TreoCentral's James Hromadka reviews the Jabra BT350 bluetooth headset.
Read on for the full review.
As the Bluetooth headset market matures, manufacturers have to come up with innovative features in order to differentiate themselves from the competition, and even from their own products. I have reviewed several Jabra headsets: the BT130 [Review | Buy] which has been replaced by the BT150 [Review | Buy], and the crème de la crème of Jabra headsets, the JX10 [Review | Buy]. The Jabra BT350 looks similar to the BT150 headset but has vibrating alert. Yes, vibrating alert. Is it a gimmick or will it become as commonplace in headsets as volume controls?
If you've read my review of the Jabra BT150, you will find that the BT350 has many similar features. The packaging is a bear, requiring me to attack it with scissors to get the headset and manual out. The BT350 has the same connector as the BT150 and JX10, and like the JX10 includes a USB charging cable for laptop users (though there is no desktop cradle). For desktop users, the slim power adapter is designed to work well in a power strip and doesn't overtake other plugs.
While the BT150 headset is solid black, the BT350 has a silver shell with a shimmering cobalt blue face. The ear hook is made of comfortable black rubber and is removable should you want to switch ears. The silver action button also contains the LED that is blue during operation, flashes red when the battery is low, and turns green when the headset is fully charged. Volume controls are on the bottom of the headset when wearing on the right ear.
Pairing is easy. Just make sure the BT350 is off, then hold in the action button until the LED is solid blue. Passcode is 0000.
The Jabra BT350 like the BT150 suffers from blinkinitis, with a blue LED flashing every three seconds while in standby mode. It's worse while on a call when the headset blinks every second. Why a headset would need to blink every second is beyond me. Maybe Jabra thought it matches the cobalt blue better.
When wearing the Jabra BT350, the headset feels loose; it stays on but doesn't pass the shake-your-head-violently test and bends away from the face when leaning over. The ear hook is comfortable and can be switched to use with either ear.
Thankfully Jabra improved the power on/off times. Pressing the action button for a second turns the unit on, while you hold it in for five seconds to power the device off.
So far the BT350 is pretty much the same as the BT150. But what about the vibrating alert? It is enabled by default on the headset but can be disabled if desired. When a call comes in, the headset makes a low "do-dee-do-do" tone and vibrates. And I do mean vibrates. It is almost overpowering and feels stronger than the Treo's own silent alert. You can even get the headset to walk across a table when it vibrates.
To see how a layman would react to the vibrating alert, I had a coworker try on the headset, then I called her without telling her about the feature. She freaked out when the headset rang and said it "was like getting a wet willie without the wetness." Reading the manual, there doesn't seem to be a way to modify the intensity of the vibrating alert.
That was the most extreme reaction to the vibrating alert. I had a few other unsuspecting friends try it, and they commented that it was so strong that they still felt the tingliness from the alert even after it stopped.
So the only effective way to use the vibrating alert is to not wear the headset. Keep it on your desk or on the center console of your car, and when it starts dancing around you’ll know you have a call coming in.
So what happens once you shake off that tingly feeling and answer the call? The Jabra BT350 is one of the few headsets I've tested with the Treo 650 that actually sounded good on both sides of the call. Unlike the BT150, it even sounded good when I had the Treo in my front pocket.
Like other modern headsets, the Jabra BT350 quickly auto-connects when making and receiving calls. It also does a good job of blocking out sound. When I walked outside the office near a busy street, the other side of the call could still hear me clearly and didn't hear much background noise at all.
The Jabra BT350 does not exactly offer a ringing endorsement for vibrating alert headsets. I still feel that vibrating alert is too much of a gimmick to be practical, but at least you can disable it if you like. The headset has stellar audio quality and would make an excellent choice to use at the office. Sit at your desk with the headset on the table, then when it starts walking across the table you pick it up and answer the call.
If you're buying this headset for the vibrating alert, you will be sorely disappointed - literally if you have delicate ears. As a vibrating headset I would give the Jabra BT350 a 2.5 - 3 rating, but its accessories, lightness, and great audio quality bumps it up overall to a Four.
(First posted at TreoCentral on Apr 19, 2006)