|Introduction & Specifications|
|Over the past few years, many companies have altered their approach to the enterprise. Where IT departments once made purchasing recommendations based entirely on their own view of the company’s requirements, many administrators now get (often unsolicited) input from employees who don’t want to get saddled with computers, tablets, or accessories that don’t fully meet their needs. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for companies to let employees choose their work laptops or make suggestions. With so many employees influencing purchases, computer- and accessory makers have been quick to make their business devices stylish and more functional.
The shift in buying preferences has been harder on some manufacturers than others. Logitech has a long history of developing products for consumers, who traditionally have valued style and comfort more than corporate purchasers. Its business components are stylish, too, and are designed to match durability with comfort. To give us a feel for what Logitech can do for business users, the company sent us two of its headsets: I took the USB-powered Logitech H650e ($89.99) and the wireless H820e ($199.99) for a spin.
The Logitech H650e is a slim, no-nonsense, binaural (ear pieces for both ears) headset. The headset is mostly black, save for a metallic accent at the back of the boom. Unlike many headsets, the top of the H650e’s band has a sizeable (and soft) pillow. The headset features Digital Signal Processing (DSP) for better conversation quality (at least, as far as audio goes) and passive noise cancelling. Of course, headphones are used for music, too – even by business users – so the dynamic equalizer is a welcome feature. It’s meant to optimize the headset for music or voice automatically. The headset also supports wideband audio, which is commonly used for calls over Skype and other digital services. Because Microsoft’s messaging/video conferencing service Lync is popular with businesses, Logitech optimized the headset for Lync and other major unified communications (UC) services.
The Logitech H820e consists of a base station and a wireless headset. I tested the dual-earphone version; a single-earphone model goes for $179.99. The headset is similar to the H650e and has many of the same features, including a DSP, the noise-canceling microphone, and acoustic echo cancellation. The headset offers up to 10 hours of wideband talk time, according to Logitech. Charging it is as simple as dropping the headset into place on the base station which doubles as a stand for the headset when not in use. One-year warranties are typical for PC accessories, but Logitech goes the extra mile (well, extra year) with a two-year warranty for both the H820e and H650e.
The H820e’s base station is powered by an AC adapter and connects to your computer via a USB cable, making it too clunky for regular mobile use. This headset is best suited to your desktop PC, or a laptop that you rarely move from the desk. The base station communicates with the headset via DECT spectrum technology. That’s the same technology used by many cordless phones, and it won’t interfere with your Wi-Fi network.
|Design and Use|
|I used the headsets in several conversations, on multiple voice chat services and on various networks. I paid attention to the way the headsets sounded and the way our voices sounded to our contacts, and I also noted comfort and convenience.
The Logitech H650e folds very flat when you want to store it. The headset has small, on-ear speakers with plenty of padding, making for a very comfortable fit. They can’t provide the sort of in-a-quiet-room effect that is created by circumaural headsets (headsets that cover your ears), but they (combined with their built-in noise-cancelling properties) provided clear sound, even in everyday noisy environments like coffee shops.
The boom rotates so you can put it to the left or right of your mouth, and it’s surprisingly flexible. Some headsets have a tight grip that can become uncomfortable with prolonged use, but I didn’t encounter that with the 650es. Between the cushions on the speakers and the cushion on the band, the headset has a firm, but soft grip that works well for people who must wear headsets for hours on end. And thanks to the extending band, the headset fits noggins even larger than mine.
Logitech opted for a flat cord with the 650e to prevent tangling. If you’re familiar with the inside of a PC, imagine a typical SATA cable – the cord is similar in size and shape (though obviously much longer), but it’s a little more flexible than an average SATA cable. The cord features a sizeable and decidedly unsexy control pad, but it’s handy: you have volume controls and mute and call toggles right at your fingertips. The volume buttons have raised symbols (and the volume increase button itself is slightly raised) to help you handle the controls without looking.
Installing the headset is effortless; I plugged it into the computer, Windows took a second to get acclimated, and it was ready to go. I like the zippered pouch, which keeps the cord out of the way when I drop it into my laptop bag.
As for the H820e, it has the same sleek look as the H650e, but of course, it offers the freedom of wireless connectivity. The base station is sturdy and has a modern aesthetic. The dock has lights to indicate connectivity and that the headset is charging.
Lync call, which could be helpful for people operating out of cubicles or have their backs turned to their office doors. Anyone who looks your way can quickly see if you’re on a call.
The Mute button is on the boom itself, which is handy. It has a different texture than the rest of the boom so you can find it quickly with your fingers. Distance also wasn’t an issue – I was able to walk around the office without affecting sound quality. Logitech says the headset can maintain a connection up to more than 300 feet from the dock.
|Summary and Conclusion|
|Using your PC to attend audio and video conferences has gone from being a novelty to routine in recent years, and having a good headset has become as important to many users as having a quality mouse and keyboard. Audio quality must be excellent, of course, but for heavy users, comfort is also critical. Both the Logitech H650e and H820e are home runs for call quality and comfort.
The H650e makes an excellent travel headset, thanks to the tangle-resistant cord and its flat shape when collapsed. The zippered travel bag is a nice touch that makes the headset even easier to bring along for road trips.
As much as I like the 650e, I prefer the H820e for office use. I find that a headset cord often gets in the way of my hands when I type. I tuck it out of the way, but as soon as I move, I end up having to brush the cord away to get my hands back in place. Being able to move or even get up and walk around without dealing with the cord (or having to remove the headset) made office work much less of a hassle.
So where's the downside? The price. Both headsets have sizeable price tags. They earn those prices with good build quality and call quality, but the prices are going to put these headsets (particularly the $199.99 H850e) out of the budgets of some businesses.
One thing to note: I wasn’t able to get the call/hang up buttons on either headset to work with Skype, which isn’t unusual for headsets. The buttons on these headsets support Microsoft Lync. That’s not so much a quibble as a note to keep in mind when you use the headsets. Overall, both are high quality devices that will serve you in good stead.