Like many business people, I've not bothered installing a landline phone. Aside from the cost, it's a pain to have phones tied to specific locations and mobile phones do the job nicely. But, although today's smartphones all boast a hands free mode, the speaker and microphone quality isn't always up to par - particularly where you have a couple of people on the line. The Jabra Speak 710 aims to fix that but putting together a high quality speaker and microphone package that looks good, is easy to use and sounds great.
The Jabra 710 can connect to tablets and smartphones via Bluetooth. The pairing process is straight forward. When the device is powered on, audio prompts guide you through the connection process. From opening the box to being ready to go, set up took less than five minutes.
If you want to use the Jabra 710 with a computer, there's a small USB dongle nestled into an indentation on the back of the Jabra 710. The Surface Pro 4 I'm currently using, running Windows 10 Creators Update, identified it as a Jabra Link 370 and automatically set it up.
When I restarted the Jabra 710, it connected to my iPhone and Surface at the same time so I could make a receive calls using both devices without having to disconnect on to connect the other.
I only had one Jabra 710 to test but for a larger conference spaces, you can link a pair of devices to act as if they are a single unit. Or, you can place them in stereo mode - handy for when teleconferences shift from work to party mode and you want to blast out a few tunes.
Charging is via an integrated USB cable that neatly rolls around the back of the device and stays out of the way when not needed. A full charge takes about three hours and can deliver according to Jabra, about 18 hours of use.
All that can be housed in a neat neoprene case, that comes with the unit, so you can pop it in your briefcase or luggage.
Rather than having physical buttons, the Jabra 710 has a series of touch-sensitive zones on the shiny border around the speaker and microphone array.
All the usual suspects are there; Power, Bluetooth on/off, answer and hang up, volume up and down, a battery level indicator and the "Smart Button" which invokes Siri when connected to an iPhone. But it didn't wake Cortana up although audio output from the computer was directed to the Jabra 710.
Testing, testing 123
The quality of sound output, and feedback from people on the other end of the line highlighted the value of the Jabra 710 over simply using the speakerphone function of my iPhone 7 Plus. At my end, I could the other end far more clearly and callers noted sound quality was far superior using the Jabra 710 rather than my phone's integrated microphones.
There's a kickstand built into the back of the Jabra 710 or it can be laid flat on a conference room table. It worked equally well in both positions for me/
With my PC, I started by using Skype's testing service. Both the automated message coming from Skype, and the recording I made that Skype played back to be came through loud and clear. Other Skype calls worked nicely and the Jabra 710 is optimised for Skype for Business.
Answering inbound calls was fine but there seemed to be a slight delay between picking the call up and when I could hear the other end. As a result, I often missed the initial greeting.
One thing that was handy was using the Jabra Link 370 dongle. Whenever I plugged it in or removed it from my computer, the Jabra 710 automatically connected or disconnected and let me know via a spoken message from the device. My only hassle with the dongle was how hard it was to extract from its place on the back of the Jabra 710.
As well working as a speakerphone, the Jabra 710 can be used as a speaker so you can listen to some tunes between calls.
Sound quality was great. It's not going to power a full-on office party but if you like working with some background tunes it will work just fine. When a call comes in while you're listening to music, the track pauses and the resumes when the call is done.
Here's the thing. This is a great device and does everything I'd want for an office speakerphone. It works with my smartphone and computer delivering great sound at both ends.
But it's expensive. The RRP is $405. That's pretty steep in my view. You can find much cheaper options on the market so the big question, in my mind, does the cost and quality balance play out?
There are a number of decent Bluetooth speaker rigs around they offer speaker phone capability. But their sound quality and battery life is often found wanting. And the Jabra 710 is very well designed and made - it's the sort of device you wouldn't feel awkward having on the boardroom table.
Given that it ticks all the boxes when it comes to sound quality, usability and looks, I think it's a device well worth considering.