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Out & About: Plantronics BackBeat GO and Voyager 5200

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Friday, May 13, 2016 11:06 am PDT


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About a month ago, the folks from Plantronics stopped by and showed off their latest models. And though we’ve seen everything from Bluetooth speakerphones to computer gaming headsets from the company over the years, the newest products were a pair aimed at the mobility category, in two very different ways. Though there are plenty of great ways to listen to your music at home, it can be far harder to find a solid pair of exercise-ready headphones, and there are fewer and fewer new options for professional single-ear headsets.

The latter option is the Plantronics Voyager 5200, in the style popular amongst real estate agents, salespeople, and anyone who needs to make or receive phone calls while on noisy city streets. The slogan itself says it all: “Now anywhere is a great place to talk”. The key to the quality are the six layers of WindSmart technology- basically, you can call up your Mother from the Windy City and still convince her you’re still in your office. It’s helpful for that, but more important during those business calls that can come up at the most inopportune moments. Four microphones help cancel unwanted, external noises while keeping your voice clear and natural. Like with an increasing number of options, there is a dedicated button for voice controls, whether you use Siri, Google Now, or even Cortana.

There is a sweatproof nano-coating that helps protect against inclement weather too. The Voyager 5200 looks fairly similar to predecessors, with a sleek appearance, and it’s lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day long. Speaking of which, the battery life is impressive too- up to seven hours of active use between charges. But if you need more, one of the best updated additions is the optional portable charging case that has a built-in battery offering up to 14 extra hours when fully charged. You can easily dock your headset for charging, as it’s seen some nice improvements, including an anti-slip coating to help keep it on your bedside table or desk. And the best part is the reasonable price- expect to spend around $120. If you want a USB dongle and computer-connectivity, they also offer a UC, or ‘universal connectivity’, model as well.

If the gym is more your speed, but you still want to enjoy some wireless audio, Plantronics still has something new on offer. The BackBeat GO 3 Bluetooth wireless earbuds are a welcome addition to our workout routine. They improved on the previous edition in a few ways. We liked the trio of included tips, color-coded for easy identification, and with a nifty attachment mechanism that doesn’t require pinching and squeezing to swap them. Like many active-focused headphones, they have ear loops to help keep them secure while you’re jogging, though only one size is included.

At the lower price point, the set includes just the charging cable- but add an extra $30 and you get a pretty swanky carrying pouch which has a built-in battery to help keep the music flowing. The GO 3 offers about six and a half hours of battery life, and much like the backup battery mentioned above,  plugging into your pouch can add about two full charges as you need (and has LEDs that show the remaining charge). Pairing is simple, and there is also a button for the voice services which can come in handy. They look cool, held up well over some lengthy runs, but do fall a little flat in terms bass response. They high-end and mid-range are satisfying, though, with plenty of energy. And the starting price is enough to make us cheer: the Plantronics BackBeat GO 3s can be yours for $99.99.

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