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Aliph Jawbone Prime Bluetooth Headset

At a Glance
  • Aliph Jawbone Prime

    PCWorld Rating

    Latest Bluetooth headset from Aliph boasts stellar audio quality and top-notch noise cancellation. Extra accessories up your odds of obtaining a great fit.

The new Aliph Jawbone Prime makes priorities of both audio quality and comfort. This $130 model (as of April 23, 2009) upholds the high standards set by the previous Jawbone, but it goes to greater lengths to increase your comfort.

If you don't like headsets that attach via loops over your ears, you'll be happy to learn that you can wear the new Jawbone Prime without a hook--or with one, if you wish. The unit comes with a generous array of earwear: six earbuds and an optional ear hook. So whatever your preference, you'll probably be able to achieve a fit that feels pretty comfy, snug, and secure. I did.

The new Jawbone Prime is exactly the same size as its predecessor, last year's Jawbone. However, the Jawbone Prime's outer shield introduces a slightly recessed portion that is designed to aid navigation. The texture of the shield is different, as well.

I tend to dislike loopy contraptions around my ears, both because I wear eyeglasses and because my hair is long. Consequently I was pleased to be able to insert the Jawbone Prime into my ear with one hand and adjust the position as needed to ensure that the unit faced down toward my mouth.

To keep the Jawbone in your ear without a hook, you select one of the earbuds that has a stabilizing ring. (The box includes three of these--small, medium, and large.) The bulkier end of the earbud sports a tiny spout, which helps secure it in the user's ear. Overall, the fit felt reasonably comfortable, and I didn't have to do much twiddling to position the earbud farther into my ear canal. The headset did not slip when I rolled my head around.

I also tried the Jawbone Prime with the optional hook, and the fit felt identical to that of the older Jawbone. After a quick maneuver to affix the loop to my ear, I arrived at a fairly comfortable fit, which stayed put.

Like its predecessor, the Jawbone Prime conceals its function buttons below the surface. But to access the Talk button (for instance) on the earlier Jawbone, you had to know where to press--because the surface had no visible indicators. With the Jawbone Prime, as you glide your finger down the headset, you can feel a slight dip or dimple on the surface. Bingo; you've reached the Talk button. (Pressing this button answers a call, or turns the Jawbone on or off, depending on the device's status when you press it.) The groove helped me find the right spot to press quickly. All is not yet perfect, however: When I tried pressing the dimpled area during my first few calls, the feedback felt so undefined that I wasn't sure I had pressed the button properly. Eventually I got used to this low-key feedback, but I would have preferred a multifunction button with a firm response mechanism.

The previous Jawbone's call quality set a high standard for future members of the Aliph family to meet, but the Jawbone Prime does not disappoint in this department. My test calls sounded very impressive: Clear voices at both ends, no annoying echoes, no choppiness. One party commented on how much better my voice sounded while I was using the headset compared to what my phone handset had delivered in a call immediately before. Quality went south during only a handful of calls: In those instances, folks at the other end complained that I sounded a bit muffled. Also, during one range test, crackling sounds became distracting when I was only about halfway to the headset's 33-foot limit.

The Jawbone Prime does an especially fine job of background noise cancellation. During some calls, when the stereo at my desk or in my car was belting out tunes, call recipients couldn't hear the music at all. And even when extreme noise levels arose in the background--including a grunting bus and screeching kids--folks listening for them said that they heard only vague sounds that were not at all distracting.

Aliph touts the headset's detection and handling of wind during calls. During my limited testing period, alas, I didn't encounter sufficiently windy conditions to give the Jawbone Prime much of a test on this score. But even with the car windows rolled down and the breeze swirling about, my voice sounded good--though slightly muffled.

Finally, a word about the headset's appearance: To my mind, the Jawbone Prime is sleek and robust looking. The outer shield is composed of a subdued-textured pattern, a bit like a honeycomb in miniature. You're spoiled for choice if you're the color-coordinating type, with seven colors to choose from: black, silver, brown, green, scarlet, lilac, and yellow.

If you're in the market for a Bluetooth headset, Jawbone Prime sets the new standard for others to try to match. Aliph reports that consumers will be able to buy the Jawbone Prime starting May 2, 2009.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Latest Bluetooth headset from Aliph boasts stellar audio quality and top-notch noise cancellation. Extra accessories up your odds of obtaining a great fit.

    Pros

    • Impressive call quality and noise reduction
    • Wear with or without ear loop

    Cons

    • Pricey
    • Limited Talk button tactile feedback
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