Review: Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset | webOS Nation
 
 

Review: Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset 15

by Derek Kessler Wed, 02 Sep 2009 4:36 pm EDT

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

The Jawbone has been consistently held up as the gold standard of Bluetooth headsets. In its latest iteration, the Jawbone Prime, Aliph has added new features that enhance the praised headset’s superior noise cancellation abilities. The Jawbone Prime now performs admirably in the face of wind noise (a major sticking point on previous versions), as well as providing decent noise cancellation even when the vibration-sensing activity sensor is not touching your skin.

Voice Quality

What has made the Jawbone line unique is the little white nub on the face side of the device. When worn properly, the nub should touch the top of your cheek. Instead of using fancy algorithms to isolate your voice from the background, the Jawbone uses the nub to manually detect your voice (since your body will resonate when you speak, but not so much when things around you make noise) and then applies fancy algorithms to cut out all of the background noise.

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

In practice, this system has always worked admirably well. There were two problems, however, that impacted the previous Jawbone II headset: wind noise and fit. Thankfully, with the addition of some more fancy algorithms, Aliph has managed to cut out most of the wind noise, such that I could drive down the highway with the windows open and could still be heard just fine (hearing the caller was another question). While the Jawbone line has always had good quality voice application for your end, the speaker has always been slightly less-than-great. While it’s not worse than most other headsets, it does fall short for a high end headset. Callers almost always sound like they’re coming out of a tinny speaker, and increasing the volume results in distorted voices. It works, but it’s a bit on the disappointing side.

Controls

While some faults of the previous Jawbone headsets have been fixed in the Prime, the form-before-function maddening user interface still remains. The Jawbone Prime has two buttons: a multi-function on/off/answer/hang-up “talk” button and a volume/isolation “NoiseAssassin” button. Both buttons are build into the dimpled outer face of the headset, the talk button on the side and marked by a subtle crease (and much easier to find than the unmarked talk button on the previous version) and the NoiseAssasin button on the back end (pushing forward).

While the talk button’s functionality is much the same as many other headsets on the market - hold to turn on or off and tap to answer or hang-up - the NoiseAssassin’s one-button control of volume and noise isolation is frustrating to say the least. Tapping the button will raise the volume five times (though it does link in with the Pre’s volume controls), after hitting the top the Jawbone drops back down to the lowest volume. Pressing and holding the NoiseAssassin button while on a call will turn off or turn on the NoiseAssassin isolation, which is on by default for every call. But when not on a call, the holding the NoiseAssassin button initiates voice dialing (which the Pre does not yet support).

Comfort

Another area of marked improvement for the Jawbone Prime is in fit and comfort. Not only does the headset now fit just fine with or without the included ear hooks (I prefer to wear it with), they’ve included six different earbuds to customize your fit, three without an additional loop and three with. Personally, I like it with the ones with the loop, as it better wedges the headset into place than the older round earbuds. For wearers with the ear hooks you have the option of a simple plastic hook or a classy leather-wrapped hook. The insert point now has stiff rotation points such that the hook snaps into place and gently pushes against your head, pivoting the activity sensor against your cheek.

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

Style

While the two hidden buttons are somewhat frustrating to use, they do give the benefit of a clean exterior that is quite simply classy. The elongated dimples on the surface are much more subtle than the stretched diamond pattern on the previous Jawbone. Like all older Jawbones, the Prime has a simple white and red LED indicator that shines through a tiny slit hidden on the surface. The flashing is visble, but not at all bright like some other headsets. As far as fashion is concerned, the Jawbone Prime is at the top of the heap of Bluetooth headsets.

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

In the Box

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

They say you can tell how much a company cares about their product by how they package it. More so than almost any other company, Aliph packages their Jawbone Prime like it’s a museum piece. The headset itself is mounted on a clear plastic pedestal at the top of a crystal-like hard plastic case. Once you remove the sleeve and open the case the headset easily comes off of the pedestal (a great improvement over previous models) and you’re immediately presented with your fit customization options below. Artfully packaged inside are a quick start guide and safety information AC-to-USB adapter, USB charge cable with magnet latching, two ear hooks (plastic and leather), three round earbuds, and two earbuds with loop (the third comes fitted to the headset).

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

Conclusion

The Jawbone line has received many much needed improvements with the Prime. The much-lauded noise cancellation system is notably better and able to cope with more variables. The inclusion of new earbuds allow for a much more customizable fit and let the user wear the headset even without the ear hook. That said, the controls are still frustratingly obscure and speaker quality is not quite good enough for the price. But if you’re in the market for a stylish headset with superior noise cancellation abilities, the Jawbone Prime should most definitely be on your list.

The Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset is available in the PreCentral store for $109.95, a 15% savings off the list price of $129.95. It is available in Black, Platinum, Brown, Green, Yellow, Purple, and Red.

Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

Pros

Top-notch noise cancellation

Cons

Subtle controls are not easy to feel