In the last couple of months I’ve had the privilege of testing and benchmarking the new range of Jabra headsets named Jabra Evolve. Within the range there are low to high-end choices, with a model from each range being Lync certified. (Lync For Windows Only certified).
As with all my testing I was excited to put the evolve headset through its paces with a series of ‘Iain Smith’ tried and tested routines.
Firstly lets start with the look and feel including the plug and play capabilities. It’s worth noting the headset I’m testing is Jabra’s Flagship Evolve 80 ML series running on Lync for Windows.
Ascetically this is a great looking headset, with a modern look and feel to it. Clearly Jabra are trying to touch on the mixed market of corporate and consumers with this evolve 80, were they are bridging the gap to ‘one headset for all functions’. The styling of the Evolve 80 is something, which you would see on other major consumer MP3 enabled headsets let alone on one certified for Lync. So does this headset cut the mustard with the younger audience of today as well as using it in the corporate workplace? I personally think it can pass as a consumer product in the look stakes, but in the office with its bright coloured cabling it did raise a few eyebrows from the older folks. (no one likes change).
For me I think Jabra are on the right path with the styling.
With regards to with plug and play ability with Lync, the headset was up to the job and paired with Lync within a couple of seconds.
Audio Quality (Lync Calling Audio)
In all the headsets I’ve tested over the years there aren’t many where I would say the sound quality is excellent, however I can 100% say this with the evolve 80 the sound quality is exceptional but then again for a £200.00+ headset you should get great sound throughput. What did let me down with the evolve though on the Lync calls is the headset is so noise cancelling when your talking on the device, your own sound i felt becomes muffled.? Its worth noting im not a advocate of dual eared headsets anyway because of this>, after speaking with Jabra we did raise the sidetone to the max, but still to this day I find halfway through a conversation im taking the left ear can off my ear. I found the conversions and the call simply off-putting as I can’t tell if I’m shouting or being quiet on calls. I’m left with a real mixed opinion… I loved the sound quality, but pretty much disliked talking on calls. For me this is a catch 22, but im sure for others who love dual eared devices this will be the perfect device.
Audio Quality (Music Playing)
Absolutely can’t fault the music quality and also the noise cancelling and sound leakage. You can crank up the headset to max and people around you cant hear a thing from the device. The device also comes with the press button to talk through while wearing the headset, meaning you can wear the device and when someone speaks to you, you don’t have to take the headset off your head.
Using the headset as a pure music player, the device has a built in battery to allow for outside noise cancellation, which lasts up to 15 hours on a full change, which is great.
Let me just touch on the active noise cancellation as well. So the Evolve 80 has a little switch on the right ear can, which activates the ANC option. Wow, this function in itself is one of the best noise cancellations I ‘not’ 😉 heard. If you are a traveller on a busy train/plane and what to listen to music, podcasts or movies etc you would not go wrong with the evolve 80.
So at this point im thinking that this headset is my first 5 out of 5 review? Hang on lets just look at the other features required first.!
Jabra where is the Bluetooth connection?
I was surprised to see the headset does not come with Bluetooth built in ? For me this is an oversight as in scenarios where you might have the orange 3.5 jack cable plugged in via the aux connector to your iphone (other phones available). If you then get a call on Lync, you then have to faff about unplugging from the phone back into the Jabra ‘puck’ connector device on the existing cable plugged into your computer? Equally if you wanted to keep your headset plugged into the puck and was listening to music from your computer, then you got a call on your iphone, then you would have to take the headset off to answer, when simply you could have Bluetooth tethered the phone to pick up the call?
Also the lack of Bluetooth means on UC/Lync calls you are stuck at your desk without the ability to roam around your office, as you would be with Bluetooth or dect devices.
Is it me, or has Jabra created one of the best UC devices going, but missed a fundamental piece of the picture.?
Another observation. The Evolve 80 has a presence indicator on the puck and also on the right ear can of the device. (it lights up red when you press the centre of the puck to show you are using the device or lights up red when a your on a call). Again I don’t want to be to critical as I genuinely think this is a great device, but for me the Lync SDK has been around long enough now for vendors to code their own software to hook into the presence status of the user from the Lync system. Having to press the centre of the puck to show a red light coming on for me is lazy coding by the vendor. (This little rant is not Jabra specific, as I could name another vendors who do the same)
While I do genuinely like the Evolve 80, there are a couple of areas for which could be improved to make it the best UC device available.
1st – It has to have Bluetooth in the headset. Not having Bluetooth restricts your movement and also makes the device cumbersome when switching between music and work tasks. As I expect this device to be around for a couple of years from now I do hope Jabra added the Bluetooth chip, until a time when they can code the feature.
2nd – The headset styling is great but for some its to much, and I hope Jabra offers a less ‘in your face’ coloured version going forward
3rd – Get the presence light ring doing the colour status from the Lync system, when not on a call GREEN, Away YELLOW, On a Call PULSING RED, Do not Disturb DARK RED.
4th – Lack of Lync for Mac Audio/sound changing options. At this moment the Jabra suite only runs on Windows machines AND the sidetone option isn’t available on OS X therefore when the Evolve is bound to a Mac the sound inputs can’t be changed. With more and more macs in the workplace, Jabra you need to get your skates on a satisfy the OS X/Mac world, especially as there is a new office for Mac 2015 hitting the shelfs next year.
This device for me gets a solid 4 lync stars in my testing. Why the missing 5th star is purely down to the points mentioned above.
Would I buy or recommend this device. Yes, but I would be making clear the Bluetooth restriction to my customers.
Would I buy or recommend on for listening to music only. 100% without doubt.
All in all this is a nice device that bridges to the two worlds of consumer and corporate.
Well done Jabra. !!! version 2 add the Bluetooth feature and you will be 5 stars.!