Jabra Motion review: Great audio, loaded features outweigh large size

Swipe up and down the touch sensitive volume control. Sarah Tew/CNET

Indeed on my test calls both in the office and walking down the hectic streets of Manhattan, the Jabra Motion sounded incredibly clear. Voices on my end came through loud and with precision in high and mid frequencies. The low end was also rich with a good helping of bass, something that stymies many mono headsets.

Callers also had trouble detecting that I spoke from a headset, not through the phone mouthpiece, or that I even dialed from a cellular handset. Even surrounded by the vibrations of nearby construction, honking car horns, and roaring city buses, people I spoke to could discern my words easily. Surprisingly, callers described the Motion's audio performance on par with the Voyager Legend . That's something I didn't expect since the Legend has three microphones compared with the Motion's two.

The Motion also features an NFC chip for fast Bluetooth pairing. Just tap the headset against compatible phones to link. The ability worked without a hitch on my HTC One test phone, but I failed to connect when I repeatedly bumped the headset against a BlackBerry Z10 test unit. That meant I had to dive into that phone's Bluetooth settings menu to achieve a connection.

As its name implies, the Jabra Motion is equipped with an accelerometer, or motion sensor. With it, the device is supposed to perform nifty tricks like automatically answering incoming calls when you pick the headset up, or kick in extra noise cancellation when it detects continuous movement such as walking. In fact, Jabra claims that the Motion, thanks to its dual microphones and motion sensor, can adapt intelligently to din-filled environments.

Sadly, I couldn't get the Motion to operate in this regard, and not for the lack of trying. The headset never automatically picked up the line during incoming calls when I grabbed the device off my desk. I observed the failure with the HTC One , BlackBerry Z10 , and Motorola Droid Razr HD. I also didn't notice the Motion shifting its noise-cancelling profile based on whether I was walking or not. I'm currently waiting to hear back from Jabra as to possible causes for my experience.

Any premium Bluetooth headset worth its salt should offer internal voice commands, and the Jabra Motion doesn't disappoint. Vocal commands plus spoken prompts for caller ID are built in. I easily used them to answer and screen calls without touching my phone.

The Jabra Connect app gives you lots of control. Screenshot by Brian Bennett/CNET

An area where the Jabra Motion really shines is its companion smartphone application. Available for both iOS and Android, the app lets you pair with nearby Bluetooth devices, view the current battery level of the Motion, plus select sound profiles depending on the situation. For example you can swap between Car, Office, or Outdoor profiles based on your environment. There's even an audio note function which records reminders you speak out loud.

Jabra says the Motion offers up to seven hours of talk time on a single charge and my anecdotal tests confirm this claim. I was able to go a full eight hour work day streaming stereo audio and placing test calls through the gadget without needing to plug into an outlet.

Conclusion
It's clear Jabra wanted to one-up its rival, the Plantronics Voyager Legend , and in most ways has succeeded. Priced at a steep $129, the Motion certainly costs more than the $99.99 Legend. For the higher sticker price, however, the Motion trumps the Voyager Legend on audio quality thanks to its tight ear seal. and it's more comfortable to wear. The Motion companion app is also more capable, with methods for switching sound profiles on the fly. The Motion's ability to link with compatible phones quickly is also pretty slick, and a trick the Voyager Legend can't tackle. I suggest opting for the Legend only if the headset's more stylish and slim design resonates with you better than the Motion's massive footprint. You can also go with the Jawbone Era which is a solid ultracompact option.

That said, it's hard to forgive the Motion's quirky motion sensor abilities, which didn't perform as the company promised. Aside from that, the Jabra Motion's compelling combination of features, audio performance, and cushy fit put it in clear striking distance of the reigning Bluetooth headset king.

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