5 On Your Side

Bluetooth Headsets Are Put to the Test

Posted December 20, 2007 5:31 p.m. EST
Updated December 20, 2007 6:14 p.m. EST

The first Bluetooth headsets looked like something from Star Trek and had the price tag to match. Today, though, Consumer Reports found that you can get a good headset for a reasonable price.

More and more people are searching for hands-free ways to use their cell phones, and Bluetooth headsets are an increasingly popular product. The headsets are programmed to pick up the signal from the user's cell phone if it is nearby.

Consumer Reports tested 34 models ranging in price from $30 to $200. One major finding was that sizing a Bluetooth headset to an individual is key to getting the best use out of it.

"Be sure to get a headset that fits properly," Paul Reynolds, with Consumer Reports, said. "Poor fit can be uncomfortable, and you may not be able to hear very well."

Most headsets sit on the ear, with a clip or hook holding them in place. Some in this style, though, are bulky and can flop around.

Other headset models have buds, which go in the ear. But if these earbuds do not fit well, they can pop out.

"If you're going to buy an earbud, be sure to get a model that has adapters, so that you can ensure a good fit," Reynolds said.

Be aware that there are trade-offs with smaller headsets. For example, you do not get as much talk time before you run out of power.

Another consideration with any Bluetooth headset is its easy of set-up. The headsets have to be paired with the user's cell phone to begin the wireless communication.

"Pairing can be tricky, but there are headsets that have a dedicated pairing button, which simplifies the process," Reynolds said.

Consumer Reports' top pick was a $35 Jabra BT-500 headset, which has a dedicated pairing button. Tests showed that this headset was very comfortable, with an impressive 8.5 hours of talk time.

Bluetooth headsets are also available in stereo, which people who listen to music on their cell phone might consider a plus.

Stereo equipped headsets, however, are expensive. Before buying, be sure to check your cell phone to make sure it can accommodate one.