Bluetooth was designed to get rid of cables and, despite all the talk of personal door openers and fridges that chat up your DVD player, the most common application is the cordless headset. A number of products are now available, all offering good sound quality, a similar range of features and falling into similar price brackets. We take a look at how they perform and pick a winner.
Jabra BT100/Motorola Headset
Verdict: Convenient, light and easy to use
This 29g Jabra-made product is also rebadged and sold by Motorola. Cosmetic details aside, the two headsets are identical. Small and convenient, the distance between microphone and mouth doesn’t affect voice quality, while its weight and balance make it comfortable and secure when you’re moving around. Reversing the flexible ear loop is simple. Pairing is simple, and controls are limited to two volume buttons -- the Motorola version uses a rocker -- with a small range between loudest and quietest settings. The third button answers and concludes calls, and manages the phone's voice dialling feature. To turn it on and off, you flip the tiny boom closed. With its three-day standby and 2.5-hour talk time charged by a UK/US power adapter, this is a useful and convenient device that comes with a lanyard and a stylish carry case with belt loop. The Jabra product costs £129.99 (inc. VAT), while Motorola’s version costs £134.89 (inc. VAT). Jabra Motorola
Verdict: Slightly bulky but very comfortable and adjustable
Plantronics’ 28g M1000 is a traditional design with electronics and speaker at one end and a boom-mounted microphone at the other. Subtle design refinements include a jog-dial volume control and a super-flexible ear loop. The boom swivels while the ear loop makes it comfortable for protracted use. A small hatch allows for battery replacement. Pairing is simple, and sound quality is very clear via the noise-reducing microphone. Apart from a comprehensive and clear manual in eight languages and a small charger, no accessories accompany the M-1000. Talk time is a claimed 2.5 hours with a standby time of 75 hours. The Plantronics M1000 costs £139.83 (inc. VAT). Plantronics
Sony Ericsson HBH-20
Verdict: Useful but looks fiddly
Sony Ericsson's HBH-20 consists of a foam-covered earbud and a separate, lozenge-shaped Bluetooth transceiver connected via a thin cable. The microphone sits in a traditional, in-line housing and the wearable assembly weighs 33g. After pairing, you can either clip the transceiver to clothing or use the lanyard -- the cable's too short for belt-mounting. In use, it's a bit fiddly and uncomfortable after a time, although the earbud helps to reduce unwanted noise and you can easily switch ears. Four buttons control the device, but their sculpted logos are hard to distinguish. It works fine, and bikers will find that the HBH-20 fits snugly inside a helmet. As well as a carry case you get a global set of mains plugs. The Sony Ericsson HBH-20 costs £159.80 (inc. VAT). Sony Ericsson
Sony Ericsson HBH-30
Verdict: A neat-looking package that can become uncomfortable after a time
A tidy, single-component 28g package, the HBH-30 is a mike-on-boom design whose battery hides within the thick ear loop. Three buttons provide device control, but the volume controls sited on the boom are too easy to press accidentally. Pairing is simple, and sound quality is good -- although at first we found the angular plastic speaker housing uncomfortable. However, you’ll need to experiment to get the device in the most comfortable position. The headset comes with a nifty in-car clip for securing the device, along with a rather bulky belt pouch. Talk time is an estimated four hours, with 100 hours' standby. The Sony Ericsson HBH-30 costs £170.38 (inc. VAT). Sony Ericsson
It's hard to pick a winner from these four products since their performance, feature sets and prices are all very similar. In the end, we chose the most comfortable and flexible product. Wearing an earbud for any length of time becomes uncomfortable and we didn't feel that Sony Ericsson's HBH-20 two-part, wired solution is the right one for a Bluetooth product, except for specialist applications. Although Sony Ericsson's HBH-30 doesn't suffer those disadvantages, we found that it became uncomfortable because of the angular speaker housing; the siting of the volume controls is also awkward. Of the two finalists, the almost identical Jabra/Motorola products were comfortable and felt the most secure of all. However, the Plantronics M1000's flexible ear loop makes for long-term comfort, fits a wide range of ear sizes and allows you to don the device quickly and then secure it -- important when the phone's ringing. This leads us to the conclusion that, on balance, the M1000 is best Bluetooth headset on the market today.