Review: Plantronics Explorer 220 Bluetooth Headset

Affordable, entry level bluetooth headset. (September 18th, 2008)

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Product Manufacturer: Plantronics, Inc.

Price: $59.95 MSRP

The Good

  • Inexpensive. Lightweight. Lasts six hours on a charge. Easy to use.

The Bad

  • Hurt my ear after extended use. Mixed audio quality reported on receiving end.

I used to make fun of people who wore headsets, especially while in the supermarket or walking down the street. I thought these people were pretentious. I didn't think headsets were important except when driving, until I got an iPhone.

An iPhone is much bigger than other cell phones I owned, excluding the enormous flip phone I used in the 1990s. I don't want to hold a brick against my face and I feared that waving around my iPhone and its telltale white earbuds wire in public might attract thieves. The bundled Apple headset is great for listening to music, but I think the built-in mouthpiece is a terrible phone. People on the other side of the line said I sound like I am talking under water, so I had to find another solution.

Plantronics Explorer 220

Due to time constraints I went to Target and chose the most reasonably Bluetooth headset with a rechargeable battery available. I only paid $30 for the entry level Plantronics Explorer 220, even though it lists for $60, and is even cheaper online. It's not a bad headset and easily paired with my iPhone.

At 15 grams (.53oz.), the lightweight headset is "designed for maximum style and total comfort," but after using it for a month, I find it hurts my ear after an hour or so. I still fumble a little trying to curl it around my ear too. The rubber ear bud fits into the ear canal, but does not block, it, so you can still hear from that ear. You can switch the hook to either ear and it doesn't interfere with eyeglasses. It is easier to leave it on, rather than to put it on when the phone rings, so I joined the ranks of those with headsets as a fashion accessory.

Features

Platronics promises a range of up to 30 feet, which worked flawlessly as I did household chores while I talked. The headset charge lasts for 6 hours, as promised too, which is longer than the iPhone. The simple to use volume, call answer, and call end controls are easy to manage. Although when my ear became sore, it hurt to shut the phone off.

 Black Explorer 220

Black Explorer 220


There's also the ability to press the headset button for last-number redial, but I never got that feature to work. I have accidentally hit the hang up button rather than the volume control settings, which are on the side, and disconnected several people over the first week. This features a single rocker switch used to shut off, accept, or cancel a call, and redial a number, so expect mistakes at first.

The headset also responds to voice-activated dialing, although I have not set that up on my iPhone and didn't test it. From what I've read, it works only in extremely quiet settings, and may be inaccurate.

When a call comes in, the earpiece plays a default "Ride of the Valkries" tune. For the most part, I could hear most of my callers just fine. On the other end, however, my callers said my voice ranged from "better than the iPhone-supplied headset" to "twangy-sounding," "jumbled," and "underwater." I have heard more complaints about how I sound using this headset than without it, but less complaints than with the iPhone headset. It also picks up some background noise, such as an open window, the radio, or the air conditioner when driving. Apparently, the sound quality seems to vary depending on the ambient noise.

Silver Explorer 220

Silver Explorer 220


The volume control on the earpiece matches the volume settings on the phone. On my iPhone, the volume setting pops up as I adjust the earpiece, although there's a slight delay visually.

Style

As for style points, it's not as attractive as some of the headsets I've seen, but it lies flat against the ear. My long hair easily hides the Explorer 220. This model comes in silver or black, but even the black model has silver trim. The ability to hide the headset leads to another problem: People may not know I'm on the phone, but perhaps this is a matter for Miss Manners. The Explorer 220 seems durable also. It has endured a month of tossing it into my handbag and car console, with no quality loss or hardware failure.

The charging plug is tiny, so it takes a little practice to get it into the teensy charging hole. You can also buy a vehicle charging cable and a USB headset charger. The Explorer 220 has received FCC certification for the world markets, as well as pairing with your desktop and laptop for wireless calls. However, since it's a monogamous unit, you would have to go through the steps each time to pair it.

If you've not used BlueTooth headsets previously, the Plantronics Explorer 220 is a good introduction. It delivers good sound and feature set in a moderately comf

by Sandra Miller


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