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Plantronic's Discovery 650E Bluetooth headset offers good functionality and some unique extra features.

If the extra features have value to you, this is a good headset to choose and would therefore be worth the extra cost over the current low priced value leading Jabra BT125.

 
 
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Plantronics Discovery 650E Bluetooth Headset review

Innovative design and features
 

Major industry player Plantronics offers a new approach to charging and carrying a Bluetooth headset, in an attempt to address two of the biggest weaknesses usually encountered in other Bluetooth headsets.

A shirt pocket carry clip that stores the unit when not in use and does double duty as a charger is this unit's most distinctive design feature.

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

 

 

Listing for $100 (down from its original list price of $130) and available 'on the street' for just under $60, this is an affordable unit, priced only moderately higher than entry level units.

Its main claim to fame is probably its innovative approach to storage and charging - which can use an AAA battery for 'on the road' charging, and an optional USB connecting cable as well as a regular mains powered charger.

A good all-rounder unit.  The Jabra BT125 remains our recommended value leader (priced $20 - 25) but for a slightly more fully featured unit, albeit at a higher price, the Discovery 650E is worth considering.

What you Get

My unit came in a blessedly easy to open cardboard box, although the unit is also sold in some stores in one of those hard to open plastic display packs.  Happily, if you get one of those hard to open packs, the good news is that it has been only spot welded shut in a few places rather than given a continuous seal so you can probably open it without  needing a sharp knife or scissors.

Inside the box was the headset itself, plus a holder and charging base (see illustration above).

In addition to the gel plastic eartip on the unit, two more tips were provided of differing sizes, allowing you to get closer to the size tip that sits most comfortably in your ear.

A wire ear loop is also provided so as to give you a 'belt and braces' approach to mounting the unit in your ear.

One of the novel features of this unit is the ability to recharge it with a regular AAA battery as well as with the mains charger provided, and the unit does come complete with an AAA battery too.

Lastly, there's some paperwork - an excellent 15 page User Guide that is also provided in Spanish, and a booklet of 'Important Safety and Operational Information' in 23 different languages.  This is a useless set of legal disclaimers that you can safely discard without reading.

The unit comes with a one year warranty which requires the original receipt to qualify for warranty claims.

The Plantronics 650E has their 'Multipoint Technology' - this means the headset can be simultaneously paired with two phones, but it does not have their 'Audio IQ' sound processing for better quality sound, particularly in noisy environments.

In contrast, the Plantronics 655 does have Audio IQ but does not have Multipoint Technology.  It also has a USB charging adapter, which the 650E does not.

Feature Chart

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

Feature                         Comment

Cost

List price $99.95.

Purchased from Amazon.com for $53, Feb 08


Ergonomics

Easy to put on and take off

Acceptably simple to put on one's ear, and better than some others previously evaluated.

It was, of course, easy to take off.

Easy to use the control buttons

In common with many Bluetooth headsets, there are three buttons on the unit.  Two small buttons are for volume up and volume down, and a larger button opposite the earpiece is the main multi-purpose control button.

All buttons are reasonably simple to use.

Comfortable to wear

Reasonably comfortable to wear.  If it doesn't feel comfortable and secure, try changing the ear bud size for best comfort, and then, if necessary, add the ear loop as well for it to be securely mounted on your ear.

Can you use with glasses

Yes, because normally it is mounted inside the ear and away from any glasses.

Can use with either ear

Yes.  The ear bud inside rotates up or down to ensure the unit angles down from your ear towards your mouth.

Securely mounted on ear

The unit seemed to mount securely on one's ear just by using the ear bud fitting, and adding the ear loop made it 100% firmly (but comfortably) in place.

How to carry

A clever feature of this unit is the carry barrel/sleeve into which you can place the unit when not in use, and then place the barrel in a shirt pocket much as you would a pen.

This is a somewhat sensible idea - at least Plantronics have shown some degree of thought as to how to carry the unit.  There are a couple of compromises, however.

The first is that if you add the ear loop to the unit, it makes the overall size of the item bulkier and more fragile, and so more difficult to carry in your shirt pocket.

The second is the size of the sleeve.  It is slightly oval in shape, and measures about 3/4" x 5/8" on its two axes, and is 4.5" long from the top of its clip to its base.  The headset, when inserted, extends almost an inch above the clip.  In comparison, most pens are less than 1/2" in diameter, although similar in length from clip to base.  It weighs 1 oz, whereas pens typically weigh about half that.

Weight

Very light - 0.2 ounces, or 0.3 ounces with ear hook.


Ease of Use

Commands intuitive and easy to remember

Like so many other units, this headset has a single button that has to provide all the different functions, with its functionality being indicated by various colored flashing lights and sounds.

When will headset designers learn that making one button do many different tasks is just too complicated.  Give us two or three buttons, please.

So, no, the commands are not intuitive or easy to remember.  But this unit is no worse than others.  It is just, alas, no better either.

Volume adjustable

Yes.  There are two buttons, one each for volume up and down.

How fast does it turn on

It takes about two to three seconds to turn on and about nine seconds to complete synching up with a phone and to then take the call from the phone.

Manual

A helpful and well written  user guide (in English and Spanish) is provided with the unit, the same guide can also be downloaded from Plantronic's web site.

Support

Via website and (800) number - (866)363-2583.

A test call to the support number was quickly answered without the need to go through many layers of phone menus.  The person who answered was helpful and knowledgeable.

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 5 hours of talk or 70 hours of standby time claimed.  The standby time can be extended to 170 hours by using the AAA recharger unit, and sort of up to 15 hours of talk time (ie recharging between calls in the AAA recharger carry/dock.

These timings (without the boost from the AAA recharger) are somewhat below average compared to other units on sale in Feb 2008.

Low battery indicator/signal

When you turn the unit on, it gives one, two or three red flashes to indicate less than 1/3, 1/3 - 2/3 charge, or more than 2/3 charge remaining in the battery.

Battery type

Lithium ion.

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 comes with a 'brick' type wall power adapter that connects to the headset via a cable and a non-USB plug that plugs not into the unit directly but instead into its carry case.

This is another gratuitous and unnecessary avoidance of a standard USB type connector, and a more complicated way of charging than is commonly found.

Charging time is about 3 hours.

The red light goes on when charging and goes off when fully charged.

There is also the ability to add an AAA battery powered recharger to the unit while in its carry case.  This can be helpful if away from regular sources of power.

You can buy an accessory charging cable that plugs into a USB port (eg on your computer) and then has the special type plug to connect to the headset.  This is a good thing, but it would still be so much better if the headset took a standard USB connection.

Multi-voltage charger

Yes.

Charger weight/size

2.0 oz.

A small brick charger.

Other charging methods

Also included is an AAA battery powered recharger that connects to the bottom of the carry case.

This is an innovative and helpful additional means of charging the unit.

Note that it works only with regular AAA batteries, not with rechargeable AAA batteries (because the rechargeable batteries have too low a voltage to start with).

How many pairings can be stored

The Plantronics Discovery 650E supports their Multipoint feature, which allows the headset to be connected (paired) with two different phones simultaneously.

While few of us travel with two phones, some of us do, and such people will love that feature.  Or, if you're traveling, perhaps with your spouse, and you don't mind sharing one headset between the two of you, there might be some benefit to you in that situation too.  But with Bluetooth headsets so inexpensive these days, most people would probably prefer to have their own headset rather than sharing a single headset.

The Multipoint feature is good but not great.  There can sometimes be a bit of ambiguity as to which phone is ringing, and if you choose to place a call, the headset assumes you want to use the phone most recently used; if that is not your preference, you need to manually use the phone you want to use to place the call.

The Multipoint can only manage one call at a time.  If a second call comes in on the other phone while you're already using the Discovery 650E on the first phone, you'll have to end the first call before you can take the second call.

Bottom line - an interesting extra feature, but one which every few people will choose to use.  But if you do travel with two phones, you'll love this feature.

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 33' range, which would suggest a Class 3 type device.

Effective range

Sound quality started to break up at about 20' from the phone, depending on if the headset was on the phone side of my body or the far side of my body.

This is less than the claimed range, but still satisfactory for most typical use.

Warranty

The warranty is a generous one year warranty.

Free return

Retailer policies will vary.

Noise cancelling/DSP

None claimed.

Sound quality

Sound quality was very good both for the person at the other end of the conversation and also for me, using the headset.

There was perhaps a very slight muffled tone to my voice when using the headset, but not something that was a problem at all.  And other people sounded as clear and loud through the headset as they did direct through the phone.

The Discovery 650E is one of the better headsets tested for audio quality.


Capabilities

Turning on and off

Turning on is simple - press the main switch and wait until a light flashes (2 - 3 seconds).

Turning off is also simple - press the main switch and wait until a light flashes again (6 - 8 seconds).

Auto connect

Yes.

Voice tag support

Supported (if also supported on the phone, of course).

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

Last number redial

Yes.

Double press the call control button for a last number redial.

Transfer call to/from phone

To transfer a call to the headset, press the call control button for 3 seconds.

Transferring a call from the headset back to the phone is done by pressing the call control button until you hear a tone.

Call waiting/Three way calling

Not supported.

Call reject

A two second press of the button rejects a call.  The headset flashes quickly when it sends the reject message.  Be sure to release the button at that point, or else the call won't be rejected and instead the headset will switch off.

Call answer/end

Yes.

Generally you will have your headset off rather than on.  So, to answer a call, you could first turn it on, then, once the headset was on and paired, press the button briefly to answer the call.  This however can take a long time - too long for some callers - so it is better to answer the call on the handset then transfer it.

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.

If the unit is already on and in its carry sleeve, it will vibrate when a call comes in, and when you remove the headset from the carry sleeve it will automatically answer the call.  Returning the unit to the carry sleeve will automatically end the call.

Mute

Press both volume buttons simultaneously to mute and to unmute a call.


Subjective

Attractive design

A fairly neutral design that is neither flashy nor ugly, and is unobtrusive and conservative.

Flashing indicators on standby

Yes, a quite bright blue light flashes once every five seconds while the unit is on standby.  You can turn this indicator off if you prefer.

Size

Slightly smaller than average.


Summary

This is a 'good all rounder' headset with good sound quality and a clever carry and recharge capability.  But, with a list price of $100 and a street price of $53 (Feb 08 - from Amazon.com) it is more highly priced that entry level headsets such as the Jabra BT125, which sells through Amazon for $20 - $25.

 

Using the Plantronics Discovery 650E Headset

In use, the headset is similar to most other headsets, and the single button control is perhaps not quite as tortuous to use as on some others.

Good sound quality, and a convenient way to carry the headset are the two main pluses, with nothing particularly standing out as a minus.

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.

The unit paired effortlessly to a Motorola Razr V3, a Blackberry 8800, and an Apple iPhone.

Summary

The Plantronics Discovery 650E is as easy to use as any other Bluetooth headset, and does the simple task of answering and placing calls easily and well.

Its Multipoint feature, allowing it to pair with two phones at the same time is unlikely to be of much practical benefit to most of us, except for the significant few who travel with two phones at the same time.  But if you do travel with two phones, you'll love the ability to have one headset instead of two.

It has a current (Feb 08) street price of about $53 through Amazon.  If it were priced perhaps $15 less, it would be an easy choice to prefer this to our current value/price leading favorite, the Jabra BT125.  However, that is not the case and so, if you're looking to buy a Bluetooth headset, you'll have to decide for yourself if you feel the extra $30 or so in cost between the Jabra and the Discovery 650E is money well spent or not.

 

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Originally published 28 Feb 2008, last update 02 Jul 2017

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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