While they may be less common today than in the past, there’s clearly still a market for Bluetooth earpieces. Just about a month after Jawbone’s newest Era was released, Plantronics has come out with its Voyager Edge ($130). The two units share many of the same features, but have very different designs. Unlike Era’s short, squat body, Voyager Edge is long and narrow. A charging case is included; on its own, the headset offers up to six hours of talk time, while the case brings it up to 16. Voyager Edge also comes with a micro-USB cord, car charger, and replacement ear tips. Carbon black, slate grey, and glacial white colors are available.
Plantronics’ headset is about twice as long as Jawbone’s, although the shape is different. Instead of having parallel edges, Voyager Edge starts with a diamond shape at the top, with a 1.8” long, 0.2” wide segment jutting out from the bottom. This design brings two of the three microphones — one on the either side — closer to the speaker’s mouth. At the back end, where the earpiece is, there’s a power slider, volume buttons, and a micro-USB charging port. Right where the shape starts tapering down is the third microphone, and a command button is on the top or bottom of the unit, depending on if it’s being worn in the left or right ear. Users won’t notice the two-gram difference between the two accessories.
A total of three clear rubber earbud covers are included with Voyager Edge. There are small, medium, and large in-ear options, each of which has a flexible extended ring fitting into the upper part of the ear. We found these to be quite comfortable, and helped the earpiece stay in place, but for those who prefer a more secure solution, a plastic over-ear clip is also included. It snaps on between the rubber cover and the body, ensuring the earpiece will hold steady.
In terms of the technology inside, Voyager Edge lives up to our expectations for a modern Bluetooth headset. It uses Bluetooth 4.0, which is particularly battery-friendly, and displays its remaining power in the iPhone’s menu bar. With its three microphones, the device is able to cancel outside noise, and automatically adjust its volume. We were impressed with two of the unit’s answering options: if it’s already being worn, simply saying “answer” after the caller’s name has been announced picks up the call. The act of placing it in your ear if it’s not already there, also can answer the call, thanks to proximity sensors. The latter method worked better than we would’ve expected, and was genuinely cool.
Although it’s much larger, the charging case included with Voyager Edge — there’s no choice of a package without it — offers ten hours of extra talk time, compared to the optional Era case’s six. Instead of using the headset’s micro-USB port for power transfer, it relies on a contact on the underside. Snap Voyager Edge into place in the rubber and plastic case, and it’ll automatically start charging. Blue LEDs on either side show the remaining power in the case and the headset, respectively, while a micro-USB port on the bottom edge is for charging, and a nylon loop right by it could be used to attach the case to a keychain.
Audio performance, while not amazing, was acceptable. In our tests, a caller told us we sounded OK but not fantastic, a bit compressed with a certain harshness. Incoming audio was a bit muffled, but on both ends, we were able to make out what was being said without any issues. The noise cancellation feature worked properly; even with music playing in the background at a rather high level, our caller had no issue in hearing our voice. Between this and Era, though, the latter is the better performer when it comes to sonics, although we preferred the volume levels on this one as it can be turned up much louder.
Voyager Edge offers many of the same benefits of Era, although in a larger package in every regard. It packs a few neat tricks, and has better battery life, but it’s not empirically better. We find the two to very much be on par, and as such, Plantronics’ headset earns the same general recommendation. For some, the extra battery capacity, both with and without the case, will be a big benefit, while others will want something smaller that more easily fits into a pocket. Both are good, but neither truly wowed us.
Company and Price
Model: Voyager Edge
Compatible: All Bluetooth-Capable iPads, iPhones + iPods