Bluetooth Mobile Headset Roundup - Plantronics 320 Explorer Headset

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Bluetooth Mobile Headset Roundup
IOGear GBE201W7 Headset
Plantronics 320 Explorer Headset

Plantronics 320 Explorer:

If a Bluetooth headset could be considered sexy, the Plantronics 320 Explorer would walk away with the hotty award in this roundup.  This headset is decent to look at and comes packing Plantronics brand name and quality.  Although it is priced in the entry-level market, don't let it fool you, it has features that other more expensive headsets have.  It certainly has got class going for it.

Plantronics Bundle

The Plantronics Explorer 320 comes with a minimal amount of hardware in the box.  There is simply a AC charger, the headset and a couple of manuals.  The manual covers installation, pairing and basic features of this headset.

Notice in the pictures below that the Explorer 320 only has a single button.  This button functions as a volume up/down switch as well as a multi-fuction button.  To raise or lower the volume you slide the button up and down, and to use other functions, you simply press the button.  This design makes for less clutter and is a very clean, simple design.

Plantronics Front

Plantronics Back

The back of this unit reveals the hard rubber earpiece and the charging jack.  The earpiece is designed so that the sound is carried directly into your ear canal.  There is basically no padding on this unit and it isn't as comfortable to wear as some.  The charging port is quite different but is engineer so that there is not a long power plug that could get broken off inside if it gets dropped while charging.

Plantronics Power Connector

Plantronics LED

The Plantronics Explorer 320 has a couple of LEDs that lie below the surface of a silver strip on the front side of the headset.  The LEDs cannot be located unless they are flashing.  This adds to the sleek appearance of the headset.  Pictured above is the LED as it flashes in standby mode.  When pairing, a red LED is displayed, and when a call has been missed, it appears purple.

Pairing - Installation:

Like every other headset we tested, pairing the Plantronics Explorer 320 was very painless.  The pairing procedure is pretty much exactly the same as the other units.  When the headset is off, you turn it on by pressing the power button and continue to hold it until a red LED flashes.  At this point you can search for new headsets with your other bluetooth device and when it is found you'll be prompted to enter a passkey.  Once this is done, you're good to go.  I had no trouble pairing the Explorer 320 with my phone, palm or computer.  It all worked simply and easily.

Function, Features & Comfort:

Before we take a look and see what this headset can actually do, we'll take a look at the features according to Plantronics and see what they claim it can do.

  • Talk Time - Up to 8 hours
  • Standby Time - Up to 240 hours
  • Range - Bluetooth standard 33 feet (10 meters)
  • Headset Weight - 17 grams (2/3 oz.)
  • Headset Controls - Volume, call answer/end, last number redial, voice-activated dialing
  • Battery Type - Lithium Ion
  • Wireless Compatibility - Bluetooth devices supporting headset and hands-free profiles
  • Version - Bluetooth 1.2

While this list of features appears short at first glance, the Plantronics Explorer 320 actually has more features than the other headsets.  When pairing with my Motorola V710 phone the headset supported redial which none of the other headsets did.  This is really only it's extra feature, but it's one that is actually quite handy.  If the line was busy or there is no answer when placing a call, it's much easier to redial that to go through the voice activated menus again and call the person.  One touch redial is very nice.

What disappointed me with this headset is the comfort factor.  The hard rubber earpiece got quite uncomfortable in my right ear after only an hour of usage.  I tried the headset in my left ear as well in case it made a difference and perhaps I have a mutated right ear.  Apparently I do.  When worn in my left ear, the headset was perfectly comfortable and could be worn for prolonged periods with no discomfort whatsoever.  When worn in my left ear, this is the most comfortable headset I tested.

Sound Quality:

With this headset so comfortable in my left ear, and with other features working great I was very hopeful in the sound quality department.  After the initial paring, I made a call to my wife and chatted up for a bit.  This headset has enough volume to work in most situations and even when working in a noisy environment I could hear the other person very clearly.  The sound was crisp and clean with very minimal crackle and hiss.  I found myself actually turning the volume down after a bit of usage due to the earpiece design.  Overall the earpiece has very good sound quality.

With all this going for it I was left wanting when it came to the mic.  It picks up everything.  The "binging" of a seatbelt alarm in a car was very loud to the person on the other end on the conversation and noisy environments translated to very noisy phonecalls and my voice coming through garbled.  If you are driving heavy equipment, forget about the other person understanding you at all.  However, if you are in a quiet environment the mic is passable.  Even with ideal conditions, people said that my voice wasn't as clear as with the Logitech Mobile Freedom.  Too bad.  This headset looked like it could have been a real winner.

Range & Battery Life:

Plantronics makes no super claims about the range on this headset.  Like the other companies, they claim the default 10m range of the Bluetooth spec, and this headset just makes it.  When wearing a phone on my right side and the headset on my left ear, there was occasional static and hiss from a weak signal.  When placing my phone down with clear line of sight I could get about 30 feet away before the signal dropped and became unusable.  It hits right where they aim in the range department.

Battery life on this 17 gram unit is excellent.  Plantronics claim 8 hours talk time and 240 hours standby.  I used this headset quite a bit to talk to people as well as listen to MP3's and MobileTV.  The talk time is great.  It outlasted my phone over 3 to 1 and should last anyone at least a full day if they are using it for business calls.  Recharging the unit takes only a couple of hours, and Plantronics recommends at least a 20 minute charge before first use.  This headset has the longest talk time and the shortest recharge time, making it a good choice for people who need talk time without down time.

How It Scores: Rating
Sound Quality Ear:
Sound Quality Mic:
Battery Life :
Total Score 8.1




When you are purchasing an entry-level headset you really can't expect premium features.  You should still be able to get a quality product though that works as advertised.  All of the headsets we tested had some hits and misses, but overall there is some good value.  If you would use a headset in a quiet environment, the Plantronics Explorer 320 would be a good choice.  If you are on a tight budget and want to get a basic headset, the IOGear unit can be found on sale for around $30USD right now.  It doesn't have the range of the others, but it's a starter unit.  If you work in a noisy or windy environment the Logitech Mobile Freedom will be your best choice of the three.  You do have to sacrifice some comfort, but the people on the other end will appreciate being able to hear you instead of all the other noise.

Size Comparison

At the end of this testing, I'm left feeling a little disappointed.  I guess I expected to find a great headset for under $80CDN.  What I did find is some average products that can get you by.

If you want to leave your feedback regarding this review, or have other comments and questions. . . or suggestions of a good headset, please head on over and post in our forum.