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First there was Jawbone. Then Jawbone 2. Now we have Jawbone PRIME, the latest -- and maybe the greatest -- noise-assassinating Bluetooth headset ever to pair with an iPhone.

Available for $119.95 from TiPb's iPhone store, we'll see if it lives up to its reputation, and its premium price... after the break.

What's in the Box

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Aliph really went all out to make the Jawbone PRIME an experience. Right from the start, the headset is presented to you floated in a clear box with a treasure trove of extras stashed beneath. Like with Apple products, you reveal these extras in layers, first a selection of 5 extra ear pieces for a total of six. You have small, medium, and large both for solo wear and for use with either the regular ear loop or the "premium" leather ear loop. Also included in the second layer is the USB cord (standard USB to proprietary connector -- unfortunately no micro-USB on the headset end) as well as an AC adaptor if you want to plug the cord into a wall socket. All in all, a generous and well rounded assortment.

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Design

Jawbone PrimeCompared to the original Jawbone, which was my primary headset for almost a year, Jawbone PRIME is smaller and lighter, if not appreciably thinner. Yes, the uber-sexy exterior still hides a fairly plump little, kidney bean shaped device that cozies up to its namesake -- your jawbone. It's also got a textured outside face, much like the original, though as with the Jawbone 2, it's gone from overtly cheese grater-like to a more subtle, dimpled look.

For the fashion-conscious, the simple truth is it remains arguably the best looking headset on the market -- and comes in a wide variety of colors so you can accessorize to your hearts content (meaning I went with turtle-neck black, of course).

Usability

Pairing? Come on, we're iPhone users. You turn it on, it pops up on your iPhone Bluetooth Settings panel, you select it, it asks for verification, and -- boom! -- you're paired.

Charging is also a snap -- literally. You snap the Jawbone PRIME (much as you did previous Jawbones) into the proprietary USB cable and plug the other end into a standard, powered USB port on your PC, laptop, hub, etc. or into the provided AC adaptor. Of course, I wish they'd used micro-USB on the headset end just so cables could be re-used between devices, so if there's a single knock against Aliph, that's it.

Wearing the Jawbone PRIME, depending on whether you choose to rock the ear loop is either as simple as placing it in your ear pointing down and twisting up (for without) or just hooking it into place. Easy peasy.

At this point I have to mention, as I do with every headset review, that my ears have been battered to the point that almost nothing fits right in them anymore (a few in-ear designs aside). So, I went with the ear loop and even then, if I'm not careful to readjust, the ear loop alone typically ends up keeping the device in anything resembling proximity to my head. For you non-mutants out there, you'll likely have no problem at all, especially given the 6 different fitting options that come with the Jawbone PRIME.

Using the Jawbone PRIME to take calls involves pressing the main "button" on the face of the device. I but "button" in "quotes" because Aliph seems to share Apple's hatred for obvious clicking mechanisms and so the "button" is completely invisible. You press it much as you do an Apple mouse or new-style trackpad -- through the entire surface.

There's nothing hidden about call quality, however. I tried it out walking outside, in the car during rush hour, and in a big-iron server room with multiple machines, drives, and cooling systems whirring.

This button will also, if held down, turn the headset off or on.

Jawbone PRIME's second button, located at the top of the device just above the charging port, is even more of a multi-tasker. It will cycle through volume (because there's no separate volume rocker... tsk!), reject calls, etc. (i.e. initiate voice calls on other platforms). If held down, it will also turn of NoiseAssasin, or turn it back on again.

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Technology

Forgive me for quoting from Aliph here, but if you're interested in more than just does it work (it does!), here's how:

Acoustic Voice Activity Detector (AVAD) provides a fail-safe mechanism when the Voice Activity Sensor (VAS) doesn't touch your face. When the VAS is not touching the face, Jawbone PRIME performs as good as or better than any other noise canceling headset. When the VAS touches the face, you get the turbo-boost to the NoiseAssassin performance.

Jawbone PRIME also has a subtle wind feedback mechanism built into the headset that gently alerts you when voice clarity is compromised due to wind gusts so the user can self-correct. While Jawbone PRIME does not completely remove the impact of wind, it does more than any other headset to remove wind and alert the user to the fact that wind may be affecting the conversation.

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Conclusion

Jawbone PRIME is the best headset I've used to date. Stylish, flexible, and most importantly -- highly functional, it builds upon the previous generation of Jawbone's to raise the bar another notch.

Sure, micro-USB and a volume rocker would be nice, no doubt about it, but those minor discontents can't take away from the overall package which, if it isn't best of breed, is certainly a leading contender for the title.

If fit, finish, and performance are more important than a budget price point, Jawbone PRIME just might be the headset for you.

Pros

  • 6 fitting options including 3 for ear-loop use.
  • Stylish yet comfortable
  • Cutting edge noise cancelation technology
  • Premium product

Cons

  • Apple-like lack of overt buttons and standard connectors
  • Premium price

TiPb Review Rating

5 star rating

(Note: I'm philosophically opposed to perfect scores -- everything can be improved. However, lacking a 4.9 star option, I rounded up in their favor. Still, I challenge Aliph to shoot for that 4.95 next year, okay?)