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Sony Ericsson HBH-IV840 review: Sony Ericsson HBH-IV840

The HBH-IV840 works well and looks fantastic doing it, but its price tag is outrageous for a headset with basic features.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
2 min read

If you rounded up the best Bluetooth headset of the last 12 months for a police line-up most of them would be fairly hard to tell apart. Sony Ericsson's HBH-IV840 is discernibly different, and we like it a lot. Its slimline form factor and the absence of an ear hook give this earpiece a subtlety and elegance most Bluetooth headsets sorely lack.

6.0

Sony Ericsson HBH-IV840

The Good

Super stylish design. Comfortable fit without ear hook. Decent sound quality.

The Bad

Prohibitively expensive. Limited input and feedback options.

The Bottom Line

We like the way it looks and we were suitably impressed with the way it works. But AU$160 for a headset with basic features is out of the question.

This elegance comes at the price of extras you might otherwise expect from a hands-free device. The ear hook is a good example, and those who don't feel confident of the HBH-IV840 staying attached to you without the security of the ear hook had best look to another device. Though we haven't had any issues, the IV840 fits comfortably in our ears and it doesn't seem like it will fall out no matter how much head banging we do. Interestingly, Sony Ericsson includes a neck strap rather than an ear hook for keeping the IV840 close by between calls. The headset connects with a quick release clip so you can whip it off the neck strap before the call goes through to voicemail.

The IV840 also only has three buttons to make use of: a power button that is also used to enter pairing mode, and up and down volume keys. Three buttons is becoming standard though; it's rarer these days to see headsets with more physical input options. The front of the IV840 is a mirror-like black surface concealing LED lights underneath. These lights are the headset's only means of feeding back information to the user: green is on, yellow and red indicating decreasing battery life, and flashing red and blue show that the IV840 is in pairing mode.

We tested the IV840 to the Apple iPhone 3GS and to a Nokia N86 8MP. Both phones paired automatically with the IV840 and we experienced similar performance from both handsets; good, usable sound quality, though we would have liked slightly louder volume and sharper clarity. People we spoke to had no major complaints about the sounds of our voices, though they remarked that we sounded like we were in an echoing room (read: toilet).

Overall

The HBH-IV840 is one of the most stylish Bluetooth headsets we've seen, but like all designer fashion accessories it doesn't come cheap. Sony Ericsson has set the RRP for the IV840 at AU$159, $40 more than the significantly better featured BlueAnt V1. For a Bluetooth headset with this feature set the IV840 is about double the price we think it should be, regardless of its excellent design. If you spot it at a bargain price on eBay we can recommend the IV840, just don't pay full price.