Review: Plantronics Savi W430 Wireless Headset

In May of this year, Plantronics, long known for high-quality audio headsets, released a first: the Savi W430, a wireless headset that uses a DECT radio rather than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. (DECT—Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications—is a standard that, until recently, was more widely used in Europe than North America.)

DECT has a number of things going for it. First, it was developed specifically for cordless telephony, rather than as a general purpose radio technology. It has good range (theoretically up to around 300 feet under optimal conditions) and supports excellent sound quality. The Savi W430, as a matter of fact offers true wideband audio (also known as high-definition or HD sound).

Here’s what comes in the box:

  • The over-the-ear headset unit
  • A charging cradle with power supply
  • An alternate charging unit that plugs into a USB port
  • A DECT antenna dongle that plugs into a USB port
  • A selection of ear pieces—both foam pads that rest outside the ear and sculpted pieces that rest in the ear canal—in three sizes.
  • A software CD
  • A Quick Start Guide

You will need to install Plantronics’ Unified Runtime Engine and Control Panel on any computer from which you plan to use the Savi W430. This is quick and painless.

You will need to charge the headset (the battery is integral) for at least 20 minutes before using it for the first time. (A full charge takes about three hours.)

Then you plug the dongle into a USB port, press the Call Control button to turn the headset on, and let the phone and the dongle find each other (which takes only a few seconds). An indicator light on the dongle flashes green when it discovers the headset and glows continuous green when a line is in use.

Savi W430
The Plantronics Savi W430 DECT Headset

You are now ready to make a call. According to the User Guide (a PDF on the disc), the Savi W430 will work with “any softphone.” If the softphone is Skype (which is what we used for testing), you will have to grant permission to use the device with the software. That is, Skype asks whether it’s okay.

In our first calls, we were very pleased with the sound quality. You don’t get quite the same “presence” as you get with a good pair of over-the-ear headphones, but it’s very good. Parties on the other end of calls had the same impression.

Operation is quite straightforward. As mentioned there is a call control button that turns the unit on and initiates outgoing and answers incoming calls. There’s a pair of toggles along the crest that mirrors the top of your ear that are used to raise and lower volume, as well as perform a number of other functions, such as muting the mic and flashing between calls—with different durations of push.

So, great sound, simple operation, but best of all, the unit is comfortable to wear for extended periods (we kept it on all afternoon on a couple of occasions, even though we weren’t talking most of that time). And, of course, as it’s wireless, you are not tethered to your computer and your hands are free for multitasking.

We tested the Savi W430 pacing back and forth in the room in which the computer stood; sound quality was rock solid. We tried leaving the room—and the floor—even venturing out of doors. This was not terribly successful, with outgoing sound breaking up or disappearing altogether, but there were also places where the signal was fine. With a bit of experimentation it’s likely a user can mentally map out the distant locations at which the device can be expected to function reliably.

The Savi W430 and it’s dongle “subscribe” to one another (acknowledge their pairing), which is accomplished by pressing one of the volume toggle buttons for four seconds. However, once that’s done, as many as three additional headsets can temporarily subscribe for ad hoc conference calls. We were not able to test this undoubtedly handy function.

Part of the software install, as mentioned, is a control panel. This lets the user make settings and choose preferences. For example, you can optimize for long, medium, or short range; you can select among three ring tones; you can opt for wideband or narrowband audio (narrowband would give longer battery life), and the like.

All in all, we felt the Savi W430 is a wonderful device—great sound, freedom of movement, transparent operation. But at what price? The MSRP of $279.95 (and not much lower at “street price”) definitely places it in the realm of serious tools for professionals who “live” on the phone.

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