capsule review

Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset

At a Glance
  • Aliph Jawbone

    PCWorld Rating

    The Aliph Jawbone may have a rugged look, but this headset offers excellent audio quality and a clean design.

When it comes to Bluetooth headsets, what's your definition of "sleek"? If you say it means "minimalist, understated, and textured," then the second-generation Aliph Jawbone fits the bill. But if you say it means "shiny, smooth, and dainty," well, cross the Jawbone off your list.

In my opinion, the $130 (as of December 1, 2008) new Jawbone is sleek--to the touch, and in the wearing. And I mean that as a good thing. The Jawbone topped our latest round of headset tests.

The front of the Jawbone sports a textured strip or outer shield, which looks and feels like a mosaic of miniature diamond-shaped tiles. To initiate or end a call, or to dial by voice, you press designated areas on the headset, going by touch alone--the Jawbone has no visible buttons. This is not a big deal, however, because the headset's design, which has a wide enough area on the surface, makes feeling for the correct portions easy from the get-go. And you're not totally left in the dark: You can see the indicator light (for the charging status, for example) through a slit in the shield.

In a nice touch, Aliph offers earhooks of four different sizes: two medium and two large (one pair is leather and the other is rubberized metal). And even though the earhook is fixed in position, it felt comfortable enough--and that's coming from someone for whom the earhook design rarely works.

In my hands-on tests, the audio quality impressed. My contacts reported that my voice sounded crisp and clear during calls almost all of the time. On one call, though, the person at the other end thought I sounded far away.

The new Jawbone's ability to eliminate background noise was even more impressive. When I made calls in two loud situations (one with machinery whirring and another with loud music playing), the call recipients heard only my voice. When I stopped talking, one person could hear something indistinct in the background, but couldn't tell that it was music; the second person couldn't hear a thing. Furthermore, I stood 33 feet away from my cell phone, and the other parties could still hear what I was saying, with only faint crackling.

One person who saw me wear the black Jawbone deemed it too manly. (It also comes in gold, silver, blue, and pink.) Sure, that's one point of view: You can't really say this headset is svelte. But looks aren't everything, and the Aliph Jawbone does its job so well that I couldn't care less about its apparently masculine design!

(For more on selecting the right headset for you, see our Bluetooth headset buying guide.)

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Aliph Jawbone may have a rugged look, but this headset offers excellent audio quality and a clean design.

    Pros

    • Superb sound quality and noise cancellation
    • Multiple earbud and earhook options

    Cons

    • Pricey
    • Minimal visual cues
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