Plantronics and Jawbone have been duking it out with their Bluetooth headsets for years now, the former focusing on superior call quality while the latter delivers devices with unrivaled style. That battle continues with the Plantronics Voyager Edge ($129.99), which looks to take on the refreshed Era by Jawbone. Plantronics sticks to its tried-and-true boom-mic design, but dispenses with the bulky over-the-ear shape of the Voyager Legend. Thankfully, the clean call quality remains, and it still outperforms Jawbone’s offering in most cases. The difference between the two will come down to a simple question: Do you value form or function? We still prefer the Era’s refined, discreet design and solid performance, but the Edge is still an excellent choice if call quality is a top priority.
Design and Fit
The Voyager Edge isn’t replacing the older Legend—in fact, it looks a whole lot more like the company’s Discovery 975. Think of it as a bridge between the performance-focused Voyager line and more fashion-forward Discovery line. At 0.31 ounces and just over 2.5 inches long, the Edge is the most compact member of the Voyager lineup, ditching the bulky over-the-ear design of the Legend. It looks pretty sharp with its diamond-shaped earpiece and slim boom mic, but it’s still no match for the impressively petite Era by Jawbone, which is only 1.83 inches long and weighs 0.21 ounces. That extra size does net you some added physical controls beyond the single multi-function button on the Era. The Edge has physical Volume, Call Answer, and Voice Command buttons. The headset also features a nano-coating that adds moisture resistance for added durability, but it’s not waterproof, so don’t try wearing it in the shower.
Plantronics includes three rubbery eartips with stabilizing fins and one optional clip-on plastic loop that goes around the ear for added security. I never found it necessary to use the plastic loop, but the fit isn’t quite as solid as the Era’s. While Jawbone’s eartips follow the curvature of the ear and actually enter the ear canal, Plantronics’ eartip design rests just outside of the ear canal. It never affected sound quality, but it did take me a few tries to get the fit right. Plantronics offers the Edge in black, white, or gray.
The Edge includes a portable charging cradle with a built-in battery. The cradle looks pretty spiffy with its teardrop silhouette and rubberized grooves, but it’s also much bulkier than the cradle for the Era at nearly four inches long and over an inch thick. While I could see attaching the Era’s case to a keychain, I wouldn’t want the Plantronics case in any of my pockets. It adds up to 10 hours of talk time, though, which is a good deal more than the six hours added with Jawbone’s case. For now, there’s also no option to buy the Edge without the case, though it’s priced the same as the Jawbone with it; Plantronics reps say the standalone option ($99) won’t be available until this Fall.
Pairing and Call Quality
The Voyager Edge features Bluetooth 4.0 with EDR and NFC for quick pairing. I tested the Edge with an iPhone 5s and Galaxy S4, both of which paired quickly and easily, but the NFC option made it a one-touch affair on the Galaxy S4, as it will on any other NFC-equipped device. The Edge comes equipped with accelerometers and capacitive sensors, letting you answer calls just by picking the Edge up and placing it in your ear. You can also simply say “answer” to answer incoming calls. Both the motion gestures and voice commands worked well in my tests.
Despite its smaller form, the Voyager Edge delivers the same excellent call quality as the larger Voyager Legend. I did call quality tests using the aforementioned iPhone 5s and Galaxy S4, both on Verizon Wireless. Calls coming through the earpiece sound full and easy to understand, though the Era pumps out a bit more volume. Transmissions through the mic are clear and natural sounding, without the muddiness I heard with the Era. There’s a crispness to the earpiece and mic that you don’t get on Jawbone’s headsets, which helps voices sound more distinct. Noise cancellation works well for most situations, doing a good job with ambient office noises or light street traffic. But like the Legend and most boom-mic style headsets we’ve tested, the Edge struggles with wind resistance. I tested with a small desk fan directed towards my head, and even a modest breeze rendered my voice into a choppy mess.
Like most modern Bluetooth headsets, the Edge also supports A2DP for streaming audio other than calls, like podcasts or music. Audio sounded clear, but lacked the fullness of the more bass-heavy Era by Jawbone. I much prefer the Era for music playback, but for audiobooks or podcasts, the Edge sounds perfectly serviceable, if a bit low on max volume. A nice stereo Bluetooth headset like the Plantronics BackBeat Go 2will always be best for listening to music, though. The Edge also supports wide-band audio for networks that support HD Voice.
Plantronics rates the Bluetooth range at 33 feet, but in my tests signal starts degrading around 15 feet away and drops off completely around 25 feet. The Edge supports multipoint, meaning you can connect with two devices without having to constantly re-pair. Battery life is rated for 6 hours of talk time. In our tests, the Edge was able to last for 5 hours, 55 minutes of continuous talk time when paired with an iPhone 5s. That’s a solid result and offers nearly double the battery life of the Era, which lasted 3 hours in the same test.
The Plantronics Voyager Edge is an impressive Bluetooth headset, delivering the same great call quality we’ve come to expect from Voyagers past, but cutting the bulk that precluded mass appeal. Struggles with wind resistance aside, the Voyager Edge trumps the Era by Jawbone for pure call quality. But for as slimmed down as it is, it still can’t quite match the Era’s gobs of style and incredibly miniaturized size. The Era’s call quality is solid, too, and for streaming any other content, Jawbone has Plantronics beat. Jawbone also offers the Era as a standalone headset for $30 less than the Voyager Edge, which for now you can only buy with a charging cradle. We give the advantage to the Era, but the Edge isn’t far behind.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc