Jawbone Era (2014) review: A new leader for discreet Bluetooth dialing

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MSRP: $99.99

The Good The Jawbone Era is astonishingly small, light, and comfortable to wear. The headset boasts excellent noise-cancellation and clean audio quality. The companion mobile app offers helpful and fun extras.

The Bad The Jawbone Era’s base model has short battery life and lacks a volume button. The Era's small size is tough on large hands.

The Bottom Line Outside of short battery life, the small and comfortable Jawbone Era delivers the full package of an affordable price, excellent sound quality, and a powerful companion app.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Editors' Note: This review has been updated after experience reviewing the Plantronics Voyager Edge.

For people who need to talk a lot on the go, only the freedom of a hands-free Bluetooth headset will do. The trouble is wireless handset makers have traditionally had difficulty delivering excellent call quality along with a practical yet, dare I say, fashionable design. The new $99.99 Jawbone Era, however, comes the closest yet to attaining this coveted Bluetooth combo. The smallest and most attractive mono headset I've ever laid my hands on, I honestly wouldn't think twice about wearing it in public, even in New York where people tend to be judgmental.

Of course the Jawbone Era won't satisfy everyone. Its short battery life isn't ideal for marathon chatterboxes, and those with big hands might find the device's small button and power switch tricky to operate. Even so, the Era's clean audio quality and powerful noise-cancellation are hard to pass up.

The newly redesigned Jawbone Era is, hands down, the smallest Bluetooth headset I've ever seen. In fact, the gadget is so small and inconspicuous it's the first product of its kind I'd seriously consider wearing without fear of judgment on the ruthlessly fashion-conscious streets of New York.

Not much larger than a piece of bubblegum, or perhaps very big pill, the Era's rectangular body is downright minuscule. In fact Jawbone claims this fresh creation is 42 percent smaller than its predecessor, the original Era. Its six-gram weight is all but nonexistent as well. Essentially a little black bar (also available in silver, brown, and red) the Era consists of an earbud and soft silicone ear gel cover, and a power switch.

Jawbone Era
The Era is tiny but packs lots of noise-suppression hardwear. Sarah Tew/CNET

Tech to kill the noise
The headset's two microphones work in conjunction with the voice activity sensor -- the small rubbery nub next to the power switch -- to knock out background noise on calls. The company has dubbed the solution NoiseAssassin 4.0, a continuation of Jawbone's technology that has graced its headsets for years.

On the back side of the Era sits a Micro-USB port for charging the headset, a welcome change from many wireless headsets that require a proprietary connector and cable. Also here is the device's only physical control (aside from the power switch), a multifunction command button.

Jawbone Era
The charging case brings the Era's battery life up to 10 hours. Sarah Tew/CNET

Pressing the button once will answer or end a call, and also switch calls if two are active. Performing a double press does a redial while hitting the key three times will kick-start your phone's music player and resume the last queued track. One fault I find with the Era's one-button approach is that the headset lacks a dedicated volume control. To adjust the loudness you must press the command key for a few moments to cycle volume up and down.

A comfy fit
I found that inserting the Era into my ear was a very straightforward procedure since the headset's ear gel can only be slipped around its earbud in one direction. And because the bottom side of the ear gel is curved (to better channel audio into your ear canal) I had no doubt the Era was positioned properly. I like how the top edge of the gel features a hook that's designed to curl around the inner fold of your earlobe as well.

Jawbone Era
The Era comes with multiple ear gels. Sarah Tew/CNET

That said, while the Era took just seconds to put on, I often felt it wasn't gripping my ear as firmly as I would have liked. By contrast, the Jabra Motion's large rubbery earpiece and earloop offers a much more secure fit. Of course, the Era comes close to the Motion in comfort and I prefer the way it sits inside my ear compared with the Plantronics Voyager Legend. In my opinion, the Legend feels more precariously strapped. Another thing to consider is that both the Motion and the Legend took longer (about 15 to 20 seconds) for me to don comfortably.

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