Though we've sung the praises of noise-canceling headsets from Plantronics, Aliph, and even BlueAnt, we've sadly not done so with Jabra in 2009 because we just weren't that impressed with its offerings. In fact, the last Jabra headset we were truly impressed with was the Jabra BT530 from 2008. Thankfully, Jabra has decided to improve on that in 2010 with its successor, the Jabra Extreme. Named after Jabra's new noise-canceling technology--Noise Blackout Extreme--the Extreme promises improved audio quality, new features like multipoint and A2DP compatibility, plus a couple of design improvements. Though we're not too impressed with its looks and the ear fit, we think the Jabra Extreme is a pretty good headset, especially for the retail price of only $79.
Measuring 1.9 inches long by 1.1 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick, the Extreme is long and slender with a decidedly industrial look that makes no pretensions it's a Bluetooth headset. It's clad in gunmetal gray on the front and black everywhere else. The Extreme's front surface is covered in a perforated grille, which hides the headset's dual microphones. Also on the front is a skinny middle button with the Jabra branding, which acts as the headset's multifunction talk button. Underneath the button is an LED indicator. Flanking either side of that are the volume controls. We found the volume controls to be quite small, but they were still easy enough to find and press.
On the left side of the headset is a dedicated power switch, which makes it easy to turn the headset on and off, thus saving battery life. On the top is the charger jack. Flip the headset over and you'll find the earpiece. The Extreme comes with three different ear gel covers; two have half-loops attached, and can be worn without a hook. Jabra claims these to be "ultimate-fit ear gels" but we have to admit they don't feel very comfortable for us. They felt rather big in our small ears, plus they didn't feel secure at all. So by default, we much preferred the third option, which is a simple round ear gel cover, plus the optional plastic ear hook. The ear hook can be rotated to fit either ear.
The Jabra Extreme has typical features like answering, ending, and rejecting calls, voice dialing support, last number redial, call mute, call waiting support, placing a call on hold, and the capability to transfer calls from the headset to the phone and vice versa. It also has a couple of advanced features like multipoint technology, which is the capability to connect the headset with two different devices, and A2DP compatibility, which allows for streaming music. Of course, the Extreme's mono output is not the best way to listen to songs, but for quick listening, it works just fine. We tried it out with a few podcasts, and though it was slightly weird not having the left audio output, we could still listen to them with little loss in quality.
We paired the Jabra Extreme with the Apple iPhone 3G. We tested the Extreme in a variety of situations: in a quiet office, in a moving vehicle, outside on a busy city sidewalk, and in a crowded cafe. In all situations, we were impressed with the Extreme's call quality. We heard our callers loud and clear thanks to the headset's automatic volume adjustment, which cleverly increases and reduces incoming volume. The Extreme also boasts Acoustic Shock Protection that protects the ear from sudden blasts of noise. Our callers sounded natural as well.
On their end, callers said they heard us without a problem in the quiet environment. There was a bit of static, but it was not a distraction. In the noisier situations, they could still hear the background noise, but it was definitely muffled when compared to our voice. They said we sounded crystal clear most of the time. Sometimes the voice quality would dip a little bit, but it sounded natural for the most part.
The Jabra Extreme has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 10.5 days standby time.