Plantronics Discovery 655 Bluetooth Headset

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INTRODUCTION

    Bluetooth headsets have
matured to the point where it is rare we see a
revolutionary new product. Instead, most
manufacturers have taken a more evolutionary
approach. For example, Motorola evolved the HS810
into the HS850 and recently into the h700.
Plantronics has done the same with their Discovery
line of headsets. They launched the line with the
Discovery 640 which evolved into the Discovery 645
with the addition of a Digital Signal Processor.
Today we have the Discovery 655 which is the latest
model in this line.

   
pocketnow.com

reviewed
the Discovery 640 back in February of
2005 and found it worthy of a 4 1/2 out of 5 rating.
Let’s take the newest Discovery out for a test drive
and see how this latest model has evolved the line.

WHAT’S HOT

    Plantronics tells us that the Discovery
655:

  • Delivers up to
    3.5 hours talk time or 10 hours talk time with
    the AAA charger
  • 80 Hours of
    standby time
  • 33 foot range
  • Light headset
    weight of 9 grams
  • Bluetooth
    version 2.0
    s
  • Digital Signal
    Processor (DSP) to reduce background noise

   
In comparison, the Discovery 640:

  • Delivers up to
    5 hours talk time  or 15 hours with the AAA
    charger
  • 300 Hours of
    standby time
  • Headset weight
    of 9 grams
  • Bluetooth
    version 1.2
  • No Digital
    Signal Processor

   
We can see right away that there is definitely some
give and take between the two headsets. The 655 is
lighter, packs a DSP and uses Bluetooth 2.0 but it
loses quite a bit of battery life in the process.

Bluetooth Headset

Talk Time | Standby (hours)

Weight (grams | ounces)

Approx Street Price
Plantronics Discovery 655
3.5-10 | 80
9.00 | 0.32
$70
7 | 180
13.0 | 0.46
$50
4 | 250
14.2 | 0.50
$40
14 | 500
15.0 | 0.59
$50
5 | 120
25.0 | 0.90
$60
6 | 300
10.0 | 0.35
$140
6 | 300
11.0 | 0.38
$60
30 | 700

25.0 | 0.88
$50
15 | 300

9.00 | 0.32
$80
5 | 150
15.0 | 0.53
$115
7 | 300
14.2 | 0.50
$80
6 | 300
11.0 | 0.38
$55
7 | 100
17.0 | 0.54
$150
5 | 250
20.0 | 0.71
$40
2 | 100
5.85 | 0.21
$250
8 | 1000
10.0 | 0.35
$80
4 | 200
12.0 | 0.42
$60

Here’s a comparison chart of all Bluetooth headsets we’ve reviewed.

SETUP

(All images link
to higher resolution
)


The
Discovery 655 comes in a very attractive package.
This is a HUGE improvement over the somewhat homely
packaging Plantronics used before and should
definitely draw attention on the store shelf.



Included in the box is the headset, small and larger
soft gel ear tips (medium comes pre-installed on the
headset), AAA charger, AC adapter, earloop, headset
charging pocket, mini-USB to USB charging cable,
mini-USB charger and instruction booklet
(not shown). Notice that the metal case and various
phone chargers which came with the Discovery 640 are
no longer included with the 655.

You will have to charge the headset first. As with
the Discovery 640, there are plenty of ways to
charge the Discovery 655.


The
most traditional way of charging the headset would
be to place the headset in the charging pocket and
then plug the AC adapter into the bottom of the
charging pocket.



The
second method of charging involves placing the
headset in the charging pocket, attaching the
mini-USB charger to the bottom of the pocket and
plugging a mini-USB to USB cable into the charger.
This will charge the headset using the current
provided over USB and is my preferred method because
it requires the least bulk.


The
final method is to place the headset in the charging
pocket, attach the AAA charger to the pocket and
place a AAA battery inside the AAA charger.

   
Although the 655 does not come with as many parts
and pieces as the 640, it includes all of the
essentials. You can use the soft gel ear tips,
earloop and phone charger adapters from the 640 with
the 655. So, if you are upgrading from the 640, keep
your parts.

PRODUCT FEATURES

    The most visibly noticeable change from
the 640 to the 655 is the visual appearance of the
headset itself. The 655 is much more modern-looking
with an angular design instead of the 640’s rounded
design.



The
headset maintains the same 3-button design from the
640. The large silver button is the talk/end button
and there are volume up and down buttons along the
black rubber strip that runs the length of the
headset.

   
I very much prefer the new look of the 655. I also
appreciate that Plantronics maintained the simple
3-button interface. Unfortunately, the buttons on
the 655 are VERY hard to push in. This causes
problems when the headset is on your ear since
pushing the buttons applies pressure to the ear. You
will have to firmly grip the headset between your
thumb and middle finger and then use your index
finger to press the buttons. If you don’t grip the
headset and try to push the buttons the pressure on
your ear is painful. On the plus side, the buttons
are all very easy to find by touch.


This
is the front of the headset. You can see the
charging port on the left and the microphone in the
center. The black nub sticking out from the right
side is one of the arrows which adorn the volume
buttons.


    

The
headset charging pocket has also undergone a slight
makeover from the 640. There is now black rubber
grip around the pocket and the shape has been
adjusted to match the new style of the 655.



Although the fit with the soft gel ear tip is quite
secure, Plantronics also includes an earloop for
added stability. I did not find the earloop to be
necessary unless I was doing something very
physically active.

   
Our last reviewer really liked the charging pocket
since it gives you a place to store the headset
while it is in your pocket. Personally, I have mixed
feelings about it. I like how the charging pocket
vibrates when a call is coming in. I also like how
removing the headset from the charging pocket
answers the call. I am not so crazy about the pocket
itself. It adds quite a bit of bulk to the headset
and if you place it loose in your pocket, it creates
a bulge. If you use the clip to attach it to your
pocket, the soft gel ear tip sticks out and looks
funny. The ear tip seems to hit things a lot if you
carry it this way. I was afraid something was going
to hit the headset and end up breaking the ear tip
off so I ended up just placing the headset in my
pants pocket naked.


Here
you can see what the setup looks like in your
pocket. Keep in mind that the soft gel ear tip
sticks out forward about 1/2 an inch.

   
The button functions of the 655 seem to be identical
to the 640. One especially nice feature that the two
share is an indication of how much battery power is
left when you turn the headset on. Greater than 2/3
battery remaining is represented by three quick red
flashes, 1/2 to 2/3 remaining is represented by 2
quick flashes and less than 1/3 is represented by 1
flash. Considering how limited the battery life is
on the 655, this is an essential feature.

   
Speaking of battery life, there is not much I can
say except that it is really short compared with
other headsets. My headsets of choice right now are
the Jabra JX-10 and the Motorola h700. Both of these
headsets get around 5-6 hours of battery life.
Plantronics rates the 655 at 3.5 hours, but I found
that to be a little optimistic. Plantronics does
give you the option of attaching the AAA charger
which increases the battery life to about 10 hours.
Unfortunately, the AAA charger effectively doubles
the carrying size of the headset. This would be fine
in a purse or a cargo pants pocket, but is not
acceptable in regular pants.


Size
and weight of the 655 are competitive with the Jabra
JX-10 and the Motorola h700. Here is a side-by-side
of the Jabra JX-10 and the Plantronics Discovery
655.

   
Sound quality was comparable between the Plantronics
Discovery 655, the Jabra JX-10 and the Motorola
h700. To my ears, I think the Jabra sounds the best,
but not by much. The Jabra seems to have the best
noise reduction and people seemed to be able to hear
me the clearest. The Motorola sometimes does not sit
correctly against your face, which can partially
block the microphone resulting in your voice being
muffled. The Plantronics does not have this problem
and always delivered clear speech. The Motorola does
have a unique "power flip" feature which turns the
headset on and off instantly with a flip of the boom
mic.

   
I did notice that the signal strength of the 655
seems to be somewhat weaker than the other two. I
found that I had to keep my phone on the same side
of my body as the headset or it would result in
static. This was not a problem with the Jabra or the
Motorola. I tested all three with my Treo 700w and
Treos are known for having very weak Bluetooth
radios, so your experience may be different. I would
like to come back in the future and test the 655
with a handset that also supports Bluetooth 2.0 to
see if there is a difference in sound quality. If
the jump to Bluetooth 2.0 makes a big difference,
then the Plantronics could become the best choice of
the three.

   
From a comfort standpoint, the Plantronics 655 is by
far superior to the Jabra and the Motorola. The
Jabra can get uncomfortable after a while because
the earpiece is hard and inflexible. The Motorola
does not fit very securely against your head and
when you make a sudden movement it tends to flap
around. The Plantronics trumps both with a
comfortable and very secure fit even without the
earloop. You can wear the 655 all day and forget it
is there. The Plantronics ear tips are the best and
most comfortable that I have ever used.





HELP SUPPORT

    Included in the box is a
detailed instruction manual. Plantronics also offers
support on their website. This is an easy product to
use which is a testament to Plantronics’ experience.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

   
You will
need a mobile phone with Bluetooth to use the Discovery 655. You can
also pair it with a computer that has a Bluetooth adapter. This would
allow you to use the 655 with VoIP and voice chatting programs.

BUGS AND WISHES

   
I think the biggest wish for this headset would be
for more battery life – 3.5 hours is just not enough.
Considering that the 655 is a little bigger than the
Jabra and the Motorola, I don’t understand why the
battery life is so much less. Plantronics will
seriously need to address this in the next version
of the headset.

   
Once while using the headset it seemed to "lock up".
It would not power off no matter how long I held the
button down. I ended up having to un-pair the
headset from my Treo and then the headset would
power down. I re-paired them and all was well. This
could have been the fault of the Treo but since it
has not happened with any other Bluetooth headset I
have ever used, I thought it was important to
mention.

PURCHASING

   
The suggested retail price for the Plantronics
Discovery 655 is
$149.96, however I found it selling for as low as $66.49 at
Froogle.com.
In comparison, the lowest price on

Froogle.com
for the Jabra JX-10 is $84.97 and
the lowest price on

Froogle.com
for the Motorola h700 is $35.99.

PROS

  • Good sound quality
  • Three charging options
  • Very comfortable and
    secure fit
  • Charging-pocket vibrates
    to alert you to a call
  • Bluetooth 2.0

CONS

  • Battery life is short
  • Charging-pocket is bulky
    and ear tip sticks out when clipped to your pocket
  • AAA charger doubles the
    carrying size
  • Buttons are very firm
  • Headset locked up once
Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What
do these ratings mean
?


OVERALL IMPRESSION

   

With the Discovery 655 Plantronics has streamlined
the design and narrowed down the included
accessories to the essentials. The addition of
Bluetooth 2.0 adds a nice element of future-proofing
it. The inclusion of a DSP helps cut down background
noise and works well. Wisely, Plantronics opted to
leave the same comfortable fit from the 640 in place
and the headset’s comfort remains one of its’ key
selling points.

   
That being said, the headset is not perfect. Battery
life is the major concern here. Sometimes the
headset did not last throughout the day and needed a
charge midway through. Since the AAA Charger is even
more bulky, I found myself not wanting to carry it
except on days I had a briefcase or carry-on bag
with me. If you do not do a lot of talking or if you
don’t mind carrying the AAA Charger, then battery
life won’t be such an issue. For me, it was.

   
In comparison to its natural competitors, the Jabra
JX-10 and the Motorola h700, the 655 has different
strengths and weaknesses. It is far and away more
comfortable than either of the other two. The Jabra
sounds the best of all three. The Motorola has the
"power-flip" feature which is very handy. You’ll
have to decide for yourself which is most important.

   
At the time the 640 was released, Plantronics broke
new ground in size, charging options and sound
quality which I think warranted the high rating it
received. We are now a year and 9 months later and
although Plantronics made some nice changes when
they evolved it into the 655 other headset
manufacturers have caught up. That is why we give
this headset a lower score than we gave its’
predecessor even though the sound quality and design
are better. As I mentioned at the beginning of this
review… this is an evolution of a solid product,
not a revolution.




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