Bluetooth Mobile Headset Roundup - IOGear GBE201W7 Headset

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Bluetooth Mobile Headset Roundup
IOGear GBE201W7 Headset
Plantronics 320 Explorer Headset

IOGear GBE201W7:

The IOGear GBE201W7 is definately an entry level headset.  This unit can be found online for as little as $30USD.  The question becomes "Is a $30 headset worth bringing home?"  We hope to find out so read on.

The IOGear GBE201W7 actually comes with a very good bundle.  It ships with a decent manual that includes instructions on connecting the headset to both your computer and your phone.  Also included is an earclip for your right ear only, as well as a couple of foam padded "earbug" covers.  Also included in the package is a lanyard so that you can pull the headset out of your ear and hang it around your neck.  When it comes time to charge the unit you've got a couple of options - the AC adapter or the USB charging cable.  Either one should only take a couple of hours to charge things and be ready to go again.

IOGear Bundle

IOGear Front

The IOGear GBE201W7 is a Bluetooth 1.1 headset that has a lot of features for it's price.  Although we can expect the signal not to be quite as clear with this unit as with a Bluetooth 1.2 device, it may make up for it with sheer features and accessories.

This headset has a single button and a volume rocker switch much like the Logitech Mobile Freedom.  The multi-fuction button is located on the back with the volume conveniently located at the top.  The volume can be easily adjusted while in-call if it is too loud or to soft.

IOGear Power Connector


The IOGear headset is the smallest of the three tested, and also has the brightest LED.  This LED flashes every few seconds when it's on standby and actually throws quite a bit of light.  If you lost your keys in a dark room, you may be able to find them with this headset.  My 1 year old and 3 year old sons found it quite fascinating.

Pairing - Installation:

Installation of the IOGear GBE201W7 is as painless as bluetooth pairing can be.  Simply press and hold the multi-fuction button down to turn it on and continue to hold it until a red LED appears.  At this point you can choose to pair the headset with another supporting bluetooth device such as a phone, PDA etc.  Once the headset is discovered you will be prompted to enter a four digit passkey in order to complete the process.  This is very simple and can be done in less than a minute.  For those of you who have never used bluetooth devices, a manual is included that should help you in case there are some issues.


Function, Features & Comfort:

Below is a list of features and specifications according to IOGear on their website:

  • Hands-free communications via your Bluetooth cell phone
  • Support both headset profile and hands-free profile
  • Class 2 Headset, compatible with Bluetooth 1.1 specifications
  • Can be used as an audio device on the computer with Internet chat programs like Skype, MSN Messenger, etc.
  • Easy operation and comfortable wear
  • Ear hook included to ensure secure wearing
  • Volume control included
  • Built-in re-chargeable battery for 4.5 hour talk time
  • Light and attractive design
  • Supported Voice-Over-IP programs: Skype v1.3, MSN Messenger v4.7, Yahoo Messenger v7.0, AOL Instant Messenger v5.9, and Google Talk.
  •  Ultra Light Weight - 17grams.

This unit doesn't have a whole lot of functionality features in and of itself, but it does make up for it with extremely light weight.  Not only is this headset the smallest, but it ranks among the lightest headsets on the market as well.  IOGear claims that the GBE201W7 has a noise and echo cancelling mic.  If it works as good as they claim, this is an incredible value as these features generally come only on more expensive headsets.

This unit is quite comfortable to wear.  With the included foam earpads and the earclip, I was able to wear it for hours on my right ear with no trouble.  Unfortunately, the earclip doesn't work on the left ear, so if you wear it on the left, you won't be able to use the clip.  However, with this unit weighing in at a mere 17 grams, it won't likely fall out unless your quite active.  If you are worried about losing it, you can always use the included lanyard and clip.  Bonus.

Sound Quality:

Sound quality is where this unit starts to get a little shaky.  Although the earpiece fits well and is comfortable to wear, the quality of the voices heard over the headset are quite poor.  Maybe I was expecting too much from the earbud, but I was a little disappointed in the quality.  Voices always have a faint hiss to them and there is often some popping sound during a conversation.  Occasionally, the sound drops off for a split second during a conversation as if the signal were lost - even when the headset is a couple of feet away from the phone.

The mic on this unit is very powerful and I've been told that I was very loud and clear from the person I was calling.  That's not always a good thing.  In any environment with background noise (office, car, parking lot, farm) the mic picks up background noise and even walking accross a gravel lot generated enough noise that I could hardly be heard over the sound of me walking. . . IOGear claims this headset is capable of noise cancelling, but in my experience it does not do this at all.

Range & Battery Life:

The IOGear GBE201W7 is a Bluetooth 1.1 device.  It claims a range of 10 meters, but falls short of this.  If I wear my phone on my left side and have the headset in my right ear, I often get static as the signal must travel either around or through my body.  I'm no Arnold Schwarzenegger so it shouldn't be that hard to do.  The signal is often plagued with hiss and static from a poor connection.  In ideal conditions I managed 15 feet of range, but it was fuzzy and not really usable.  IOGear has sacrificed size for range I believe, and it's not always the best tradeoff.

Because this unit is the smallest headset we tested, we can also assume that it has the shortest battery life as well.  It only claims a talk time of 4.5 hours and a standby time of 100 hours.  This is roughly half the rated time of the Logitech headset.  The good news is that it lasts all of 4.5 hours talking, but if you do a lot of business on your phone/headset during the day, you'll likely need to charge it during the day.  This is not very convenient for the end user.  Charging nightly is acceptable, but during the day is a pain - even if it includes USB and AC chargers.

Charging the IOGear headset takes at the most 2 hours, and is often ready to go within an hour if you don't let the battery run right dead.  It charges quickly and unfortunately discharges fairly quickly as well.

How It Scores: Rating
Sound Quality Ear:
Sound Quality Mic:
Battery Life :
Total Score 7.6



Keep on reading as we take a look at the Plantronics Explorer 320 on the last page.