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Gennum nxZen review: Gennum nxZen

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The Good Comfortable, secure fit; admirable call quality.

The Bad Controls take some acclimation.

The Bottom Line The Gennum NxZen Bluetooth headset offers the same performance as its predecessor but has a much-improved design.

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7.6 Overall

Gennum NxZen Bluetooth headset

The last time we reviewed a Gennum Bluetooth headset, we weren't terribly impressed with what we saw. Though the Gennum Zen Bluetooth headset offered great sound quality, we didn't enjoy the cumbersome design and the uncomfortable fit. Fortunately, Gennum is back for another try, and this time we approve. In fact, it's as if we made a wish list in our previous review and Gennum followed it to the letter. The Gennum NxZen Bluetooth headset retains its predecessor's great sound quality but provides a more secure fit and a more stylish design. It retails for $149.

While the previous Gennum Bluetooth headset looked like something out of Star Trek, the NxZen has a more traditional Bluetooth headset form factor. We liked the sliver-and-black coloring and the rounded edges. Since the NxZen has no boom mic, it's also compact and lightweight, measuring just 2.25 inches long and weighing 0.6 ounce.

The Gennum NxZen Bluetooth headset can be worn two ways. The first is with a traditional ear hook that slips easily on and off. We were glad to see that the ear hook comes in two sizes, both of which are exceptionally flexible for fitting over almost any ear. It's simple to adjust the ear hook for wearing on either side of your head, but the hinge for doing so is rather stiff. You can also use the NxZen without the hook, as the earpiece protrudes slightly but not uncomfortably into your ear canal. Though you get a choice of four rubber tips for the earpiece, we preferred using the hook for the most secure, comfortable fit.

We felt somewhat divided about the Gennum NxZen's controls. The large, round button on the side of the headset powers it on and off and manages calls. For the latter function, you can also use the smaller "pinch" button located near the tip of the headset. This control also readies the headset for pairing, activates voice dialing (if your cell phone supports it), redials the most recent number, transfers calls between the headset and the phone, switches between calls (if your phone supports call waiting), and mutes the sound. While the round button was easy to manipulate during calls, the pinch button required more acclimation. Depending on the function you're trying to perform, you must press the button a certain length of time and listen for a certain number of beeps. We got the hang of it after a few minutes but only after closely scrutinizing the user manual. We also noted that the pinch button switches position depending on which side of the head you're wearing the NxZen. With the headset on your left ear, the control is on the bottom; with the headset on your right ear, the control is on top. The twin volume controls at the back of the NxZen were stiff, but we liked that you could switch their orientation so that the control for raising the volume always faced up. The final feature is a ring-shaped LED light to show the headset's status.

We tested the Gennum NxZen with the LG VX9800 and encountered no problems with the pairing process. Call quality was impressive, with good clarity and little static. The volume was somewhat low for our tastes, but it didn't diminish our overall experience. Callers also reported good quality on their end. They could tell we were using a headset, but that's not unusual. NxZen innovatively uses two microphones that pick up your voice and background noise. To help improve audio clarity, the background noise is then suppressed with a noise-cancellation feature. As a result, calls sounded great in windy conditions, on the street, and in a noisy building. An additional $10 gets you the Gennum NxZen Plus, which can connect to a Bluetooth MP3 player and comes with a single earbud cable for stereo sound. The NxZen has a rated talk time of 7 hours and a promised standby time of a little more than four days. Though the primary charger is large and clunky, you also get a USB cable for charging from a computer.

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