By June 1, 2006

Plantronics Discovery 640 Bluetooth Headset Review

One of the things I was most excited about when I purchased my new E815 cell phone was acquiring a Bluetooth headset. At the time, I still had the potential of traveling up to Rockville every two weeks and out to California once a month. Having a handsfree kit was really attractive, and the thought of not having a corded headset was very appealing.

The problem with Bluetooth headsets, and my highest-priority criteria, is that it could not be the size and shape of a damn Star Trek phaser. It’s the rage out here to wear big-ass Motorola ear pieces that flash blue every few seconds. HAY GUYS, I CAN’T MISS THIS EMPORTANTE CALL FRUM MAH WIFEY!!

The second criteria was range (the longer the better), then sound quality, and then price.

After some wrangling around, I selected the Plantronics Discovery 640. Plantronics has a very solid reputation, and I have three corded Plantronics headset in the house (one for my VOIP business line, two gaming headsets). I figured I couldn’t go wrong with the Discovery 640, which is as tiny and discreet as a Bluetooth headpiece could be. I also read that the clarity was good and the range was about 20′ according to some reviews online. I made the purchase and waited for UPS to show.

When my headset arrived, I was pleased with the packaging. After reading the reviews online, I knew that the Plantronics Discovery 640 would come with some accessories inside of a nice hardshell case. I’ll go over them now, from left to right.

The earclip is optional, hopefully one of the three earbuds will fit inside of your ear. The earpiece itself is quite small and thin (I said the EARPIECE). The other goodies are really neat — the top bit on the right is the recharging housing for the earpiece. The bottom attaches to the (not pictured) AC adapter or the middle pictured piece. The middle piece clips onto the top piece and recharges your headset via the battery. If you own a Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, or Ericsson/Sony phone, you can leave the Plantronics AC adapter at home by using one of the other four pieces pictured at the bottom.

I charged the earpiece up, and easily mated it to my E815. Over the next three months, I used the earpiece primarily in my car or outside. I did use the earpiece a handful of times inside when I wanted both hands free.

Physically, I liked the Discovery 640. It is very beautiful, and as non-obtrusive as a Bluetooth headset is going to get. The mid-sized earbud fit me just fine and was very comfortable. Accessing the power/multifunction button and the volume control buttons was straightforward and easy. The one complaint I have about the earbud is that you must rotate the earbuds in order to change them for different sizes. Unfortunately, this means that the earpiece gradually rotates down into the “unlock” position during prolonged phone conversations.

The performance of the earpiece can be easily summarized as: “passable if you are within five feet of your phone, indoors, and sitting in a cone of silence.” Any other combination of environment, distance, and ambient noise renders the earpiece varying levels of shitacular. More often than not, the party on the other end of the line would complain that I sounded distant, too quiet, or static-y. I found that the further I got from the phone, the more static I would hear. To be honest, it reminded me of the old school analog cell phones. Instead of outright dropping a call, the older handsets would gradually give way to static until there was dead silence.

The voice transmission quality suffered even more when I was in a car. My Montero as bad enough, but the earpiece was 100% unusable in normal conversations in my convertible with the top up. Callers could hear me just fine in both places as long as I did not go handsfree. After my last trip to Rockville, I’d stopped using the Discovery 640 altogether. Why have a handsfree unit if you can’t use it in the car? Bah.

Operators are standing by

  • Ultrasmall, ultralight earpiece avoids that Live Long and Prosper look of other Bluetooth headsets.
  • Nice packaging.
  • Easily paired with my phone.
  • Neat kit of doodads and a novel approach to keeping the earpiece charged.

Busy signals

  • Sub-standard audio quality under the best of conditions.
  • The mic is too susceptible to wind/ambient noise.
  • Short “real world” range, especially when a wall is between you and your handset.

Plantronics Discovery 640, you’re sexy but you gotta go:
One and a half STFU mugs

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