The Marque does what most Bluetooth headsets fail at by not making you look like a tool for wearing it. A much overlooked trait, the typical headset features an array of blinking blue and red LEDs and silver and metallic grey finishes that bestow the wearer with an ethereal aura, not helped by the act of seemingly talking to oneself.
The $89 Marque instead comes in a white finish with a grey border, with the only blinking light concealed on the inside half of the unit. The almost Apple-inspired design is Plantronics’ most attractive yet, and the build quality follows suit.
Plantronics’ national retail sales manager, Peter Petrides, told SmartHouse that the company was hoping to “reinvigorate the category of headsets for people who don’t normally use them” earlier this year with the release of its Vocalyst service and its then-new Savor M1100 headset. Part of this was chipping away at the somewhat uncool, niche image of the headsets. The Vocalyst service doesn’t come stocked in this new outing, but the Marque is a very enticing option for newcomers with a discriminating eye against Bluetooth headsets.
The headset is the company’s lightest yet at 7 grams. Dropping 2 grams since the last headset might not sound like a big feat, but when you’re suspending the little device in your ear canal all day, you begin to feel the difference. The super light unit is a definite breeze to wear, and stays in snug and comfortable thanks to the interchangeable rubber ear pieces and an additional over-ear hook for the more active users.
On the topic of bundled accessories, it also comes with a handy USB charger with a microUSB tip to fit into the device. For one thing, it’s the same charger that pumps juice into most of today’s smartphones, so odds are you’ll be able to power the M155 with one of the many microUSB cables you’d have swimming around the house by now. Second is the cable itself, which has a USB plug and a USB socket in one, so that even if you plug the charger into a PC, you don’t waste a USB port. Consumer tech genius is always in the simplest of touches.
This is a simple device right from the get-go, with voice guided pairing on your first use that talks you through connecting the device. Even without this it’s simple, holding down the call button for a few seconds on a smartphone to link the two devices. Controlling calls is as simple as tapping a button to answer a call or just saying answer, or holding down the answer button for a second or just saying ignore to reject calls. The user manual says ‘get talking in minutes,’ but it’s more like seconds.
Noise cancellation isn’t a feature of this headset and it’s a noticeable absence. While Plantronics’ previous headset offered plenty of active noise cancellation with up to three microphones working with in-built software to tackle background noise, this new model offers no such noise aid.
Driving and talking is great thanks to the ability to answer calls completely hands free by saying ‘answer’ on an iPhone or Android phone, and while you’re in the car you’re generally blocked off from most outside road noise. Walking along a busy road and talking isn’t quite as friendly to the M155. On the other end of a call, people would complain of my voice sounding distant and muddled behind the background noise. Public transport didn’t fair very well either in noisier conditions.
The headset has up to nine days worth of stand-by time, so you don’t have to turn it off after calls to keep the battery going strong, and it charges in a couple of hours even if it does manage to drain anyway. The five hours talk time is pretty standard fair for a Bluetooth headset.
There are three buttons in total on the device, being the main answer button, the power switch that sits underneath and a volume button on the top. The volume button cycles through volume levels one at a time rather than giving you an up and down button. It’s not ideal, so you’ll want to keep the volume on full at all times to avoid the hassle since the earpiece isn’t overly loud anyway.
A2DP melds a stereo signal into the single ear piece so you can enjoy typical stereo sound like songs and podcasts in the one ear, rather than having one half of the sound disappearing. The earpiece is good quality and sound comes out clear with a good level of depth. It’s not the ideal unit for listening to music, but it deals with it very well for a Bluetooth headset intended for answering calls.
Just like giant, intricate gaming headsets are only cool in the privacy of your own home, so too do many Bluetooth headsets lose their charm out in public. Since that’s where you’ll be using it most though, you’ll want one that goes the distance and goes it in style. The M155 will easily last through the day, even if you’re a persistent talker, and will charge on any microUSB you’ve got lying around. And it doesn’t just look acceptable – it looks good. If you can sacrifice on background noise slipping through, it’s a great, lightweight option. If you’re a busy talker chatting away through rush hour, you’ll want to give this the slip.