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Motorola's HS850 Bluetooth headset works well in all respects and is moderately priced.

After several years of looking, we've at last found a Bluetooth headset that we feel comfortable using and recommending.

 
 
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Motorola HS850 Bluetooth Headset review

Digital signal processing and long battery life
 

The Motorola HS850 Bluetooth headset is ordinary to pleasing in appearance and consistently pleasing in operation.

This is a good headset for you to consider.

Part of our series on Bluetooth - more articles listed on the right.

 

 

Costing variously between about $65 and $100, Motorola's HS850 headset is fairly priced, and performs well.

Sound quality is good and battery life is excellent.  The unit is comfortable to wear, and - perhaps most important of all - easy to use.

There's nothing to dislike about this unit, and we recommend it accordingly.

What you Get

Our Motorola HS850 came in very basic packaging - just the headset, charger, and a manual for a different model headset, all in a plastic bag.  Perhaps if you pay the full $100 retail price and buy direct from Motorola, you get a fancier box and maybe even the correct manual.  :)  We simply downloaded a pdf copy of the manual from Motorola's website.

The (correct) small English manual is 30 pages in length and tells you what you need to know to use the headset.

Feature Chart

Use this information to quickly understand the capabilities of the unit and to compare with other units.
 

Feature                         Comment

Cost

Recommended US retail $100

Street prices down as low as $65.


Ergonomics

Easy to put on and take off

Only moderately easy to put on, and I found I was usually using both hands to do this, which is not practical if you're holding your phone with one hand and trying to quickly put your headset on with the other hand.

It was, of course, easy to take off.

Easy to use the control buttons

There are three buttons on the unit.  There are two small buttons for volume up and volume down, and a larger button opposite the earpiece.

The layout is such that it is easy to reach and press these buttons.

Comfortable to wear

This is one of the more comfortable units available, with nothing sticking uncomfortably in one's ear.

Can you use with glasses

Yes.

Can use with either ear

Yes.  A clever feature is the ability to swap the two volume buttons so that the top one is for volume up and the bottom one for volume down, no matter if the unit is in your left or right ear.

Securely mounted on ear

It seems to be secure inasmuch as it doesn't fall off, but it can move around a bit and feels a bit floppy.

On the other hand, this loose fit also makes it unobtrusive and comfortable to wear.

How to carry

The good news - there is a loop on the unit to which you can affix an around the neck lanyard.

The bad news - Motorola don't provide a lanyard; you have to go out and buy one extra.  Here's an online store that sells them for about $2 each.

Compatible with Nectar retractable and necklace style headset holders.

Weight

Reasonably light - 0.6 oz


Ease of Use

Commands intuitive and easy to remember

Much simpler commands than many other units.  Most commands are initiated by a short press on the one button, a few others by a long press (3 seconds or longer).

Volume adjustable

This is reasonably intuitive, with two dedicated buttons, one each for volume up and volume down.

How fast does it turn on

It takes about five seconds to turn on and synch up with a phone.

Manual

Well written in perfect English, 30 pages in length.  Also in other languages.

Support

Via website and (800) number (7 days/83 hrs a week).

Pairing password printed on device

No (it is 0000 so in an emergency you have a good chance of guessing what it is!)


Features

Battery life

Up to 8 hours talk or 200 hours standby claimed.  This is better than average battery life (as of Feb 06).

Low battery indicator/signal

The unit beeps five times every 20 seconds to indicate the battery is almost discharged.

Only the person wearing the headset hears the beeping, not the person you're speaking to.

Battery type

Not disclosed

Replaceable battery?

No.

As with other headsets, the chances are by the time the battery has died, you'll probably have bought a new headset.

Battery charging method/time

The unit uses the same type of charger as do all V60-600 series phones.

This is convenient - if you have an existing charger for these types of phones, you can use it with the headset, too, and save yourself the need to carry two chargers with you.  It also opens the door to other charging methods you might already have (see below).

Charging time is about 2 hours.

Multi-voltage charger

Yes.

Charger weight/size

2.4 oz.

A small size charger, with plug pins that fold into the 'brick' to make it more compact for carrying.

Other charging methods

You can use a Motorola car adapter, or one of our emergency rechargers (with the extra Motorola V60/600 series adapter).

How many pairings can be stored

The unit can store up to either seven or eight pairings (Motorola's website says seven, the manual says eight).

Headset and hands-free profiles?

Both profiles are supported.

Audio profile for computers

Apparently not.

Bluetooth compatibility

Version 1.2

Power/range

Power class isn't specified, but it is claimed to have a 30' range, which would suggest a Class 3 type device.

Effective range

It receives signals (from the person you are talking to) for up to one floor away before the static level starts to become objectionable.  In a horizontal distance, it goes close to 30', as claimed.

Walls or other obstructions severely reduce its range.

This performance is as claimed and perfectly adequate for normal Bluetooth type connections.

Warranty

There is no sign of a warranty policy anywhere but it is believed to be, from Motorola's website, a miserly 90 days.

Free return

Retailer policies will vary.

Noise cancelling/DSP

Motorola don't claim any special noise cancelling or DSP capabilities for the headset.

Here's a 532kB .WAV file that allows you to hear the difference between the HS850 and the Razr V3 phone handset in a noisy environment.  The headset does surprisingly well and is not tangibly worse than the handset.

Sound quality

When talking to other people, they said my voice sounded normal and very much the same on the headset as on the handset.

The sound quality of the person at the other end of the call seemed fine in the headset.


Capabilities

Turning on and off

Turning on and off is brilliantly intuitive.  Open the boom microphone and you turn the unit on.  Close it and you turn the unit off.  As simple as that.

It takes about five seconds from when you open the boom to when the headset is on, operational, and paired to the phone.

Auto connect

Yes.

Voice tag support

Supported.  Make a short press of the main command button, then say the name you've previously recorded.

Last number redial

Yes.

Make a long press on the main command button.

Transfer call to/from phone

To transfer a call to the headset, simply turn the headset on.

If the headset is already on, then a short press of the button on the headset, same as if you were answering a call, will transfer it.

Transferring a call from the headset back to the phone is done by turning the headset off and then accepting the call back on the phone.

These functions are intuitive and reasonably simple.

Call waiting/Three way calling

A long press on the button will place your first call on hold and answer the incoming second call.

Further long presses swap between the two calls.

To join both callers to make a three way call, press both volume buttons simultaneously.

Call reject

A long press of the button rejects a call.

Call answer/end

Yes.

Generally you will have your headset off rather than on.  So, to answer a call, simply turn it on.

If the unit is already on, a short press of the button will answer an incoming call.

To end a call, a short press of the button is again needed.

Mute

A long press of the button puts the call on hold, sort of the same as mute.


Subjective

Attractive design

I don't like it as much as some of the other headsets, but this is a personal quibble.  It is inoffensive and not ugly.

Flashing indicators on standby

Yes, although this is really not needed, because there is a much more obvious visual indicator - if the boom is extended, you know the unit is on, and if it is folded shut, you know the unit is off.

Size

Average/normal.


Summary

This is a fully featured unit at a good price that is easy to operate and has a good battery life.

 

Using the Motorola HS850 Headset

The Motorola HS850 is the easiest to use Bluetooth headset we've encountered so far.  It works well, connects quickly to the phone it is partnered with, and gives good quality audio in both directions.

Connecting with phones

Easy.  Once you've paired the unit with a phone, any time you turn the unit on, it will quickly look for and connect with your phone if the phone is also on and in range.

This is convenient and simple.

Note :  Although we tested the Motorola headset with a Motorola phone, it will work just as well with almost any other Bluetooth enabled cellphone.  There is nothing brand-specific or unique to the Motorola headset that would limit its ability to work with other Bluetooth enabled cellphones.

Summary

The Motorola HS850 headset is a good all rounder - while perhaps there's nothing outstanding about it, there's little to dislike, either, and with street prices going down to about $65, it is fairly priced.  Best of all, it is easy and almost intuitive to use.

For the first time so far in our Bluetooth headset review series, we find ourselves able to conclude the review with a single magic word :  Recommended.
 

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Originally published 10 Feb 2006, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 

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