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Review of wireless headset BlueAnt Z9
BlueAnt is a relatively young company compared to other players on the market. It has its headquarters in Australia, and even if the BlueAnt name if everything you have to go on, it is easy to guess that this company deals with accessories that have something to do with Bluetooth connectivity.
The portfolio of BlueAnt offers a handful of wireless stereo and mono headsets, hands-free car kits even a motorbike kit. Until recently the company’s range was nowhere to be found in Russia and in this sense the BlueAnt Z9 is quite unique being the first accessory to go on sale here.
Earlier in 2007 at CES (The International Consumer Electronics Show) the BlueAnt Z9 was awarded a prize for “Innovative design”. Probably, that’s the reason why they have made up a promo-site for this headset? For fairness sake, let us note that the BlueAnt is no the only accessory maker that grabbed an award at that exhibition. But enough of digressions, the focus here is design.
The Z9 doesn’t look sophisticated, nor does it have quaint lines or unusual design elements that could turn heads. It is a drawback to the Z9 and the simplicity of its construction doesn’t make it look cheap or something – on the contrary, it gets you excited. It may well be that these are the bog-standard design and black plastic that the Z9 wins your heart with. Personally I can’t see any “innovative” or “stellar” design in the Z9’s shapes, but it will definitely appeal to many.
The headset is a pretty slender lightweight (10 grams), so one of the things going for it is its diminutiveness. Thanks to its no-nonsense lines and symmetrical casing, it looks even smaller that it is.
Now, the question we always ask – the target audience? As my colleague, Sergey Kuzmin, likes to put it: “for boys or girls?”. Like we said, with its black finish and no-frills design, the Z9 has no sophisticated design to offer. As much as it is austere, it as also plain, so it won’t look out of place in a woman’s hands, and men will appreciate it as well. The company itself shares our opinion and so as to prove it, has some photos showing the Z9 on a girl’s ear:
And used by a boy:
The headset employs a very conventional design with removable ear loop, made of transparent plastic, so it keeps low profile while on your ear. The Z9 comes boxed with three ear loops. The plastic it is made of is nonflexible, so if you thing you can easily bend it and prove us wrong – well, you can stick your hand into the box to get a new one!
I do like the ear bulb type earplug. These days the market offers a whole lot of headsets with in-ear design, where you literally need to push ear tips into your ear. Not everyone can get used to this headphones type. But the Z9 is not like them – it has a plain ear bulb that is comfortable fit in the ears, yet it doesn’t close them. The earplug stays on your early partly thanks to its rubberized rim, party thanks to the auricle form.
A big letdown of the Z9 is that it doesn’t have custom earbuds, meaning that there is no way to pick your own size and if it doesn’t fit you in some way (size, shape of the ear bulb), you won’t be able to make any use of it.
The ear loop rotates on its axis and can be slightly deflected – all thanks to the fact that the loop is mounted on a rubberized hinge. Another interesting solution – clothing clip, so it you don’t feel comfortable about wearing it several hours straight, you can clip it on your shirt’s collar and attach to your ear only in case you are about to make or receive a call. This is a very reasonable approach especially for users who are not heavy on calls in their handsets, but still would like to have a wireless headset around.
On the face of it the Z9 seems to have a conventional controls layout. And it in fact does, but the manufacturer presents it somewhat differently.
There are three buttons on the casing – multifunction key and two for adjusting volume. The latter are mounted on the upper spine. The former control goes by a pretty self-explanatory name – MFB (Multi-Function Button). All press-releases feature this button as a unique and very important element (if we are talking about the way the company positions this key). But I think it is pretty much obvious that similar multifunction keys can be found on most wireless headsets as well. Otherwise they would have been more like a control panel in some aircraft. In any event (either way), the vast majority interactions with the headset are done via the MFB.
The Z9 has no power button, since it turns on when you push the multifunction key, which sits on the headset’s front fascia and is pretty sizable. However it suffers from being mounted flush with the casing, and having a very short travel distance, so usually after tapping it you don’t have any idea whether the headset got the command or not. By the way it has an ant engraved on the surface. While in action, the button gets backlight or starts blinking in blue or red).
The volume controls are a tad stiff, and have a short travel distance too, which is partly made up for by the “click” sound you hear upon pressing them.
The manufacturer rates the Z9’s battery as being good for 5,5 hours of talk time and around 200 hours of standby. In our tests, it delivered got something like 4 days of battery life per charge with 30-40 minutes of calls a days and always-online mode, which is a pretty good result. For recharging purposes there is a charger with thin plug; charging time – around 2 hours.
Handset connection and sound quality
We put the Z9 through its paces in part with the Gigabyte T600, which is a communicators and the Samsung i600 – a smartphone. In both cases the Z9 delivered absolutely no problems – the process of coupling the headset with either device ran smoothly, all we needed to do was switch it on by holding the multifunction key for 6 seconds. The code is nothing new here – “0000”. There can be 3 devices stored in the Z9 memory, which comes in handy on some occasions. To toggle between these three you k just need to push the MFB one, two or three times when the headset is online (depending on which device you want to establish connection with).
Now imagine the situation when you employ a headset both with your phone and PC for Skype calls. With the BlueAnt Z9 you will no longer need to re-couple it on these devices. Another thing of note is that the manufacturer promises to burst out firmware updates for the headset, which already comes included with a data cable for these purposes. However, we couldn’t see how the process of firmware update runs back when we tested the Z9.
The top volume setting of the headset won’t blow you away, but is still quite ample to ensure clear calls in any environments. There is a little bit of background noise, which can be heard only if you really want to catch every sound coming out of the earphone. Your voice sounds very clear with the Z9, at least we received no complaints from the other end of conversation. The Dual Mic technology doesn’t deliver some amazing performance, at they might claim – the handset just fares well on this front.
Call alert makes it to the headset with a slight delay (2-3 seconds) – first your handset starts to ring and only then the Z9 kicks in. Extra features like re-dial and voice dialing work properly.
The good about the Z9:
The headset will arrive in Europe with the price tag of around 70 Euro. It still has to make it to the Russian market, though – expected to do so in one-two months’ time. Here the Z9 is likely to go for more than 70 Euro, which is a bit too much for the a headset like BlueAnt Z9. Even though it boasts some awards from CES 2007, it doesn’t have anything extraordinary going for it.
But thinking of its initial price and the fact that it will definitely see a price cut in future, the Z9 might be the way to go. The only thing you should pay attention to is the way it attaches to your ear. The Z9 is an unpretentious, yet a nice-looking headset that has everything you might want your wireless headset to do.
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