Jabra Steel Bluetooth Headset Review
I applaud Jabra for stepping up to fill this need in jobsite technology. The Jabra Steel is well-suited for the task of staying in communication in less than ideal environments.
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Jabra Steel Bluetooth Headset Designed for Jobsite Conditions
With the age of the smart jobsite being ushered in, the fact that our devices have to be connected is on everyone’s radar. On the other hand, protecting those devices is being left to other companies to sort out. Jabra, a well-known manufacturer of Bluetooth headsets, has developed the Jabra Steel for that very purpose.
The Jabra Steel Bluetooth headset came about after examining and overseeing the daily needs of over 1,000 tradesmen and construction workers. Rigorous product testing has ensured that it will stand up to some pretty harsh environments. The result is a Bluetooth headset rated to US military standards.
The Jabra Steel Bluetooth headset has a hard casing for shock resistance along with water and dust ingress protection. For windy conditions at job sites, a windsock feature ensures clear communications. It is also equipped with a micropower battery making the headset lightweight, yet with talk time of over 6 hours. A power nap feature extends standby time.
In addition, the headset offers HD voice with dual-microphone noise cancellation technology – great for noisy environments. The headset features an ergonomic design and extra-large buttons specifically designed to use with wet or even gloved hands. It also gives easy access to voice-activated call pick-up and message read out.
Jabra Steel Bluetooth Headset Specifications
- Operating range: 30 m/98 ft
- Dust, water and shock resistance: IP54 rated
- Talk time: Up to 6 hours
- Standby time: 10 days
- Charging hours: Approximately 2 hours
- Weight: 10 grams
- Warranty: 5 years
- Price: $99
Jabra Steel Setup and Operation
Setting up the Jabra Steel was a breeze. After charging it, I turned on the Bluetooth connection on my phone along with the headset (which offered some prerecorded help) and the two were paired in less than 2 minutes from start to finish.
There are only three buttons to be concerned about. The power button is hidden next to the charging port on the inside of the headset, so it will be out of the way while it’s in your ear. On the back of the unit is the call pickup button. Press it once to pick up or hang up a call. With an incoming call, hit it twice to reject the call. When not on a call, press it twice to redial the last number.
On the bottom (when using your right ear) or top (when using your left ear) is the voice command/mute button. When on a call, press it once to mute or unmute your end. When not on a call, press and hold for one second to reach voice commands for your Apple or Android phone (Siri and Google Now). This supports redial, call back, phone commands, battery, or pair new device commands.
To test this, I said “phone commands” followed by “Okay Google” and successfully sent an accurate text message to my wife completely hands free.
Jabra Steel Sound and Call Quality
I decided to put the Jabra Steel through a variety of tests to see what kind of sound and voice quality we should expect. The sound quality on a call is excellent and I found the volume range to be more than adequate for indoor listening. That’s expected – Jabra designed the Steel to be in less than ideal conditions, but it gave me a starting point.
Outside, I was able to hear effectively by bumping up the volume. Even with an airplane flying overhead, yard work going on in the background, and a light breeze, I still had plenty of volume range to hear well. With noise levels in the shop increasing from our 18V Impact Driver Shootout, I found I had to step outside to really hear the conversation.
On the other end of the phone, my voice came across clear. Wind socks are included in the kit in case the breeze is more than just a gentle one. While they’re nice to have, you’ll want to prepare for you day ahead of time so you’re not digging for them with gloved hands in the middle of a job. While the quality of the sound was excellent, a couple of people mentioned that my voice came across rather soft. I had to speak at outdoor conversation levels, so your chat isn’t going to be private.
The true test of voice quality came when I connected to my phone for some voice dictated notes and text messages. We have to take it with a grain of salt since most of the accuracy is due to hardware and software on the phone rather than the headset, but we can compare with and without effectively.
Compared to the optimal “look silly while holding the phone right up to your lips” style of dictating a message, the Jabra Steel was equal in accuracy to the phone on its own. However, where the phone loses accuracy as you move it to a comfortable reading position, the headset was a clearly better suited. I also noticed that I could speak in a lower voice indoors while maintaining text accuracy. While none of that comes as a surprise, it’s a win for style and convenience.
Can it Stand Up to Tough Conditions?
In addition to the basic calling features, I also took the headset on a few field trips. I loaded up my workout playlist on Spotify and invited Jabra to join me for a few days of running and riding. From the standpoint of sound quality, 15 mph winds and running/cycling combined to drop some of the vocal clarity, but the music came through well.
What I really wanted to know is how well the Jabra Steel would stay in place on my ear and how it would stand up to sweat. I needed to adjust the headset a couple of times on each 25 minute run, but not at all on an hour long bike ride. Considering I’m using it right now with no ill effects, it passed the sweat test with no problem.
The charging port is well sealed by its cover and the rubber earpiece seems to effectively surround the speaker. These should keep moisture and debris away from points where it would normally do some damage. It’s not perfect, nor should we expect it to be. We still haven’t found a way to get around leaving a hole in the rubber earpiece to allow sound to get to you ear, so the Jabra Steel is still going to be susceptible to being submerged or if liquid managed to find its way in through the sound port. It’s a pretty small risk when in your ear though, so just pay attention to how you carry/store it when it’s not.
I noticed several user reviews complained about the headset being uncomfortable for one reason or another. I just didn’t have any issue with it. Maybe it’s because I’m used to having sport earphones on a run that having something on my ear doesn’t bother me. Whatever the reason, using the earhook option is comfortable enough for me to wear it for a full work day without needing to take it out.
My only complaint is in the volume level around noisy conditions. Most users would like to see a higher level of volume, but that’s likely going to affect the battery run time. I think if Jabra were to go with a solidly placed earpiece, similar to what YurBuds accomplish, the volume could be left alone while simple proximity and seating could provide the additional perceived volume.
I applaud Jabra for stepping up to fill this need in jobsite technology. We don’t want to have to think about the durability of the tools we need on the job. More and more, that includes our smartphones. The Jabra Steel is well-suited for the task of staying in communication in less than ideal environments. It’s backed by a 5 year warranty and can be purchased at your local Radio Shack, online direct from Jabra, or on Amazon.