Published on February 24th, 2011 | by Greg0
Bluetooth Headsets: iTech and BlueAnt
It’s a battle between the headsets today, as a lower-priced option aimed especially at Skype usage goes head-to-head against a pricier but feature-rich model. We’ve seen our fair share of Bluetooth gear, from small speaker systems to GPS geotagging options. But headsets remain the most popular use of Bluetooth, and at CES we got wind of plenty of new models coming down the pipelines. Two of the latest are up at the plate today: the i.Tech EasyChat 306 and the BlueAnt Q2.
We’ll let the i.Tech EasyChat 306 bat first. As you might expect from one of the best-selling headsets from Skype, we were impressed by the ease-of-use and the low price point. At only $45, you get not only the headset, but also a USB dongle that is already paired and setup. You can just plug in the receiver, turn on the headset, and go, skipping the pairing issues that happen sometimes with other headsets. And there is no software to install. You also don’t need to use their dongle if you already have one built-in to your laptop, and you can also pair the headset with your mobile phone easily. The dongle is a bit big and ugly though, and that description covers the headset as well. The black color works fine, battery life is decent at six hours, and you charge via USB as with many others. But audio quality is only so-so, there are no noise cancellation features, and voices on both ends sounded a bit flat and muted. Finally, the included ear loops are pretty poor and may not fit everyone, and the volume controls are a bit odd thanks to the single button. Overall, it’s simple, and good for those using Skype and who are need of a dongle, but the 306 is only good for occasional users or the truly price-conscious.
The BlueAnt Q2 headset is different in most ways- it’s sexier, offers decent noise cancellation, A2DP, and better fit options that made it easy to like out of the box. Pairing was a snap, and we were impressed upon our first call: compared with the EasyChat 306, voices were clearer on our end and listeners reported less fuzzing, hissing, and wind noise. The unit looks sharp and professional, in either black or platinum. Two microphones, their ‘Wind Armour’ technology, and echo cancellation mean excellent performance, but in our tests, do drag down battery life to about four hours and sometimes a bit less. Also, you can charge it either via USB or the included AC adapter, though the cord is short enough to be frustrating, and charging can take a long time (up to four hours or so). We should make special note of the voice activation, voice controls, and called ID announcement that were fun- they don’t necessarily integrate well into your smartphone apps, but did work well in our case on the iPhone 4 with Vlingo. At $70 or so available widely online, this is a great buy for one of the better all-around mid-class headsets. It isn’t perfect, between the button placement and some other details, but it held up wear against a couple of drops and performed extremely well in windy conditions.