BlackBerry HS-700 Bluetooth Headset Review
Don’t take orders from a bluetooth headset–you should be giving them orders! BlackBerry’s HS-700 Bluetooth headset is all about voice commands. Blackberry has not ruled out buttons altogether, but the HS-700 delivers the closest thing you can get to a true “hands-free” experience. When a call comes in, the caller is announced and you can say ‘answer’ or ‘ignore’. Other commands like battery status, call, dial, play music, volume up/down, switch calls, mute, and redial can all be spoken after pressing the only visible button on HS-700. There’s no need to play button Morse code with the headset to achieve a simple phone task. The HS-700 is very sleek and is a clearly a relative of the BlackBerry Bold, but the best feature of all is that this extremely capable bluetooth headset works for other phones and devices too!
What’s in the Box
- 1x HS-700 Bluetooth Headset
- 1x Micro-USB sync cable
- 1x USB Power Adapter
- 2x Ear Hooks
- 5x Ear Caps (assorted sizes)
The HS-700 definitely has the BlackBerry look to it. The face of the headset is black leather, much like the back of the BlackBerry Bold. The sides are crafted with a chrome finish, and the back is shiny black plastic with a small engraved BlackBerry logo. There are two buttons, but one is hidden. The visible button is the Voice Command button; it is chrome and located on the side. It’s thin, long, raised, and easy to press. The hidden button is the Call Control Key, and is built into the leather face, opposite the speaker. You can hit by pushing the face of the HS-700 into your ear. The device is turned on and off by rotating the earpiece; this means no long button presses to turn it on or off. The charging port is Micro-USB and it is located at the end of the device on the speaker side. On the underside of the device is a small LED that can blink red, blue, or green, depending on the type of alert or status. HS-700 has a sleek design. It’s size is fairly typical for a bluetooth headset. The included Micro-USB cable is only about one foot long.
Voice commands is HS-700’s winning feature. It makes your headset much more hands-free and gives you access to common phone functions without complicated button presses. Voice prompts is also a fairly unique feature; the HS-700 has a female voice with a lot to say. She will prompt you on connection status, who you’re calling, who’s calling you, mute status, battery status, and more. At any time you can ask the voice “what can I say” and she will read off a list of the available commands. When you first turn your HS-700 on, the voice will guide you through the pairing process. Another unique feature is HS-700’s multimedia-capability — you can play music directly from your phone, as well as skip tracks, and adjust volume. This works with phones that support A2DP. Volume control barely ever needs to be adjusted on the earpiece itself, it has automatic volume control that is adjusted based on how noisy the environment is. HS-700 has two microphones and uses advanced noise-cancellation technology to deliver clear conversations. The battery should last about 4.5 hours of talk time.
Ear Tips and Comfort
HS-700 comes with five earpieces, or “ear gels”, and two ear hooks. The ear hooks come in two sizes. There are two ear gels designed for use with the ear hooks. There are 3 ear gels designed to be used without hooks and they come in small, medium, and large. I found the ear hooks to provide a more secure fit, but the ear gels without the hook was equally as comfortable. The ear gels don’t actually sit inside of your ear canal. This means they don’t provide a perfect seal with your ear, which is not necessarily good or bad–it comes down to personal preference. With the HS-700, I liked that it wasn’t a perfect seal, it’s more comfortable for me and makes me feel more in tune with my surroundings when I’m not on a call. I am able to wear HS-700 for a few hours at a time with no discomfort.
At first, I noticed some static when I was using the headset, but then realized that I heard the same static when using my phone earpiece. That being said, the headset doesn’t make your phone call sound any better than it actually is. As long as my service was good, the HS-700 call quality sounded great. My callers sounded loud and clear. The speaker on HS-700 is loud enough that I kept my phone volume at 50%. The automatic volume control works great, I rarely had to adjust the volume. My callers on the other end always reported that I sounded clear, whether driving in my car or walking the city street. They couldn’t even tell that I was using a bluetooth headset.
Most people don’t travel too far from their phone when they’re using a wireless headset, but the range is pretty decent. BlackBerry says the bluetooth range is 10 meters; I found that you can go to an adjacent room in your home or office with minimal distortion, further than one room and you will start to hear fuzz. One of my favorite features about the HS-700 wasn’t the voice commands, it’s the dedicated on/off switch. I always found it very frustrating holding down a button and listening to hear if the device is turning off or turning on. With HS-700 it’s easy–you rotate the ear piece until you feel it click into the On position. You’ll know that it’s on because it will sit normally in your ear, also it has a blinking LED. The device turns on and pairs in just a few seconds, this is convenient if you’re receiving a call and you need to turn HS-700 on. Playing music, and other audio, from my phone was a nice feature, and definitely came in handy for turn-by-turn navigation. The audio quality for music was just okay, but this should not be a surprise. Voice commands is also a very neat and convenient feature, but it can get frustrating at times. If other people are talking around you, the device can get confused. There was an instance while I was driving with the radio at a moderate level where HS-700 misunderstood my “Battery” command to mean “Call Last”. To cancel a call you can just press the Call Control Key (hidden button). In quieter environments, the voice commands actually works surprisingly well. The “What Can I Say” command comes in handy. It’s worth noting you can get away without having to use voice commands, you can call your last contact, answer calls, end calls, and mute calls with the buttons. You can also just make the calls from your phone and use the headset to speak.
I was very happy that HS-700 worked perfectly with my iPhone 4 too, every single feature seemed to work including multimedia control and playback. Pressing the Call Control Key brings up iPhone’s voice control menu allowing you to call a contact, dial a number, or play music by track, artist, or album name.
The BlackBerry HS-700 is a classy looking bluetooth headset with great sound quality and a bunch of unique features. Voice commands, voice prompts, and audio streaming add a lot of value to HS-700. Unlike most other bluetooth headsets out there, this is one of the closest things we have to a truly “hands-free” headset. One of the best features, which isn’t marketed, is that it works for phones other then BlackBerrys. Every single feature worked for iPhone, and we bet it will work just as well on Android phones. Streaming audio from your phone might not be the best way to listen to music, but it was a great feature for for turn-by-turn navigation and listening to audio books. The BlackBerry HS-700 retails for $129.99, but can be purchased on Amazon.com for just under $80. $130 is certainly on the pricey side, but even for that price it could be worth it for frequent bluetooth headset users. $80 makes the HS-700 a good buy for anyone who wants an above average bluetooth headset with some nice features.
The Good: Works with other smart phones, Voice Commands, Voice Prompts, Dedicated On/Off switch, Audio Streaming from phone, Battery life is communicated in ‘minutes left’, Comfortable, Clear call quality on both ends
The Bad: Voice recognition can get confused in noisier environments or from background voices, not extremely intuitive (must read user guide), micro-USB cable is very short