Besides making what are probably the best wireless headsets for Unified Communications (UC) on the market, Plantronics also has a range of products that are wired and more targeted at desktop users, and even gamers. The Blackwire range sits in-between the desktop and UC market. These are wired headsets with a built-in battery for Bluetooth connection to a mobile phone. I tested the Blackwire C720, a stereo version that works on the Mac as well as the PC.
Blackwire C720, the name sounds like this headset belongs in a Bond movie. To a certain extend, it does. It’s a wired stereo over-the-head headset that connects to your mobile phone with a wireless Bluetooth connection. It has some intelligence built-in, like when you put on the headset it will answer a call automatically. At least two reasons to see what this novel Plantronics product is all about.
The Blackwire C720 comes in a stylish hardshell enclosure. Although its price and design allow you to use it as a SOHO user, this really is a UC headset. It’s wired to your Mac or PC for making and answering phone calls (softphones like Skype).
At the same time, it offers Bluetooth connectivity to mobile phones and tablets. It talks to you when you connect the headset, when someone calls, when you place a call, etc., and “Smart Sensor” technology will automatically answer a call when you put on the headset. Finally, a detachable cable allows you to roam your room or office when taking your mobile calls. Out of curiosity, I tried to pair the headset with a Mac via Bluetooth but that didn’t work, so the wireless capabilities are really reserved for mobile devices.
The Smart Sensor technology of the Blackwire C720 has other tricks up its sleeve as well. For example, when you’re listening to music on your smartphone or tablet and you remove the headset, the audio will pause. Also, when you’re not wearing the headset and a call comes in, you can answer it the usual way — pick up the phone and put it to your ear — then when you’re ready, put on the Blackwire C720 and have the call automatically transferred to the headset.
On the PC, all of these features can be disabled using Plantronics’ Spokes software. On the Mac, Spokes seems to be less powerful, but I was happily surprised to see Plantronics at least now offering a OS X Spokes Preferences panel. Hopefully, functionality will be added soon, so Mac users can enjoy the same benefits as their PC colleagues.
I pretty much tried everything listed above and I found the headset to perform amazingly well. The voice feedback is nice, the wearing comfort is unparalleled — the Blackwire C720 has leatherette padded ear cushions — the audio quality is your typical Plantronics quality. The enclosure is just right and looks great.
The Blackwire C720 also has clever features besides its “Smart Sensor” technology. For example, the USB interface that charges the built-in battery and connects to your Mac/PC, can be disconnected from the headset right at the inline controller. The disconnection capability allows you to leave the USB cable plugged in at the computer, ready to connect to the headset when it’s necessary. The controller has buttons to switch between phone and computer, volume and mute. No “answer call” button, as that feature is full automatic.
You can switch between computer and mobile phone with the Blackwire range. When a mobile call comes in while you’re on the softphone, just tap on the phone icon on the controller and your headset will switch to the mobile phone, while a tap on the PC icon will end the computer connection. The reverse is possible as well.