April 22, 2010, 1:30 PM — The Plantronics Explorer 395 is a good-looking, easy-to-use Bluetooth headset that is obviously designed (and priced) for the casual user -- somebody who wants to be able to do hands-free calling but doesn't need to be glued to a mobile phone.
Plantronics Explorer 395
What's cool about it? For what it costs -- $50 list -- the Explorer 395 isn't bad at all. It comes in black or bronze with silver accents; the look is sleek and stylish in a Star Trek sort of way.
And it is indeed simple to use. The headset has a separate on/off switch (which I always find easier than using the same button used for answering calls), a volume button that toggles between four settings, and a call start/end button.
What surprised me most, though, is that the Explorer 395 is more comfortable than any of the more-expensive headsets I've tried. While most headsets come with a variety of different-sized tips to choose from, so you can find the best fit for your ear canal, the Explorer offers an earloop and a single eartip that sits against, rather than within, your ear. The result is a firm but very comfortable fit that should suit most users. The headset was even comfortable while wearing glasses, although I had to take my glasses off while putting it on.
What needs to be fixed? Something has to be sacrificed when you drop the price of a gadget, and in this case, it's call quality -- but only to a point. I found that while voices were usually clear and understandable, they occasionally came across as somewhat fuzzy. On the other end, one person reported that the audio was quite clear but a bit distant, while another said that the sound was clear but "not warm."
Final verdict: While it doesn't offer the audio quality you get with more expensive technology, the Plantronics Explorer 395 is comfortable to wear, simple to use and offers reasonable-quality audio for half the price of more feature-laden competitors.
Barbara Krasnoff is reviews editor at Computerworld . When she isn't either editing or reviewing, she blogs at The Interesting Bits ... and Bytes ; you can also follow her on Twitter ( @BarbaraKrasnoff ).
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