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Computerized Investing > December 2010

Jabra EXTREME Bluetooth Headset

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by Wayne A. Thorp, CFA

Editor’s Note: Some of you may note that this is the fourth Jabra device I have reviewed in the column. I am constantly requesting devices to review and some companies are more accommodating than others in fulfilling these requests. I make every attempt to diversify my coverage.

The Jabra EXTREME Bluetooth headset uses Jabra’s Noise Blackout Extreme noise cancellation technology to help you be heard in the noisiest of environments.

The Look

Over the last few months I have been using the Jabra EXTREME Bluetooth headset, which was given to me by the company. Some reviewers have said that the Jabra EXTREME is tired-looking. Personally, I don’t view a Bluetooth headset as a fashion accessory, so I prefer something that doesn’t stand out. Measuring 1.9 inches long, 1.1 inches wide and 0.7 inches thick, and weighing in at roughly a third of an ounce, the Jabra EXTREME packs a lot into a relatively small package. The headset has a bit of an industrial feel, with the mesh grating on the front hiding the dual microphone. On the bottom of the headset you will find something not commonly found on other headsets—a dedicated on/off switch. This is a major plus in my book, as too many times I have ended up with a dead headset because I didn’t press the correct combination of buttons or didn’t hold down a power button long enough to power it off. On the opposite side of the headset is the multi-function talk button with up/down volume buttons on either side. I found the volume buttons a little on the small side, but after using the headset for a while I was able to navigate them relatively well.

The Feel

I am not a big fan of Bluetooth headsets because I find most of them uncomfortable to wear, especially since I have glasses, which usually complicates matters. Jabra makes a concerted effort to cater to all users, providing three different sized ear gels and an optional ear hook. I opted for the round ear gel cover with the ear hook (the hook can be rotated to be worn on either the left or right ear). Even then, the EXTREME felt like it was going to fall out of my ear at any time. With the optional ear hook, this never happened, but I was constantly pushing the ear bud back into my ear. The fit was better when I took my glasses off, but this isn’t an option when driving.

Performance

Despite my “fit” issues, the Jabra EXTREME performed marvelously during my call testing—in my office, on the streets of Chicago, at a busy terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare airport and while driving. I paired the headset with my Pantech Edge without any problems. If I had wanted to, I could have paired it with another device as well with Jabra’s multi-point functionality. This allows you to pair the headset with up to eight different devices, and with two different devices at the same time.

The people I called, by and large, had no troubles hearing me, no matter where I was. Jabra’s Noise Blackout Extreme noise cancellation technology uses two microphones to improve call quality and to reduce background noise. Jabra claims that its latest technology reduces more than twice as much background noise as previous Blackout technology.

On my end, the EXTREME’s automatic volume adjustment, which increases and decreases the volume of incoming calls in response to ambient noise, allowed me to hear calls clearly, while still sounding natural. The EXTREME also has acoustic shock protection technology that protects your eardrums from extreme spikes in volume.

The EXTREME supports Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (enhanced data rate) along with a number of call features: call answering, ending and rejecting; voice dialing (on supported phones); last number redial; call mute; call waiting; call hold; and call transferring from headset to phone and vice versa.

The Jabra EXTREME also sports A2DP functionality, which means you can stream audio to the headset. While this doesn’t offer the highest-quality listening experience, it is a nice touch, especially for listening to things such as audio books or podcasts. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pair the device with my iPod touch or iPad to make use of this functionality.

Battery Life

The Jabra EXTREME is rated with a battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 10.5 days standby time. I was not able to confirm this rating, as I typically charge my headsets whenever I am done using them. For charging purposes, Jabra covers all the bases. The headset comes with a USB charger that you can plug into a computer to charge. In addition, you receive a wall adapter and a car adapter that plus into the cigarette lighter.

Bottom Line

The Jabra EXTREME is one of the best Bluetooth headsets I have ever used. While I wouldn’t rate it very high on the comfort scale, I have yet to run across a headset that I would rate highly in that regard. When it comes to call quality, the EXTREME clearly distinguishes itself. Offering a good combination of size, performance and price, I highly recommend the Jabra EXTREME to those looking for a Bluetooth headset.

Jabra EXTREME Bluetooth Headset

Jabra

www.jabra.com

$79 from Jabra Store; $58 at Amazon.com

Pros:

• Dedicated on/off switch

• Excellent sound quality on both ends of call

• Multi-point technology allows for syncing with two devices at once

• Comes with USB charger with car and wall adapters

Cons:

• Small volume buttons

• Not comfortable to wear for long periods, especially with glasses

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA, is the author of "Gadget Corner." All reviews are based on firsthand experience of the product or service. No third-party compensation is received for opinions on products, services, websites or topics. However, sometimes the author is not required by the manufacturer or their PR firm to return the product under review. In such instances, it is our policy to convey this within the review. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are strictly those of the author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.

Wayne A. Thorp, CFA is a vice president and senior financial analyst at AAII and editor of Computerized Investing. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneTAAII.


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