5 Bluetooth Headsets: Not Just for Phone Calls
It may be enviably small, light and inexpensive, but the i.Tech EasyChat 306 is a very basic headset that lacks some of the mobile creature comforts that the others provide.
At 1.7 x 0.9 x 0.5 in. and 0.32 oz., it's about the same size as and a little lighter than the Motorola CommandOne; only the Jabra Stone2 is lighter. It looks positively tiny next to the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC but lacks the design flair of the Stone2 or Jawbone ERA.
The black-and-gray device has a removable ear loop and can work in either ear. However, it comes with only one ear tip rather than the assortment that the others provide. Despite this, the EasyChat sat firmly in my ear, and I was able to wear it comfortably for a few hours at a time.
The EasyChat comes with a comparatively large Bluetooth dongle for use with laptops, and an 8-in. MicroUSB cable for charging the unit's battery. It is the only headset I looked at that doesn't come with an AC adapter, which means that if you don't want to just charge it through a computer, you need to buy a generic USB power adapter.
It's the only headset to come with a CD -- because you need to load the company's VoIP PC Suite software on your computer to use EasyChat with Skype's VoIP phone service. The earpiece requires the use of the included Bluetooth dongle and works only on PCs. It took me about three minutes to install the program, along with another two minutes for the program to adjust my system's Skype settings. After that, Skype calls went through without a problem.
The EasyChat connected on the first try with my phone but refused to link with my iPad because the headset doesn't support Bluetooth's A2DP audio streaming. This also keeps it from receiving music from a phone or computer, something the others were able to do.
In addition to a volume control, the EasyChat has a Multi-Function button, which you press to turn the headset on or off and to start or take a call. The device supports voice calling (assuming that your phone supports that feature) but doesn't offer any additional apps for, say, having text read back to you.
In testing, the EasyChat provided only 2 hours and 8 minutes of battery life, the shortest of the five headsets. Unfortunately, unlike the Stone2 and CommandOne, it doesn't have a visible battery gauge. I was able to get up to a reasonable 30 feet from my signal source before I lost the connection.
I found its audio quality to be disappointing. The EasyChat 306 had a hollow, otherworldly quality, even when I was having a conversation in a quiet place. Callers reported that at their end, words sounded broken up and at times weren't understandable. In a noisy environment -- driving with the windows down -- voices were clipped short with broken words, making it hard to understand what was being said.
The EasyChat 306 has one big thing going for it: a price that is half as much as many of its competitors'. But in this case, you get what you pay for.
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