Its 2012 and we at Janalent are looking forward to a very happy 2012. We are already off to a great start and looking forward to continuing to help our customers with migrations to Exchange 2010, Office 365 and (most near and dear to my heart) Lync. I have been having more and more conversations with customers about Lync and voice and many cynics (and cisco/avaya supporters) out there will say “it’s just talk, nobody will move to Lync for voice”. Let me be clear, these customers are setting themselves up to be able to transition to Lync for voice. There are a number of reasons why, and this posting isn’t going to go into details on that. However, feel free to contact me at email@example.com and I will be happy to explain why my customers are looking at Lync for voice. In the meantime, as these customers continue to look at Lync for voice, or even for conferencing, I cannot stress enough the importance of having a good quality Lync certified device to use for audio and video.
Lync Certified Devices, does it really matter?
I have been asked on several occasions both in my new role here at Janalent and in my previous role in sales “seriously Sam, a headset is a headset right?” In this case, the answer is absolutely not. It’s not that simple. Unless the device displays this logo:
You cannot be sure that you will get the best experience from the device. What that means is that you will likely not experience the rich sound from wideband audio and RTAudio support. It also means, that you can’t count on the device to have the support for muting and call control that users have come to expect with their devices. Take your standard BT headset. Many folks will try to pair it with their laptop since many laptops come with BT support these days. That’s fine, but what is the point of having a wireless headset if you can’t tap the control button to answer a call, or mute the headset. BT devices (such as the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC 2 found here) that have been optimized for Lync will not only be able to provide call control, but will likely have the capability of ranges beyond what the laptop BT stack can support.
The reality is Microsoft recognized that while it is important to have as large a variety of devices as possible, it is also necessary to exercise a level of control over the experience to ensure that customers have a consistent experience regardless of the type of device that is in use. Devices bearing the logo above have been put through rigorous testing against some strict requirements and ultimately, need to be produced by partners that are in this for the long haul.
So enough about that, I’m actually here to brag about some new devices I had the opportunity to play with J
Ho ho ho, Plantronics drops some gifts this year!
I need to provide a call out to my partners at Plantronics. They have consistently supported my efforts over the years and have been a very close partner, constantly supporting me through devices to provide my customers and my colleagues the best experience with OCS and now Lync. So first, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to John Gillespie and Debbie Bukosky over at Plantronics!!! You all have been outstanding partners and I look forward to my continued partnership with Plantronics in working with my customers on new Lync deployments.
This will be my first public review of some of products like this and I have some really great products to talk about. I can tell you that the overall theme you will see is that Plantronics GETS the mobile information worker. They realize that folks are now VERY mobile and need to have devices that are easy to travel with. You will see what I mean as I go through the devices. Today I will be reviewing the following devices (and please forgive the photography from my WP7):
- Plantronics Savi W440-M
- Plantronics Blackwire C435-M (In Part 2)
- Plantroincs Calisto P240-M (In Part 3)
Plantronics Savi W440-M
The Plantronics Savi line has been available since OCS . I can’t say that I was a fan of the Plantronics Savi line of headsets before. I had a previous bad experience while testing another Savi headset and so when it came to a cordless headset for my office, I had been a faithful user of the Jabra 9350 headset. That said, my friends at Plantronics told me I had to try this new headset and they sent me one. I can now say that they have won me over in the wireless headset department. The W440-M comes with a simple set of gear:
Included in the package were:
- Desktop charging stand
- Headset with interchangeable earbuds (there is an optional behind the neck or over the head band for this headset)
- USB adapter
- USB charger
- Travel case
Note what I listed there. A USB charger and travel case. In the past when I have tried to do the wireless headset thing and travelling, I often ran into a couple of problems:
- The headset didn’t have any range
- Inevitably the battery would die on me and then I was out of luck.
Plantronics addresses both of these issues in a number of ways.
Range, it isn’t just for desktop headsets anymore
Folks who deal with headsets every day know that the range for a Bluetooth headset just doesn’t do it. The range is generally fine for a mobile phone because the phone is in your pocket all the time or somewhere close to your person. With a desktop headset though, your PC will sit in one place and you want to walk around. Bluetooth, with its roughly 10 meter range limit (and who really gets 10 meters), just doesn’t do it when you are not driving your car or using your mobile. Office environments require DECT and a quality DECT headset. This is a quality DECT headset. The range is measured in hundreds of feet. This is big for both office environments as well as home workers. Even travelers can take advantage of this because you can now walk away from your desk in the hotel without having to end your conversation or worry about static.
As I said, the theme here is that Plantronics GETS the mobile information worker. The USB Adapter is responsible for the DECT signal and since it is USB, its fully portable. Additionally, Plantroinics provides a USB charger so that when you aren’t in the office and cannot use the handy desktop charging stand, you can still charge your headset. This is very convenient for folks like me who enjoy the freedom of cordless, but need something that can be easily charged while I am on the road. Finally, the handy portable case provides the perfect accessory to make this device the portable device we need it to be. When I’m packing to head to the airport, I unplug the USB adapter, grab the headset out of the desktop charging stand, I put them both in the travel case (which already has the travel charger) and throw it in my bag. It takes up little space and so it’s a perfect companion.
But what about battery life
So I mentioned before that in addition to range issues, my concern with a wireless headset is that I wouldn’t know that the battery was going to die on me until after I lost the call. That only needed to happen to me one time and I stopped using wireless headsets with my PC when I was mobile. When I was home, my desktop wireless headset had an indicator to show me what the battery situation was. The issue with portable wireless headsets is that if you are wearing it, you can’t tell what the battery situation is. Plantronics has addressed this 2 ways. The first way (and common way) is to allow for a spare battery that can be hot-swapped out. Jabra has provided this in the past with their 9350. Plantronics offers this with the Save W440-M and it is a terrific option. However, without a battery life indicator, you don’t know when to swap batteries out. Plantronics provides this through additional software that is added to your PC. The Plantronics Battery Status application gets installed on your PC and provides a display of the current battery status of your headset:
If that was not enough, there is an optional second battery (I personally do not have it at this time). The way I have seen this work in the past, you can charge the second battery while using the headset and when you get to a low-battery situation, you can swap batteries without losing the call. I haven’t tried that with this device yet since I do not yet have a second battery. I have no reason to believe that the experience would be any less than perfect.
Audio quality and Interoperability
Finally, there really isn’t any point in using a headset of the audio quality isn’t there or it only works with one application. I’ve already addressed audio quality earlier in this posting. By definition, this headset will have outstanding audio quality. Not just because it’s a Plantronics, I have never really had a BAD Plantronics headset. Not just because of the noise cancelling microphone. Just because it has been certified as optimized for Lync. That by itself means the product has been tested to death and then tested again to ensure that audio quality is there to be able to display the logo. Its important to note though that this quality is not just limited to Lync only. The support for wideband goes beyond Lync. I am now a heavy skype user and I don’t want to have to switch headsets depending on which softphone application I am using. This headset works for either Lync or Skype flawlessly. The ‘M’ in W440-M indicates that it has been optimized for Lync and as such, you won’t have to worry about finding drivers for the device to work with Lync. It will be plug and play. That said, if you ARE going to be using this device with other softphones (like Skype), then I would suggest downloading the Plantronics software and installing the softphone support you require. As I said, I use for Skype and I have been EXTREMELY happy with this device.
The Savi W440-M is a fairly pricey headset, but most quality cordless headsets are. The MRSP is $279.95, which is a far cry from the $399.95 that the W740-M (older brother of the W440-M) costs. However, a quick search online showed that you can reasonably expect to purchase this headset for under $200 (I found it at B&H Photo for a little more than $160 or at Buy.com for the same). So, you can find this headset at a reasonable price.
I give the W440-M, 2 MAJOR thumbs up. The reality is that since I was provided this headset some 2 months ago, I have carried it in my laptop bag no matter where I have gone. It is convenient, it is reliable and that audio quality is outstanding. Funny thing was I had presumed that I would never carry another corded headset in my bag until the C435-M which I will be reviewing in part 2 of this posting. I’ve used my W440-M religiously for several months now and it has traveled to Mt Rushmore, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Vegas and the travel case keeps it very well protected. This is a winner in anyone’s book. Let me know what you think, either here or on my feed @MFDSam