updated 11:25 pm EDT, Mon May 12, 2008
FL: Logitech ClearChat
Not every computer has a built-in microphone or speakers, and to fix this problem, you typically have to connect your own peripherals through multiple cables. Worse may be that if the cables aren't long enough, you'll still be tied to the computer if you want to make use of the hardware. To avoid these two problems, Logitech offers its ClearChat Wireless headset.
The unit consists of four parts: the headset, with a microphone that can swing up or down to tuck out of the way, or position in front of your mouth; a charging adapter; a wireless adapter that plugs into the USB (1.1 or 2.0) port of a Windows (98, 2000, XP, Vista) or Mac OS X computer, and a USB extension cord and cradle, so you can move the wireless adapter away from your system.
The headset features a cushioned, adjustable headband and earpads for comfort. The right exterior, meanwhile, hosts the volume control, along with a mute button. Pressing the mute button turns on a light, giving you visual confirmation that the microphone is turned off so you don't wind up transmitting something by mistake.
More remarkable is the simplicity of setting up the headset. Instead of fiddling with software drivers of any kind, you can just plug the wireless adapter into the USB port of your computer, go into Control Panel or System Preferences and select the headset for both input and output, then turn it on. When active the audio quality of the microphone and speakers is flawless, particularly thanks to the noise-canceling feature of the mic.
You can walk up to 33 feet away from the wireless adapter and still listen and speak, although walls or heavy furniture may limit this distance. Since the headset relies on batteries, you'll need to recharge them, which can take up to 2.5 hours; when fully charged, the batteries will last approximately 6 hours. When roughly 15 minutes of battery life is left, a flashing light appears to warn you that power is getting low. If the headset doesn't detect the presence of the wireless adapter within 30 minutes, it shuts itself off automatically.
Since the headset doesn't require any special drivers, it's compatible with all types of applications such as Skype, iChat, AIM, and Yahoo Messenger. Swing the microphone up and out of the way, and it automatically mutes audio input. Now you can use the headset to listen to your favorite songs or watch a movie.
With its foolproof setup and superb audio quality, the $99 ClearChat Wireless is handy for listening and talking through Skype or or any other audio chat application. Whether you need a headset for private listening or easier communication, this option is definitely worth considering.