I’m going switch back to devices again since I have some updates and new devices to discuss. As folks have seen, I spent some time going over some of the Plantronics line of headsets. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding. Jabra, has a terrific line of headsets as well and today I will be talking about the Jabra 9450 Dect headset.
I have been involved in Microsoft Unified Communications for 5 years. In that time, I had the opportunity to not only see the Microsoft solution evolve from OCS->OCS R2-> Lync, but I have also been able to work with the different device manufacturers as well. The reality is that aside from one or two notable bombs, the reality is that the devices have been SOLID and have provided terrific durability and quality. This is a result of 2 things:
- The Optimized for Communicator/Optimized for Lync program. Device manufacturers who took the time to go through the certification have devices that have survived versioning of the product and have produced durable products.
- The manufacturers who are producing devices for OCS/Lync are not new to this business, they are not “fly by night” providers who spent 5 minutes building a hockey puck speakerphone. They build devices for a living and they build them to last. Jabra is a large player in this space and as such folks know and expect that when they buy from Jabra, they are getting a quality product.
Now that I have set that foundation, let me provide a quick evolution of the Jabra headset line to where we are today. In 2007 I received my “workhorse” headset. It was a Jabra 9350 headset designed for the office/home office worker. It was a DECT based headset with unmatched range, quality, durability and integration with OCS. I say durability because it was the staple on my desk in my home office for almost 5 years and my customers heard me sing its praises over and over again. In 2010, I was provided a real bonus. The 9350 had the ability to add a secondary battery charger and battery so that if you were on a marathon conference call, you could swap the battery, without losing the call, and the batter would charge in the charging stand. This was KILLER as I was on a marathon 10 hour conference call. This will tax the battery life of any headset. In my case at the 8 hour mark, I started to have issues, so I swapped the battery, no big deal.
The range of the 9350 was amazing. I often would be wandering all over my home during conference calls and the controls were amazing, I could quickly mute the device and have the notification in my ear to let me know that I was muted. Just a plain awesome and timeless product.
Introducing the Jabra 9450
So I told my friends Bob Knepp and Kim Haymaker at Jabra that I had been a fan of the 9350, but hadn’t seen anything new from Jabra around DECT and they quickly moved to remedy that. So I received my care package from Jabra and I will be doing some additional reviews, but I jumped on the opportunity to try out the 9450 because I am a HUGE DECT fan. I need the range since I am a teleworker and the clarity that comes from DECT just isn’t matched by Bluetooth. The 9450 is part of the Jabra Pro line of headsets which have very sophisticated base stations/docks. While I was unpacking it, I noticed the accessories that were available and it included a “busy light”. I was totally intrigued by that and Jabra sent me a sample of it. So, just to be clear, here is the package I was looking at:
What you can notice here is a couple of items, first the headset is very comfortable. It is an on the ear as opposed to in the ear. I’m a huge fan of that as well as the comfortable cushions that Jabra has started making standard on their headsets. This is more conducive to longer term wearing. What I mean is I can have this headset sitting on my hear all day and its comfortable. For me, an inside the ear headset is good, but its tough for me to wear all day. That’s why you won’t see me walking around with a Bluetooth headset all day.
Its tough on my ears. Understand that the over the head form factor can be swapped out for an over the ear, but the bottom line is that the cushion is still there which makes it very comfortable.
The controls that are visible on the dock are also well engineered. They are brightly visible during calls with a green indicator showing to indicate when the headset is in use, whether it is connected on the analog OR the PC connection, and there is a bright red indicator for when you are on mute (in addition to the in ear audible indicator). I really like the control on the dock for mute (there is a button there). I am not as big a fan of the on-headset controls. The sliding finger controls for audio and double tap for mute are a nice concept, but I have never been able to consistently make that work well for me. I was a bigger fan of the switch on the 9350 that you pushed up to increase volume, down to decrease volume and pressed in to control mute. With that said, the control on the dock is what I use more than anything. There are also controls to manually switch from the analog to softphone connections. I don’t use analog so mine is always set to softphone.
The headset charging is done via the cradle shown on the left of the above picture. Its magnetic so you can be sure that you are connected and a visual indicator as well. The footprint on the desktop is much sleeker than the 9350 which I like much better.
Setting up the headset is a no brainer. When you unpack and look at the back, you can see it isn’t very complicated.
There is a jack for the analog line, a jack if you wish to use this in conjunction with a headset lifter and a micro-USB connection to connect to a PC for softphone use. The green cable is plugged into a port that is normally covered, that is the port that controls the busy light that I will speak more about shortly. The package comes with a CD with Jabra’s software. I do not have a DVD player in my production work laptop, so I opted to install the Jabra software from Jabra’s website. The software includes their call manager software, the device service (which offers automatic firmware downloads as they become available) and a control center for managing softphone software and the overall device.
I use the headset with both Lync as well as Skype and have been very pleased with the integration available to both. In particular, the one item that has caused me some trouble on a couple of occasions has been mute with Skype, but to be clear, that has NOT been a problem with this device. The 9450 has provided outstanding audio quality on all softphone applications.
It is noteworthy that I tried to use this device with a live meeting webinar that I was conducting and for whatever reason, the 9450 did not agree with the live meeting software at all. I am going to chalk it up to a fluke since I have tried other Jabra headsets with no trouble, so it was likely a local PC issue, I will update when I know more about this.
The BUSY LIGHT!!!!! J
I mentioned the busy light earlier in the post and I wanted to take a moment to talk about that accessory because my belief is that we will be seeing a LOT more vendors provide something similar. That being said, let me show you what I am talking about
Its pretty straightforward, it’s a light. It plugs into a port on the back of the dock and as far as I have seen it has 2 options, white and red. If you are on a call and the headset is engaged, its red to indicate a call is active. Some folks might say, “who cares”. I can tell you, I care. It’s no secret that there is a major increase in telework in the market. Here at Janalent we have a number of consultants who work remotely all of the time. This is done to save our customers money on travel costs since our consultants can work just as effectively remote as they can on site. The most common risk when working remote is that people will walk in on your work area with no regard to what you are doing. This light goes a long way. My family understands that if they walk into my office and see the red light indicator, that I am on the phone and they should come back later.
I can see this working in a standard office environment as well, but it will require some culture change as people will need to become accustomed to looking for the indicator light and making sure the light is placed in a conspicuous location, but I can absolutely see this being successful.
The light comes with a sticky pad that allows you to stick the light on walls and other surfaces and the light itself has a swivel so that if you mount the light to a wall, it won’t stick out dangerously. It’s a nice implementation and I look forward to using it more.
The Jabra 9450 is a more than worthy successor to the workhorse 9350 headset. I can’t say anything about durability just yet, but based on what I have seen, I can’t foresee any issues that would reduce the life of the headset. I am a little down on some of the wonky controls for volume and muting, but it is more than made up for by having the mute button on the dock. That’s good enough for me, I’m not that high maintenance (really) J. I am going to predict that the busy light will be a STAPLE for home workers/teleworkers as the population increases and that organizations that leverage headsets more and more should consider working these types of lights into their culture. Particularly those environments that leverage a lot of cubicles because correctly implemented, a presence indicator on a cubicle doorway could save on interruptions of productivity.
Thank you to Jabra for allowing me to take a look at this device and providing the busy light. I am definitely a fan and look forward to its continual use.