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Jawbone packs beauty and brains

Story Highlights

• Aliph Jawbone a great-looking headset
• Buttons, volume control a little tricky
• Noise shield technology approved by U.S. military's DARPA
• Headset comfortable, easy to position
By Nicole Lee
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(CNET.comexternal link) -- Aliph has finally given their old wired Jawbone headset a much-needed upgrade for the Bluetooth generation. The Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth headset is quite simply one of the most eye-catching headsets we've ever had the pleasure of using.

Designed by renowned industrial designer Yves Behar, the headset even comes packaged in a museum-style showcase.

But the Jawbone isn't all beauty and no brains; it packs in three microphones and a voice-activity sensor as well as military-grade "noise shield" technology that has been approved by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the U.S. Department of Defense's independent research branch.

We did have an issue with the quirky buttons, but it's a lesser issue given that it's such a beautiful piece of hardware that delivers excellent quality. It does cost a hefty $119.99, but it's well worth the price.

The headset is available in three colors: gray, black, and red. You can purchase it from Cingular or from Jawbone's Web site.

As we've mentioned, the Jawbone Bluetooth headset is one of the sexiest headsets we've ever laid eyes on.

Its rectangular design has a perforated texture on the front that makes it look more like a piece of art than a simple headset. It isn't a terrifically compact headset by any means, measuring 1.8x2.2x0.7 inches, but its smart design more than makes up for its slight bulk. Above the perforated piece is a slick LED that glows white when the headset is active, and on top of that is a curved piece of black plastic.

If you're wondering where the buttons are, the very top part of the perforated piece is actually the Talk button and the bottom part of the black plastic is the Noise Shield button.

We found these "hidden" buttons a little tricky to press since you have to push down on a large piece of plastic, resulting in a somewhat spongy feeling.

The Talk button can be used to power the headset on and off, answer and end calls, redial the last number, and transfer a call from the headset to the phone or vice versa.

The Noise Shield button is used for pairing, turning the "noise shield" technology on and off, rejecting a call, and changing the headset's volume as described below.

We must note that the Jawbone Bluetooth headset doesn't come with a volume rocker because its audio enhancement technology will automatically adjust the volume according to the environment.

That said, if you do want to manually adjust the volume, you can do so by pressing the Noise Shield button to increase the volume up to the maximum level until it loops back down to the lowest volume (there are five volume levels). We would have preferred an actual volume rocker for ease of use.

Behind the headset are the earpiece, a curved flexible ear loop, and a tiny voice-activity sensor (it's the tiny, white rubber piece) that must lie against your cheek in order for the headset to detect the vibration of your voice.

The earpiece fits very comfortably just inside the ear, and the springy ear loop made it easy for us to position the headset so that the voice-activity sensor was properly placed.

The headset comes with an array of different earbuds and ear loops for additional comfort and security.

More impressive than the headset's looks, however, is the technology behind it.

The Jawbone has three different microphones built into the device, the aforementioned voice-activity sensor plus Aliph's proprietary Noise Shield audio processing in order to help reduce outside noise and not only amplify your own voice but also enhance incoming audio.

We tried this with the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 (Read reviewexternal link) at a traffic-heavy intersection. We were impressed that we could hear our caller without too many problems, though strong gusts of wind did muffle the audio quality a little.

Surprisingly, our caller didn't even know we were outside. He said he thought he heard "clicking" and "some voices" but not much else in the background.

The Jawbone Bluetooth headset has a rated talk time of 6 hours and a rated standby time of 120 hours. Other features of the headset include voice-dialing support and a battery strength indicator.

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