Whether you're clinging to that Treo 600 as a retro-cool statement against all phones that begin with an "i" or simply want a low-cost backup in case your Jawbone Noise Shield goes dead, it's worth being reminded that wired headsets are still more than useful. Unless you find wires more of a hassle than they're worth, a good wired headset can offer more benefit for the cost than a wired model.
At $4.95 from the TreoCentral Store, the Plantronics MX200 Earbud Headset retails for $24.95, so it's easy to be skeptical of the benefit side of the equation. After all, a $20 discount seems like liquidation of unwanted stock. It's a reasonable assumption, but let's check out the reality.
Design and Sound
Having tested a few wired headsets recently, I'm more impressed with the plastic molding of the MX200 than most wired stereo models. Most lower-end sets look and feel brittle, but the earphone, microphone and controller all have a professional build quality to them. The insulation of the wires is slightly thicker than normal, which is always a good thing, but there's no way to know how durable the wire inside is without using it for a few weeks.
The earphone has a couple of inexplicable cutouts at the top edge that I found abrasive when inserting the piece in my ear. Once the piece has settled, I no longer noticed it, but I'd just as soon not have the cutouts in the first place.
Certainly the most unique feature on the headphone component is what Plantronics calls its "Flex Grip" design: a translucent hook, with the flex its name implies, that looks like a flattened Gummi Worm (but doesn't taste like one, I've discovered).
The proper way to mount it may not be obvious. According to the manual, you insert the earphone with the grip pointed downwards, then turn the grip 90 degrees upward so that it hooks on the ear perpendicular to the ground. You'll probably be the only one in the room wearing a headset in this fashion. I didn't care for wearing it the recommended way myself. The wire protrudes from the side of the Flex Grip, and the weight of the microphone tugs at the perpendicular mounting
The microphone is a little different from the norm, featuring what looks like a granite ball inserted in its plastic base. Without providing a technical description to qualify it, Plantronics refers to this scheme as a "WindSmart" microphone. I'm always amazed that companies never seem to run out of new names for their supposedly proprietary sound technologies.
But whether it's called WindSmart or not, the sound quality is excellent, both in voice mail tests and in reports from friends on the other end of the line. There's no advantage in a room with hard surfaces, like a typical cafe, but on the street, the difference in ambient sound between the MX200 and the Jabra BT3010 wireless I just tested is noticeable. One aspect of the MX200's sound quality that's rare in headsets at any price is the lack of muted highs that "plastic wrapped around the microphone" that makes it obvious that you're not on a handset.
The alligator clip is pretty standard, with a base that swivels to adjust for changes in the wire's position. A little further down the wire is the microphone controller with a slider switch for mute, and a button for the answer/end function. The mute switch of the MX200 I received was switched to the "On" position out of the box, which I realized three frustrating calls later just a reminder in case you get it and assume it's defective.
Thankfully the base of the jack is angled. I've had problems with a couple of headsets that worked for the Treo but not the Centro due to a sharply right-angle base design that's not friendly with the bevelling around the Centro's Athena connector.
I would automatically recommend this headset if you need a backup for your wireless. If you're predisposed to a corded headset for regular use, the sound quality of the MX200 is unbeatable. While the wearablity of the headset wasn't the best I've experienced, even for a budget unit, the clarity of sound more than compensated for its minor flaws.
Sound quality better than most wireless sets
Angled jack mount works better for Centro than right-angle mounts
|Tiny cutouts on earphone surface are abrasive
Flex grip uncomfortable when worn horiztonally as recommended
Mono, not stereo