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Rich Tehrani

[March 8, 2004]

Product Reviews: GN Netcom GN 6110 And GN 6210 Bluetooth Headsets



Editors' Choice AwardAs great as headsets can be, they are all flawed in a significant way. Most of us have to have separate headsets for our cell phones and office phones. They are basically different designs and aren�t compatible. There are few exceptions but generally speaking this is a nagging issue that forces many people to have to switch between headsets all day. I virtually always wear a bluetooth headset when talking on my cell phone. Many times, when I am in the office, with my normal office headset on, my cell phone rings. Instinctively, I take off one headset, and put on another. I then take the cell phone call. Usually, I ask if I can call back on a land line and thus a second annoying switch back to the office headset. I have experimented by switching one of the headsets to work with my left ear so that I can wear both headsets simultaneously. As you might imagine, this makes a less than a flattering fashion statement and comes with a certain degree of inter-office teasing via cyborg and related geek jokes

The solution to this quagmire is GN Netcom�s GN 6110 and GN 6210 headsets. The 6110 is reviewed in this article but a GN 6210 will be available soon and will look very much like a Jabra Freespeak. This invention is pure genius and exactly what the market needs. Bluetooth is still not being adopted as quickly as I would like but it is beginning to be accepted. Even carmakers such as Acura are equipping their cars with this technology now. As I have mentioned before, talking on the phone in your car without a bluetooth headset is like playing Russian roulette with your life. Even a corded headset, which is better than a phone, is not as safe as bluetooth, as you have to worry about a cord that can get caught on a seat belt, parking brake, steering wheel, keys, your arm, the button on your shirt or jacket and just about anything else. Using a bluetooth headset is the safest way to drive and talk on the phone at the same time.

Back to GN Netcom and their brilliant new invention. Using what they call DuoLink technology, the headset works equally well with your office/home phone and cell phone. If you have a bluetooth cell phone, you can connect directly to the headset; otherwise you need an adapter that plugs into your phone. In case you are interested, Verizon still does not offer a bluetooth phone as bluetooth works only on phones that operate on GSM networks (Cingular, AT&T and T-Mobile in the US and just about all other worldwide wireless carriers such as Orange, etc). This will change soon. To connect with your office or home phone, you attach the base, which functions as a charger, into the handset cord of the phone.

The size of the headset is misleading as it folds to quite a diminutive size when compared with its full operating mode, in which the microphone folds outward toward your mouth. Speaking of your mouth, the device is about the size of a triple stuff Oreo if such a thing exists. I spent quite a bit of time in the local supermarket researching this comparison, so thanks to Grade A/ShopRite here in Norwalk, CT for your support in writing this article. As a side benefit of this review, I was reminded that eating Oreos can pack the pounds on quickly, which is why I am glad to report that the headset weighs in at under an ounce.

The headset is smart. If you initiate a call by pressing the appropriate button on the headset, it checks your office phone first and if in range, makes a connection. If not, it defaults to your cell phone. I had trouble making a bluetooth connection between my cell phone and the headset. I tried about seven times and it finally worked. I credit this to a quick installation guide that isn't as detailed as the user's manual, specifically leaving out instructions to open the boom within three seconds after the blue pairing light comes on. I have used the phone at least 20 times and in all but two cases, the phone and headset connected flawlessly. This is as good or better than SonyEricsson headsets I have used but not as good as Jabra. In case you are interested, my test phone was a SonyEricsson T-610 phone.

The headset is definitely comfortable to wear for long periods of time and it is the only one I have seen to come with a professional looking charging base. Another plus is that there are four green LEDs on the base to tell you the state of charge at all times. The range of the headset is also quite good. I haven�t had a chance to test wind noise thoroughly, but initial tests on breezy days show that this shouldn�t be a problem. I must mention that battery life seems very good and I attribute this at least in part to the fact that the headset turns off when the microphone is closed. This is a unique ability as far as I can tell. The only drawback to this design is that it takes a bit longer to make a connection between the phone and headset when the phone rings. I think the folding microphone is a good design idea.

The base of the headset has a jack that plugs into a remote handset lifter named the GN 1000 RHL. This device is wonderful. I have used it for many months with a different GN Netcom headset. It glues under the handset of your phone and attaches to the base. It lifts and hangs up your phone whenever needed, automatically. After many months of use, the adhesive connecting to my phone has come loose meaning a bit of touch up glue is in order. But overall, this is the best headset lifter I have seen.

I would prefer the volume of the headset be louder, and the look of the headset -- while not terrible -- could be a bit more modern. At $299, I consider it to be a good value. Remember, it plugs into two phones. Besides, the street price is already as low as $200. There is an eject button on the base you are supposed to press before removing the headset or you will damage the charging contacts. I repeatedly forget to press this button and instead, force the headset out by lifting it aggressively. Whether this is a design flaw or a reviewer defect is for you to judge.

This is without a doubt the best bluetooth headset anyone with multiple phones can use. I have reviewed many other bluetooth headsets and this one is the most practical. I should also mention that there is a travel charging cord included. Without question, the convenience offered by the GN 6110 will make you more productive as well as safer on the road. This is a true technological breakthrough and GN Netcom should be congratulated for the achievement.

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Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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