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Hands on With The Motorola Endeavor HX1 Bone Conduction Headset

As we reported earlier, the Motorola Endeavor is now available for sale only at Sprint stores for $129.99. We were fortunate to get a little hands on time with the Endeavor prior to its release and it’s time to share our thoughts on it.

To begin with, the Endeavor is the first bone conduction bluetooth headset to combine Motorola’s CrystalTalk noise cancellation technology with true bone conduction technology. Other headsets (you know who) work to cancel out noise but they do not use true bone conduction technology. We’ll get into the details shortly but what this means is that no outside noise (none at all) will be heard by someone you’re talking with and they will only hear your voice. So you can have a conversation even in winds of up to 40mph!  The best way to describe it in a word – insane. To give you an idea of my impressions of it, I got so attached to it that I bought one as soon as it was released. So, without further introduction let’s take a little walk through the Endeavor.

The Design

The Endeavour is a good looking headset boasting a sleek black and silver look. While it ships with an ear hook I think a lot of users will take it off since it’s not needed to keep the headset in place (but of course, it’s there if you want it). The earpiece fits fairly deep into the ear, enough so to seal off outside noise and also to keep the sounds coming from the headset from being drowned out. Unless you are really use to wearing a bluetooth headset all the time I don’t think you’d want to keep it in your ear 24/7 simply because while it’s in it blocks out almost all outside noise but wearing it occasionally is no problem at all and I did forget that I was wearing it a number of times. It fits deep within the ear which some people may not like, but it was not an issue for me. The headset comes with four ear cushions of various sizes plus the loop to ensure you can get a great fit and I think it works as advertised.

On the top of the headset (or bottom depending on the ear) there’s a switch to turn the power on and off. Behind that is a volume rocker and there are three dots on one side and one dot on the other so you can feel which side to press to adjust the volume. The bottom contains an external microphone to collect outside noise in order to cancel it out. On the face of the Endeavor is a talk button and that also triggers Microsoft Voice Command on Windows phones. Beyond that is another external microphone and the furthest silver line is actually slightly raised and that’s the button you press to trigger stealth mode. This all works well together because there’s nothing to learn about the headset – everything is intuitive and you can just touch the headset while in use to trigger any actions.

On the underside of the phone is the LED light to indicate that the headset and battery status.

The rear of the headset has the microUSB power jack. Motorola opted for microUSB here which is slimmer than miniUSB. MiniUSB is what is currently utilized in most Windows phones and BlackBerry’s whereas microUSB will be in the majority of hansets in 2012. This means that for the present time you may need to carry an extra charger with you because even though it is standardized it is not as common today as miniUSB, but as time passes it will likely be everywhere. Of course, the battery life is pretty decent and when you turn on the headset it tells you the battery level so it’s by no means a deal breaker.

CrystalTalk and Stealth Mode

Let’s get to the good part – how does the thing perform? It outperforms! I saw the press releases and I didn’t expect it to function this well. For regular use Motorola uses CrystalTalk which is their noise cancelling technology which uses the dual external mics to cancel outside noise. For regular noise like cars passing outside, a tv in the background or people talking in the same room as you you can consider them silenced. Everyone I spoke to thought my voice sounded crisp and clear and this is in part due to the fact that there was no audible background noise being heard by them. For the first time in years I didn’t spend the first five minutes of a conversation with my parents discussing how they can barely hear me and whether I’m standing outside or not. Living in NYC every time I speak to someone they can hear the sounds of the city in the background. With the Endeavor I went out of may way (even standing on my balcony) and callers were not able to hear any of the ambient noise.

That alone would make for a great headset but when things get really noisy the Endeavor has another trick up its sleeve – Stealth Mode. This is enabled on an as-need basis and eliminates outside noise entirely. Instead of routing the sounds through the external microphone the Endeavour recreates your voice from the vibrations it detects from your inner ear. It does this by using bone conduction to ensure that only the noise coming from your voice (conducted through your inner ear) pass through the headset. To accomplish this there’s a small nub on the inside of the earpiece that sits inside your ear canal but it’s barely noticeable when worn. It’s a rubber ‘bubble’ that you has a lot of give to it.

As stated, simply pressing the metal button on the face of the Endeavour triggers Stealth Mode at which time a voice notifies you that it is activated. I tested this in various conditions and can assure you that it blocks out 100% of the outside noise. I literally let someone stand two feet away from me and scream at me while I was on the phone call and the other party didn’t hear a sound. In fact, to get a sense of it I recorded some of my calls and when I played it back I was surprised at the differences between where I was and what they heard. I was standing on the street with police cars passing directly by and none of those sounds were heard over the call. Remember that the sound being transmitted is not being picked up by the external mic and it’s essentially being recreated by the headset. The end sound quality tended to sound slightly muffled and was sometimes described as sounding like I had a tissue over the phone’s mic. A few calls sounded slightly digital. Overall, I found that if I didn’t tell the caller I was using Stealth Mode it sometimes went undetected and when it was detected simply explaining it by saying I was on my cell was enough of an excuse to account for the sound. Even if the sound is not perfect, it always you to have a call where you normally could not. So I no longer need to say ‘let me call you back it’s too noisy’ and I can get back that lost time.

You should also know that since the sound is not being picked up through the mic you don’t need to ‘shout’ for the headset to work. It will automatically pick up the sound through bone conduction and reproduce it at the appropriate levels for you so if you’re at a Nascar race you don’t need to be louder than the cars. It’s also worth noting that if you start a call with stealth mode on it is more likely to go undetected whereas kicking it in mid-call made it more noticeable.

It should also be noted that since the earpiece fits so snug, even in noisy situations I was able to hear the caller without a problem and the sound was crisp.

Additional Functions

The Endeavor isn’t done yet. As noted, it boasts a 7 hour talk time, 10 day standby time and weighs in at only 13 grams. On top of that it can connect to two headsets simultaneously. A voice prompts you when there’s an incoming call to tell you which headset is ringing which is useful for people with multiple phones (or if you’re sharing a headset with your spouse:)). And paring should simply involve autodetection by your phone and entering in a passkey if your phone requires it, so it’s a snap.  On par with most bluetooth headsets, it has a range of 33 feet. Using it with the Fuze I had less than that but it was on par with the other 3 headsets I compared it to (so it’s likely me and not the headset). As noted, the headset is reversible so you can wear it on either ear. Additionally, there are voice prompts for indications such as incoming calls and battery status. Like most single ear headsets it does not support a music profile so if you want to use the headset to listen to music on a Windows phone you’ll need to use third-party software to push it over the headset.

Overall Impressions

I’m sure a lot of you assume that I was given a free headset or a discount on one but I want to be clear that I was merely given a demo to use for a short period of time. Yesterday I paid retail for it. The reason I say this is because I want to make it clear that I received no benefit from a positive review of the Endeavor. It just so happens that after spending a few days with it I needed it:) For every day use it’s a solid headset that is phenomenal at blocking out the regular sounds of daily life so you can have a phone conversation that isn’t about what’s going on in the background. In fact, it really made me wish my office phone had CrystalTalk since the sounds of typing and people whispering to me during calls always gets picked up on a standard phone. And of course, when it’s really noisy it’s nice to have the option of stealth mode. Even if the call has a slightly altered sound, ultimately this would let me have a conversation anywhere regardless of what is going on outside of me. From a business perspective this is extraordinary. The sound quality may not be perfect with stealth mode but at least I can have the call and considering the situations in which stealth mode is used it’s simply a life saver (or more likely a deal saver in the business world).

To anyone that needs to have the best headset on the market today or anyone who absolutely requires the ability to make a call 24/7 regardless of the situation then the Endeavor is waiting for you.