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A decade after its first Bluetooth headset in 2001, Plantronics still stands out as one of the leaders in an increasingly crowded field. The Voyager line of headsets is especially popular with consumers who prize audio quality and comfort above all else. We were glad to see Plantronics update its lineup with the Voyager Pro Plus last year, which added A2DP streaming, voice alerts, and even better noise reduction.
But the innovation didn't stop there. Plantronics has introduced yet another improvement on its Voyager Pro line with the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC. Undeniably the company's most advanced headset yet, the Voyager Pro UC uses new sensor technology that can detect whether it is on or off the ear. This increases the headset's functionality tenfold--the ability to answer a call just by putting on the headset, for example, is fantastic. The Voyager Pro UC also works with a variety of softphone and VoIP PC applications without ever losing mobile connectivity.
Even though the design of the headset is the same and the audio quality is unchanged, we think this new technology is highly impressive. Just because of that, we're elevating the headset to Editors' Choice. We just wish it were cheaper; it retails for $199.95, which is nearly double the price of competing headsets.
It's design deja vu all over again with the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC. Indeed, it looks identical to both the Voyager Pro Plus and the Voyager Pro. It has that retro telemarketer look, with a large behind-the-ear battery pack and a long swiveling boom microphone. We're admittedly a little tired of the design by now, but we can't blame the company for sticking to a design that many people have come to love. Despite its looks, the Voyager Pro UC is definitely comfortable and easy to wear. For more details on button placement and overall look and feel, we'll direct you to our review of the Plantronics Voyager Pro.
Unlike the Jawbone Era, which has a built-in accelerometer to help answer and end calls, the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC uses very sensitive capacitive touch technology instead. According to Plantronics, this works by "sensing capacitance changes due to conductors brought close to one or more sensor electrodes." This Smart Sensor technology enables the headset to differentiate one action from another.
The benefits of the sensor are quite impressive. For example, if a call comes in and you're not wearing your headset, the call automatically routes to the phone. You can then answer the call as you would normally or you can slip on your headset and the call will be answered automatically. If you put on your headset in the middle of the call, the call will be transferred to the headset automatically as well. This prevents you from having to fumble around for the headset whenever you get an incoming call.
This works great for listening to music as well. Taking the headset off automatically pauses the song, and when you put the headset back on, the song resumes where it left off. You also no longer have to worry about accidentally placing a call while the headset is bouncing around in your pocket; the Voyager Pro UC has Auto Call Button Lock, which locks the button when the headset is not worn.
Like the Voyager Pro Plus, the Voyager Pro UC has voice alerts, multipoint technology for simultaneous connectivity to two devices, and A2DP streaming so you can listen to music, podcasts, and apps like turn-by-turn navigation. You also get a visual headset battery meter when the headset is paired with an iPhone. The Voyager Pro UC currently does not support Plantronics' Vocalyst automated phone service, but it might in the future.
The Voyager Pro UC comes with a USB adapter that is by default paired with the headset. You can plug the adapter into a PC or Mac and use the headset with a variety of softphone and VoIP applications that include options from Avaya, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft (OCS & Lync), ShoreTel, and Skype. The Voyager Pro UC is able to make use of the simultaneous connectivity of the phone and the PC. For example, if you're on a mobile call, the headset will communicate to the PC software and change your availability status to "On a call." Once you're done, the software will change it back to normal availability.
If you use Outlook, you can create a list of VIPs or favorite contacts that you communicate with frequently. You can set it up so that whenever you get an instant message or e-mail from one of these people, the headset will alert you, and then read out the subject line of the e-mail. In VoIP apps like Skype, you can also quickly switch from IM conversations to voice chat simply by putting on the headset.
As the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC has much the same noise-canceling technology as the Voyager Pro Plus, we're not surprised that the quality is equally as good. We paired the Plantronics Voyager Pro UC with the Apple iPhone 4, and quality was very impressive. Incoming voice quality was crisp, clear, and as natural-sounding as holding up the phone directly to the ear.
Callers reported similar results. They did report the occasional muddiness, but it wasn't a deal breaker. Calls were free of static and noise, and wind noise was reduced as well. Callers said our voice quality was clear and natural for the most part, even when we were in a noisy environment.
We're quite impressed by the audio quality of music as well. Sure, it's not a stereo listening experience, but songs had passable sound quality.
The Plantronics Voyager Pro UC has a rated battery life of 6 hours of talk time and five days of standby time.