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Plantronics Voyager 5200 Bluetooth Headset Review

Publish Date:

Thursday, May 5, 2016 12:00 pm PDT

Category:

News Organization:

Chip Chick

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Do you spend a LOT of time on the phone? Do you work on a noisy factory floor or in a loud open-plan office? Are you totally cool being that guy or girl with the black plastic thing hanging on your ear? If you answered yes to at least one of those questions, then the Plantronics Voyager 5200 Bluetooth Headset is the miracle solution you’ve been dreaming of. This Bluetooth earpiece performs well in all conditions, and when you combine it with the sleek charger/carrying case, you’ve got yourself an uber long-lasting earpiece with enough battery life for even the longest, most drawn-out conference calls.

The last Bluetooth earpiece/headset I had was somewhere around 2010, which was great since I spent an obscene amount of time commuting in and out of NYC from New Jersey and cars with Bluetooth connectivity wasn’t exactly a big thing yet. I used a wired headset at work, which was fine since I had it on almost all day and I seldom called anyone on the phone otherwise. I still use wired over-ear gamer-style headphones when taking calls at my desk or at home when I’m not using speakerphone. If I’m at the gym or walking around, my wireless earbuds have a built-in mic and I can take a call that way. Sometimes — and I know this sounds crazy — I just hold the phone up to my head. I’ve had a Bluetooth-connected car since 2014, as I suspect many of you now do, as well.

So if I don’t need a Bluetooth headset in the car, when I’m walking around, at the gym, or sitting at my desk, when do I — or you — really need one?

Like many things in our lives today, it’s not about need. The Plantronics Voyager 5200 is about making life better, granting us more freedom from our desks, and giving us the ability to do more with just one device. If you’re not used to wearing a Bluetooth headset like me, it takes a bit to adjust to the feeling, although operation was about as close to intuitive as you’re going to get for a device with such broad capabilities. Setup was pretty flawless, although in subsequent trials the device did not always automatically pair up with my phone (HTC M8, Android 6.0), or only did so after I manually selected it. I’m not sure how much of this is the phone, how much is the device, and how much is human error. Let’s chalk it up to a three-way-tie.

The device itself is really light once you get it on your ear, light enough to leave on for extended periods of time. I say this with the caveat that even with the smallest earbud attachment, I found it uncomfortable wearing the device for more than a few minutes (if that) when I had it securely positioned in my ear. When I left the device a little looser on my ear, there was no discomfort at all, but doing so lets in a noticeable amount of outside noise, which defeats the purpose of the advanced wind noise reduction and noise cancelling technology. This probably won’t be an issue for you unless you’re making calls while doing a Tough Mudder or speeding down the highway at breakneck speed with the windows down.

Speaking of which, I was able to carry on a conversation at around-town speeds in the 30 mph range with the windows down. At highway speeds I could make out every third word with the volume on max. Think of it like trying to talk to friends at a loud bar; even when you’re leaning in, straining to hear, you can’t follow the conversation. Due to my ear-fit issues, your mileage may vary when it comes to noise isolation and ability to actually hear your conversations. You’re probably going to still need over-ear headphones if you work on a construction site, but even if you work in a loud office, you should be able to hear things just fine. Sound quality is better than your phone’s speaker by a large margin. The people I called, even with the windows down on the highway, reported that they could hear me clearly. This is no doubt the result of Plantronics’ WindSmart technology, which decreases background noise and automatically switches the active microphone to whichever one can pick up the clearest sound.

You can even play music from your phone to the device, and a few songs I played from Spotify Premium sounded astonishingly good. I wouldn’t run out and replace whatever earbuds or headphones you use for music, but I expected one-dimensional, tinny sound and narrow frequency response. Imagine my surprise when I hit play and my music actually sounded like music, not like hold music.

My favorite feature is the seamless integration with Google Now (same goes for Siri and Cortana, says Plantronics). Hold down the little button on the bottom of the boom mic base for two or three seconds, wait for the beep, and just bark out whatever instructions or questions you’d otherwise say directly into your phone, et voilà! “Call Dad!” said I, to which my phone, via the headset, replied quickly and clearly, “which number would you like to call for Dad, office or mobile?”  After another beep, “Mobile” I say, and, like magic, it worked! It may not be equivalent to landing a rocket vertically on a floating barge, but I just get so excited when technology works like it’s supposed to. I may have giggle-chortled a bit.

Another cool feature is that the headset can be connected to two phones at the same time. Normally, this isn’t a big deal, but with the Voyager 5200, you can have an active connection to both at the same time, allowing you to take incoming calls to both phones. Pretty handy if you have separate work and personal phones that need constant attention. Like most headsets, there are call and volume controls on the unit itself, including a one-touch mute button.

Battery life is about six hours of talk time, and more than you (at least I) need on standby. From zero, it only takes about 90 minutes to fully charge the headset. If for no other reason than not looking like that guy/girl, I’d suggest you take it off and place it on the very cool stand/case. Besides being a really good carrying case and external battery/charger, it also lets you seamlessly transfer calls from your phone to the headset and back automatically, depending on the position of the device. Answer a call on your phone, put the headset on, and the audio will transfer to the headset, and vice-versa. There’s a bit of novelty factor going on here, but I haven’t seen it before, and it’s actually useful in some situations. Who’d have thought?

The headset performed admirably throughout my use, with one exception. Plantronics claims 30-meter/100-foot wireless range. I was not able to get even half of that in line-of-sight. I got maybe a quarter of that through a sheetrock and wood wall at home. I’d imagine the range will be much worse in a metal and concrete office building.

Verdict
When I think of who uses a Bluetooth headset today, I alternatively have images of a high powered sports agent à la Jerry Maguire and a guy I knew in 2010 who wore it all day more as an accessory than for actually making calls.

After using the Plantronics Voyager 5200 for two weeks, I realized that I, too, could and should be using this. I don’t need an over-ear headset for calls when I’m at home or at my desk. With the 5200’s ability to seamlessly transfer calls to and from your phone simply by taking it off or putting it on, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be using it when I’m walking around and have to take a call longer than a minute or two. It’s way easier, with far better sound quality, and for the most part more comfortable than holding my phone up to my ear. Battery life — especially with the companion charging case — is pretty impressive unless you’re blaring streaming music. While the range isn’t anywhere near Plantronics’ claims, it’s still much nicer to be able to walk around the room during a longer call than be stuck within a few feet of the microphone or device.

If you spend more than a few minutes at a time on the phone, if you’re courteous enough that you’d like to spare those around you from hearing your conversations in public over speakerphone, and if you value sound quality and really like Siri/Google/Cortana voice commands, you should check out the Plantronics Voyager 5200. If you, like me, don’t want to worry about running out of juice, you should definitely check out the companion battery case, too!

The Voyager 5200 Bluetooth Headset is available directly from Plantronics for $120. The companion charging case is sold separately and should be available for purchase soon.

The Good: Lightweight, great sound quality, seamless Google Now and Spotify integration, intuitive controls and buttons, long battery life (even longer with case)

The Bad: Not cheap, earbuds may not fit all ear sizes/shapes resulting in discomfort

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