Review: Plantronics CS50 Wireless Headset System

By SmallBusinessComputing.com Staff | Posted December 12, 2003

Plantronics released its CS50 Wireless Headset System last month with great fanfare. This month, we put the 900 MHz lightweight wireless phone system to the test in order to determine if the device lived up to our expectations — and Plantronics' highly touted feature set.

One of our senior lab technicians — let's just call him an executive-type — enthusiastically agreed to review the Plantronics CS50 Wireless Headset. He spends several hours on the phone each day, typically pacing the confines of his modest office wearing the carpet threadbare. He first started using a wired headset a couple of years ago after suffering neck spasms — the result of a workspace that ignored all ergonomic best-practices — and advancing age.

Designed with office professionals in mind, the CS50 headset allows users to take a call up to 300 feet away from their desk phone. In our real-life office setting, we found our senior lab technician typically didn't go more than 50 feet away from a workstation during a conversation. However, we found that the range of the CS50 is easily four times that without degradation in quality — and that's in an office environment that includes lots of concrete walls and a small server room.

The CS50 operates at 900 MHz, so it didn't interfere with our wireless local area network (WLAN) using 2.4-GHz airspace. Although we don't have any Blue Tooth devices lying around, Plantronics indicates that the CS50 also won't bother these types of wireless devices either.

Talk of the Office
The CS50 Wireless Headset quickly became a conversation item around the office. Our senior lab technician enjoyed the nuance of working wirelessly — seeing startled faces of colleagues who work in other parts of the building when they heard him both on the phone and in person in their office — simultaneously.

Furthermore, several co-workers recognized that we were testing a new headset without prompting. Co-workers on the other end of the line commented that our conversations sounded clearer than those held with the wired headset the Plantronics CS50 replaced.

Overall, the Plantronics CS50 Wireless Headset gets high marks for clarity and range. Available for $299, the CS50 does what it claims — provides clear connections at great distances and works with most office phone systems.

The lightweight headset also uses built-in digital encryption, so office professionals can hold a secure telephone conversation while completing other tasks. We found the headset to be light and comfortable to wear. The headset comes with a standard over-the-head setup, as well as devices that fit the mouthpiece of the wireless phone system over the ear.

Plantronics' claims the battery for the headset will last for up to eight hours of continuous use. Rather than talk himself horse, our senior lab technician found no degradation in performance during at least four hours of near-constant use.

The headset has two extremely useful features. One is a switch that, when used with a device that remotely lifts the handset (HL10, $79, sold separately), allows the user to answer and disconnect a call while away from the desk. The HL10 affixes to most types of office phones and is a device that would have made Rube Goldberg proud.

The headset also features a volume control button on the back. Pressing on the volume control button mutes the headset microphone. So the listener does not have to endure a conversation with someone else during a call. The CS50 is designed with the mobile user in mind. In addition to its digital encryption system that keeps conversations private, the built-in microphone provides advanced noise canceling capabilities to eliminate background sounds.

Operator Errors
The CS50 is a plug-and-play device that works with existing office or public exchange (PBX) phone systems, whether they're analog or digital, single-line or multi-line. The CS50 amplifier simply plugs into the office phone, and after a quick charge, we were ready to start calling. All the same, there were a few minor challenges in the set up of Plantronics CS50 phone system that the company could easily address.

Like most people, our senior lab technician doesn't read directions. He disconnected his old headset, opened the instructions and began assembling the CS50. In hindsight, he should have realized a wireless headset needed to be charged. A prominent notice that the headset should be charged for three hours before use, along with instructions on how to do it, would have saved him a little aggravation.

Also, the icons that tell the user where to plug-in the phone lines are fashioned out of the same material as the base unit itself, the underside of which (where the plugs are) is black. We plugged them in backward initially — the remedy was quick and obvious.

Parting Thoughts
Weighing only 26 grams, the CS50 comes with three different earloop sizes and an over-the-head band for customizable comfort and style. Style is an important feature in a wireless headset, and the Plantronics CS50 is a good example of a wireless headset system that combines form with function.

Plantronics' CS50 is backed by a one-year warranty and has a suggested retail price of $299. Used in conjunction with the optional HL10 lifter, which retails for $79, office professionals can pick up their phone with the touch of a button. Both the CS50 and HL10 lifter are available now direct from Plantronics and major electronics retail outlets.

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