While Bluetooth headsets are usually paired with mobile phones, many people also use them with their PCs. You can use the headset for VoIP calls or for listening to music, if it supports A2DP audio streaming. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth pairing process for PCs can be cumbersome, especially for those who are not technologically inclined.
Jawbone has decided to solve that problem with a headset bundle that it calls "Jawbone Icon HD + The Nerd". It's essentially a package that combines an improved version of its Jawbone Icon headset, along with a tiny USB audio adapter that the company calls The Nerd. After an initial pairing between the headset and the adapter, you should be able to plug The Nerd in to any PC or Mac, and be ready to use the headset automatically. We admittedly think that The Nerd is kind of a silly name for what is just an audio adapter, but we do think the concept is a good one.
Of course, you can also use the Icon HD with any Bluetooth-enabled phone, thanks to multipoint connectivity, which is the ability to connect with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously. The headset is smart enough to switch between The Nerd and the phone whenever a new call comes in.
The Jawbone Icon HD has essentially the same design and feature set as the original Icon, but with the added benefit of a dynamic wideband speaker that offers high-definition 16KHz audio quality. This is the same speaker that is in the Jawbone Era, Jawbone's top-of-the-line headset. The Icon HD also has simultaneous A2DP multipoint, which is a first for Jawbone. This means that you can use the Icon HD's A2DP audio streaming with two connected Bluetooth devices at the same time. Additional features include the ability to play or pause the music player by pressing the Talk button, and voice announcements.
Aside from these improvements, the Jawbone Icon HD is not much different from the original Icon. Those expecting the same specs as on the Era — motion controls, accelerometer and serial flash — will be disappointed. Still, it's compatible with Jawbone's MyTalk website, where you can download firmware updates, as well as different audio and dial applications, and it offers the same ear-bud options as before. As it is very similar, we'll direct you to our review of the Jawbone Icon for additional design and performance details. You should note, though, that since the original review, Jawbone has added A2DP functionality to the headset.
The Nerd, as we mentioned, is a small wire-free USB audio adapter. It's styled similarly to the included headset. On the front of the adapter is a hidden LED ring that flashes and pulses when the adapter is in use. On the other end of The Nerd is a large, easy-to-push button that is used to pair it with the Icon HD.
First, you need to put the Icon HD in pairing mode. To do this, press and hold the Talk button while sliding the power switch to the on position. Once the LED ring flashes red and white, you're ready to pair the headset. Now plug The Nerd in to your computer's USB port. The instructions tell us to press and hold the button on The Nerd for about 3 seconds, until that too flashes red and white, but we found it wasn't necessary. It instantly went into pairing mode the moment we plugged it in to our computer.
Indeed, we tested it with our MacBook Pro, and The Nerd and Icon HD paired within a matter of seconds, without any need for us to mess with the computer's Bluetooth settings. After this initial pairing, you can use The Nerd and Icon HD with any computer, not just your own. The two are set up automatically wherever you use them. This is similar to how the wireless Logitech VX mouse works. However, don't forget that you do need to go into the sound settings and select "Jawbone Nerd" as the output/input device (on a PC, that would be playback/recording device,) so that you can start using the headset with the computer.
We tested the Icon HD with different computer applications, like listening to audio on iTunes and watching videos on Netflix. We were very impressed with what we heard. The Icon HD's wideband speaker sounds fantastic — audio quality is rich, clear and smooth. While we would prefer a stereo headset for a more immersive experience, the Icon HD did provide great audio quality for us to enjoy our music and podcasts. We also tested the Icon HD with Skype, and were able to make calls successfully without having to switch audio settings. Callers said that we sounded loud and clear, and we tested this ourselves with a Skype call.
We also paired the Icon HD with the Apple iPhone 4. Call quality was similar to the quality on the original Icon. Background noise was minimal, and callers said that our voice sounded very natural. The Icon HD uses Jawbone's Noise Assassin 2.5 technology for exceptional noise cancellation. We were also very impressed with the headset's wind noise reduction — even when we were standing in front of a desktop fan at high speed, we could still carry on a conversation with our callers. Jawbone has also released an Android Companion app, which we'll review separately.
The Jawbone Icon HD + The Nerd is a compelling bundle that provides an all-in-one Bluetooth headset solution. It might have a cheesy name, but The Nerd audio adapter does allow plug-and-play connectivity, so that you can use the Icon HD with any computer. Jawbone has also wisely updated the Icon HD with tons of new audio features, like simultaneous A2DP multipoint, remote control support and, of course, a new wideband speaker that provides high-definition audio quality. We like that you can switch seamlessly between audio and phone calls when the headset is connected to both a phone and a PC. Also, the Jawbone Icon HD has the same design and feature set that we've come to love from the original Icon. We do think you should be able to purchase the Icon HD separately, but The Nerd bundle is an attractive, if expensive package. The Jawbone Icon HD + The Nerd is AU$149.95 retail.