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Other Wireless Goodies: Bluetooth Headset From GN Netcom

Holiday Buyer's Guide 2005
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The allure of a wireless headset is easy to understand: it enables untethered, hands-free phone access. Often this means a mobile phone, but there's no reason why you can't use one with a conventional telephone as well. In fact, that's just what the GN Netcom 6210 headset does: it essentially puts itself in line with a conventional telephone handset so that it can be used in its place, while still allowing the conventional handset to function. It also works with any Bluetooth equipped mobile phone, and switches between the two by identifying which phone is ringing and connecting to it, or by detecting when you initiate a call with one phone or the other. You can even press a button on the top of the headset to initiate a voice-activated call.

The secret to dual-mode operation is GN Link technology, which identifies the active phone and directs the Bluetooth connection accordingly. The company specs claim that the unit supports 8 hours of active talk time and up to 100 hours of standby time on a single charge. We couldn't stay on the phone long enough to push these claims to their limits, but in regular, everyday use we never had a problem with battery life, even on busy days where we stayed on the phone as much as we could. The unit also includes a small, compact charge element, the cradle of which is labeled GN even though the transformer bears the name Jabra, GN's sister company. This can replace the primary cradle/Bluetooth transceiver for those who want to take the headset on the road (though they need another Bluetooth transceiver for the headset to work).

We quickly learned that the 6210 works with more than just Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones: it also worked nicely with our Dell Axim X51v (also reviewed in this buyer's guide; we used the headset profile). We used it to listen to MP3 tunes from that unit - and although one-eared sound isn't as nice as regular headphones, switching between the conventional phone and the Axim proved a better way to pass the time than with an inert headset sitting in one ear. The phone rang through the Axim connection, so we didn't miss any calls, either. The vendor claims the unit works up to 30 feet from the base station, but we weren't able to get far enough away inside our building to put those claims to the test (as soon as we walked outside, however, reception faded just as we hit the 30 foot mark).

Those we talked to using the headset reported themselves able to hear and happy with voice quality, but we had occasional trouble with volume on our end of the connection. Especially in noisy conditions, the headset appears unable to crank out sufficient volume to drown out ambient noise sufficiently. That proved a pretty minor beef, since our primary place of use was in a relatively quiet office environment.

The 6210 headset itself is incredibly small, a little over 4" (10.2 cm) across its longest axis, just over than 9" (22.9 cm) tracing a path all the way from the tip of the earbud to the end of the microphone boom. It's also amazingly light (0.78 oz / 22.3 g) and not too uncomfortable to wear all day long. You can switch between right- and left-earbuds to put it in the ear of your choice (the soft silicon tips pop on and off with ease).

We used the GN6210 with a conventional POTS phone and also with a Motorola MPx220 and a Samsung SGH-D307 with no problems; of course, it also worked with the Axim X51v as well. Those with Bluetooth equipped mobile phones and conventional handsets should get the best use out of this unit, but it's also a workable product for those with only a single regular phone line.

With prices starting at about $80 online (MSRP is about $125) this compact unit makes a great office tool for those in need of a light, compact wireless headset. The base unit also doubles as a general Bluetooth transceiver, and worked well with our Axim X51v in that role. It makes a stylish and usable gift for yourself, or anybody else who wants to get up and roam away from his or her desk while staying on the phone.

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