Jabra Halo Smart and Plantronics BackBeat 100

by Volker Weber

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I brought this Jabra Halo Smart headset back from IFA 2016. It's not that I don't have enough headsets, but I was curious about the collar design. Plantronics has the competing BackBeat 100 product, and I wanted see who came out on top.

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Both headsets share the same idea. You wear the electronics, the Bluetooth chipset and the battery around your neck, and you have two wired earbuds hanging from this collar. You are wearing nothing on your head, you are not tethered to your phone, and yet, you can drop the earbuds quickly without losing them.

Although they have the same idea, the execution is different. The collar on the Plantronics device only manages the wire around you neck and has all the electronics at the right end while the Jabra design puts the battery around your neck. That is why it is a more solid affair while the Plantronics is more flexible.

The Jabra design has a massive advantage. The battery is rated for 17 hours of playback, while the Plantronics runs out after only eight hours. I also like the flat cables on the Jabra and the magnets on the collar, that can park the earbuds. It's completely tangle-free.

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Both designs also will hold the earbuds together in front of you when they dangle since their magnets attract each other.

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The BackBeat 100 has rather thin wires and the earbuds are smaller than in the Jabra design. I find them more comfortable. Both need to be adjusted to your ear by replacing the gels that come with the headset. You need a good seal to keep the sound waves from escaping and to keep ambient noise out.

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While the Plantronics design looks more appealing to me, I was a bit disappointed with small details like the MicroUSB door falling out. At this price point we are not looking at products in the Voyager class of headsets. You will not get a comparable voice quality when making phone calls and the sound will also not rival that of the Voyager Focus or Sense products.

Jabra comes out on top for a simple reason: with a 17 hours battery you will never run out of power during the day, no matter what. Both don't win the editor-refuses-to-give-it-back award, for the simple reason that I have much better.

And now for something completely different: :-)

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The unlikely winner of this year's "headset in my pocket" is the Samsung Level Active, although I cannot use any of their performance tracking features. And I expect this to change when I have the Apple AirPods or the Jaybird Freedom.

Comments

Just got my Level Active's today and I am already quite impressed, although the "sports" I did was just some "supermarket race" to get cold drinks ;-) Comfortable to wear with reasonable sound (and I did not yet optimize the setup, i.e. the earbud tips or hooks). Did not test battery life yet, but 4+ hours would be ok for me - I need wireless headsets only while running, on my bicycle or while travelling (and have a QC35 for longer trips anyway).

Jonas Rathert, 2016-09-14

Managed to get an LG Tone Infinim for free last year and thought i would never use it, but gave it a try and now only use a wired headset when i forget to charge it. It's FANTASTIC

David Guillaume, 2016-09-14

It's very practical, isn't it? They look somewhat uncool, but they work very well.

Volker Weber, 2016-09-14

I think I've given up being cool now

David Guillaume, 2016-09-15

That is step #1 to actually being cool.

Volker Weber, 2016-09-15

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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