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If you're looking for a low priced Bluetooth headset to use with your cell phone, the 8com BH220 might be considered.

Although the unit worked with all three test phones, it has some important limitations that might offset the appeal of its low price.

 
 
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8com Wireless BH220 Bluetooth Headset

Great low price and average performer
 

The BH-220 Bluetooth headset marketed by 8com combines a low price with a lightweight compact design.

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

 

 

8com's BH220 Bluetooth headset is moderately simple to understand and to use, and also offers an Audio profile enabling it to be used with audio applications on a computer as well as with cell phones.

Compact in size, and affordable in price, but a low-end unit.


What you Get

The unit comes attractively packaged in a nice display box, although amusingly the largest picture on its front shows a picture of a man using a regular cell phone without Bluetooth headset.

Inside the box comes the headset unit itself, plus the ear 'hook' piece that wraps around one's ear to hold it securely in place.

Six different ear pieces are included (two each of three different designs) although the unit can also be used without any earpiece if you prefer, with it simply resting lightly on the exterior of your ear.

A multi-voltage 'brick' type plug into the wall power charger is also included, with a cable that plugs into the headset to charge its internal battery.

We are advised that the unit also now comes with a car charger.

There is a small drawstring pouch which can be used to store the power supply (and conceivably the headset, too) and also a neck loop strap for carrying the headset while using/wearing it.

Lastly there is a small eight page manual.  This seems to be a generic manual, because there is no information about manufacturer or US contact information.  However, there is a brief reference to Vodafone which makes one suspect that the unit is also supplied to Vodafone somewhere in the world.

Feature Chart

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

Feature                         Comment

Cost

$44.95


Ergonomics

Easy to put on and take off

Reasonably easy - average to better than average

Easy to use the control buttons

Reasonably difficult to use the volume buttons, main function button is easy to find and operate, but because functions variously rely on a short or long push of this button, I sometimes would have problems due to pressing a short push too long, or a long push to briefly, and having the unit misunderstand my request.

Comfortable to wear

Yes - perfectly comfortable

Can you use with glasses

With some difficulty - the 'hook' that goes around the ear is slim so it is possible to have both the ear piece of a set of glasses and of this headset around the ear simultaneously

Can use with either ear

Yes

Securely mounted on ear

Reasonably secure.  A little bit of wobble if you move your head rapidly from side to side, none if you nod your head up and down.  There is no suggestion that the unit might fall off.

How to carry

Neck loop strap provided, but - ooops - there is no mounting loop anywhere on the headset to attach the strap to!  The loop can be tied to the ear piece though.

Drawstring pouch for charger also provided

Weight

Light - 0.5 oz


Ease of Use

Commands intuitive and easy to remember

Generally not very, but not particularly worse than any other BT headset

Volume adjustable

Yes - this is easy and good, with two separate buttons labeled + and -

How fast does it turn on

Reasonably quickly, but synching up with the phone hand set is an extra step

Manual

Poorly written in Chinese flavored English

Support

They have an (800) number but your only option is to leave a message and hope for a call back, or to send an email and wait for a reply.

Pairing password printed on device

No (it is 1234 so in an emergency you have a good chance of guessing what it is!)


Features

Battery life

4 hrs talk/4 days standby claimed.  This is a below average life (as of Feb 06).

Low battery indicator/signal

Red light flashes.  No audible signal.

Battery type

Lithium polymer

Replaceable battery?

No

Battery charging method/time

A brick type charger plugs into the mains and has a cord that then plugs into the headset

Multi-voltage charger

Yes

Charger weight/size

2.1 oz

Typical sort of size for brick chargers

Other charging methods

The supplier advises that the unit now comes with a car charger as well as the mains charger.

How many pairings can be stored

The unit will only store one pairing, and so if you pair with a second device, it over-writes its pairing information for the first device, meaning when you go to use it with the first device again, you have to re-pair it each time you change cell phones.

Headset and hands-free profiles?

Yes, both

Audio profile for computers

Yes - but not tested

Bluetooth 1.1 compatibility

Yes

Class 2

Yes

Effective range

Adequate

Warranty

Neither the box, manual, or website make clear the warranty policy on the unit, although the battery inside it is described as having a 6 month warranty.  8com advise that the warranty is for one year.

Free return

15 day, no restocking fee

Noise cancelling/DSP

some claimed

Sound quality

Clear and acceptable


Capabilities

Turning on and off

Need to use both hands (press function and 'volume -' buttons simultaneously for 2 seconds); and if you press for two long, it changes into a different mode rather than simply turning on/off.

Auto connect

Not supported

Voice tag support

Yes, easy to use (simply press the function button in standby mode and say the name after a very faint quiet beep that you'd likely not hear in a noisy environment)

Last number redial

Yes (press either volume key while in standby mode)

Transfer call to/from phone

Transfer to headset by pressing function key.

Transfer from headset - may be possible in theory, but in practice I can't get it to work.

Call waiting/Three way calling

Apparently not supported

Call reject

Yes (press function key for two seconds)

Call answer/end

Yes (briefly press function key to answer, press and hold to end call)

Mute

 Yes but difficult to do while unit is on the ear (press both volume keys simultaneously)


Subjective

Attractive design

Average

Flashing indicators on standby

Yes, bright blue flashing light all the time the unit is on.  Some might consider this objectionable.

Size

Average to small


Summary

This unit has a reasonable feature set in a convenient small package, and at a great price.

 

Using the BH-220

The first task proved to be surprisingly challenging - placing the ear hook into its slot in the headset.  After pushing very hard, with the unit not entering the hole it needed to be threaded through, I stopped for fear of breaking it, but the supplier told me that this is a deliberate feature - the friction fit stops the hook from sliding out and the unit from subsequently falling off.

It was impossible to easily tell which way the hook should go to make it left eared or right eared, so I guessed and fortunately got it correct first time.  Clearer information was needed so that you too don't have to guess how to carry out this difficult assembly operation.

After threading the ear hook into its slot, the next task is to bend it so it more closely fits the outline of your ear.  This was easy to do.

The manual is not well written and is in rather Chinese accented English.  It also has at least one mistake - it says to charge the phone when switched off and that the phone will be charged when the red light extinguishes.  8Com now advise that the phone should be charged while powered on, and that the phone is charged when the red light stays on but when the blue light extinguishes.

Turning the unit on was fairly straightforward, although it required both hands plus also looking carefully at the unit and remembering to release the pressure on the two buttons after three blue flashes and before any red flashes.

Turning the unit off was never easy, and often I'd think I turned the unit off, only to notice it still flashing away at me a minute or two later.  The challenge is to press the buttons for long enough as to indicate a 'power off' command but not too long or else the headset interprets it as some other type of command.

Connecting with phones

This is undoubtedly the Achilles heel of this and many other Bluetooth headsets.  The BH-220 does not automatically connect to its paired cell phone when the two devices, both switched on, come within range of each other.  This has to be manually done, by briefly pressing the function key.

The problem with this is the theoretical convenience factor of fully automatic Bluetooth connections is lost when you have to remember to manually connect the two devices each time they are together, and look at the phone to check that the linking has been successful.

If you should briefly go out of range and lose the active pairing, then you probably don't even realize the connection has been broken, and next time you try and answer an incoming call, you'll find you can't and by the time you've figured out what is happening and resolved it, your caller may have given up or been switched to voicemail, plus what is supposed to be a simple, hassle free and distraction free event - answering a call by simply pushing a button - instead becomes the opposite.

Using with a Motorola V600

It was easy to pair the two devices.

Voicetag support worked, as did the other commands.

The phone would ring rather than the headset.

Using with a Nokia 3650

It was easy to pair the two devices.

The headset rang rather than the phone.

Using with a Sony Ericcson T610

It was easy to pair the two devices.

The phone rang when a call was coming in, and the headset also played a very faint tune (Twilight Zone theme).

Summary

The good news - the BH-220 Bluetooth headset is lightweight, easy to put on and off your ear, and comfortable to wear.

It has an average set of features and below average battery life, with a good price, but where is the sense in buying an inexpensive unit if it doesn't work satisfactorily?

The lack of auto-connecting to your cell phone is its biggest weakness. and the necessarily fiddly small controls on the headset is another limitation - both these limitations are shared with other similar headsets however.

The unit can be purchased directly from the US distributor, 8Com.
 

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Originally published 22 Oct 2004, 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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