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Looking and Sounding Good: Three Generations of Folding/Sliding Motorola Bluetooth Headsets Reviewed and Compared
As a newcomer to the world of Bluetooth technology, I was both intrigued by and apprehensive at the prospect of trying out three generations of Motorola Bluetooth headsets. I needn’t have worried. Motorola has successfully maintained a great tradition of mixing aesthetics and ergonomics and its evolving line of folding/sliding headsets proved to be functional, stylish, comfortable and a snap to use.
Motorola has gone through a number of styles and incarnations of the Bluetooth headset. The CrackBerry.com store carries most of them and each offers the user something different. Whether it be in-ear, over-the-ear, behind the ear, sliding/folding, cost effective or stylish with a bit more of a price tag, Motorola have effectively blanketed the market. I decided to review Motorola’s currently-available three generations of sliding/folding headsets. The solid HS-850 ($39.99) is the originator (a.k.a. oldest) of the bunch, while the small and stylish H700 ($69.95) is still Motorola’s best selling headset, which updates provides an update to the design and technology found in the HS-850. With the innovative and new H800 Slider Bluetooth headset ($79.95) with RapidConnect, Motorola has taken a slight change in direction from the H700 and HS-850’s popular design, but has delivered a unit capable of competing with the latest generation of high-tech Bluetooth headsets on the market. I found each offered something unique for most users and proved that going wireless can be both fun and practical.
Opening the Boxes
The HS-850 was already pre-owned (Used & Abused!) by another member of the CrackBerry team, so it wasn’t so much about opening a box as it was peeling off ear wax and clumps of hair.
The H700 proved to be a much more intriguing affair. Just for the hell of it, I received the D and G Special Edition H700. The Special Edition is exactly the same at the regular H700, the Dolce and Gabanna version is just a little fancier in terms of looks and comes with a higher price tag.
It also arrived in a slinky, gold box with the Dolce and Gabanna logo embossed on the top. D&G certainly know how to create a special air with their brand. It took me some time to get the box open. Being a fully fledged male, I pushed and tore and swore at the box until stumbling upon the simple act of pushing the bottom section of the box one way, which slowly slides the top section out the other way. Emerging was the little gold headset device nestled in the top drawer like some miniature Faberge egg. I described the unboxing process to my wife as “really cool.” She said it was like watching a chimp.
The H800 comes in a much more utilitarian box. Simple green and with plenty of clear bubble plastic to show off the device. Motorola are being smart here. The H800 is a sexy looking headset and so why not show that off instead of hiding it in some fancy packaging. The H800 comes with a few bells and whistles such as a charger, a set of different international plug adapters and an adapter for car chargers. Motorola also include three slightly different ear hooks, which allow the user select the most comfortable fit. They are cheap to make, but what a difference it can make in the comfort of using the headsets.
Motorola is one of the leading pioneers in the development of Bluetooth enabled devices. And the company has extensive experience integrating the technology in both their cell phones and mobile accessories. The most popular Bluetooth mobile accessory is the Bluetooth wireless headset and Motorola has been at the forefront of headset design and have been able to mix both function and convenience with some pretty attractive looking designs. The Chicago-based company was the first to bring portable telephones to the world in 1964 and released the first commercial portable cell phone in 1983. So it has a long history of innovation in this field.
Getting to review three devices at once gives me an interesting look at the evolution of Motorola’s sets, specifically with their folding/sliding models. The folding Bluetooth headset design has always made sense to me – it’s so intuitive and easy to turn the device on and off/connect it to your BlackBerry once paired, especially when compared to headsets that have a firm button and require a 3 second hold to turn on. Between the three headsets there are no great leaps forward here, just well-planned evolution, although the introduction of the rapid connect slider on the H800 is a nifty feature.
Technological evolution usually means smaller and this is true of the first Motorola headsets. The H700 is about two thirds the size of the HS-850, although I am not sure it is appreciably lighter. The newest model is, interestingly, the largest of the three.
The HS-850 itself is only a minor evolution from the older HS8910 and its 2004 predecessor the HS-810. Motorola obviously decided to not reinvent the wheel at that point. The HS-850 was introduced in 2005, although its design isn’t dated and doesn’t look like a dinosaur. The shape is a pleasant egg shape with easy to access buttons. The foldable boom microphone serves as the on/off switch and folds away when not in use. The earpiece itself is also quite large, especially when compared with some of the newer over-the-ear headsets which somehow manage to have an unobtrusive and subtle ear hook.
The rounded edges are stylish and the large colorful LED indicator which surrounds the on/off button is both functional and funky. It is blue when you are using the phone and turns red when the battery is low. The two tone charcoal gray color is a nice touch and departure from the usual monotone black. In fact, you could feel quite stylish walking about with this on your ear.
The D&G H700 is one way to make a bold statement while utilizing the convenience of a headset. Exactly the same as the regular H700 in terms of size and function, the Special Edition that I tried comes in bright, glossy gold with the DG logo emblazoned on the face. It is edged in a matte silver. Originally retailed only in Dolce and Gabbana stores, Motorola worked a deal to sell the devices worldwide. Given that most of Dolce and Gabbana’s products are too expensive for us prols, this is one way for us to get a ritzy brand-named accessory without breaking the bank. Can a Louis Vuitton BlackBerry case be far behind? You can get all the cool features of the H700 without buying the Special Edition and the regular livery of this version is still pretty cool too.
The H700 retains the centre LED that indicates the headset’s status and the overall oval look. The DG Limited Edition is certainly a talking piece (no pun intended) and great if you want to make a statement.
In terms of looks, Motorola did make a break with the past with its new H800. The H800 is larger in size and has a significantly different profile. The slider replaces the foldable boom and the result is a much sleeker, albeit longer, shape. More European in looks, the H800 has a slightly more sophisticated, squarer shape and a thinner side profile. The device comes in a variety of colors and features micro lasered textures. Mine featured an attractive cross hatching.
Personally, I preferred the looks of the H800, although looks aren’t everything.
Setting up the Headset
Pairing the headset with the BlackBerry is easy. For some reason I was expecting a long setup process but with the H800 it is as simple as charging the headset up, set it to pairing mode, which is basically turning the call button on, and then turning on the BlackBerry. Track to the Set Up Bluetooth icon, hit the button and allow the BlackBerry to search for headset devices. Once found, you’ll be asked to enter a key code, which is the standard 0000, click accept and you are ready to go.
The same process applied to the other devices, and worked without a snag. I guess Motorola figured out the ins and outs of device pairing years back and hasn’t shown any regression whatsoever.
Using the Headsets
Motorola HS-850 Bluetooth Headset
The older of the three headsets feels solid and is easy to get used to. Getting the headset on and off is a snap. The plastic ear hook is well finished, with no hard unfinished plastic edges that can cut your ear. They feel soft and flexible, which is both a blessing and a curse. With the soft hook, the HS-850 is very light and can bounce about a fair bit even in light motion. Walking or driving on bumpy roads has the headset moving about a lot and I found I was often adjusting the hook in order to keep the loop snug against my ear.
The receive/answer/end call button is big and very easy to find. I liked that a lot. The volume buttons, on the other hand, were pretty hard to find. They worked well once I found them but they are very small and almost flush with the rest of headset; great aesthetically but difficult to locate.
Not having spent a lot of time using Bluetooth headsets, I was surprised at just how quickly I became accustomed to wearing the unit on my ear. I barely noticed it after the first few minutes.
Calls were pretty clear, although I had to really crank the volume outside. There is a slight delay when getting the signal although I believe this is standard for headsets. That takes a little getting used to. You feel like you’re talking to Anderson Cooper live in Baghdad over the satellite feed on CNN. You almost want to slowly nod your head before saying something.
People on the other end of the line did mention they could hear the unit moving around. I also did a test by walking around downtown while on a call and the gusty wind effectively rendered the unit inoperable.
The HS-850 features adaptive frequency technology that is designed to minimize connectivity disruptions and I didn’t have any issues with this. I could also move a good 20 feet away from my BlackBerry without any loss of signal.
It is compatible with both Bluetooth 1.2 and 1.1 enabled devices. Motorola claim up to eight hours of talk time and 200 hours of standby. I didn’t manage to talk for eight hours on this unit so I cannot comment on that although I did have to recharge the battery after a week which is just over a hundred or so hours by my reckoning.
In terms of comfort, I definitely liked the H700 the best. The H700 basically took many of the good features of the HS-850 and shrank them, while a adding a few new internal features.
Introduced in 2006, the H700 is thirty percent smaller than the HS-850, it is an amazing 0.49 ounces in weight, which makes it easy to stick in a pocket. While it was lightweight, it still felt snug on my ear and didn’t move around nearly as much as the HS-850. I never felt the earpiece was going to fly off my ear either. On the ear, it is barely noticeable and the smaller design means it hangs near the ear canal not in it. It is very comfortable.
Like its predecessor the receive/answer/end button is easy to find and press. The H700 has more pronounced volume buttons, which may be a little less pleasing in the looks department but is a lot more practical.
The H700 supports voice dialing, three-way calling, last-number redialing, call waiting, and putting a call on hold or on mute.
The big development that came with the H700 was Motorola’s echo and background noise cancellation technology. The flip out boom microphone, which acts as the on/off switch, is powerful and does well at cutting out background noise. To answer calls you can just flip open the boom and away you go.
Receiving calls was great. Call reception was crystal clear and the volume level was good. The shorter boom mic, however, meant that people had a harder time hearing me. The opening to the microphone is exceedingly small and with a snug fit it can lay flat on the side of the face. It took me a little adjusting to figure out the optimum placement of the headset to keep the boom from laying flat on my cheek. Once that was sorted out, people reported that the sound quality was fine. My one sojourn outside with the headset got a much better reaction than the HS850.
Motorola apparently got as small as they could with the H700 and decided to re-jig their headsets and take them in a new direction. Brave move considering how popular the award winning flip out boom mic had proven. Kudos to them for taking the step.
While the H800 is heavier than the H700 -- 0.6 of an ounce – you barely notice. In terms of styling it seems to pull it’s design cues more from the H550 than the HS-850 or H700.
The sleek and stylish unit sits comfortably and the reversible ear hooks mean you can easily wear it on both ears. Motorola have improved the ear hooks on this model. It might seem like a small thing, but the more rigid hook gives the whole unit much more stability and helps keep the headset snug and firmly in place. Another improvement is the actual earpiece, which is designed to sit just in the ear canal, which goes someway to blocking exterior noise.
The buttons are a lot different on this model. One of the great things about the HS-850 and H700 was the ease of use for the central call button. It was large and easy to find. The slider button on the H800, while cool in the way it functions and looks, is a little harder find and use. In trying to keep the unit lightweight, the materials used seem a bit flimsier than its folding-style predecessors and the slider button does feel a little cheap.
But the proof of the pudding is in the tasting and I have to admit that the sound quality on this model was outstanding. I could hear clearly and people reported that my voice was crystal clear. I didn’t mention to people I was using a Bluetooth headset and they never asked me those “are you in the toilet or something?” questions.
I used the headset outside with little loss of quality, admittedly, without the wind conditions I tested the HS-850 in. I easily got 30 feet away from my BlackBerry without losing the signal.
One key advance with the H800 is the one touch voice dialing feature working in conjunction with your ‘Berry. The H800 is the first Bluetooth headset with RapidConnect technology, which means you can utilize one-touch connections when the slider opens. The idea is that you can use the voice dialing feature of the Curve as soon as the H800 is turned on. It’s a nice feature, especially for those who use the voice dialing feature on their BlackBerry religiously (I am not one of those people – my BlackBerry seems to have a great distaste for my British accent!).
The H800 has a lock on the slider which prevents you from accidentally opening the slider and draining the battery. Battery life was great and I have had to recharge once in just over a two week period.
Recharging was easy and the port for recharging is in a slightly different location than the previous models i.e. on the back under the earpiece. There is a little plastic cover that covers the port that frankly is about to fall off after a couple of uses. I am not sure how Motorola would fix this although losing that flap would not wreck the headset at all.
The Bottom Line
Motorola have a long history of headset development and the H800 marks the latest generation of sliding/folding over-the-year headsets available from Motorola. The company has successfully maintained a great tradition of mixing aesthetics and ergonomics. The transition from the HS-850 to H700 showed a willingness to get smaller while integrating new technology such as echo reduction. But having taken the size down to the smallest that was practical, Motorola revamped the look, styling and actual operation of the headset and made serious attempts to improve both sound and quality. The resulting H800 is probably the first in a new branch of the evolutionary tree of Motorola’s Bluetooth headset design.
I am all about the metaphor so here goes. The HS-850 isn't the BMW 300i of headsets. It is more like a two-year old VW Jetta. It is solid reliable and well put together. If you are looking for a cost effective unit that will give you convenience and good looks then this may be the headset for you. It isn't great outside, but for general indoor/office use it works well.
The H700 is more of your Mazda Miata. It’s small, sporty, flashy and fun. For my money it's the most comfortable, and the small size and light weight make it ideal for wearing when moving around. It is unobtrusive and easy to carry too. Like a Miata, it isn't going to compete with a Ferrari, but that isn't the point. Style and size are its strong points. It works both indoors and out and is a quality head piece. The D&G Edition is a nice upgrade if you want to add some bling, but the standard unit has the bones without the gold.
Finally, if some of the new scarlet Jawbone units are the Ferraris of headsets, the H800 is the BMW300i. Sleek and very European, it delivers outstanding performance safely and stylishly. The H800 has the better sound quality, which is what you really want in a headset. Good outside and crisp and clear, the H800 is a welcome step forward in the design of headsets.
Each of the three has its strong points and everyone should find something in each of these headsets, whether you are looking for simple utility, style or performance or all three.
Specifications:MRSP: $99.95 Crackberry.com: $39.95
Dimensions: 50mm x 30mm x 20mm when folded (80mm when open)
Weight: 20 grams, 0.71 ounces
Battery: Increased, talk time of up to 8 hours and standby time of up to 200 hours
Bluetooth Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.1 and 1.2 standard
Range: 20 – 30 feet
Colors: Black, Silver
Noise/Echo Canceling: No
Specifications:MRSP: $99.95 Crackberry.com: $69.95
B Stock: $39.95
Dimensions: 43mm (64mm when the microphone boom is open) x 27mm x 17 millimeters
Weight: 14 grams, 0.49 ounces
Battery: 130 mAh Li-Ion Battery.
Talk Time: 6 hours. Standby Time: 130 hours
Bluetooth Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.1, and 1.2
Range: 30 feet
Colors: Blue, Black, Cosmic Blue, Silver, Plum, Fire Red and D&G Special Edition Gold.
Noise/Echo Canceling: Yes
Dimensions: 60 mm x 27 mm x 22 mm (when closed) 70 mm when open.
Weight: 17 grams
Talk Time: up to approximately 6 hours. Standby Time: 200 hours
Bluetooth Compatibility: Bluetooth 1.2- or 1.1-enabled mobile phones, PDAs, PCs, and more that support headset and hands-free profiles
Range: 33 feet
Colors: Black, Silver Quartz, Blue, Red, Silver Moss
Noise/Echo Canceling: Yes
Purchase the Motorola Bluetooth Headsets in the CrackBerry.com Store