Aliph’s Jawbone – The Best Bluetooth Headset Ever?Sat, Nov 17, 2007 - 12:00 AM
Performance & Real-World Testing
Initial charging wasn’t difficult at all. The charging cable plugs directly into the back of the Jawbone for a snug fit. Aliph equips the Jawbone with a USB cable that can be plugged directly into your PC to charge, or you plug it into the AC wall adapter provided. The only thing missing here is a way to charge the Jawbone while driving, but this is a minor nitpick. When you use the wall charger, charging a totally depleted Jawbone takes under 2 hours. It is significantly longer when using the USB from a computer – about 5+ hours from our tests.
Pairing the Jawbone to our array of test mobile devices (Treo 650, Treo 750, Motorola RAZR V3, T-Mobile Wing) proved to be satisfyingly simple. Our main (and most finicky) workhorse, the Treo 650 recognized the Jawbone with no problem and paired quickly with no fuss at all.
Range of use for the Jawbone from our test mobile devices was pretty good. On average, we were able to walk about 20-25 feet away from the handset before experiencing any static or drop-outs. The Jawbone gives a nice little audio tone to let the user know that they are approaching the range limit of the device. This audible tone is not noticed by the caller’s party so it is a pretty useful indicator.
Sound quality from the headsets driver is the first (and only) disappointments we come across when using the Jawbone. While the speaker quality was fine for normal conversations, it struggled to deliver enough power when the conversation took place in a loud or noisy environment. Even with the variety of earbuds sizes and fits that Aliph provided, we really had a tough time hearing conversations when the background noise got too loud.
Aliph designed the Jawbone to have active volume control – where the volume adjusts automatically depending on the user’s environment. This is a great piece of technology, and a feature that we have seen in other headsets like the Qstik EVOQ and Gennum nX6000. Unfortunately, the volume of the Jawbone could never be high enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, I could indeed have conversations with most of my calls in my car or in the office, but I would constantly be struggling to hear my party and just wanted some more decibels from the speaker. Jawbone gives users the ability to adjust the volume manually, but this still didn’t help. I ended up suffering from the dreaded “cup-the-ear” syndrome. Not cool.
Luckily, the problems that plagued the sound levels of the Jawbone don’t affect the superb noise-canceling performance of the headset. This is where the Aliph designers and engineers really shine and how this headset easily sets itself apart from most others on the market. During our “freeway test” where we roll the windows down in our vehicle and see if we can still have a conversation with our party, the Jawbone effectively canceled out the noise from the wind during our call and the person on the other end even commented on how loud and crisp our voice came through. Of course we couldn’t really hear that complement with the low volume of the speaker driver, but we would be hard-pressed to give a better example of noise suppression in a Bluetooth headset.
Never once did any of my callers complain about not being able to hear me through low volume or static – even in harsh environments like wind or standing on a city street. The multi-microphone design was extremely effective. Was it the very best that we have encountered? We can’t really say that, but along with the Gennum nX6000 and Qstik EVOQ, the Jawbone is right up there.
After using the Jawbone over the course of a few weeks, we have to say that the comfort level of the headset is quite good. Because Aliph gives the customer so many different fitting options, I can write with confidence that the majority of users will find this headset quite comfortable to wear for long durations at a time. The headset, at just over 16 grams, is a little on the hefty side relative to other Bluetooth sets on the market, but this is due to all the extra electronics (microphones, DSP, Voice Activity Sensor, etc). Even with the smallest of ears, this set can be used for hours at a time. If you are looking for a headset to use while being active however, I would be a bit cautious in choosing the Jawbone. While the fit is great and the headsets sits on your ear comfortably, if you start doing jumping jacks or spinning around quickly, the headset could fly off your ear. The clip that holds the Jawbone to your ear isn’t that strong. Sorry you gymnasts out there.