Plantronics Discovery 655
Late last year, my Jabra BT200 Bluetooth headset finally died after a couple years of usage. Even before it died it had trouble staying charged very long so it was time for me to hunt for a new headset. Headsets are great for people like me because (1) I hate holding a phone for long periods of time, (2) I drive a lot, (3) and I’m active.
First of all, I’m more of a face-to-face talking person so I’m uncomfortable being on the phone for a long time unless it’s absolutely necessary or it’s on speaker phone. Secondly, when you’re driving you should be using some sort of hands-free device (wired or not). I would dare say that anyone who says they can drive just as well without one is not being honest with themselves. I can’t wait for the law to go into affect where it’s mandatory. Lastly, if you’re outside riding your bicycle, mowing your lawn, or doing something that requires two hands then being hands-free is liberating.
While my Jabra BT200 worked well, it was a big headset and somewhat heavy. The sound quality was decent and the battery life was pretty good but I always felt somewhat awkward wearing it. Also, the range wasn’t that great meaning I couldn’t get too far away from the phone before the quality started to suffer. I did like how you could easily wear it in either ear by turning the ear gel around.
So, when looking for a new headset I knew I wanted the following:
2. Good Sound Quality
3. Reasonable Battery Life
4. Designed for Either Ear
5. Good Looking
I looked at Jabra models again until I saw the Plantronics models at my local electronics store. Intrigued by their history of Plantronics and how their products were used by the NASA Space Programs in the 1960s (http://www.plantronics.com/north_america/en_US/company/heritage.jhtml). Plantronics sells a wide variety of Bluetooth headsets but I was drawn to their Discovery line of products because they were so small! The Discovery line is designed to be lightweight, comfortable and customizable which meets many of my needs listed above.
Originally, I had my eyes set on the Discovery 640E model until I saw the newly announced Discovery 655. Newer is better right? In this case it certainly was true as the newer model not only looked better but had better specifications too.
Plantronics Discovery 655
The Plantronics Discovery 655 (and the newly introduced 665 which is virtually identical) is the top of the line product in terms of looks and sound. What makes it special is the addition of what Plantronics calls AudioIQ which is explained as the following:
AudioIQ makes wireless conversations effortless and pleasant, regardless of the environment. For incoming calls, AudioIQ automatically adapts to background noise levels and intelligently improves the receive quality, clarity and volume level. For outgoing calls, AudioIQ reduces background noise for listeners up to 7-8 decibels, or by approximately 50 percent. It also minimizes interference from artifacts such as speech distortions to maintain exceptionally clear voice intelligibility.
So, it’s not full noise-cancelling but rather noise-reducing and it actually seems to work. In addition to AudioIQ, the Plantronics Discovery 655 has the following specifications:
- QuickPair Technology
- Talk Time: 3.5 hours
- Standby Time: 80 hours
- Weight: 9 grams (0.3 ounces)
- Dimensions: 0.6x0.5x2.0 inches
- Bluetooth Version 2.0
- Full Charge Time: 3 hours
- Power Requirements: 5V DC – 300mA
The Plantronics Discovery 655 comes with everything you need in the package including the following accessories:
- Soft gel ear tips (S, M, and L sizes)
- Ear stabilizer
- Headset Charging/Carrying Pocket
- Mini USB adapter
- USB cable
- AC Adapter
- Battery Charger
- 1 x AA Battery
The gel ear tips are comfortable and it’s always nice when companies include multiple sizes. Also included is the optional ear loop stabilizer. Optional means that you a can attach it if you need more stability or want to ensure that the headset doesn’t come out of your ear.
The carrying pocket is the centerpiece of Plantronics modular design and it provides multi-faceted functionality. In its simplest form, the pocket protects the Discovery 655 and comes with a clip so one can hang it from a shirt pocket. However, the pocket’s design allows for very flexible ways to charge the Discovery 655. The pocket alone connects to the AC charger for conventional wall socket charging. Clipping on the mini USB adapter allows for computer based charging with a very standard mini USB cable. Finally, the AAA battery charger is provided for emergency charging.
Pairing the headset is easy and like many Bluetooth headsets, the pairing code is your typical 0000.
For what it’s worth, the Discovery 665 is identical in features to the Discovery 655. The only differences are that the Discovery 665 is slightly slimmer, comes with a car charger instead of AC charger and AAA battery charger, and is colored differently.
The Plantronics Discovery 655 is sports a simple but modern design with a silver and black color combination and is constructed mostly from a hard plastic and rubber. After several months of my typical usage which involves being stuffed into my “man-bag” or pants or shirt pocket, the headset is in pretty good shape. The black body picked up lots of little scratches but they more or less unnoticeable unless you a look extremely close-up. The silver part of the body is painted so scratches could be noticeable. The rubber buttons work well although some people may complain that they’re too small. I don’t think they are but I can see the argument.
Like almost every single Bluetooth headset on the market, the Plantronics Discovery 655 utilizes a blue light as its main form of illumination. There’s also a red light and a combination purple light. The color and frequency of the flashing indicates the current status or mode of the headset. The manual clearly lays out what everything means.
All the buttons have a nice tactile feel and click. With only three buttons (Volume Up, Volume Down and Call Control) there isn’t much that can go wrong here.
The charger and snap on accessories are actually well conceived and well designed. Despite months of daily usage, everything continues to snap together firmly and everything works. Good job Plantronics!
Finally, the ear pieces are fantastic. Not only are they comfortable for long periods of time but they hold well in my ear. I can shake my head violently and the headset will not fall out.
Life with the Plantronics Discovery 655
I primarily use the Discovery 655 with my mobile phone, Sony Ericsson’s W850i Walkman Phone when I’m driving. I like driving with the windows down so my driving cockpit can be a little noisy. The AudioIQ DSP seems to work as most of my friends rarely say they can hear me just fine and in some cases can’t tell if I’m on the headset or not. I find that the headset is usable even when on the side of the open window.
In terms of comfort, I recently took a trip to Las Vegas from Los Angeles. The driving time is approximately four hours and I wore the headset to and fro without suffering any “ear fatigue”. In fact, I barely noticed it was in my ear until calls came in. When I’m working at my mobile office (aka Starbucks or Panera Breads), I’ll leave the headset in the carrying case and leave it on the table in front of me or in a shirt pocket. Typically, I’ll be listening to music on my digital audio player while working. When incoming calls come in, headset + carrying case will flash and vibrate and catch my attention to pick up the call. That’s nice.
I also use the Discovery 655 with my laptop for those times when I’m making calls with Skype and it works really well. The usage is similar to my mobile handset and the sound quality is equally good. Due to its headset profile, the Discovery 655 works as a wireless earphone (albeit a mono one) so you can listen to music playing on your laptop or computer. Quality is ok but it’s not a replacement for a stereo headset.
Battery life has been pretty good and with my normal usage, I charge the unit every three days or every day on heavy usage days. I don’t mind charging it every day since the lightweight and quality make up for it. Also, I routinely charge most of my devices before I got to sleep so it’s not an issue.
I’m really happy with the Plantronics Discovery 655 and I use it a lot more than my previous one because it’s more convenient to use and very comfortable.
In terms of looks and design, I really like the slim profile as it’s unassuming and doesn’t draw attention to your ear. A lot of Bluetooth headsets make you look like something out of a sci-fi movie and gladly this one does not. I feel less silly wearing this one compared to my older larger headset. Also, it’s less than half the weight of my previous model so that accounts for me liking it.
I do wish Bluetooth manufacturers would stop using the bright blue lights to illuminate their products. Yeah, we get it. Blue = Bluetooth. How about something less blinding? A simple Bluetooth logo silkscreened onto the product would suffice.
At any rate, I highly recommend this or the Discovery 665 if you want a car charger included. While the product has a MRSP of $149.99 USD, you can find the product for less online if you search around. It may not be the cheapest but the usability and quality make it an outstanding value.