It's hard to get too excited over a mono Bluetooth headset, but Plantronics new Explorer 500, which replaces the company's midlevel Marque 2, has some compelling attributes that make it worth paying attention to.
For starters, it's lightweight at 7.5 grams, has dual microphones with "noise-canceling DSP and GSMA-certified HD Voice," offers decent battery life (7 hours of talk time) and is fairly affordable at $60.
I tried it out while walking the noisy streets of New York City and have been generally impressed with the audio quality -- and so, too, have the people I've called. The overall build quality isn't quite on the same level as Plantronics' Voyager Legend. But the headset is the half the weight and like the Marque 2, very comfortable to wear.
Equipped with Bluetooth 4.1, the headset has a few other features worth highlighting. A button on the top of the device activates voice control for smartphone assistants Siri (iOS), Google Now (Android) and Cortana (Windows) and the headset goes into sleep mode if you forget to turn it off (the battery stays charged up to six months if you don't use the headset).
Last but not least, the Explorer 500 comes with a magnetic strap that can be hooked onto a laptop bag, belt loop or whatever, and doubles as a USB charger. Alas, it doesn't have a built-in battery for recharging the headset on the go, but it would be cool if it did.
The Explorer 500 will come in white and black in North America. A gun-metal gray version will be available in Europe, where it will cost €59 and £49 in the UK. No word yet on Australian pricing or availability.