Plantronics 640 Bluetooth Headset Review
My Motorola HS810 died recently, a victim of the hair-thin wire in the boom mic snagging on the hinge and being torn when answering a call. No functional microphone, no headset. This prompted me to look for another headset with similar characteristics, minus the few complaints I had for the Motorola.
(The devices have been paired with a Siemens S55.)
Fit and Form Factor:
I purchased the Plantronics Discovery 640 for several reasons. First, I was overdue for Bluetooth 1.2. Second was the light weight and small form factor. I disliked the Motorola’s bulk – seemed it was about to fall off the ear whenever I turned my head quickly. The 640 hasn’t disappointed in this category. Its light weight and in-the-ear silicone bud allow it to sit firmly without moving. There are three earbuds to accommodate a range of ear sizes. There is also a plastic over-the-ear hook for added support, but I find it unnecessary. The one complaint I have is that the point of the silicone earbud tends to poke into my ear and becomes uncomfortable with extended wear. The earbud is also easily switched from left-ear to right ear by simply twisting it on the headset. This was a problem I had with the Morotola – switching ears required unsnapping the ear hook and reversing it. The 640′s earbud, while securely snapped into the headset, doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you’d want to put in a pants pocket for fear of snapping off the tiny plastic connector.
Carlos Eduardo comments: I can’t get the 640 to stay in my ear without the earloop, but once in, it fits well.
Sound Quality and Range:
Range and clarity are very good, much improved from the Bluetooth 1.1 device I had been using. I’ve found effective range over 30 ft. indoors before any noise really began. Incoming audio quality is very good. Outdoors the headset is susceptible to wind noise, though somewhat better than my previous headset. Background noise is also minimized slightly better. Other features not found in all headsets: You can mute calls by pressing the Up and Down volume buttons simultaneously until a beep is heard. If you move out of range of the headset it will beep, then stop functioning and close the link. Holding down the control button is required to relink to the handset. The device will attempt to relink once on its own though when first moved out of range.
Carlos Eduardo comments: Good sound quality, but it degrades quickly with distance. Maybe mine is not as good, but in my 640 I get comments from people telling me I sound like I’m muffled or distant.
Setup, Pairing, and Function:
Setup was simple and intuitive. The first attempt to pair the headset with my handset failed (probably due to the phone), but the immediate re-try was successful. Since then I’ve had no problems. Answering a call with the headset turned on is done by pushing a button on the back of the device. I’ve had consistent success linking to the phone immediately for calls.
The headset battery life is close to the published time, though I haven’t had one continuous five hour conversation to rigorously test this. One thing I got used to on the Motorola headset that is absent with the Plantronics is the ability to turn it off by simply flipping the boom closed. The 640 requires you to hold down the power button to turn the headset off. Inadvertently leaving it on overnight could leave you with a surprise if you were counting on using it the next day prior to charging it again. I have not used the AAA battery extension to charge the headset yet; it snaps onto the dock the same way as the charger adapters.
Interesting but marginally useful features:
1. Included in the headset package is a selection of charger adapters that fit the following cell phone chargers: Motorola, Nokia, Siemens, and Sony Ericsson. This allows you to avoid bringing the Plantronics charger cord on trips. The real inconvenience of a second charger cord during travel is questionable though, since you would potentially still bring the external AAA battery charger, and the charger sleeve with the cell phone adapter snapped on. And if you are travelling with one charger cord, you may need to charge the phone and headset overnight. Having only one charger may be limiting unless you plan to wake up in the middle of the night and swap devices. If you use a phone with a foreign plug during travel this could, however, be beneficial by eliminating the separate converter. A USB charger cord is offered as a sold-separately accessory, which is arguably as useful as the multiple charger adapters, especially if travelling with an iPod charger or computer.
2. The headset and accessories come in a compact aluminum-like rectangular case. The back of the case has a 1”x2” mirror, presumably so you can make sure your headset is on properly. I’m not sure why this is important…
3. The headset has a series of color codes that it flashes depending on the function. This is called the “Headset Status Undicator”. To signal battery life, the red light will flash in one, two, or three bursts. This is useless when you are actually using the headset since you can’t see the indicator light behind your ear. I suppose if you watched your headset in the mirror supplied on the case you could see the flashing lights though.
Overall I am pleased with the device, and have no significant deficiencies to report. This headset is for those who like a small, attractive and light headset with good sound quality. There are other devices with better wind-noise blocking, better battery life and different attachment methods if you seek out those features. But for an over all well performing headset, and one that offers flexible charging methods and comes with its own mirror, this is a good choice.