I won’t confess to being a major fan of those Bluetooth headsets that clip on to your ear. Apart from making you look like something out of the Borg or a taxi driver, they’re not always comfortable to wear and aren’t very discrete. But the safety advantages for Irish roads can never be underestimated.
Usage of these devices amongst Irish drivers is still lacking despite the ban on using mobile phones in cars.
I still experience the sheer white knuckle terror of sitting in a car at a junction while some moron with a child in the backseat turns the corner at a precarious angle with one hand on the wheel and the other with a mobile phone clamped to their ear.
Another fault with Bluetooth headsets is the sound quality isn’t always superb and the supposed concentration you’ve won back is lost just trying to make out what the other person is saying.
Headset maker Plantronics – the crowd that make headsets for astronauts – seems to have found a way around this problem while also addressing the growing market for mobile phones with music players built in.
The device allows you to listen away to your favourite tunes and when a call comes in you can just take it and start listening again later.
The Plantronics Pulsar 260 is described by the company as a Bluetooth pod, meaning that it has multiple uses beyond safe driving and taking calls. You can also pair it with home Hi-Fi systems so that you can listen to your music without missing a call.
The device itself looks like an MP3 player and can clip on to your lapel. It comes with a pair of headphones so the threat of looking like the Borg is removed.
My first observation about the device’s performance was indeed the stereo quality. The sound seemed to be coming from inside my head, creating an intimacy with the person I was talking to rather than straining to hear.
I was using it with the Blackberry Pearl phone and while pairing with the phone was seamless, I couldn’t get the phone’s music player to work with it. The result was that I could make and take calls with abandon and I ended up sharing my music with the entire room.
Another downside was that while the sound quality was sublime, the headphones had a nasty habit of slipping out mid-call – not a nice sensation when you’re travelling at 60 miles per hour.
In a market of samey headsets that do little more than allow you to barely listen to a call, Plantronics appear to be diversifying and meeting an emerging market opportunity with a product that is also discrete and less obvious.
But it should be making it clear what music phones the Pulsar 260 works with so that buyers can protect their investment.
The Plantronics Pulsar 260 costs €79.99 including Vat and is available from 3G and Harvey Norman stores nationwide as well as www.phones.ie.
Value for Money: ****
By John Kennedy