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Default Road Warriors: Four Bluetooth Headsets Compared

Starting July 1, talking on your cellphone while driving in California is not only dumb and dangerous -- it's also illegal. Illegal, that is, if you hold the phone up to your ear. So instead of getting pinched by Smokey this summer, enlist a Bluetooth headset as your driving partner.
And to the drivers in other states that don't already have hands-free laws, don't be embarrassed to snatch up one of these headsets too -- people have already seen you picking your nose in the car.
Nokia BH-703


Silky futuristic looks? Check. Tiny form factor? Oh yeah. But what's this? Touch sensitive controls on a Bluetooth headset? No frakking way! These might be knee-weakening features, but it was the BH-703's functionality that sold us. We were smitten by its slightly more than five hours of crystal-quality talk time, plus noise cancellation that kept us gabbing through San Francisco's noisy streets (even while traversing a construction area that sounded more like a war zone). But smoothly sliding our fingers up and down the headset to control the volume? Nothing but Bluetooth badassery.
WIRED Awesome looks paired with solid performance. Fast charge time at 53 minutes. Syncs quickly and easily with every phone we threw at it. Great call quality and noise-canceling performance across dirty air and noisy environments. Stealthy multifunction key allows access to voice dialing, redial, answer/end. Comes bundled with three different sized earpieces and the most functional lanyard we've seen in years.
TIRED Included earloop is surprisingly flimsy. Great for voice, but terrible for music. Tackling advanced functions via the single multifunction key takes some practice. Not quite secure enough for jogging, or other physical activities.
$100, nokia.com

Aliph 'New' Jawbone


When the original Jawbone hit the market at the end of 2006, it was the best-sounding Bluetooth headset in the world, with noise-cancellation that made all our calls clearer and easier to understand. Unfortunately, many folks couldn't get the bulky unit to fit quite right, even with the myriad ear pieces and loops included.
The new version of the Jawbone eliminates those fit issues -- for me at least. Within two minutes, I had the right size earpiece, and the correct over-ear loop to keep it locked to my cheek -- a requirement for the proper function of the noise-cancellation. One big help is that the Jawbone has shed a ton of weight and size, now tipping the scales at just 10 grams. It's also 50 percent smaller than the first version.
Call quality is still as good as it gets with a Bluetooth headset, which is to say good but not great. The noise cancellation is supposedly better, but people on the other end of our calls couldn't tell a difference between the two models. The industrial design is once again handled by Yves Behar, but we were split on our opinions -- some of us thought that it was sleeker and a little more elegant, but others found it a little cheesy looking.
WIRED Great sound. Serious upgrade in wearability, even with fewer options. Doesn't weigh you down like the older model. Easiest syncing headset ever; starts up in pairing mode the first time you turn it on.
TIRED Still relies on a proprietary power connector -- and it isn't the same as the first model, either. Design cues are a little bit Gucci for some wearers (especially Wired geeks). A quick spin through the manual is a must to understand how to operate its invisible buttons.
$130, jawbone.com

Samsung WEP700


Is two always better than one? If we're talking double-necked guitars, then the answer is clearly "hell yes." However, Samsung's dual-microphoned WEP700 headset barely makes it to the bridge. Samsung gussied up this affordable headset with a laundry list of noise- and echo-canceling tech, but even bonuses like automatic volume control weren't enough to prevent periodic earfuls of static. Sure, it mustered passable performance in some of our favorite noisy environments (i.e., our favorite karaoke pub). But at its core the WEP700 is still what we've come to expect from Samsung's lineup -- decent performance wrapped up in design that puts us to sleep faster than hitting a snooze button.
WIRED Fits comfortably on lefties, righties and the bespectacled. Stays juiced for a traffic-ticket-saving six hours. Flexible earloop included. Crisp call quality in most indoor settings. Standard multifunction-button functions (receive/end, hold, mute, voice dial, redial).
TIRED Frustratingly tiny volume buttons. Digital signal noise canceling: great for voices, terrible for everything else. Ships with only one earpiece cover. Can't turn off the automatic volume control. Distractingly bright LED status light.
$50, samsung.com

Motopure H12


What's pure about Motorola's Motopure H12 headset? Just the mediocrity. Okay, we'll come clean: The diamond-cut metal accents and sleek desktop charger are aces -- we were enamored by them immediately. Even Motorola's promise of its dual microphone-fueled CrystalTalk technology made us perk up. Then we fired up this otherwise comfy headset and our world came crashing down. Not only was static the norm, but the noise canceling seemed to be AWOL. From packed restaurants to rush-hour traffic our experience was the same -- muddy audio and confusingly echo-filled phone calls. But on the bright side, the H12 made us look awfully cool while repeatedly shouting "What?!" in crowed spaces.
WIRED Awesome ergonomics and looks. Includes three different sized inserts for the Dumbo-eared. Large, easy to reach multifunction button. Automatically kicks into low-power mode. Charging cradle doubles as a carrying case. Earhook is more maneuverable than Luke Skywalker's X-Wing.
TIRED Noise canceling is a joke. Priced for looks, not performance. Dismal four-hour battery life. Surprisingly crappy range. Snap, crackle, pop goes the audio.
$80, motorola.com



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