As our world grows more mobile, the importance of being able to go hands free and pay attention to what we are doing also grows. Not only is texting or emailing and driving dangerous, but we are discovering that driving and using a handset for any use can be disastrous. With this said, the market if flooded with hands free devices from headphones to bluetooth solutions. I have attempted to use some of the bottom tiered products with limited success. When someone calls, I still tend to pick up my phone to see who is calling and I also have a problem with clarity of my voice. Be it wind or other noises, having the microphone open on the side of my head can often give a caller trouble hearing my conversation. We were fortunate enough to be able to try out the T1 Rugged bluetooth headset from BlueAnt which promises to address all of these problems. Let’s take a look.
One of my first concerns when using a headset is comfort. My first (giant) bluetooth headset would destroy my ears. I only use one when driving and it was so uncomfortable, I could not even wear it for a short trip. In fact, I tried to keep it in my cup holder and quickly stick it in my ear when a call was coming in. Kind of defeats the purpose of a headset. The T1 headset comes with small, medium and large ear buds as well as flexible ear hooks. The buds are soft plastic which make them comfortable and secure when installed in the hear. These buds fit on the edge of the ear canal rather than inside. While this does not make a seal to block out noise, it does make for greater comfort. I was able to wear the headset with and without the ear hook with no problem and great comfort. Users will have no problem wearing the T1 for long periods of time. I did not experience the ear fatigue headsets usually cause. In fact, after a few minutes, you will forget you are wearing it at all.
So, the T1 is super comfortable and easy to wear, but how easy is it to use? The headset comes complete with voice commands. To pair with your phone, simply follow the prompts. The voice will talk you through pairing which will only take a few seconds. Of course, most know how to pair bluetooth with their phone, but the feature is quick and well thought out. I like that the power switch is on the inside of the unit and simple to use, other products require a long push from the call button and can be a pain to use. The outside of the headset has one button which is simple to find and push and volume up and down buttons on the top side. When a call comes in, a female voice announces, “Call from xxxxx xxxxx.” Then a male voice says, “Answer or ignore.” Simply state your choice and the call will either be answered or canceled. I found the voice answer to work well as long as there was not a lot of noise like a television, radio or room full of people. No worries if that is the case, as you can press the button on the T1 to answer the call also. Luckily it is easily accessed so not a problem. Clicking the button once answers the call and double click to reject the call.
On initial set up or whenever you choose later, the headset will actually sync with your phone’s contacts. To re-sync after contacts are added, hold the call button on the T1 for a few seconds and it will be updated. The voice will announce, “Update phone book” then “transferring contacts” until it is complete. 2000 contacts can be stored on the headset, so I would think most people will not run into any problems with space. Tapping the call button once will prompt, “Say a command.” You may check the battery, call for information or make a voice call if your phone has the capability. To make a voice call, you must say, “Phone Commands.” All of the voice commands worked well as long as there were not loud voices in the background. Basically, almost every phone call command can be used completely hands free and using voice prompts. I love the ease of use of making this a hands free experience.
Another great feature is A2DP support for audio. If the phone supports A2DP, you will be able to listen to podcasts, music, or even GPS driving instructions through the T1. I LOVE this feature. The audio also works with applications other than the iPod such as Pandora, Slacker Radio or I Heart Radio. Audio from games will also play through the headset. Basically, the T1 will act just as any headphones would while connected to your phone.
So the T1 is comfortable, super easy and intuitive to use and has some great voice features. What about the audio? All of these features do not matter if the speaker does not sound good or microphone does not work well. I am happy to report that the audio quality of the headset is surprisingly good. When thinking of a way to describe the sound, “booming” was the first word to come to mind. Callers sound just as good or better than they do through the actual phone. Voices are clear and crisp. Other audio also pleasantly surprised me. Music sounds great with crisp highs and deep lows for a full range sound. The audio is not has good as my Shure in ear headphones, but better than many I have used designed for music in the past. The audio quality put the T1 over the top as the best bluetooth headset I have ever used.
This same quality is clear in the microphone. BlueAnt boasts superior wind performance through the T1 Rugged bluetooth headset. This is achieved through what the company calls Wind Armour Technology. Using software installed in the headset along with dual microphones, the T1 is able to allow users to talk in almost any situation including wind up to 22 miles per hour. So talk away on a bike, hiking or cruising in a convertible with no issues. I tested the device on a super windy day while working in my yard as well as driving around town with the windows down and my wife was impressed with the quality of the calls. In each of my tests, the wind noise was better or as good as when using the handset alone. This is quite impressive since the microphone is riding on the side of your head right out in the wind.
If you are looking for a tough bluetooth headset included with some great features, the BlueAnt T1 Rugged Bluetooth Headset is a great option. The same comfort and quality seen with all BlueAnt products are coupled with fantastic features. Text to speech caller announcements as well as voice commands allows users to stay hands free to enjoy driving or outdoor activities. I will gladly give my personal recommendation for the T1 to anyone looking for a quality bluetooth headset.
MSRP: $79.99 (can be found cheaper if you shop around online)
What I like: Superior audio quality for a bluetooth headset as well as voice features to keep calls hands free.
What could be improved: Honestly, my only improvement would be a longer USB charging cable!