I freely and openly admit that I have purposely avoided getting a Bluetooth headset.� It isn’t that I’m opposed to them (although I do find it funny at the airport when people forget to take them off and try to go through security!) it is just that I have never found one that I’ve been completely thrilled with.� Most of them either weigh too much on my ear, the ear bud isn’t comfortable or the sound quality for me and/or whoever is on the phone with me has been less than wonderful.� With this in mind, when Judie contacted me about doing a review of the newBluetooth headset I was happy to review it but not overly enthused.� Now, a month later, I’m glad I did the review!� I have found the nXZEN to be one of the better headsets that I have tested both from an ease-of-use perspective as well as sound clarity and quality.� Combine those two with a lightweight form factor and you have a winning headset that any Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone or Smartphone user should consider.
To begin, the nXZEN is different than many of the Bluetooth headsets available in that it will work with Voice over IP technology as well traditional cellular-based calls.� If you think about it, this somewhat makes sense.� As long as you have an application on your device or your PC, getting the data to output/input to the headset really isn’t that difficult but it does take some effort.� nXZEN has done that and done it well.� In using the headset with the included Skype client for PC and the application available for Pocket PCs, I found the sound quality to be good.� Because of my day-to-day job, I was also able to test the headset with the Cisco Systems Cisco Agent Desktop (CAD) and Unified Communicator and it worked flawlessly with them.
The nXZEN is small, coming in at an amazingly light 17 grams (.54 oz) and is 59.9mm long by 28.5mm high.� This small, lightweight package makes the nXZEN 5000 comfortable to wear for hours without any feeling of pressure or weight on your outer ear.� Further, the clip bar which holds the headset on your ear is reversible, easily flipping to be worn on your left or right ear.� Finally, it comes with a wide range of various shaped and sized ear buds to meet the comfort level of virtually any user.� The ear buds easily snap on-and-off of the nXZEN and I recommend trying them to see which one fits your needs best.�
Built into this small package a powerful Digital Signal Processing (DSP) unit which greatly increases the performance of the headset.� Call clarity is simply fantastic for both you and those you are calling.� Because of DSP abilities, calls in noisy rooms are no longer a problem as you are able to hear your caller while they hear you and not all the ambient noise.
On the nXZEN 5000 the operation of the headset is simple with four control buttons on the device.� The main button is in the middle of the chassis and is the on and off switch when it is held for 4 seconds.� While in use this button also allows you to answer and hang up calls by a simple press and release.� On the sides of the headset behind the main button are the volume controls.�
The volume buttons on the 5000 can be swapped so that the volume (+) button is always on top, no matter which ear the device is in. This is done by holding the two volume buttons together until a �volume switch successful� melody is heard.�
At the front of the headset is the pinch button which serves multiple purposes.� The pinch button is used when you are partnering the headset with your device or PC and serves as a mute button when you are on a phone call.� In the images below, thanks to my son Robert, you get an idea of the size and shape of the headset.
Aside from the headset itself, the nXZEN 5000 package comes with an A/C adapter to charge the headset along with a USB charger, the afore mentioned range of ear buds, USB dongle for use with your PC and the nXZEN Dongle Manager software.� In order to use the headset with your PC you will need to install the Dongle Manager software and attached the dongle itself to a USB port on your PC.� As you would expect, the installation of the software is wizard driven and it installs in less than a minute.� In my testing, the Dongle Manager software works under both Windows XP (SP2) as well as Vista (although it is currently not supported by nXZEN).�
Once installation is complete and the software is started, attached the USB dongle to your PC and let it install the drivers which were installed with the Dongle Manager software.� The Dongle essentially is a Bluetooth adapter for your PC and helps you manage how you use the headset with Skype.� Using the manager allows you to configure if you want all audio from your PC to go through the headset or through your PCs speakers and microphone.� While it is technically possible to do all of this without the dongle and the manager application, both of these make it quicker and easier to use.
As part of the installation process, you have the option to install the latest Skype client.� For those who do not know, Skype is a Voice over IP application that allows you to place calls for free to any other Skype user or, for a small per minute fee.� The quality of Skype calls is largely dependent on the amount of bandwidth you have available and if you are on a wireless connection.� For example, my PC connects to my network via a 100Mbit Ethernet connection and Skype, along with other VoIP applications, works brilliantly well.� However, take my PC and put it on a 11Mbit 802.11b WiFi connection and quality takes a severe hit.� This is not a problem with Skype (I work on VoIP networks and call centers for a living – trust me on this one) but the quality of the connection.
Once you have inserted the USB dongle into your PC’s USB port, you will need to pair the nXZEN headset with your PC.� To do this, press and hold the Pinch button on the headset for 4 seconds after you have clicked the Set Pairing button in the Dongle Manager.� I found the partnering to be quick and simple in my preparation for this review – both on my PC with the Dongle Manager software and on my Windows Mobile device.� With the paring complete, all you need to do is select the Skype Phone in the Dongle Manager to use the headset with Skype.� Otherwise, you can choose the headset to have it be your primary audio input/output on your PC.� If you don’t want to use the headset just set it to the Audio Mode
As I indicated earlier, my “day job” is an Engineering Manager for a VoIP implementer and software company.� This means that I get to work with Voice over IP applications and products on a daily basis, mostly from Cisco Systems.� For those of you who use the Cisco Unified Communicator or Cisco Agent Desktop (CAD), the nXZEN 5000 will work with those applications.� All you need to do is bypass the Dongle Manager and have the headset pair directly with your PC.� Once this is done and you configure either CUC or CAD to use the headset, it works flawlessly.
Now that I have covered the Windows PC side of the nXZEN 5000, let’s discuss the Windows Mobile aspects of this great little headset.� As you would expect, the headset is compatible with any Bluetooth enabled Windows Mobile Standard (Smartphone) or Professional (PocketPC Phone) device.� In preparing for this review, I was able to easily pair the device with multiple devices with no difficulty in pairing them or in using them.� In pairing the headset to your device, remember to enable your device’s Bluetooth radio (often disabled to conserve battery life) by going to Start>Settings>Communications>Bluetooth on your device.� There is no need to make your device discoverable as the headset, once you press-and-hold the Pinch button for 4 seconds, becomes discoverable.�
After you pair the device and enter the passphrase (0000) to enable the pairing, you can then configure the headset to be your hands-free source for your device.� By doing this, you are able to answer and hang-up calls as well as mute or un-mute them all from the headset.� Note the small headset icon on my phone in the upper right-hand corner.� This indicates that my device is now in hands-free mode.
Having used the nXZEN 5000 for several weeks now I have to say it is one of the best Bluetooth headsets I have used.� The sound quality is fantastic, especially in a noisy environment or in your car.� The lightweight design of the headset itself makes it comfortable to wear for long hours and its overall ease-of-use makes this one a real winner.�
What I Like:� Great design, comfortable to wear and easy to configure on PCs and Windows Mobile devices.�
What Needs Improvement:� Nothing