Jabra SP500 Bluetooth speakerphone review: Jabra SP500 Bluetooth speakerphone

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MSRP: $43.21
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2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Jabra SP500 has impressive battery life and works well with our cell phone's voice-dialing interface.

The Bad Mediocre speaker quality, weak volume, and the lack of built-in voice recognition limit the performance and features of the Jabra SP500. A small mute button and volume dial are difficult to use on the road.

The Bottom Line Difficult to use on the move and hard to hear, the Jabra SP500 is found wanting in two of the most important speakerphone departments. Its long battery life and ease in pairing with a cell phone mitigate--but don't outweigh--these drawbacks.

5.8 Overall

Jabra SP500

Like the Bluant Supertooth II, the Jabra SP500 qualifies as a wireless speakerphone, in that it isn't a true hands-free device unless paired to a phone that has built-in voice-command operation. Though it's relatively bulky, the unit is modern and stylish without a single straight line to be found. The SP500 offers a good amount of talk and standby time, which means that forgetting to turn it off shouldn't be a problem. Also in its favor: when the rechargeable batteries eventually wear out, you can replace them with off-the-shelf AA nickel-metal-hydride cells.

While the multifunction button--used primarily for connecting and disconnecting a call--is more than large enough, the mute button and the volume dial are far too small to safely use while driving. We find the speaker a bit squawky and not loud enough for our liking--a point we attribute to the unit's automatic volume adjustment. Despite the speaker's drawbacks, the SP500's microphone works well, delivering clear, albeit slightly tinny, sound to the receiving handset. Unlike other models we've tested, our cell phone had no problem with voice commands via the speakerphone.

Difficult to see, difficult to use
The Jabra SP500 is stylish, with a clean, modern design, but measuring 4.9 by 2.9 by 1.3 inches, it's bulky compared to other devices on the market. The flexible microphone arm is a nice touch; it won't break if bent the wrong way and looks like a safe option in the event of an accident.

In daylight, the SP500's single, blue LED light is difficult to see, and we struggled to tell whether the device was on or off. The layout for the unit's other buttons is also frustrating. Every time we grabbed the device, we seemed to hit the mute button, which resides on the underside of the unit. The volume dial is so small that we found it hard to use when parked, let alone while driving.

The SP500 can be mounted via either a suction cup or a solid visor clip; we prefer the latter. However, there's no provision for using an earpiece or a microphone, which might make privacy a bit of a concern.

Long battery life
Jabra claims an impressive 480 hours of standby and 20 hours of talk time for the SP500. Most cell phones consume a lot more power when paired with a Bluetooth device and will need to be recharged a number of times before the SP500 requires a refill. We particularly like that it uses standard nickel-metal-hydride AA rechargeables. Far too may devices become useless when the proprietary internal battery can no longer hold a charge and a new one can't be found. You can charging the SP500 with either an AC plug or an in-car adapter, both of which are included in the kit.

Pairing the SP500 to our phone was very easy. Jabra's claim of one-touch pairing apples only to the SP500's half of the procedure. We had to follow the normal procedures for our phone, but the whole process took less than 30 seconds and was completely intuitive. Connecting and disconnecting a call also required only one touch of the large multifunction button.

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