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Reviews

Motorola HS820 Bluetooth Headset

By Christopher Spera March 26, 2005, 11:30 am

INTRODUCTION

When I started using cell phones in my vehicles, I began bumping into this issue: how do you talk and drive at the same time? Many other people have the same issue, but despite the obvious problems they have with holding a cell phone in one hand and driving with the other, they continue to wrack up those minutes. The first thought that comes to mind is for you to get a headset, like the Jabra's EarWave Boom. While this solves the problem, I don't like wired headsets in my vehicles. I always find ways of getting myself, the phone and my seatbelt tangled in the wire somehow.

When I got my Samsung i700, I purchased the Samsung i700 Hands Free Kit; and while this was a perfect solution for my i700, it is device specific and won't work with any other device. Using the HFK really spoiled me. Being able to make calls with an in-vehicle hands free kit is very nice. Now that I am using an i-mate PDA2k, my i700 HFK sits vacant in my vehicle waiting for it to be removed.

POCKETNOW VIDEO OF THE DAY

As part of my MPx220 review kit, I also received Moto's HS820 Bluetooth Headset. Let's take a quick look at it and see if it does the job as a good an in-vehicle HFK.

**WHAT'S HOT ** Bluetooth is the hot word for the day. Its cable replacement technology and capabilities make it an ideal medium for in-vehicle communications. The Motorola HS820 Bluetooth headset is small, easily bonded to your phone or device, and is fairly easy to operate. Thankfully, the device easily swaps from left to right ears and does NOT stick anything in your ear; but instead lays on top of it. Because the headset is completely wireless, its small and easily transportable. However, because its small, its also easy to misplace. I've even "lost" it while it was still on my ear. Its really that comfortable. I completely forgot that I had it on...

The Motorola HS820 Bluetooth Headset

OK, brass tack time: How does the device actually perform? Well, my results have been a bit mixed; but that's not because the headset was found lacking. While using the headset with my PDA2k, I found that the volume was substantially insufficient. No matter what volume setting I had the PDA2k set at, no matter how loud it or the headset was, I had a VERY hard time hearing the other person speak. Stick a wired headset in the device, and you get the opposite effect out of my PDA2k... The darn thing can be too loud even at one of the lowest phone volume settings. The problem is not in the headset itself per se. It really lies with the Broadcomm Bluetooth Stack.

I have been trading an enormous amount of e-mail with Carrier Devices about this issue. In fact, during recent months before this review was published, Carrier Devices released 3 Bluetooth patches and 1 ROM update. All of them addressed issues we had been communicating about. Even after the 1.22.00 WWE ROM upgrade, my PDA2k still has Bluetooth issues relating to the HS820 Wireless Headset. I'm not certain what the final solution will be or when it will be released (its been quite a while since I have heard from my contact at Carrier Devices); but they are still listing my Bluetooth audio problems as an Outstanding Issue.

The results I got when using this headset with my Motorola MPx220 review unit were completely different. The headset's performance was much better. While the volume could also have been a little better, I am again not blaming it on the HS820. Instead, I'm blaming most of it on the MPx220's volume issues. The volume levels with the HS820 and with a wired headset were effectively identical on that SmartPhone: low.

Interestingly enough, when it came to battery life, the HW820 is amazing. I have a couple of people that I call every day on the drive home (free mobile-to-mobile calling is a b-e-a-utiful thing!). Drive time is anywhere from 45 to 65 minutes depending on the number of accidents on I-440 and I-24. I get in the car, place a call using the headset and talk the entire time I'm driving. Amazingly, I can go 3-4 days or as long as a whole work week without having any problems with battery life.

Every time I try to turn Bluetooth on, I will likely have to soft reset the device!

Tap the BT icon in the tray, to turn the radio on, as well as get access to The BT Manager and BT Settings

This is probably one of the most frustrating things in the world! The resource heaps on WindowsCE (the OS that WM2003SE is based on) get filled up easily, it seems. If this isn't the EXACT technical problem, it behaves just like a resource heap issue. Soft reset the device, and all is right with the world again. If there's one thing that MS needs to do with the next version of Windows Mobile, its clear up problems like this. I often get the same problem with the MS WiFi Stack (the icon next to the BT icon on the bottom bar...) Soft resetting clears enough resource memory for that driver to initialize, too.

As I mentioned earlier, there are existing issues with the BT stack in the PDA2k. Even with some of the most recent (unofficial) BT builds directly from Broadcomm, the device STILL has audio quality issues with the HS820 headset. I know that Carrier Devices is working on resolving the issue, but updates for the PDA2k have been light as of late, due to updates being released for other devices like the imate JAM.

Using the headset itself with either WM2003SE device (MPx220 or PDA2k) is the same. After the devices are paired and Bluetooth is enabled on the device, you simply slip the headset over your ear. Calls are automatically routed to the headset from the device when both are active. This functionality was better on the MPx220 than on the PDA2k because of the BT stack issues on the PDA2k. When the headset is actively paired with either device and a call comes in, the headset will beep. Pushing its single button answers and ends the call.

According to the collateral I was sent on the HS820, the headset is capable of managing multiple calls, can ignore calls, supports 3 way calling and can place a call on hold. Yeah... forget that mess on the PDA2k and MPx220. That doesn't happen. You get either an answer or hang up function out of the call button on the headset, nothing else. If the MPx220 supports these features, I couldn't get them to work. I downloaded the HS800 Series User Manual, looking for the instructions on how to use those features. It doesn't mention ANY of these functions. There is no other manual currently available for the HS820 Bluetooth Headset as of this writing. If the headset supports those features, they MUST be phone independent and in the Bluetooth stack on a given phone, like Moto's new Razr V3. If this isn't the case, then the collateral I was sent is erroneous.


**SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS ** The Motorola HS820 Bluetooth headset will work with either Microsoft or Broadcomm Bluetooth stacks, and supports BT 1.2 protocols.

BUGS AND WISHES

There are just one or two things that I would like to see improved in the HS820. I'd like to see an updated user's manual. The manual that I downloaded is really for the HS810, not the 820. The collateral that I have hints at some functionality that I don't know how to get to. My review unit didn't come with any manual or documentation to speak of.

I do think, however, that the headset's volume range needs to be larger and more comprehensive. No matter what I do, I just can't seem to make it loud enough for me to adequately hear while I am driving. The lack of volume kinda defeats the purpose of a wireless headset. If I'm constantly pushing the headset closer into my ear so that I can better hear the caller, I may as well just hold the handset to my head...

PURCHASING

The retail of the HS820 over at Motorola is $79.99, but we were able to find a better deal at BluetoothHeadsets.com for $64.95.

Pros

  • Works with either MS or Broadcomm Bluetooth stacks
  • Small and light
  • Nothing sticks in your ear
  • Right and left ear reversible

Cons

  • Volume is low
  • Easy to misplace due to small size

OVERALL IMPRESSION

The HS820 is a decent headset. When I started this review, I really thought I would give the device high marks; but the more that I think about it, the more mediocre it becomes. While the battery life is incredible, the volume level stinks; and while I attributed most of that to the devices I was working with, I really think that the headset should have had a way to over come those problems (like with a larger volume range).

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