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mTorbin's Two "MUST HAVE'S" of '06

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Yeah, I know i'ts a bit early, but gosh darn it, these things rock (one of which I already own):


LG VX9800 by Verizon Wireless


This is probably the sickest phone I've ever had. Not only does it offer you almost everything that the Treo 650 did, but it does it at half the cost:


TREO 650


Data Plan = $45.00 / month




Unlimited EVDO = $15.00 / month

Email Executive = $4.95 / month

TOTAL = $19.95 / month


The EVDO data plan is super fast. The video that if offers is cute and actually kind of nice to have. It also has a full querty keyboard so you won't be cramped while texting. Oh, did I mention that it can take a 1GB SD card which you can use to play MP3s and video off of (yes, I know we all have iPods, but it's still cool). Hackable? Hell yes!! Just check out www.howardforums.com for ways to add your own wallpapers, ringtones and customizations. And last but not least, it IS bluetooth compatable.


Downsides? Yeah, there are a few. The email app should be free. You need to use the dongle in order to listen to the MP3s on the phone. There's no AIM app (or at least none that DOESN'T use your minutes up). IF you can look by that, it's a perfect phone.


Speaking of Bluetooh...


Pulsar 59A Bluetooth Headset by Plantronics



Not only is this a bluetooth stereo headset which can connect to your phone AND your iPod (using the dongle), but you can switch between the two when a call comes in. You can also control the song play from the headset. No, you can't navigate through your ipod, but that's really minor. This is also perfect if you want to use your laptop on a train and have the audio in both your phone and laptop in one place.


I tried this on in the store the other day. It fits very snugly, so if you're not used to that it might take some getting used to. I made a call with it and listened to the call (on voicemail). It was a bit noisy, but it was completely audible. If you're like me and you live in Philadelphia or New York or a place where if you don't nail it down it will be stolen, then the thought of keeping your ipod and your phone in a zipped backpack while being able to use both is SUPER SICK.


Downsides? There are a few. Like most wireless headsets, the sound quality (going out) will not be as nice as if you had the phone right up to your mouth, but it's not terrible. The unit isn't cheap, at $250, it does compete with the likes of Bose and Seinnheiser, but then again, you can't use those units to talk on your phone. Also, just in case anyone forgot, IT IS ILLEGAL TO DRIVE WHILE HAVING BOTH EARS COVERED IN MOST STATES, so car use for this is out, unless you're not driving (it would have been nice to see them make one earphone flip outward so as to be legally compliant). Other then that, I'm picking mine up Tuesday. Yes, it does look a bit geeky, but then again, the big headphones are making a comeback so you won't be alone for long.


- MT

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- Light weight solution for both an audio source and cell phone

- Good sound quality on both ends

- Comfortable fit

- Travel case for protection



- 0.5 second delay when watching video (must use the hardwire solution)

- The original MSRP is a bit high for something that is not closer to perfect

- Not all of the audio controls work, even when using the dongle

- CANNOT USE WHILE DRIVING (therefore you must have another headset for this purpose)



I am looking into buying this unit from a friend's electronic's store. He was gracious enough to loan a floor model to me for a night. I spent some time reading reviews from many different sites and I have to say, while the reviews at Amazon were the most technically oriented, they were also the most critical. Therefore, I made it my goal to attept to disprove some of the claims that I read here in the hopes of finding this product to be a real gem. Among the claims that I attempted to disprove were:


- Failure to charge

- 0.5 second delay affecting video

- Poor audio sound quality from dongle (i.e. when using an iPod/Laptop)

- Hoaky switch between dongle and phone when making/receiving calls

- Find the source of the "design flaw"


The tests were done with the following items:

- iBook G4 1.2Ghz

- LG VX9800 (mine)

- Motorola E815 (caller)

- 5th Gen 60GB iPod Video

- Belkin Bluetooth USB Adapter (model F8T003)


The first tests that we ran, naturally, were to see if we could pair the VX9800 up with the headset. That took all of two seconds; very easy. I then walked into another room and called the E815. The quality was no better or worse then any of your other higher end bluetooth headsets. WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE is that you now have two ears focused in on the conversation, so in a sense, you're hearing more and paying attention more to the phone conversation (versus having the noise of the office in your other ear). I initally walked away from my cell phone and it got a bit garbled, but as soon as I brought my cell phone with me, I had no problems. I then switched phones with the caller so that I could hear what she was hearing. The quality was good. I didn't have any problems hearing what she was saying to me. Voice dial worked beautifully from the headset and I didn't find myself shouting.


The next test that we did was to pair up the dongle and use it with the iPod (audio first). Pairing up the dongle was very easy. While Edward Rios claims that the audio he heard was "no better then AM radio", I firmly disagree with this statement. I started out playing some classical (with no EQ settings set on the iPod). I'll agree that the quality of the audio was not on the same level as my Seinnheiser's, however once I adjusted the EQ in the iPod the bass and thus the quality was improved somewhat (Bass Booster setting worked well). I also noticed that the track jogger did not work with the iPod. In the manual it states "Only works if Bluetooth device supports Bluetooth Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP); does not work when using universal adapter." This was a bit disappointing because it was feature I was looking forward to. The "PLAY/PAUSE" button did work... somewhat. The audio pauses, but not on the iPod. Next we moved on to receiving a phone call. As a call came in, I heard a beep in the headset. Pressing the call button, the music stopped and the call interrupted. Once the call was complete, the phone hung up and the music continued (please note that the ipod did not pause during this time, only the source of the signal switched). This was tested several times. It was very easy. However, I do agree with Steve Gardner in his assessment that the dongle is a short term pair. In other words, if you turn the dongle off, you will need to pair it again (once again, a very simple process).


On to the video. I turned on some Family Guy that I had on my iPod. I indeed did notice that there was some amount of delay, but with cartoon characters, it wasn't that obvious. Not a problem, I decided to up the ante. I then turned on an episode of The Office, specifically a scene where Steve Carrell is speaking. Yes, there IS a .05 second delay. It seems to fluctuate as if the dongle is racing to catch up. I then put the Pulsar in headset mode by turning it off and plugging in the hardwire cable. This fixed the problem (this same resolution was found by both testers). My final thoughts on this? Unless you're planning on trying to watch video from across the room, this solution will work for you.


Feeling a bit adventurous, I decided to test the headset with my iBook. I first tried to pair the Pulsar up with my iBook using the Belkin BT adapter. That didn't work. Although I heard it clicking when the pairing process was going on, it never went through. Not a problem, I'll use the dongle. Using the dongle I was again able to hear the audio, but I was not able to get the unit to work as a mic/headphone combination. Others have claimed to be able to get this to work, but for the average person, the short answer is that it doesn't work that great. I'm going to take N. Nelson's comments one step further, if I may, and say that this unit is really only for Audio Sources / Cell Phone combinations.


At the end of the night I decided to charge it. I placed it in the cradle and, sure enough, it started charging. At some point later I picked it up and then placed it back in the cradle and it didn't charge! I thought, "A'HA! I proved another one true!" Not so fast... I took out the USB charger to see if the problem was the cable and began charging the headset off of that. A few minutes later I put the headset back in the cradle and low and behold, it began charging again! Is there a hardware problem here? I'm not sure, but that is what I found. It charged smoothly the rest of the night.


Unfortunately, the one thing I was not able to test in a 24 hour time span was the design flaw. Obviously I would have to use it every day for two weeks to see if this is true. My gut instinct is telling me that it's possible a bad batch of product is to blame, but I have no way of proving this. Until I see it, I can't put faith in that it will happen to me. All I will say on this is that it apparently has happened to more then one person so it is possible that it could happen to you. One thing I did notice is that the headset gets "stretched" as you wear it, but then it gets "compressed" as you put it back in the cradle. Could it be that all this stretching AND compressing is causing the cracks? Would this have happened to these people if they didn't use the cradle? I don't know. Maybe the design flaw is in the cradle itself and NOT the headset. Who knows...


My final analysis of this product overall is very good. I don't think Plantronics set out to make this the "one stop shop" for all headset needs (although they might want to have a conversation with their marketing department about "truth in advertising"). While I was typing this I was listening to some good ol' fashioned punk rock using the dongle and I was bouncing my head the whole time; very enjoyable. I do believe that Plantronics is preparing for the next wave in Bluetooth technology by adding support for profiles that others don't support YET. All in all, if you're looking for a headset that can seamlessly switch between your cellphone and your iPod, then this will work for you. If you're looking for an "one stop shop" you will be sorely disappointed. One thing I would have liked to see would be some sort of design improvement where one of the earphones could flip outward thus to be legally complaint with driving requirements. They are the best option available (the Motorola pair does not come with a transeiver which is something you have to purchase extra... and something else you have to carry and something else you run the risk of losing). In the end, will I buy these? Probably, but I won't be running towards the store like a bat out of hell.

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that phone looks pretty awesome...too bad I'm switching to Cingular. Well, in any case, if you really need AIM, and there is a full featured (or at least semi-featured) web browser, you can just go on ahead and use http://www.aimonpsp.com it's a web based interface that uses no javascript or CSS so it will display properly on a PSP or underpowered web browser similar to the one the PSP has.

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