Continuing my practice of evaluating the best in Unified Communications hardware, I have been provided a terrific opportunity to take a look at one of the newest headsets from Plantronics (thank you Debbie Bukosky). Plantronics is in the process of launching several new UC Devices including the Voyager Legend (to be reviewed soon) and others.
The Blackwire series of headsets has continued to evolve into more comfort and easier control than past headsets. While the trend has continued to move towards wireless technology, the reality is that despite everyone’s best efforts, there is still a big market for corded headsets and so it is important for corded headsets to evolve for a large user base. What the 700 Series of headsets provides is the reliability of a corded headset, with the flexibility of a cordless headset AND the ability to pair multiple devices and offer different form factors based on the user preferences.
Smart Sensor Technology
Smart Sensor technology is exclusive to Plantronics. I’ve started playing with it and so my thoughts on it are still coming together, but thus far I have been impressed. The smart sensor technology in the headset automatically will answers softphone calls when the headset is put on. It is really convenient when you are rushing into your office to answer the phone and can’t put the headset on and click to answer the phone. The headset detects that it was put on and answer’s the call for you. If you are on your mobile phone and you have paired it with the headset, when you pick up the headset it will transfer the call to the headset from the mobile device. If you are listening to music, when you put down the headset it pauses the music. Pretty great stuff there.
What is included in the 700 Series
The Blackwire 700 series of headsets is the premium headset from Plantronics that allows for the ability to participate and manage calls on both your PC Softphone as well as mobile devices. Bluetooth connectivity makes it possible to provide call control for your mobile device. A2DP support makes it possible for the headset to serve as the audio endpoint for music streamed from your mobile device or tablet as well. There are technically 4 models of the headset: the 710, 720, 710-M and 720-M. The M series are optimized for Microsoft Lync and OCS. The 710 headsets are monaural and the 720 headsets are stereo. I was provided the 710-M for this evaluation
The 710-M shipped easily enough with the headset. The key is that it shipped with a hard case for storing the headset.
The case provides ample room for the headset and the charging cord and zips up into a nice clamshell. It might not seem like much, but the case is a pretty nice detail. If you are desk bound and will have this connected to a traditional desktop, then it might not seem like a big deal, but how many times have you thrown your headset into a drawer and then tried to pull it out later only to have it tangled in a bunch of other cords. Additionally, I have recently gotten feedback from colleagues that the headsets that they have today have nice carrying bags, but since the bags are soft, the headset gets smashed around their bag and ultimately breaks. That nice hard clamshell case will prevent that for road warriors who want to take this on the road and want comfort in knowing they won’t pull out 2 pieces of a broken headset when they stop.
The call controls are pretty straight forward.
A button (left) is for controls for the PC softphone. On the right is the button for controls on the mobile device. The middle device is the volume control and the mute button is on the bottom. If you have the mute button activated, you get notification and frequent reminders via audio in the earpiece.
Headset comfort is provided via the earpieces that are very well padded
The padding has made it easy for me to wear this headset for hours at a time (which I have done every day since I unboxed it ). The audio range coming out of the headset is terrific. I have used it to listen to music from my Nokia Lumia 920 while I’m sitting and working on documents between calls.
Microphone is a standard swivel boom microphone which has provided good audio quality. I have continued to check with both softphone as well as mobile calls to ensure quality.
Speaking with people I am on the phone with, the feedback has been that audio quality is very good whether bluetooth to my mobile device or via the softphone.
Pairing your mobile device
When the 710 comes out of the box and you plug it in, the headset immediate goes into pairing mode on the bluetooth side. If you aren’t ready to pair your device until later, the process is easy enough, put the headset on (so you can hear the audio prompts) but simply press on the mobile device button and hold it. Eventually it will flash red and blue and you will get an audio prompt that it is in pairing mode. With my WP8 lumia, pairing it was a snap.
WAIT, It’s Cordless TOO????!?!?!
When I plugged it into my PC for the first time, I noticed that the indicated for battery life came up in my system tray
I didn’t understand what that was about. What does a corded headset need a charge for? Well, this is the real surprise that the Blackwire 700 series provides. How about those calls when you need to get up to get a drink of water or answer the door, or get an answer from your colleague in a cube down the way? Well, the 700 series has an answer to that.
At the top of the call controls, you can DISCONNECT the USB cable. Got that, you can disconnect it and walk away. Do your thing and walk back. You can reconnect when you are ready and the battery will charge while connected. That goes for phone calls, music, whatever. VERY NICE addition.
It should also be noted that I have used this headset with my Surface RT tablet. no difference in usage except that I do not have the plantronics software on my tablet to provide me with the indication as to the current battery life.
The Blackwire 700 series headsets are a comfortable and extremely versatile solution for users that are deskbound as well as road warriors. It might not be your everyday bluetooth mobile solution, but the reality is that by providing the cord to allow for direct USB power, but being able to go cordless as well is extremely useful and helpful to users. The comfort is exceptional, so I absolutely recommend this headset to users out there. I have been a fan of the Jabra premium corded headsets because of the BT support. THIS headset trumps it with the ability to go cordless and now has a place in my bag moving forward.