capsule review

Iqua Blade BHS-802 Bluetooth Headset

At a Glance
  • Iqua Blade BHS-802 Bluetooth Headset

    PCWorld Rating

    You’ll like the Blade’s attractive $70 price and its sleek look, but its handling of background noise lags behind the performance of most of the others in our chart.

Earhook-style Bluetooth headsets are generally not my cup of tea, so my eyes lit up when I saw the the Iqua Blade BHS-802, which functions without an earhook. Simply pop the Blade's earpiece in your ear and orient the unit downward toward your mouth, and you're in business.

(My preference is purely subjective: I find that most earhooks are distracting, don't feel sturdy over my small ears, typically require two hands to affix, and compete with the temple arm of my eyeglasses.)

As hookless headsets go, the affordable Blade ($70 as of February 23, 2009) feels compact and light. The earpiece, however, was too large to fit fully into my ear canal, making it uncomfortable in my ear, especially for extended periods of use. That said, the unit felt relatively secure while I was walking around, and it didn't slip, even when I shook my head from side to side. (It comes with a second ear plug cover, but The extra cover is even bigger than the primary one.)

You press the Blade's multifunction button to turn the Blade on or off; to answer, end, or reject calls; and to handle call waiting. This button is flush with the unit's surface, and I got the hang of using it after a couple of calls. To end a call, for example, I had to exert quite a bit of pressure on the button, and I had adjust the length of time I kept the button pressed down: Hold the button down a split-second too long, and you turn off the Blade altogether (I did this by mistake twice).

The volume buttons are located on the side of the unit, within easy reach of your index finger. I liked the way Iqua designed these buttons for double- and triple-duty. Some examples: Push the volume-up button for a couple of seconds to redial the most recent previously dialed number. If you're on a call and want to transfer the call from your headset back to your phone, hold down the volume-up button until the call switches to your handset. Press the volume-down button to mute or unmute a call, or to initiate your phone's voice-dialing commands. (For the Blade's call-transfer and voice-dialing features to work, your cell phone needs to support these capabilities.)

Overall, in low-noise conditions, call quality was impressive, in or out of the car. Call recipients could tell that I was not talking into my phone's handset, but they could hear me fine most of the time. Nobody complained that my voice was breaking up. And voices sounded clear to me, with no breaking up. A handful of calls had some static--at both ends. In my range tests, the Blade's call sounded very crackly as I got to within several feet of the operating-range limit, which is 33 feet (10 meters) for Bluetooth Class 2 headsets), but the calls didn't drop.

Compared to some high-ranking headsets on our chart, the Blade didn't do a great job of reducing background noises: When I turned up my tunes, including those with a heavy bass, call recipients could hear the music in all its glory (or otherwise). Likewise, the headset picked up toddlers' squawks in the background. When I spoke loudly, I drowned out the background noises to some extent, but callers could still hear the extraneous hullabaloo.

If you're looking for an inexpensive headset and if your ears are largish, consider the Iqua Blade. Another point to consider is whether most of your calls will occur in relatively quiet environments, where the Blade operates at its best.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    You’ll like the Blade’s attractive $70 price and its sleek look, but its handling of background noise lags behind the performance of most of the others in our chart.

    Pros

    • Inexpensive
    • Volume buttons perform multiple actions

    Cons

    • Doesn't sufficiently reduce background noise
    • Limited ear accessories
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