One of the lessons that keeps getting reinforced lately is “Don’t try to save money with discount products even with name brand stuff. Historically I’ve done well by buying the cheaper end of good brand names, but that’s been biting me in the rear lately. Maybe I’ll post more thoroughly on this. But right now I want to talk about the opposite, where the more I seem to spend for the better product, the worse the product seems to be.

Plantronics Bluetooth Headsets.

I bought my first Plantronics on a quick test at best Buy. I took my Pocket PC there, turned the Bluetooth search function on, and picked up the first product that responded, which was a Plantronics 330. I purchased it, brought it home with me, and it worked beautifully. The time came that I needed a new device. I accidentally dropped the 330 into a (thankfully unsoiled) toilet. Much to my surprise, the 330 never stopped working. The downshot, though, was that the volume was not as good. Since I listened to it frequently in a computer lab, this was not a minor thing. It worked, but it was time to get another one. I figured having two would mean that I could have one charging while listening to the other.

This time, knowing that I wouldn’t need to return the product because Plantronics headsets were perfectly compatible with my Pocket PC, I went to Newegg. This time I brought the next model up: Plantronics 340. The Pocket PC was running some old software, which did not have automatic Bluetooth detection. So having to direct the specific devices, I wanted to be able to tell them apart so I wouldn’t try to sync the wrong one.

The products are mostly identical in function. The first complaint is a superficial one, which is that the 340 doesn’t look as nice. Though both are made of plastic, the 340 has a gray color that makes it look more plasticky. Further, it has a slightly boxier shape that looks less sleek. Since I had the thing plastered to my head while working at Monmark/Soyokaze, I wanted it to look as ungoofy as possible. The upshot was that the sound was better. Most, though not all, of that can be attributed to the waterlog of the 330. The second downside, after appearance, was that the 340 was less comfortable on the ear. After about four hours or so my ear would start hurting a bit. That never happened with the 330. The third strike is that while I could listen to the 330 while it was charging, the 340 would drop the connection the second I plugged in it. Since in the old OS it is a bit of a pain to re-sync after a dropped connection (it requires a restart of the device as often as not), this is no small affair.

So having lost a couple of my headsets in the move and having purchased a Smartphone, I figured that it was time for me to get a better headset. This was originally the case because I thought that volume was going to be a problem, but even after I resolved that I thought that it might be better to have a headset that was specifically designed for both telephone and media capability. So I plunked down more money and bought a Plantronics Voyager 855.

It is the worst yet.

Since I started with superficiality before, I’ll do so again. Though this one has a neater design on the photo compared to the other two, it looks even goofier than the other two when put on my head. It’s the Will Smith’s Ears of bluetooth devices, extending outward and drawing attention to it. It also has a sliding panel that it says is for better microphone capability, though (a) the mic is fine on the cheaper devices and (b) it doesn’t fasten or anything meaning that it slides out half the time that I touch it. It also has a rubber ear thingie that’s supposed to make it more comfortable and reduce outside noise, but the result is that it seems to apply suction to my ear. Thirdly, it has all sorts of buttons that make using it rather complicated. I thought this would be a feature (as did they, I’m sure), but it’s turned out to be a bug. Fourthly, the device used to switch ears is detachable which means that getting it getting lost is an inevitability (though to their credit, they gave me two). Fifthly, though it comes with a neat thing “second ear” to provide stereo sound, it replaces the ear-hinge and it can’t be changed without taking the earpiece out (I’m not sure how I thought it would work, but I figured that I’d be able to managed it). Sixthly, nearly every Plantronics device (not just that I own, but in the lab at work) has uses the same power cord for charging… except this one… making it incompatible with the umpteen chargers I have. Seventhly, and this is almost as much my fault as Plantronics, the volume-setting device, the volume buttons don’t work. That last one is at least partially my fault because of how I accidentally rigged up the phone, but the 330 and 340 don’t seem to have that problem.

The 855 costs roughly twice as much as the 330. I wish I had bought two of the latter.


Category: Market

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