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Product Review: Minute, featherweight Bluetooth headset

The GN Netcom GN 6210 Bluetooth Wireless Headset not only frees users' hands, it also lets them step away from the phone with only a small device plugged right into their ear.

Product description: Bluetooth wireless telephone headset; works with both Bluetooth mobile phones and conventional or VoIP desktop handsets.
Class: Office or mobile phone communications, suitable for remote, office or home/home office use.
Company: GN Netcom
Cost: MSRP is $279, but deals abound; for example, you'll pay $136.99 at (prices range from $127-200 at online outlets)
You'll love this product if: you need a compact, comfortable, wireless telephone headset.
You won't if: you need to roam more than 33 feet from the base station, work in a noisy environment (the in-ear speaker does poorly when there's lots of background noise) or if the unit doesn't fit your ear well (it's not adjustable).

Those who work the phone for a living often become enamored of telephone headsets, simply because they free their users from having to cradle a phone and also free their hands to do other things -- often, that means working on a computer to access or update customer data, take notes, check records, or do whatever else may needed to conduct the business that is under discussion. The GN Netcom GN 6210 Bluetooth Wireless Headset takes this principal one step further: It not only frees users' hands, it also lets them step away from the phone with only a small device plugged right into their ear.

At about 0.8 oz (23 grams) and with silicon rubber caps designed to fit either the left or right ear of its wearer, this super-light, super-compact headset offers great voice quality at distances up to 33 feet (10 meters) away from the base station (and the phone with which the base station communicates). Battery life is also exceptional for this minute unit: It delivers up to eight hours of active talk time and up to 50 hours of standby on a single battery charge. The base station also acts as a convenient battery charger and battery life is designed to allow users to be on the phone all day without concern. Netcom even includes a travel cradle for recharging should users wish to take the headset on the road without schlepping the base station along.

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The base station includes modular jacks for telephone headset in and out cables, to enable the use of this headset with a conventional desk phone. You must manually lift the handset on the desk phone before the headset will cut in (though you can also buy an automated handset lifter from GN Netcom for about $75). Of course, the headset also works with Bluetooth phones. (We had good luck using this unit with current Nokia, Motorola and Samsung models. Other published reports about this device mention Orange, Siemens and i-mate phones as well.) We were also able to use it quite nicely with VoIP handsets and cordless phone from DUALPhone, Zultys and Cisco. The handset is even pretty adept at juggling simultaneous calls from a Bluetooth mobile phone and desktop phone (either POTS or VoIP), though some fiddling with the mobile phone's headset or hands-free call profiles may be necessary to get things working properly.

The base station acts as a general Bluetooth receiver and can handle multiple other Bluetooth devices as well as the headset. We were able to use the base station with a Dell Axim x51v to link to a PC, as well as run our handset with a desktop and mobile phone combination. In general we found the unit easy to set up and use, though we didn't enjoy wearing it for more than two to three hours at a time.

Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget Web sites and the author of over 100 books on a wide range of computing subjects from markup languages to information security. E-mail Ed at Justin Korelc is a long time Linux hacker and PC enthusiast who works with Ed, primarily on PC and VoIP hardware and security topics.

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