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

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The $129 Jabra Motion is a premium Bluetooth headset through and through. If you spend most of your day on the phone making deals or just plain chatting, this smartphone companion should be high up on your short list. Not only does the Motion have excellent hands-free audio quality, the gadget is very comfortable to wear and is tricked out with all the latest mobile bells and whistles. The Motion boasts NFC technology for fast pairing, plus Jabra provides the most sophisticated smartphone app I've seen complementing a headset yet for this device. The accessory isn't perfect, however, as its large size is an eyesore. Also, while the Jabra Motion is a more capable alternative to the compact Jawbone Era and our current Editors' Choice winner, the stylish Plantronics Voyager Legend, some of the Motion's more advanced features failed to operate.

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8.2

Jabra Motion

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The <b>Jabra Motion</b> offers excellent audio and hands-free call quality. The Motion is also comfortable and fits securely once attached. The headset’s companion phone app is packed with lots of useful features. The Motion pairs quickly via NFC with compatible handsets.

The Bad

With its big boom mic design, the Jabra Motion is large and conspicuous. The Motion’s fancy motion sensor abilities don't work as advertised, and at $129, it's also expensive.

The Bottom Line

If you can live with its massive size, the Jabra Motion’s clear audio and loads of features are hard to resist.

Jabra Motion is big but loaded with features (pictures)

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Design
When I first opened the Jabra Motion's box and gazed upon the headset I was immediately struck by its massive size. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the sleeker and more svelte lines of the Plantronics Voyager Legend, but I'd forgotten just how large high-end Bluetooth headsets can be.

Sporting a robust, over-ear design and a big, flip-down boom mic, the Jabra Motion isn't what what I'd call fashionable. Unlike the Voyager Legend, the Motion's back side runs all the way down the full length of your ear. With the boom microphone deployed, the device's profile extends even further -- well beyond the earlobe to reach the lower cheek. While Jabra took this bold approach for the sake of improved call quality and greater comfort, when using the Motion there's no disguising you've got an earpiece strapped to side of your face.

There's no hiding that you're wearing the Jabra Motion. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Motion does have huge design wins under its belt. Thanks to a height-adjustable speaker, a back edge that properly balances the weight of the headset, and soft eargels, the Motion is very comfortable to wear. I especially like the eargel tips, Jabra includes three sizes in the box, which are meant to slip into the ear canal to form a tight audio seal.

It does take a little fiddling, but once I attached the Motion properly it held on tight even when I rested my sizable eyeglasses over it. In fact, I found that the Motion felt more secure than the Voyager Legend which doesn't wrap around the whole ear and whose eartip sits just outside the ear canal.

Inside the box are three sizes of eargels to choose from. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Motion uses fancy touch-sensitive volume controls as well, a ridged band placed on the earpiece's rear edge. Other buttons on the Motion include a big call answer/end key that's hard to miss, on the outer speaker face, plus a small voice and mute toggle on the bottom lip of the boom arm. You charge the Motion through a micro USB port, and Jabra claims a single charge provides seven hours of talk time.

Features and performance
You can't deny the Jabra Motion is a serious piece of wireless hardware. As a tradeoff for its girth, the device packs an impressive array of bells and whistles. Connecting to phones and tablets via wireless Bluetooth version 4.0, the headset has dual microphones for noise cancellation in difficult audio environments. Jabra also claims that the Motion's comparatively large speaker offers increased volume and audio frequency range.

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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8.2

Jabra Motion

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8