Conclusion

The first thing to point out is that any of these headsets are a good choice for working hands-free with a mobile phone. While you might want to look at secondary features, like battery life or long-term wearing comfort to determine which one is for you, they will all work with a variety of Bluetooth-enabled phones from most of the major manufacturers.

Logitech and Plantronics have lists on their sites of makes and models of mobile with which they’ve tested their headsets. These are listed in the compatibility table at the bottom of this page, but they’re only the models that the companies have tested – others may also work. All the manufacturers say their headsets will work with most mobiles supporting the Bluetooth v1.1 profile.

When it comes to making a connection with a PC or a PDA, the Belkin unit is of no use, as it only works with mobile phones. On the other hand, Orange Micro's Blue2 is specifically engineered for this kind of work and is sold as much on its ability to work as a games headset or for video conferencing or voice-over-IP, as it is for connecting to a mobile.

Using any of these headsets for speech recognition is putting them into an environment for which they are not primarily designed. That doesn't mean you can't obtain satisfactory results, though. Either the Plantronics M3000, or especially the Logitech Mobile Bluetooth Headset, work adequately with this application and will provide you with the freedom to move around your office while dictating text –something that many users of speech recognition software will value highly.

The main problem with using any Bluetooth device in applications where quality of speech is critical is that the technology compresses the sound stream to fit it into its restricted bandwidth. Also, Bluetooth devices hop between frequencies several thousand times a second to ensure that they avoid interference with other Bluetooth gear and with other equipment using the same 2.4GHz frequency band.

This very hopping can degrade the audio signal and when we listened to recordings of speech coming through the Bluetooth link, there was noticeable degradation in comparison with a recording from a hard-wired headset. Although this quality drop may affect the recognition accuracy of speech recognition software, it has little bearing on typical conversations or games banter.

It's the Logitech that walks away with the Editor’s Choice award. Not only does it exhibit the best speech reproduction on test, it’s also stylish, well designed and easy to store and charge.

The Logitech is the best all round solution.


Ultimately though, the question is whether a Bluetooth headset is worth the extra £60 over the cost of a simple, wired microphone and earpiece. In the end, that depends how much you value the ability to move about while you're talking. If ultimate flexibility and mobility is important to you, you'll be sold on the idea of a Bluetooth headset already.


Compatibility Table
{table:compatibility}

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