these places.
When using the Stone the other party noted that my voice was extremely clear, however, there were traces of background noise that sounded like wind blowing behind me.
Next up was the Endeavor which completely blocked out all background noise. At first, the other party noted that my voice was breaking up but that no background noise could be heard. So I decided to turn on stealth mode to see if that would make a difference. Once activated, again all background noise was eliminated and my voice, while not breaking up, sounded clear but altered as if it were digitized or automated.
Round 4: Comfort
As a girl with long hair the one annoying aspect of wearing a wireless headset is that it frequently becomes dislodged. For some reason my hair has a life of its own, purposely devouring anything it comes in contact with. One minute I'm wearing a headset the next minute it's somewhere else and I'm weeding through various strands to free it. So to me, finding a headset that will stay in place is important.
While walking from Penn Station through Midtown I noticed how loose the Stone rested on my ear and fell off with any sudden movements. To compensate, I leaned my head slightly to the other side which is not always comfortable even though it's easy to wear.
The Endeavor on the other hand is a different story. Repeating my trip, the headset did not budge at all no matter what speed I walked or even if I tried bending down to pick something up. The inner ear loop definitely helped although I did develop an earache during initial use.
There is one more important thing to mention for those who wear glasses (wire frames at least). I found no difficulty wearing them with either headset.
Winner: Motorola Endeavor. It may come with a little pain but this will go away the more its worn or switching ear cushions. The freedom to walk around without having to worry about it falling off or moving is exactly what I'm looking for.
Round 5: Ease of Use
I won't be long on this topic as most of us are familiar with pairing devices but I must compliment both companies on improving the process. Neither of them prompted for the ‘0000' pin code and were automatically in pairing mode the instant they turned on, either by removing from the charger (Stone) or using the on/off switch (Endeavor). No longer must we struggle with pressing buttons and waiting for solid lights or enter in those pesky pin codes.
The Stone features a new intuitive interface design involving invisible controls. Let's say you want to adjust the volume, you just slide your finger up or down across the middle of the headset. Same thing goes for the answer/end key which is a hidden button at the bottom. I do need to warn you that I kept hitting the answer/end key when putting the headset on or taking it off which is distracting. Finally, status indicators on the inner part display battery and Bluetooth connectivity as green and blue lights respectively. To be honest, while this may be an attractive feature for some, I do not want to keep removing the headset to view its status as it does warn you when battery levels are low.
The Endeavor is your traditional Bluetooth headset with buttons for volume, on/off, and stealth mode. It does, however, come with a very interesting feature: voice prompts. The phone will guide you through the pairing process, alert you when stealth mode is turned on and off, announce the connection and battery status and can bring up the status for the following functions on your phone: Status, Signal Strength, Network, Battery, and My Phone Number. Just press the answer/send button and say "check" to access these features. After awhile they can be quite annoying but the good news is that they can be turned off by pressing either volume button and call button.
Winner: Motorola Endeavor. The invisible controls on the Jabra were too clumsy and not user friendly. In some instances it was unresponsive or I had to slide my finger numerous times to get the volume to work.
Round 6: Music streaming
I'm an avid music lover but have to admit that carrying around multiple devices is cumbersome especially when answering a call. So I would like to have an accessory that can do both to save time.
With the Stone I strained to hear the music and even had to put my finger in my other ear to improve sound quality. Raising the volume on the headset did not make a difference and I even resorted to using the BlackBerry's volume control. This in fact did raise the Stone's volume but only slightly improved quality. The knowledge base article on their website suggests re-pairing the devices which did not solve the problem. Suffice it to say I'm very disappointed.
Unfortunately, the Endeavor does not stream music on the BlackBerry's media player. It is, however, able to stream music using Slacker and Pandora, once you go into the applications' settings and allow for Bluetooth support. The sound quality and volume were amazing and even walking through Times Square during rush hour had no affect on my listening experience.
Winner: Motorola Endeavor. As much as I would love to give it to the Stone, the poor music quality is a complete letdown by Jabra and their answer to the problem is unacceptable. Considering their reputation and that I've used other Jabra headsets with no problem, I'm surprised they would release a product with this flaw and minimal tech support.
Round 7: Dragon for E-Mail Part II
No review would be complete without our favorite dictation application. How could I not include this in the challenge?
Both headsets were able to function with the application perfectly with the same error rate as using the BlackBerry's speaker.
The Stone displayed a higher percentage of errors when using Dragon in noisy areas (Rockefeller & Times Square) than the Endeavor which only had one mistake during testing.
Winner: Motorola Endeavor. Is it me or is there a trend developing here?
Round 8: Price
How much is this going to set me back you might ask? Price differs considerably for both headsets depending on the store you go to. The Stone is sold at the CrackBerry store for $109.95 but I found it at Amazon.com for $56.95, Newegg.com for $79.99, and at Buy.com for $54.95. The Endeavor is sold at the CrackBerry store for $109.95, but again I found it at Amazon.com for $64.95, Newegg.com for $69.99 and at Buy.com for $44.97.
Winner: Your choice. Now that the price has come down with various vendors it all boils down to what you are willing to spend and what features / capabilities you are looking for.
While the Stone may be what Jabra is calling a combination of "stunning aesthetics with unrivaled technology," it does not live up to its hype. I'm baffled Jabra would release a headset with numerous defects including voice dialing not working. Product support states it's an optional feature not supported by all devices and to check your phone manual. I've never experienced problems with this on other headsets, including the Endeavor. So, if you're looking for a basic lightweight headset then the Stone is the one to choose. If, however, you are looking for something with more power and features then choose the Endeavor. It lived up to its expectations even when I sounded like Number 5 in "Short Circuit." As advertised, it "always made the call," and the combination of CrystalTalk and bone conduction technology make for a great noise cancelling headset. For that, I declare it the heavyweight champion of this head to head.
Battery sound alerts you every 30 seconds when 10 minutes of talk time left
Everyday calls are clear
Lightweight and comfortable
Stealth mode obliterates background noise
Adjustable for both ears
Strong volume levels
On / Off switch
Can only wear in right ear
Not waterproof or rain shower proof
Clothing clip - If Stone charging case is lost lose ability to charge
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