AliphCom's Jawbone Prime Bluetooth headset certainly isn't a shrinking violet. The company differentiates its Jawbone lines essentially on colour grounds, with the ordinary Jawbone available in black, brown or platinum and the Earcandy variants in rather more striking hues of red, yellow, green or purple, with very silly product names to match.
Costume jewellery's got nothing on the hot colours of Jawbone's Earcandy coloured headsets.(Credit: AliphCom)
Our review sample was the purple variant, and we're certain that it would be almost impossible to lose. Partly due to the rather bright hue, and partly due to the Jawbone's rather large size. If you're easily embarrassed wearing a Bluetooth headset, the Jawbone Prime probably isn't for you, as it's rather large and has a design that works best when gently resting on your cheek, making it very obvious that you're wearing it. Mind you, one female tester of the Jawbone did comment that it looked rather like a large purple earring, so you might be able to fake your way out of feeling self-conscious.
Controls on the Jawbone Prime are very minimalistic, with only two buttons covering off all of the unit's functions. The Talk button handles power, accepting and hanging up calls, while the secondary "NoiseAssassin" button handles call rejection, volume and voice dialling duties. There's a trend in Bluetooth headset design towards the small and unobtrusive, as many users struggle to wear larger headsets due to either sheer size or public embarrassment.
The Jawbone charges either via USB or AC power, but it's not quite as simple as having a straight USB connection. There's a custom plug on the end of the Jawbone Prime's AC adapter and USB cable, which is a minor annoyance. Lose both, and you'll have no way to easily charge your headset.
Funky colours and two-button interfaces aside, the major selling point for the Jawbone Prime is what AliphCom calls its "NoiseAssassin" technology. This is a voice filtering feature that picks up on the pitch and tone of the user's voice, analyses it against all other noise sources and then filters the outgoing signal down to just the user's voice. AliphCom claims that NoiseAssasin is military-grade technology in a consumer product. Part of how it works is via a small button that rests on the opposite side of the headset. It's designed to rest against your cheek when the Jawbone Prime is worn and detect when you're speaking based on the movement of your skin. When you talk, it starts its noise filtering to make sure you're clearly heard on the other end with all other extraneous noise washed out of the signal.
The Jawbone Prime was very comfortable to wear in our tests. AliphCom supplies six different ear bud sizes and an optional ear loop, so aside from very small children, we can't think of anyone that it wouldn't fit. Pairing with multiple phones was very simple, and from there we got to testing AliphCom's rather impressive-sounding claims regarding the Jawbone's noise-cancelling qualities.
Our test set-up involved a number of phone calls, in order to eliminate the possibility of network problems introducing additional interference. We used a Core i7 iMac at full volume playing heavy rock tunes right next to the subject wearing the Jawbone, and called in, expecting to be able to maybe just hear the conversation, but mostly a lot of guitar thrashing.
What we got was really quite astounding, as it was hard to even tell there was background music at all when the subject was talking on every single call. Certainly for mobile phone conversations, it was crisp and clear and we had no trouble maintaining one end of the conversation. Colour us highly impressed.
There is an obvious flip side to the immensely impressive noise-cancelling properties of the Jawbone Prime, and that's that it does nothing whatsoever in terms of noise cancellation on the user end. People you're talking to will get your voice in wonderful clarity in almost any situation, but you'll still have the same noise around you. In our test environment with the volume up full whack we could barely hear ourselves think, and it was a little tough hearing the other person on the end of the line sometimes. It's a problem that's a little exacerbated by the Jawbone Prime's odd two-button arrangement, which doesn't let you move up and down volume levels, instead just giving you preset volumes to cycle through.
With an asking price of AU$159, the Jawbone Prime is a premium priced Bluetooth headset, but having tested its noise cancellation properties, we'd say it's money very well spent indeed.