Editors' note: We recently reviewed the Jabra Supreme headset. Because of the two devices' similar build and features, applicable portions of that review will be used in this evaluation of the Jabra Supreme UC.
Bluetooth headsets are an indispensable accessory for people who spend a good deal of their time on the phone. For the corporate worker who conducts business remotely, a device that unifies mobile handsets and office telephone systems is even more valuable. One such gadget is the $149 Jabra Supreme UC. Not only does it offer an easy way to merge PC and cellular voice communications, but also its impressive speech commands and noise cancellation abilities are tough to beat.
The Jabra Supreme UC is essentially the same device as the Jabra Supreme, the major difference being a tiny USB Bluetooth adapter included in the box. Called the Jabra Link 360, the adapter plugs into PCs to enable hands-free calls over Skype or IP office phone systems.
The Supreme UC is an outlier among current Bluetooth headsets. At 0.63 ounce, it's very light and seemingly compact at first glance. But after unfurling the device's long boom arm it quickly becomes clear that the Supreme is much bulkier than your typical mono headset. Not only does the microphone arm protrude a good distance forward, but also the main headset body juts a full 1.2 inches from the ear. That girth makes the Supreme veritably plump next to sleek models like the 0.72-inch Jawbone Era.
Also adding to the Jabra Supreme UC's size is its large earloop. Though the adjustable loop is thin and flexible, it didn't latch firmly onto my ear. It also didn't help that it can slide up and down vertically within the headset's base. At first I thought my fit issues were due to my wearing glasses, but I had problems even after removing my spectacles. But even so, the Supreme never fell from my ear once attached.
Buttons on the headset include a Voice Control button that sits in the middle of the mic boom, a large answer/end button on the device's front face, and volume keys on the edge closest to the ear. Here too is a flap covering the Supreme's Micro-USB port. Tiny lights on the bottom edge give alerts about the headset's battery, charge, and Bluetooth status.
Jabra put strong voice-recognition capabilities at the core of the Supreme UC. After I flipped open the boom mic to turn on the headset the first time, the Supreme guided me through a set of voice prompts for pairing it with my phone. While what it told me to do was what I was going to do anyway (open my smartphone's Bluetooth settings and connect to the headset), I appreciated the Supreme's friendly voice chirping the default pairing code so I didn't have to flip through the manual to find it. Also, I like that it announces that it's connected each time I used it, leaving no room for misunderstanding.
Jabra heavily touts the Supreme UC's voice-dialing prowess, which I admit it is impressive. Pressing the Voice Control button on the boom arm activates the device's listening mode. Then, it will prompt you to say a command. You have many options at your disposal, including, "Redial," "Pair with new device," and, most importantly, "Phone commands." Saying that last activates a menu for conducting primary phone functions like "Call John Doe" and "Dial 555-1212." You even can tell the Supreme to pull up your calendar or tell you how much battery life is left. If you forget what commands are possible, asking, "What can I say?" gives you all spoken-word options. Finally, pressing the Answer/End button will push the headset directly into the voice control menu for phone commands.
When calls come through, just say "Answer" or "Ignore," and the Supreme UC will do your bidding. I was able to screen my calls easily this way -- perhaps a little too well, since my knee-jerk reflex is to bat dialers away.
Of course, if your phone doesn't support PBAP (Phone Book Access Profile), which makes many of the Supreme UC's functions possible, the device also acts as a simple manual headset. What's more, all of the physical buttons double as traditional headset controls. For instance, hitting Answer/End accepts calls, while double-tapping rejects them. You also can shut off voice prompts by swinging open the boom arm while holding the Voice Control button.
Another key Supreme feature is active noise cancellation, which is activated by default. Jabra promises that it will noticeably quiet unwanted ambient noise like wind, or the drone of highway traffic. An additional twist is the Jabra Supreme app, downloaded from the Android Market, which automatically detects headsets and allows for tweaking of noise-canceling settings. You can use preset profiles like Office, Outside, and Car; an Audio Note tab makes it possible to make personal voice recordings; and a call log pulls in recently made calls for easy access. Forget about that paper manual, too, since the app also saves the Supreme's instructions.
What really differentiates the Jabra Supreme UC from many other Bluetooth headsets, though, is its Jabra Link 360 Bluetooth adapter. Once you plug the adapter into a free USB port on your Windows PC (sorry Macs are not supported), the Link 360 pushes computer audio to the Jabra Supreme UC's headset. This includes sound from Skype sessions and phone calls made with your office handset. For office calls to function properly, however, your workplace must use an IP-based software telephone system.
The Supreme UC can also stream multimedia audio, such as podcasts, music, and Internet radio, from phones. In my view it's a feature I wouldn't use often, only under extreme duress like if my more suitable stereo headphones self-destructed or ran out of juice. Still, it's good to have the option as a backup.
Pairing the Jabra Supreme UC was a cinch. I just flipped its boom arm open, told my Android phone to link up within the Bluetooth settings menu, and was connected in minutes. My test handset was an HTC One S phone running Ice Cream Sandwich.
I had a similarly pleasant experience with the Supreme app. After downloading and opening the software, I was able to use the application to choose from various noise-canceling profiles. Additionally, the software provides a virtual slider so you can adjust the level of noise cancellation manually. Keep in mind that these settings control the level of noise reduction you experience through the headset, and not what callers hear.
Even so, the Supreme UC features dual microphones and digital signal processing to scrub out background din. On my test calls over a mobile phone line strolling on New York City streets, callers reported that the rumble of cars and wind noise was practically nonexistent. On the other hand, callers also said there was a distinct background hiss and that the beginnings and ends of my sentences were clipped, perhaps by aggressive audio processing. On my end, audio pumped through the big earpiece sounded very clear and had plenty of volume, forcing me to turn the headset down.
Installing the Supreme UC's PC Bluetooth adapter was straightforward too. I just inserted the gadget into a free USB port and Windows automatically detected and installed the device. Because the adapter is prelinked to the Supreme UC, it immediately began pushing PC audio to its headset.
I did run into one frustrating glitch though. While audio on my end sounded crystal-clear, callers reported that transmitted sound was terribly muffled and barely audible. Audio quality got even worse as I walked away from my PC. It turned out that my laptop's weak internal mic was transmitting my voice instead of the Supreme UC's more sensitive noise-cancelling microphone. I fixed the issue by selecting Jabra 360 UC as the system's primary recording device within the Windows control panel. It's a quick, simple fix, but it took me several hours to troubleshoot the problem. When the Supreme UC was operating properly, I enjoyed clean and crisp sound whether accepting or placing calls from my cell or office line. Even better, callers said that while I was chatting from my laptop they couldn't tell I was using a wireless Bluetooth headset.
Jabra claims the Supreme delivers 6 hours of talk time and 15 days running on standby. I personally had my test unit running for at least four days both on standby and having placed multiple calls plus listening to streamed audio. At the end of it all, the Supreme still had 3 hours of talk time in its reservoir.
The Jabra Supreme UC comes with an extremely confident name and it delivers a lot of useful capabilities, including powerful noise cancellation and advanced voice-control features. It even slickly unifies office and mobile phone calls if your employer uses a modern IP-based software telephone system. For the $149 price, though, plenty of smaller and cheaper headsets like the Plantronics M155 and Motorola Elite Sliver provide more basic functions. Another sophisticated yet less expensive headset that boasts a PC and Mac link is the package called Jawbone Icon HD + The Nerd. Still, if you seek all the original Jabra Supreme's capabilities plus a PC connection, the Supreme UC is worth checking out.