Surprising Build Quality, Good Sound

May 23, 2011
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Good build quality, good sound quality, decent cord length and control placement

Cons:Answer/Hang-up feature does not work with OCS or Lync

The Bottom Line: Good build quality, good audio performance, but would be better if the answer/hang-up button worked with OCS/Lync.

I've been tasked to test and review a few headsets for Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 (OCS) and Lync 2010 (which we will be upgrading to). As of now, I have both a Jabra BIZ 520 and a Plantronics Blackwire C210. I will probably get more headsets to review soon, but for now, it's just these two. I've already reviewed the Jabra here, so lets talk about the Plantronics Blackwire C210, shall we?

Plantronics Blackwire C210 Attributes
The Plantronics Blackwire C210 is not labeled as optimized for OCS or Lync, unlike the Jabra. However, there is a C210-M model that is similar to this one that is. Unfortunately, we ordered the wrong one. Since the non-Microsoft sanctioned model is the one I have, I will review it.

The build quality seems much better than the Jabra. While still plastic, it is thicker and feels much better. It has a glossy finish as well.

Total length of the cable is about 8 feet, which the control unit sits roughly 2 feet from the ear piece. There is no clip for the control unit, so it will have to rest on your lap.

The control unit itself is smaller than the one on the Jabra headset. It's about the size of a pack of gum, and home to four buttons. The buttons allows for answer/hangup, volume up/down, and microphone mute. There is a red LED under the mute button to show that your mic was muted. The volume buttons seem to control the volume on the Windows Audio Mixer.

The earphone itself has a higher quality build and feel than the Jabra. First of all, it has a leather-like material on the outside, while on the inside, the pad is more cloth than foam. The cloth and pleather is actually stitched together.

The microphone is not padded with any cloth at all, so it may pick up some popping as you speak. Just make sure it the mic is not in the way of moving air from your mouth or nose, and you'll be fine. Part of the boom is plastic that swivels back and forward. The other part is flexible rubber that stays in place where you bend it. It's much sturdier than the Jabra's boom mic. It can also be pulled to extend the mic about half an inch.

Overall, the Plantronics Blackwire C210 build quality is solid.

In Use
Unlike the Jabra, the Plantronics C210 was not OCS or Lync optimized. The only feature you'll miss is the answer/hang up button. It does nothing with OCS 2007 or Lync 2010. Everything else works, however.

The documentation allude to a software download that would allow OCS and Lync to work with the answer/hang-up button, but unfortunately, it did not work as advertised.

Windows detects it as a USB audio device, and will automatically download and install the drivers, just like it did for the Jabra headset I tested earlier. You can then set it up to be your default audio device or just for communication programs.

While it was detected as a stereo audio device, the Plantronics C210 down-mixes the stereo stream to mono. This is in contrast to Jabra's headset, which only plays the right audio channel. As such, you do not have to tell the Microsoft Audio Mixer to down-mix stereo signals.

Of course, comfort is a subjective thing. For me, I had to expand the adjustable head band to the maximum size allowed to feel comfortable. The side where there is no ear piece have a hard plastic piece with rubber foam for cushion. Any adjustment less than the maximum seem to dig into the top of my head.

I have a relatively small head (or so I've been told), so even at the largest size adjustment, others will larger heads may not feel as comfortable.

Also, as I expected, the wire can get in the way. However, with the longer cable and where the control unit is positioned on the cable, it's not as bad as the Jabra headset. The control unit would have to sit in your lap, since the wire to it from the earphone is 2 feet long and does not have a clip. Even with the longer cable, I can only see this working if you plug it in the front USB ports of your PC unless you have a USB extension cable.

Sound Quality
The audio quality of the ear piece is very good for voice communication. As a standard USB audio device, you can set up Windows to play all audio through the Plantronics C210. As such, I was able to determine that music sound just as good. From low to high, music actually sound pretty natural without anything noticeably missing. You can actually listen to music discretely while working, and answer the soft phone without missing a beat.

The microphone picks up sound very well. I didn't have to adjust the gain in OCS to compensate for any poor attributes. Of course, I would have to adjust the mic closer since out of the factory, the mic was pointed straight out, which is too far from my mouth. Still, I didn't have to get it so close that I would accidentally eat it like I had to for the Jabra headset.

The Upshot
The Plantronics Blackwire C210 is more comfortable than the Jabra BIZ 620 headset, and seem to perform better as well. Build quality is light years from the Jabra, and the ear piece materials is refreshing. It would probably be a tight fit for others with larger heads or big hair, however.

Between the two, I would choose the Plantronics Blackwire C210 hands down. Of course, if we get the right one (C210-M) so it's "optimized" for OCS and Lync, I'd be happier.

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